Understanding the relationship between compliance and customer relations
February 20th, 2018
Keeping customers happy is the name of the game. Unfortunately, it’s not the only responsibility modern businesses have. In addition to keeping customers satisfied, you also must remain compliant with various laws, regulations, and requirements in your industry.
Compliance: The norm in today’s business world
It’s easy to view compliance as a pain in the rear – a deterrent force in your pursuit of growing revenue, scaling your business, launching new products, or managing people. Compliance means abiding by constricting rules and regulations, even when you don’t feel like they’re within your company’s best interests.
The thing about regulatory compliances and other industry rules and laws is that you don’t really have much of a choice. You either abide by them or you get penalized, sanctioned, and/or shut down for your lack of obedience.
For many businesses, the biggest point of friction occurs at the intersection of regulatory compliance and customer satisfaction. Abiding by a certain regulation often feels like a direct threat to keeping customers happy, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, the more you study the purpose behind compliance, the more you’ll realize that rules and regulations actually help keep you on track.
Remaining compliant and keeping customers happy
The rise of the cloud has been one of the more interesting developments to watch in recent years. It’s gone from a promising technology to the undisputed present and future of computing. But part of what has made the cloud successful is the fact that its growth has been so closely monitored to ensure customer-side safety and security. Many regulatory agencies and bodies require businesses to meet very specific compliance measures when it comes to handling customer data and confidential information.
This is just one example of how compliance and customer relations interact in a positive way. If it weren’t for these compliance measures, it’s likely that some businesses wouldn’t take the necessary security precautions, which would result in preventable data leakage and security risks (which would ultimately hurt customer satisfaction in these brands).
Another example of how certain compliance measures can protect a customer’s best interests (and thereby the company’s best interests) is found in American franchises.
“Franchises, multi-location companies and organizations who have a well-defined model have staked and scaled their growth based on consistency and adherence to the fundamentals that made that system successful,” Kelly Grace writes for Volano Solutions. “In this regard, compliance to those tenets is necessary not just for health, safety or legal reasons but to delight customers and drive revenue.”
Agile compliance systems are a must
Having acknowledged some of the benefits of compliance and how it can have a positive impact on customer relationships, it’s also important to recognize the fact that fragmentary compliance systems can be dangerous and costly when it comes to the customer experience.
As compliance expert Holly Parker writes, “Fragmentary compliance systems that slow down, restrict, or inconvenience customers will lead to a lack of trust and loyalty in the institutional-customer relationship, instead of nurturing the reliability and convenience which generates loyal and satisfied customers – customers who contribute to a financial institution’s long term market success.”
Clearly, there’s a need for agile compliance systems that encourage consistency, while eliminating the friction that typically comes with incomplete systems and strategies. If your business is subject to external compliance – i.e. industry regulations – then it’s up to you to develop internal methods for handling these regulations in the most efficient manner possible.
If your organization is subject to internal compliance – like specific rules from corporate – then it might be worthwhile to sit down and have a conversation with key business leaders about how you can increase flexibility without compromising on consistency.
Whatever the case may be, don’t sit back and watch.
3 strategies for winning the customer service battle on social media
February 13th, 2018
If an individual or company lacks a Facebook presence, do they really exist? Social media defines how we communicate in the digital age. It’s as critical to modern life as oxygen or electricity. It’s how we stay connected to the people and things we care about.
And for companies, it’s mission critical. Nearly half of Americans have interacted with a business on social media. So, let’s look at some killer strategies to help your company keep pace with consumer preferences for customer service via social media.
1. Organize communication channels in a single place
Consumers have become so comfortable with Facebook and Twitter that they regularly use it to communicate with brands when they need help resolving an issue. Thankfully, platforms like Desk.com allow business owners to bring all of their client communication, including social media messages, in one place – making a flurry of customer chats much more manageable.
This includes the added benefit of ensuring that your entire customer service team is operating from the same playbook. Duplicate replies and mixed messaging only result in customers losing respect for your brand.
2. Stay ahead of evolving social media channels
The social media landscape is constantly changing. Whether its massive feature changes thanks to radical platform updates, or changing user habits, it’s your job to anticipate where your customers will pop-up next.
For example, LinkedIn is quickly blurring the lines between their original professional network image and a one-stop-social media platform. After their acquisition by Microsoft, the improvements to their platform have given them some stats to write home about.
