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Published in Resource Management

15 Customer Support Tips for Agencies

customer support

Ninety percent of Americans factor in customer service when they are determining whether or not they will conduct business with an organization, according to Microsoft research.

That means that when it comes to supporting your consumers, it’s critical to go the extra mile.

This may seem like common sense to some, but, too often, it is a frequently overlooked step. You might have the best product or service on the market, highly skilled and qualified employees, and excellent marketing and sales initiatives, but if your customer support is in any way lacking, you will leave your customers and would-be customers with an overall negative impression of your business.

How do you gain and retain customer loyalty? It starts with a clear, well-honed strategy.

Project Management

What is customer support?

Customer support is the foundation and central piece of your customer service strategy. It’s often used synonymously with customer service, although it’s a bit more specific than that.

In contrast to customer service, which is an overarching, comprehensive system, customer support primarily refers to assisting consumers with solving problems, including technical issues. It is aimed at ensuring that your users are equipped with the knowledge and tools they need to effectively use your products, and it is critical to the entire customer experience and business success.

Those who facilitate customer support are usually called support agents or specialists.

Customer support responsibilities

Customer support specialists are tasked with wide-ranging responsibilities. They are an integral part of the customer service team, while also working closely with your IT department.

Onboarding

An important part of the support agent’s role is to onboard new customers, instructing them on how to optimally use your products. This instruction can take on various forms, from providing video tutorials to offering critical information and tips, all toward the goal of promoting long-term customer success and a better experience.

Working with other departments

Customer support is tasked with sharing customer feedback with other teams within the company. This is critical for helping the overall business improve and grow, making the customer experience even better.

Communication and reporting

As an integral part of the customer service team, customer support agents are responsible for communicating with the consumer and providing insight, whether they need assistance or tips. They will document and report issues, escalating the problem to other managers or departments as needed.

Troubleshooting

One of the central responsibilities of the customer support team is to fix problems for the customer. When they learn about issues, they will either instruct the customer on how to best resolve them themselves or, if necessary, find a way to resolve the problem from the business end. Of course, this requires a great deal of technical knowledge on the part of the agent.

Upgrading

Technology is constantly evolving, and inevitably, customers will need to upgrade their systems at one point or another. It is the customer support team’s job to assist with upgrades, ensuring that users can fully utilize their up-to-date systems.

Fielding customer complaints

While your larger customer service team is responsible for fielding many customer complaints, customer support, in particular, will deal with those that specifically concern technological systems and products. Hopefully, they will be able to provide a solution that works for the customer.

Evaluation and analysis

To improve their services, products, and business as an entire entity, customer support agents deploy surveys and other means of collecting feedback. They will then evaluate this information and determine how they can better their team and the overall customer experience.

How important is it to deliver excellent customer service?

Eighty-nine percent of consumers are more likely to make another purchase from the same company after they have had a positive customer service experience, according to Salesforce.

Customer service, as a whole, is paramount to solidifying your identity as a brand. You’re facing stiff competition from other businesses in your market, and while your products can set you apart, they won’t do it alone. Consumers also want to do business with a brand that respects and supports them, creating an optimal experience.

Customer interactions are critical to your reputation. And customer support is integral to these interactions. This contributes to increased customer retention and will allow you to attract new users.

Types of customer support

There are many different types of support you can offer, as well as a wide variety of vehicles for delivering it. The combination most beneficial at a given time depends on the unique needs of the consumer.

The ways you can deliver support include:

  • Email
  • Phone
  • Chatbots
  • Live chats (with a human agent)
  • Messaging apps
  • Social media channels
  • Video chat
  • Walk-in, onsite support
  • By-appointment, onsite support
  • Self-service portals
  • Website
  • Forums
  • Interactive voice response (IVR)

There are several different kinds of support customers can receive. You’re probably most familiar with responsive support, which involves the customer reaching out to the business and the business responding to and addressing their query.

Proactive or anticipatory support is crucial, too. This means that the company recognizes that the customer will need assistance and provides information and tools before they ask for them. Onboarding is one type of proactive support. Providing an instruction manual with the product to help with setup and maintenance is another, as is providing a list of FAQs on your website or via your social media channels.

Community support is another helpful tool. This can typically be accessed via platforms like community forums, where users can pose queries and other customers can offer troubleshooting solutions and tips.

This falls under the larger category of self-service or self-support. Brands may provide channels for helping yourself resolve common problems, allowing you to do it yourself.

Time tracking & estimation

15 Customer support tips to deliver great customer service

Customer support is the centerpiece of a superior customer service strategy. Here are 15 of the best customer service tips that will allow you to deliver optimal service to your users and attract new ones.

