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What is customer service management?
At a conference in 1997, Steve Jobs famously said this in response to a provocative question from one of the audience members about the company’s strategy at the time:
You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.
Today, many companies have forgotten that the essence of running a business starts with the customer. The idea behind being successful at customer service management is to build and execute a strategy that revolves around a clear philosophy, a plan of action, and choosing the right technology stack that supports those plans.
The 5-step customer service management plan for your business
1. Building a robust and scalable support teamThe first step in your journey of establishing customer service management is putting together your very own A-team. There are two parts to this: hiring and training. Let’s take a look at both
Part 1: Hiring the right personnel for the job
People are your most important resource, especially when it comes to customer service. Here’s what you should look for when hiring service reps:
Empathy: We start off with what’s probably the most important quality to look for when hiring a support associate. Empathy is crucial because it makes it easier for your agents to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and handle difficult conversations better.
Patience: Customer service reps are often in high-stress situations, with tight deadlines and high customer expectations. However, presenting a calm, helpful demeanor can diffuse even the hardest situations. Having the patience to listen and respond appropriately to situations is an important skill to possess.
Persuasiveness: A support rep needs to be an effective communicator. This is not limited to just getting a message across clearly but ensuring that message is persuasive and reassures customers who might not be in the right frame of mind.
Decision making: Customer service reps have to make important decisions in a short period of time when dealing with issues. It could be having to allow a concession or even taking a call on whether an issue needs external support.
Logical thinking: Keeping a calm head and making calculated decisions is necessary for support reps to analyze situations and solve problems efficiently.
Knowledge management: Customer support associates need to have the capacity to acquire and absorb essential information about company policy, support processes, etc., to provide customers with the best possible solutions.Part 2: Defining roles and responsibilities
The next step in customer service management is creating well-defined roles for your team members. These roles will depend on the size and scale of your customer service team. But in general, these are the primary members you’ll need:
Customer service/support associate: The customer service associate or representative is the first line of offense and defense for your organization, making them the most important member of your team. They deal with day to day complaints, handle different channels, and reroute high priority issues to the right personnel.
Customer support engineer: The support engineer is usually a domain expert or a product specialist who can deal with complex or technical issues that require bug finding or troubleshooting.
Customer support lead/manager: The manager oversees the work being carried out by support engineers and service reps while also stepping in for critical issues as necessary.
Technical account manager: The technical account manager or TAM is a special role within the support team, where he or she is in charge of one or more large customer accounts that require special attention because of the size of the account.
Support operations analyst: The support operations analyst/ helpdesk analyst’s primary responsibility is to analyze performance and productivity data to help managers make hiring and operational decisions.
Head of support: The director of support heads the entire customer service department. Their responsibilities span from strategizing a plan of action, understanding resource management, and ensuring the quality of customer experience.
2. Training programs and shift management
Regardless of how big or small they are, all support teams need to be trained on how to interact with customers. Training programs will vary based on the company as well as the customer service philosophy but forms the crux of the quality of customer service management. But here are some aspects you’ll need to train new hires on:
Support process: What is the workflow your company follows when it comes to solving customer issues? What are the different levels of support? What queries are classified as low or high priority? Answers to these questions are what support reps need to know before starting their work every day.
Channel classification: Identifying the channels of communication most relevant to your business/target customer is critical to getting CX right. Once you have that in place, train your support reps on the tone of voice and communication etiquette for each of these channels. For example, chat & social media conversations will both have very different conversational tones, while phone and emails continue to have a more formal tone.
Crisis training: Situational awareness can only get you so far. Support associates need to know how to handle high priority issues where customer and business revenues are on the line. Crisis training is a great practice to prepare team members for such scenarios so as to minimize improvisation and maximize the effectiveness of problem-solving.The second thing support teams need to figure out is shift timings. There are various shift schedules and customer service models you can use based on the volume of queries your team supports. Here are just a few examples:
Follow the sun model: Follow the sun model is based on the principle of spreading your customer service team across several locations around the world. This is effective when you have to provide 24/7 support but also have a global presence.
Traditional 24/7 model: The most commonly used support model where call centers are present in the same geographic region, and there is a handoff between different shifts.
Remote/distributed model: A fast emerging model of support because of both situational factors and the flexibility it offers in terms of team members being spread out and being able to work from any location.
3. KRAs and performance management
Keeping track of how well your team is doing helps identify the strengths and weaknesses in your customer service management process. Having certain KRAs and KPIs in place helps you continuously measure performance and ensures you keep improving your support processes. Here are a few parameters and metrics that can help set benchmarks and standards for your support team.