They are opening new accounts at a rate of 2 per second, and more than 61 million influencers call the platform home, bolstered by more than 40 million decision makers. These eye-popping LinkedIn stats showcase how a once stuffy platform for busy professionals is evolving into a place for every working person to connect and engage with their coworkers and potential employers.
For B2B brands, it’s not unusual for customers to reach out via LinkedIn. This is especially true of decision-makers that are tired of dealing with ineffective account executives. You shouldn’t outsource LinkedIn customer service chats to your regular team. In fact, I would handle them personally. The demographics of LinkedIn are still heavily tilted towards executives and professionals – the kinds of clients that B2B companies need to excite if they want to compete.
3. Don’t just echo your blog on your social pages
Old school marketers looked at social media pages as a hip tool to echo out blog posts and company updates. While most Facebook pages still serve this purpose, to varying degrees, modern social media channels need their own unique content in order to shine.
If you really want to have fun, look no further than Wendy’s, McDonald’s and Burger King on Twitter. Their smackdown tweets are the stuff of legends. They leverage their twitter presence to engage on an informal, tongue-in-cheek dialogue that keeps people coming back for more.
Words are not the only ones you can play with in the virtual world. Brands like Oreo or Starbucks win their followers by creating and posting high quality, fun visuals on their feeds. A service you can use in order to stay relevant in the social-media game while also having a good looking profile is Bannersnack. This website is the perfect tool for you to design social-media visuals even without having any design knowledge.
And, when a customer service issue pops up, they’re all hands-on deck. Their ability to have fun, while still taking care of business keeps the marketing department and their customers very happy.
How well is your brand performing on social media? If you aren’t posting multiple times a week, and enjoying a steadily growing “like” and/or “follower” count, you’re doing it wrong. Use social media to get beyond the scripted customer service calls and truly connect with your market as it evolves at the speed of posts and tweets.
You’ll find that customers appreciate the convenience of solving their issue from within the mobile apps they already know and love. And your company will look more modern and accommodating to customer demands.
3 employee recruitment and onboarding strategies that cut costs and reduce turnover
February 7th, 2018
You’ve spent weeks combing through resumes, calling your short-list of applicants and conducting in-person interviews. Recruiting a winning team is time consuming and stressful. And, it’s a major distraction to the other aspects of your business that could benefit from more attention – crushing your bottom-line.
In addition to the personal stress and lost business opportunities, there’s a measurable cost to recruiting a high-quality workforce. Research shows that this cost varies based on the type of position:
Low-skilled, high-turnover positions cost companies 16% of their annual salary when they need to be replaced.
A mid-level manager earning around $40,000 per year would cost the company 20% of their annual salary to replace.
The cost of replacing a high-level executive or other critical team member can exceed 213% of their annual salary.
The key takeaway here is that the more skilled your labor force, the more expensive it becomes to recruit, screen and train their replacement. Hanging onto quality members of your team is a fundamental aspect of reducing operating costs for your company.
Thankfully, there are powerful tools available to companies that want to improve the employee experience and reduce costly turnover.
1. Make it easier for negative employees to leave
This might sound counterintuitive, but one of the top reasons good employees leave is because you’ve surrounded them with toxic people that do not believe in the mission behind your company.
With the wrong people, an office can feel more like a prison than an opportunity to earn an income and achieve personal ambitions.
This is one reason that Jeff Bezos, the Founder and CEO of Amazon, is willing to pay employees to leave – up to $5000. The method behind the madness is simple: If you’re just sticking it out until your next paycheck, and you hate your job, your negative attitude oozes out into the workforce and the customer experience suffers.
Negative, disenchanted employees are a cancer that can infect your labor force and cause massive issues. It’s cheaper to fund their exit, instead of suffering the consequences of keeping them around.
2. Take advantage of cloud-based tools to streamline onboarding
It costs companies thousands of dollars to train and properly enroll new employees. The onboarding process is the first experience your new team member will have with your company. So far, your recruitment and interviewing teams have talked the talk, but will your leadership and human resources department walk the walk?
Here are a few HR tools you can use to streamline the process and help your newest team members experience a fast, painless transition into your workforce:
The Smart Pension platform ensures companies with workforces in the UK are fully compliant with pension scheme requirements. Failure to competently provide employees with critical information can result in substantial fines. This tool helps you avoid those fines, without burdening your new hire.
