In any profession, sport, or trade, world-class teams do certain things that separate themselves from others. On the flip side, these elite teams avoid certain activities in order to ensure maximum performance. The world of service is no different.
To provide a truly exceptional experience--one that helps earn that elite reputation with customers--management teams must religiously avoid pitfalls that run-of-the-mill competitors fall into.
Whether your company is scaling rapidly or just starting to build a solid foundation for the future, don't let your team fall into these common traps:
1. After receiving the same inquiries over and over, reps start acting as human FAQ machines.
People don't contact customer service to have policies read back to them verbatim. They want help making the right decision. Elite agents not only know the answers (or where to find them), but they drive customers to the right course of action and add relevant information to ensure clarity and a successful outcome.
2. Deflecting responsibility becomes part of the culture.
The customer service rep who picks up the phone is the company, at least in the eyes of the customer. Accepting responsibility for a bad experience and accepting fault are two different things. Even if a rep or his/her team is not directly responsible for the issue that drove a customer to call, effective agents pledge to do what they can to make things right on behalf of the entire company. This is a top-down cultural force that exists on elite teams, which leaders instill by training the reps to apologize and accept responsibility, and by giving them the ability to make things right in the eyes of the customer.
3. Responses focus on the can't.
Even the most empowered customer service reps can't bend time and space to get a product fixed or an item delivered on schedule. However, they can take steps to bring problems closer to resolution.
Here's an example: A rep from an online retailer takes a call from a customer who didn't receive a shipment on time. The rep that focuses on the can't tells the customer he's not sure what caused the delay, and that because it's already in the hands of, say, UPS, a solution is out of his control, and it's best to call UPS directly. The rep that focuses on the can pulls up the order information, determines that it's a UPS issue, and communicates that while he can't fix it directly, he'll contact UPS on the shopper's behalf and request that the package be expedited. Then the rep closes the loop with the customer after the call with UPS.
4. Follow-throughs slip through the cracks.
Teams that focus on near-term satisfaction try to resolve issues if they can, but if they can't, they provide limited follow-up. If a problem can't be solved on the spot and takes time or input from others, elite companies track those issues to closure every time. No one on the team accepts water slipping through the cracks. Even a simple email to confirm that the customer's needs have been satisfied can go a long way.
5. Redirecting customers to other channels without context.
If a customer inquiry lands with a rep who doesn't have direct access to the tools needed to solve the problem, the worst response is telling the customer to contact the company through another channel. Elite companies empower frontline representatives to use all of the necessary information and tools to ensure customers get their problems solved.
Every rep's toolkit should include a robust customer relationship management, or CRM, system for historical background on the customer's interactions with the company, as well as a Web-based wiki or dedicated company intranet loaded with information on the company, its policies, and its products. For e-commerce or other retail companies, access to an order management system, or OMS, that allows agents to check order statuses and look into the business's back-end processes can remove the need to transfer to a manager or escalate the issue. If the interaction needs to be moved to another channel, a warm, friendly transfer or, if necessary, a callback from the right party who has been briefed on the customer's issue will save everyone time, effort, and frustration.