A customer service employee is the point of contact between a company and its customers. But, what a customer service employee truly is can be open to interpretation: is it just people who communicate with customers on a daily basis (e.g. a customer support rep)? Or, is the definition broader?
My opinion is that every employee serves the company's customers, whether directly or indirectly. Marketing, sales, customer success, operations, product departments – they're all in the customer service business.
And this means that getting some training and knowledge in customer service is really important. Here's why:
Products are for customers. This means almost everyone in the company is either working to create products customers want or to convince customers to buy those products.
So, instead of training only frontliners who talk with people, arrange product training for everyone in the team.
For example, you can arrange trial versions for the employees so they can play around a platform. Or give them some product samples for free. This will help them get in the customer's shoes and understand the benefits or shortcomings of what you sell.
And for those who are involved in product creation (e.g. engineers in SaaS or manufacturing departments), make sure they get plenty of information from customer service teams about what customers say they want, need, and like about their products. This is how they'll be able to refine the products they make.
Of course, this approach is extra important when it comes to new hires. Company UrbanBound says that a standard onboarding process results to 54 percent more productivity from a new hire. Another example is Zappos; they have transformed their onboarding approach due to its major impact on the firm's employer brand image.
The best way to empathize your visitors is direct communication. Making them feel special by making time to hear them out – be it via social listening, directly responding to their queries, or reaching out to them via surveys. And, employees need to communicate with each other about customers. For example, a marketer may need to ask customer support which topics customers ask about in order to plan knowledge base articles.
Whatever the case, foster an open communication culture and teach yourself and your team to ask the right questions of the right people.
Also, your team needs to know how to use the various tools that can make communication easier, tools that are usually used by customer service teams.
For example, a communication tool like live chat gives you the opportunity to call your visitors through phone or chat with them in real time when they're visiting your site. And, research by econsultancy has shown that 73 percent customers prefer live chat over email and phone.
Same reason holds to have screen sharing and cobrowsing tools. And, you need an automated CRM system since you need to track customer details.
Sometimes, people may have an issue but they don't know how to ask for a solution. If, for example, you can't sign in your account, and the error message isn't clear, you don't know what you need to do to fix and rely on the company that owns the account to tell you.
So, a customer-centric culture helps you anticipate what customers need. This is especially useful in product departments (think UX), but it can also come in handy for other teams.
A marketer won't do a whole ad campaign on one thing, when they know customers are asking for something else. A customer support team may collect all frequently asked questions from customers and automate responses by training a chatbot. Finance may use customer demand trends to create forecasts.
So, make sure your company thinks about serving customers first, before anything else.
Critical thinking ability is important in every aspect of our lives.
Employees in customer service especially know how necessary it is to think critically about every customer query, issue, or complaint. Not only because you need to prioritize them and resolve them, but because you need to understand which ones are new and need to be passed on to other teams to anticipate for the future. As we said, anticipating customer needs is a big part of customer experience.
So, make sure all employees have adequate support and training to look at issues with a critical eye.
Trainings for employees don't always focus on the positive side. But customer service training does. Because, even under the toughest conditions, customer service employees aim to stay polite and positive.
This is not only a customer service skill that can make all the difference for customers, but it's also an important life lesson in crisis management and patience that will be helpful to all employees.
No matter what training you're doing, try to focus on the positive side: how to defuse tension, how to provide a solution, or how to admit you can't and look for alternatives. Customer service is about looking for positivity and so should everything else in a business.