Cloud-based learning platforms can assist your team in quickly getting up-to-speed, and then staying ahead of the competition. Professional development and opportunities to learn new skills are an important factor in employee satisfaction.
Today’s workforce is truly global. It’s critical that your entire organization is operating from the same sheet of music. You can utilize cloud-based HR management systems to better communicate a consistent corporate vision and a set of policies customized to the locations where your teams call home.
3. Focus on building a team that shares your core values
Remember how I mentioned Amazon’s focus on removing toxic employees from the company? You can avoid needless hiring and firing by simply tweaking your recruitment process.
One of the most effective ways to keep millennials engaged at work is by creating a company culture that aligns with their values – giving them a sense of purpose that matches up with your corporate vision. According to a study by Deloitte, 70% of millennials feel that their personal values are shared by the organizations for which they work.
Do you think they got this feeling from the first company they hired on with after college? No. There’s a reason that employees jump ship – especially millennials. They’re looking for someplace to work that shares their values – and I’m not talking about those motivational posters up on the wall.
At every stage of your recruitment and onboarding process, ensure your new hires understand that social and moral values of your organization. This isn’t about evangelizing or preaching. Those are just words.
Instead, focus your marketing, customer service and product development strategies around the values that matter to your culture. There are a few ways to do this, without breaking the bank:
Allow employees to donate time to their favorite causes. Paid volunteering time is a great way to show your teams that you give back to the causes they care about.
Empower your HR department and leadership teams to initiate diversity and inclusion initiatives. These are designed to ensure everyone feels welcome.
If you’re mindful and focused about aligning your actions with your shared corporate values, you’ll have much less turnover. And you’ll do a better job of attracting the employees that will dig in and help your company prosper.
Automated customer service must be deeply personal to be successful
January 30th, 2018
There’s a push to automate the entire customer experience, and for good reason. Computers rarely call in sick, and they’re much more cost-effective than a traditional human customer service rep. Plus, customers prefer automated, self-help solutions.
But, automation requires a secret ingredient to outperform humans. That ingredient is personalization.
If you’re asking yourself, “How do I personalize an automated user-experience?” You’re not alone.
Follow the Bread(cookie)crumbs
To personalize the experience, you need to learn everything you can about the end-user. Traditional marketing data on your target audience is helpful, but we need to break things down to the individual user-level.
This is where affiliate marketing and content marketing come into play. By the time someone sees your site, chances are they’ve completed a few Google searches about your brands and products. You need to know what they’re engaging with in order to know if it’s the right time to pitch your product or service.
Even if they haven’t searched for you specifically by name, the problem they’re trying to solve should lead them to a Google search result page with links to your content, or the content of your affiliate marketers.
In either case, when the customer hits your associated content, their computer should receive a tracking cookie. These cookies are everywhere on the web, and they’re used by savvy-marketers to track the journey that customers take to their site.
Continue Building a Customer Profile Based on Interactions with Your Brand
Once the customer has reached your site, you need to continue collecting data on the individual user. You can differentiate individual viewers with cookies, by IP address, or incentivizing visitors to give you their email address (i.e. free newsletter or email marketing offer).
You can also steal a page from your favorite grocery store and offer discounted pricing if they agree to sign-into the site. Free membership in a discount club is a great way to reliably track user interactions.
Follow Amazon’s Lead in Delivering a Custom Automated and Live Support Experience
One of the shining examples in delivering automated, personalized customer service is Amazon. With millions of products in hundreds of niche-markets, they’ve successfully threatened almost every big box retailer.
Offer Custom Add-On Suggestions
When you visit their site, you’ll notice that a significant chunk of their webpage is dedicated to positioning products that compliment previous purchases and relate to past browsing history. You can create site algorithms that look at browsing and purchase history, and then analyze product meta-data to make accurate, personalized product suggestions.
Provide Continuity of Support
Once a customer places an order, the order is attached to their account. After signing into your site, it should be easy for customers to view past orders; the information should include shipment tracking information and opportunities to leave product or service reviews.
And, if there is an issue that requires a live representative, you need to provide a clean pathway to accessing the right rep. This can be done by leading the customer through a couple of self-help options. As they interact with the troubleshooting flow, they’ll provide details that should identify the fastest was to resolve their concern.
Accenture published a survey of customers that discovered the most frustrating aspect of customer service: Customers hate having to repeat their issue as they’re transferred from rep to rep.
