No product is perfect and software is no exception. Those imperfections are what makes customer support necessary and essential.
Together, software and support is a powerful combination that makes sure that clients get all of the resources they need to succeed in today's tech-driven world.
New software features usually get more of the attention, but customer support is often overlooked. It requires investment, the right strategy, simple processes and fun (hey, it's more than just talking about tickets).
Support strategies can vary from company to company, but the core requirement for customers is always the same: "Deal with my request as quickly as possible and provide the right information." Right there behind every successful customer interaction is your team.
Ready to put your best foot forward for your customers? Here are my top tips for managing a customer service department.
1. Keep your guidelines simple: Most people do not want to read a 100-page document outlining support processes. Keep it simple, readable and concise. (This goes for internal and external guidelines, too.)
2. Promote entrepreneurship in your team: give your team members a rough framework to work from — and then let them use their judgement. See Nordstrom's guideline "Use good judgement always."
3. Never use an email inbox to receive support requests: you need a queue-based system that helps support prioritise requests that come in. Otherwise, requests will slip through the cracks, or you'll risk people jumping the queue — which doesn't lead to a great experience for anyone.
4. Provide omnichannel support. Everyone has a preferred method to contact support, which is why you need to accommodate customers' wishes. Many customers want to self-serve. How are your self-service options? Are you managing phone and email channels appropriately? Make sure your customer has the best of all worlds.
5. Take your time in adapting your strategy: prioritising in a high-volume environment is difficult, plain and simple. Don't go into a company and strive to change everything from day one; take your time and adapt your support strategy to accommodate other teams, and you'll be able to gradually implement your vision.
6. Hiring is the biggest key to a successful department: when hiring, be candid about the challenges and don't sugarcoat anything. People leave companies when they do not know what they are walking into. Customer service is all about the people, and you need to make sure you have the right ones.
7. Speaking of hiring, don't hire the same profile: you need combinations of different types of profiles to make a team successful. Support requires a mixture of "Workhorse" types, "Administrators," "Innovators" and "Analysts."
8. Be honest and transparent with your team: my mentor once said "I am not perfect and do not pretend to know everything," and it always stuck with me. Be that kind of leader.
9. Prepare a strategy for empowering the customer: let's be honest: most customers donot want to call customer support. But when they do, I look for opportunities to show them how to do something themselves that they might ask support to do. When that happens, they say: "wow, I didn't realise I could do that in the system, thank you!" Tell your customer about the latest and greatest features and help them to be successful on their own.
10. Write a rap song about your company: no, seriously: if you're passionate about something outside of work, bring that passion into your career. I like busting some rhymes — although my voice probably isn't as good as I might think it is. Have fun and show your passion; it really will help you come up with better ideas. (I'll admit it: I'm currently writing a "listings paradise" song using Coolio's original.)
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