Slack notifications, new emails, regular meetings, and even sunny weather behind the window – these are just a few of the daily distractions reducing productivity at work. Efficiency is key for every aspect of the business, but when it refers to a customer support team, every minute counts. People turn to the company to resolve their problems with a product or service, and support representatives are the ones who can help them.
Productive customer service agents mean happier customers. This result is the most rewarding for every company and leads to other positive business outcomes, such as increasing sales, a positive brand reputation, and so on.
How to maximize your customer service team productivity? We should admit that it usually doesn’t come easy. However, these ten actionable strategies can help you achieve the best performance.
1. Listen to your employees
It all starts with the team and healthy relationships in it. Such relationships are built on a strong foundation, which is respect. To increase productivity, create an atmosphere of mutual respect and consideration by listening to your team members’ opinions and suggestions.
They are literally on the front line and the first to know what the customers’ concerns are. Your employees can provide unique insights into your customers’ pain points and suggest ways to address them. Make it a company standard to hold regular meetings with your customer support team, even a virtual one, to share information.
Make sure, however, that information is exchanged both ways. Listen to your team on the customer issues they are facing and the work organization improvements they suggest. In turn, communicate to them any changes and updates in the company’s strategy and policies, so that they are empowered to resolve customers’ issues properly.
2. Empathize with customers
Simply put, empathy means stepping into your customer’s shoes and trying to understand how they feel and what they need with you. This is not as easy as it may seem. 71% of businesses admit that they have a gap between what they offer to customers and what the customers really want.
To close that gap, establish a culture of empathy in your customer relations. That means every point of customer contact – from service and support to marketing and production. And in this context, a truly emphatic support team can make a huge difference.
In their contacts with your brand, customers want to be listened to and understood. Such an attitude is especially important for customer support and complaint handling. If a customer was treated with empathy and understanding, they tend to be satisfied with the service, even if their issue was not resolved. Through empathy, the level of customer satisfaction with your support increases, thus increasing their productivity.
3. Build a knowledge base
Knowledge management is a key factor in boosting the performance of not only customer support teams but entire organizations. Knowledge empowers and inspires confidence in any worker.
However, while the majority of businesses recognize the importance of knowledge management, only a few of them – 9% according to Deloitte’s research – are prepared to implement it.
In the context of increasing the productivity of your customer service team, knowledge management cannot be overestimated. By providing a comprehensive and informative knowledge base to your agents, you are giving them a powerful tool to use in customer communications.
Moreover, you can offer customers to use your knowledge base as a self-service resource, too. In this case, it should contain clear answers to FAQs and detailed how-tos to help customers resolve the most common issues. This way, the load on the support team reduces, and their productivity increases.
4. Explore your product or service
Your customer support agents should be the best experts on your product or service. They are the ones who explain its workings to customers and guide them about using it properly. The support team should have deep knowledge of the product and extensive practical experience of it, too.
To achieve that goal, you can offer your team product training and update sessions where they can learn of the new features and get hands-on experience of it. Armed with that knowledge, they will be able to assist customers quicker and more efficiently, raising the first contact resolution rate and the overall team productivity.
On the other hand, you can provide the same knowledge to customers, too, making your product clearer for them. You can do it through a public knowledge base or an ebook that you offer on your website.
5. Communicate as clearly as possible
Internal communication between customer service agents should be easy, open, and clear. Communication promotes a productive and positive environment for the service team allowing them to exchange knowledge and assist each other in handling customer inquiries.
Think of the following cases when communication will definitely make the agents’ work more productive:
- A customer needs some follow-up communication that is done by a different agent.
- A customer returns for clarifications and is connected to another agent.
- A customer’s issue is outside the agent’s qualification scope and needs a subject-matter expert consultation.
All these issues can be resolved efficiently with proper communication within the team. Besides, establishing a healthy communication culture helps the team to stay on the same page and be quickly updated on all the news and changes. This is especially critical for virtual teams.
6. Use efficiency-boosting tools
Nowadays, you cannot do without proper customer service and team collaboration tools. They can help you accelerate and automate various tasks making your team more productive and efficient.
For example, think of a customer relations system that offers multiple communication channels. Customers can connect to you via email, live chat, messenger, or telephone that can be integrated as a cloud-based phone system. In all cases, all the communication details will be stored centrally, and when the next time the customer chooses another way to contact you, it will be easy to pull up their case history. If you are using the phone as one of the communication channels, you might consider an additional tool to boost call capacity.
Along with communication tools, you can also implement a chatbot that will serve as the first point of contact with the customer and help to route them to the correct agent. This way, the chances that the issue will be resolved quickly are higher, thus increasing the team’s productivity and throughput.
7. Encourage learning and self-education
The most productive agent is the agent who knows what they are doing. Empower your team with as much knowledge and practical training as possible. Training should include every aspect of customer service – product knowledge, introduction to customer service tools and knowledge base, support techniques and processes, time management, etc.
In addition to organized learning, encourage your team’s desire to self-educate. Customer service is a serious skill, and if your agents want to boost it with additional courses or books, support this intent by all means. The company might even allocate a certain training budget that your agents can use to level up their skills.
Through training, you build confidence in your customer service staff and help them handle customers’ inquiries in a highly professional way. Armed with knowledge and skills, they can organize their work better and improve their personal productivity.
8. Turn mistakes into learning opportunities
Errare humanum est (to err is human), and we must live with it. Mistakes happen even to the most weathered professionals, but it is the response to the mistake that makes a difference. If an agent makes a mistake, which is escalated to the team lead, the best strategy would be not to lay the blame immediately but to seek a solution that can satisfy the customer.
After the matter is settled, try to understand why the mistake happened in the first place. Was it because of a lack of experience? Suggest a training course to the agent to help them gain the necessary knowledge. Was it due to fatigue and loss of concentration? See if the workload is adequate and try to balance it better.
Regard mistakes as opportunities to make your customer service better and more productive. And, if similar mistakes repeat often, maybe, something is not right with your processes and policies.
9. Set your standards high
Yes, it is a cliché, but customer service is the face of the company. They are the ones customers talk to, and they create your brand’s image in the customer’s eyes. To make that image positive and engaging, your service team should aim for the highest standards.
Invest in quality assurance for your team. Assign this duty to experienced professionals who will monitor the performance of the rest of the support staff and ensure that they conform to the standards and policies adopted by the company. The QA can focus on the following aspects:
- Agent productivity
- Customer satisfaction
- Compliance with the applicable laws, rules, and regulations
- Adherence to the adopted processes and strategies
10. Measure and analyze customer feedback
After each interaction, ask the customer for feedback. It does not have to be too detailed or complex – you can simply offer to rate the service from one to five or choose one of the smiley faces.
Of course, a lot of positive reviews may mean that everything is all right with your customer service, product, and brand in general. At the same time, remember that the feedback does not always show the complete picture. Only one of 26 unhappy customers complains, the rest just say nothing.
Therefore, the best strategy is to monitor multiple customer metrics to get a true understanding of how customers are satisfied with your product or service. This analysis will help the company to detect deficiencies quickly and take appropriate measures.
To wrap it up, truly productive customer service forms where the company cares for its employees. When a service agent is equipped with advanced tools, empowered with the required knowledge, and feels that the company has their back, they are dedicated, engaged, and highly productive. Place your service staff in the focus of your attention – and you will soon see a considerable increase in their performance and customer satisfaction.