1. Deliver real-time customer support

No one likes waiting. We spend far too much of our lives not doing but anticipating. According to Forrester, more than half of US online adults say they would abandon an online purchase if they can’t find a fast solution or answer to their questions, and nearly three-quarters say that respecting their time is the most important thing a business can do in terms of good online customer service.

Increase customer satisfaction by providing answers in real-time. This is one of the most effective ways to help your users feel respected and valued. People who have their problems resolved quickly and effectively make for happy customers.

Through vehicles like live chat and chatbots, you’ll be able to address issues and answer questions at record speed.

2. Automate

Chatbots are also an effective way to infuse your customer support with automation. These tools will engage with consumers without forcing you to delegate human employees to resolve queries and allow them to focus on more intricate responsibilities. But if a chatbot can’t quickly address the problem, it can be escalated to a professional representative.

Many businesses utilize chatbots on their websites, as well as on their social media channels. They can be equipped with canned responses to reduce the time it takes to answer queries. Another advantage is that these tools offer around-the-clock support.

This is especially useful in the e-commerce space, where customers may encounter issues checking out or making purchases, but it’s also helpful across other industries.

There are other ways you can automate your customer support platforms using artificial intelligence, such as via a ticketing system, which will prioritize and triage complaints and questions.

3. Understand your customer

You have most likely performed extensive market research to understand your target audience, but it doesn’t end there. You need to keep learning about your customers in order to better understand them and meet their needs.

Understanding your customer will help you personalize your interactions with them. Even small touches, such as using your customer’s name when you speak to them online or by phone, will help.

It’s also useful to deploy surveys and ask for feedback after interactions. Customers might, for instance, be asked to rate their experience after they have worked with your customer support team.

4. Train your customer support team

The customer support team is largely tasked with managing the technical aspects of your products, but they are still on the frontlines, often working directly with your customers to help them. Because of this, they must be equipped with excellent customer service skills.

All personnel who interact with consumers must employ a friendly demeanor and a helpful attitude. They must practice empathy and patience. If a customer is contacting your business with a technical problem, they could very well be frustrated and might take it out on the support agent. The agent must continue to treat them with courtesy and be professional, even when they are not at fault and find the query unreasonable.

It’s not necessarily fair, but these representatives need to keep a level head, even when the customer doesn’t appear to be doing the same. Because of this, businesses would do well to teach their specialists and customer service representatives of all types strategies for deescalating situations and staying in control.

5. Improve communication skills

Customer service agents must all have strong communication skills — this is the foundation of their jobs. And the customer support niche is no different.

In addition to training your team on how to best resolve customer queries and supporting them as much as possible, your business should offer to ground on how to communicate appropriately with your users.

This also means employing the best tools possible. For example, consider using templates with scripts and approaches to resolving common problems. Many organizations leverage helpdesk software, too, which will allow you to integrate a wide number of solutions to assist you with communicating with your customers more effectively.

As we have touched on, agents need to be respectful and personable, addressing customers by name whenever possible, whether they are chatting via a live chat or calling in through a call center — it’s a real, genuine conversation. At the same time, they cannot be overly casual.

Active listening is another critical piece of the puzzle. Support agents need to listen to their customers. This will help them truly understand their users and come up with the best solutions to approach the problem. It will also make the customer feel valued, respected, and understood. Use positive language to reinforce the customer’s perspective — the customer is always right, after all — and keep the tone empathetic.

In addition, follow up after a conversation, whether it has been held with a human or chatbot, to ensure the problem has been appropriately resolved and receive feedback on how the team has performed.

6. Track metrics

Intuition alone is not enough to guide your customer support strategy. You must use concrete data to back up your initiatives. Fortunately, you are probably already using comprehensive systems that generate enormous amounts of information. Plus, as we have underscored, asking for feedback through tools like surveys will give you even more actionable data.

Some of the metrics you should look into include:

  • Average response time
  • Average resolution time
  • Customer satisfaction scores
  • Ticket volume at given times
  • Ticket backlog

In addition, you need to evaluate data about your team members. Are your customer support agents well equipped to perform their jobs appropriately? How do they feel about their employer? What skills or tools do they need to do their jobs even better?

7. Measure customer satisfaction

In the previous point, we mentioned customer satisfaction scores. These are just one of many metrics that will allow you to put a number on consumer happiness.

It’s important to pay attention to these values in particular because they impact your overall brand and its reputation. It will also help you to attain and retain customers to your company.