External/Customer facing metrics
Customer feedback is the most crucial tool in your arsenal. Without understanding what the customer thinks, you can’t move forward. Here are three important customer metrics you can measure:
CSAT: The most commonly used metric across industries and businesses to measure customer feedback. CSAT is a simple survey tool where customers can rate their experience on a scale of 1-10.
NPS: NPS or net promoter score is a great metric to measure and understand customer loyalty. The question “ How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?” is presented to customers who have to respond on a scale of 1-10. Customers who respond with a rating between 9-10 are protractors or advocates of your company, 0-6 are detractors, and those who respond with 7 or 8 are passive or neutral.
CES: Customer effort score is a relatively new metric that takes into account how easy or difficult the experience was for the customer and how much time and effort they had to put in during the whole process. In the survey, customers are asked: “On a scale of ‘very easy’ to ‘very difficult’ how easy was your interaction with our company.”
Internal support metrics
Analyzing your team’s performance is as important to maintaining service quality as is gathering customer feedback. To understand who’s doing well and who needs help, here are some metrics you can measure:
First contact resolution: Measures the percentage of issues resolved by the agent on the first contact or conversation with the customer.
Ticket volume: Measures the number of tickets your team receives on a monthly or weekly basis and is one of the factors that go into demand forecasting and hiring
Average response time: A metric that tells you how long it takes on average for an agent to respond to a customer query.
Average resolution time: Measures the average time it takes an agent or support team to close out a customer issue.
4. The role of the customer service manager
The customer service manager has to play both a strategic and operational role while enabling the support team to achieve their goals. Lets breakdown what responsibilities that translate into:
Agent roles assignment: The manager is responsible for assessing the skills of agent hires and assigning them the right roles and the right channels to handle.
Shift Schedule management: A very critical role the customer service manager plays is that of deciding shift timings and schedules based on volumes, availability, and other factors.Hiring & staffing: The customer service manager needs to have one eye on his team’s performance and support volumes so he can hire new employees beforehand.
Performance review: The manager needs to keep track of overall group performance as well as customer feedback and take the necessary steps to ensure consistency of customer service.Incident/escalation management: When there is a major issue that junior members of the team cannot handle on their own, the manager needs to be able to step in and resolve the issue swiftly and efficiently.
Stakeholder review: Monthly or quarterly reviews will be conducted with the head of support and other important stakeholders where the manager needs to give his valuable input so the right strategic decisions can be made,
5. Choosing the right tech stack
We now come to the last piece of the puzzle — deciding on your support tech stack. Technology can make a lot of the operational and administrative work simple while giving organizations greater visibility into their support processes.
But the biggest reason the right tech stack cannot be overlooked is because agents who are on the frontlines are the biggest beneficiaries. With that, here are some of the features/functionalities you need to consider when choosing customer service software:
Self-service: Having self-service options such as a knowledge base or an FAQ can be extremely helpful for both customers and agents. For customers, it’s a way to find out information for themselves without having to contact an agent or wait in a call queue. You can also build an internal knowledge base for agents to refer to when looking for quick answers to repetitive questions.
Omnichannel: Email and phone might still be popular channels for support teams, but they’re not always the right support channel because your customers sometimes prefer modern channels like chat and social media. Therefore it’s important to have the right mix of channels that match your customer needs. A customer service software like Freshdesk lets you choose the channels you want your customers to engage on.
Chatbots & messaging: Millennial customers today want responses instantly, and the best way to achieve that speed is through messaging integrated with AI and chatbots. With chatbots, you can set up automated workflows to take care of status requests or help customers get refunds on orders. Freshworks’s Freddy AI-powered chatbot helps your team accomplish such tasks and more.
Reporting and analytics: The last feature that will complete the essentials of your support tech stack is a reporting and analytics tool. Having the ability to build customized dashboards and reports to generate actionable insights into your support performance is the most effective way to improve and scale your team. Freshdesk has an inbuilt analytics tool that makes it simple to measure and collate all the essential metrics for any support team.
How good customer service management can earn CS leaders a seat at the table
Customer service management has become a highly discussed topic of late because of how the world has changed dramatically, especially in 2020. CXOs across businesses are looking to their customer service teams to gain insights into customer behavior to modify their approach to selling products and services and build better relationships with customers.
In 2021 and beyond, we’ll see more organizations adding someone from the customer service department to the decision-making table because their input is now arguably one of the most important ones when making strategic decisions going forward.