Important values to track, along with your customer satisfaction score (CSAT), are:

  • Customer retention rate
  • Customer churn rate (CCR)
  • Customer effort score (CES)
  • Customer health score (CHS)
  • Net promoter score (NPS)

CTA

8. Personalize your customer experience

All customer support can be more personal. Even mass emails can be made more personal with the help of personalization tags in the recipient field.

Additionally, agents who are actively communicating with customers should amplify and augment the customer journey by not only seeking to understand them and their needs but also taking the time to hear them and understand their needs. Agents should make themselves accessible via multiple channels, from social media to phone calls to email. Ultimately, it is about responding to the customer’s needs.

9. Maintain the response time

Resolve customer issues as quickly and efficiently as possible. On top of that, make your first contact time as short as possible. Even if you can’t completely address the problem immediately, it’s critical to shorten your response times in order to keep the customer engaged and make them feel heard. It’s more than just a gesture — it’s a way to keep them in the loop, so to speak, and enhance communication.

10. Exceed your customers’ expectations

It’s simply not enough to meet your customers’ expectations. You need to exceed them.

This starts with understanding the very needs of your current and prospective consumers. Proactively consider what they need from your product and/or service and the types of hiccups they might encounter when using it. Then, make an effort to address them before they become a problem by, for example, providing clear instructions and extensive — but manageable — troubleshooting.

You should also continually solicit constructive criticism and feedback from your customers, even when they haven’t come to you with a support question. Ask them how you can do better to meet their expectations and why they might turn to a competitor over you. That way, you can ensure that you improve your brand to better appeal to them.

11. Humanize your customer service conversations

When a customer comes to you with a problem, complaint, or additional need, they want to feel valued and understood. Human empathy and service are the keys to an overall positive customer experience.

Help customers by asking questions and showing understanding. Keep your tone light, personable, and approachable. Identify with concerns, and, above all else, treat them like human beings.

This is pivotal; make your customer feel like you understand what they are going through. Even if you believe the problem has an easy fix, it’s critical to show understanding, no matter what.

12. Escalate the support requests to the right team

When you are in a job interview, common knowledge dictates that you should never say “no” when asked if you have a certain experience, skill, or level of expertise. Instead, you should focus on what you can do. The same goes for customer support.

If the support team doesn’t know the solution or answer to a particular customer query, they should never say “no” or even “I don’t know.” Instead, they should provide actionable alternatives. In many cases, this will mean connecting them with a supervisor, colleague, or team within your business.

Be careful about shuffling a customer from department to department and/or putting them on hold for a significant amount of time. We’ve all been the customer in this scenario, so we know firsthand how frustrating it is.

13. Make everyone part of customer service

While only some individuals are on the frontlines, working directly with customers to provide solutions and respond to queries, everyone within the company is responsible for contributing to the customer experience.

By including each team member in the customer journey, you are reminding your employees that the ultimate goal of your business and the products it releases is to please and meet the needs of the end-user. You’re also establishing a more collaborative environment and will be able to develop new — and better — ideas and strategies for success.

Project Profitability

14. Be consistent across all customer service channels

In order to better streamline your customer support and fully resolve each and every customer’s problem or concern, you will need to provide consistency. You probably have several different channels through which you offer support and customer service, and whether the user is reaching out to you via Facebook, LinkedIn, your website, or a phone call, your approach to rectifying the problem or otherwise engaging with the customer should be consistent.

You must also make it easy for every customer to get in touch with you. Think about your contact buttons, for example. Do you have a clear platform, where your customer understands how they can reach out to you? When they click on the email link, does it open into a contact form, or does it attempt to use an email client window — something not all users have?

Integrate your different approaches and ensure each one is easy to use and provides an optimal consumer experience.

15. Offer premium support for loyal customers

Using tools like a customer relationship management (CRM) system, you will be able to assess customer loyalty. This, in turn, will allow you to see which individuals and companies have the most promise and potential when it comes to their relationship with your brand. It stands to reason that you should invest the most time and effort in those who have offered the same level of dedication to you.

By assessing metrics that show longevity and frequency in terms of commitment and purchases, you can develop measures that will enable you to offer more support to those who show the most loyalty to your organization. In other words, you might develop a VIP program.

While you should, of course, provide support to all of your customers, those who show the most loyalty may receive additional features and access through a rewards or premium program.

Remember, first and foremost, that customer service can make or break your entire business. Customer support is integral to your efforts toward building and nurturing a more reputable, engaging, and consumer-centric brand. Never skimp on support — and never underestimate its value.

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