Your live rep should be able to pick up right where the automation leaves off. Click-to-call is a great way to automatically connect the customer with the appropriate support, and your customer service team can leverage Desk.com’s platform to quickly see previous steps the customer has taken and quickly jump into action.
By delivering a personalized automated experience, you can minimize the cost of traditional customer service overhead. The fact that a customer can resolve most issues on their own in the time it would have taken them to wait on hold for a rep will dramatically improve brand loyalty.
4 tips for collecting overdue invoices and preventing them in the future
January 24th, 2018
Receiving late payments for overdue invoices stifles your cash flow. If you want to restore that flow, here are several tools you can use to collect on these invoices:
1. Change the customer perception of their payments
Many people perceive bills as an inconvenience because it means parting with their hard-earned money. Although they want the goods or services, it still hurts to part with their dollars.
A person doesn’t usually change their payment habits from one bill to the next. Someone who’s perpetually behind on their phone or electricity bills will probably be behind on invoices for their own business.
To encourage people to pay late invoices, you need to find a way to remind them of the value of the services they’ve received, without making the request to pay seem like a threat. Threatening is one way to never get paid.
When you can get a customer to think about the value of what they’ve received, you’ll have a better chance at getting paid. You can achieve this through the language you use to communicate with your customers.
Be intentional with your words
When you send a “late payment” notice, it’s tempting to mark it up with red ink, emphasize how overdue the invoice is, and stack up the penalties. However, that approach is not effective. Instead, change the words you use to request payment in full.
Use phrases like, “thank you for being a loyal customer,” “we’re happy you’re enjoying your services,” and “your prompt payment makes it possible for us to continue serving you.”
2. Seek outside help to get paid
If you’re having difficulty collecting on your outstanding receivables, consider getting help in the form of accounts receivable factoring. There are companies that will buy your outstanding invoices, and the customer will owe them. FactorFinder.com explains, “Factoring receivables is used to smooth out the gaps in your cash flow caused by slow-payers. It’s a debt-free way to get paid sooner by unlocking cash tied up in unpaid invoices. Since it’s not a loan, there is nothing to repay.”
Be sure to seek this kind of help as soon as possible; the older an invoice gets, the less collectible it becomes.
3. Don’t accept reasons or excuses, yet be flexible
If you’re going to cut someone a break, do it without accepting their excuse.
While there are legitimate situations in which people don’t have available funds, some people put off their payments out of habit. The moment you accept an excuse for a late payment from someone with that habit, you’re creating a future of late payments.
Quickly suggest a new due date
Rather than entertain excuses, suggest a new due date that isn’t more than a week away. Let them know if they pay by the new date, their payment won’t be considered late.
Be flexible with the date; if a customer needs a couple extra days beyond the date you proposed so they can get paid, give them that grace period. Give them at least one chance to follow through.
If any of these top excuses for late payments sound familiar, it’s time to tighten the reins on your collections efforts.
4. Avoid getting involved in the customer’s story
Customers have all kinds of reasons they can’t make their payments, and unfortunately, entertaining the legitimate reasons can put you in a position where that customer will expect a break.
For example, if a customer tells you they can’t pay their invoice because they had to drain their savings account to pay for an emergency surgery, that’s a legitimate reason. However, the more you allow the customer to tell you their story of why they can’t pay, the more they’ll expect you to cut them a break – and get mad when you don’t.
4 ways you can offer more responsive customer service
January 19th, 2018
Customer service plays an integral role in success for small businesses that want to compete with larger brands. However, most companies don’t prioritize responsiveness nearly as much as they should. In today’s marketplace, customers expect businesses to deal with them promptly and efficiently. Shortcomings in this area will do nothing but hold you back over the long haul.
How to increase your customer service responsiveness
According to entrepreneur Ian Linton, “Customer responsiveness is the ability of a business to recognize and respond to changing customer needs.” As you seek to improve your business standing in your industry and drive engagement with the marketplace, enhancing your overall level of responsiveness is one of the strongest investments you can make. Here are a few specific actions you can take:
1. Don’t offer a channel you don’t intend to monitor
One mistake businesses often make is promising customer service channels that they can’t support. While it might look nice to advertise phone, email, chat, and social media support, don’t promise something you don’t intend to monitor. It’s better to offer one or two responsive channels than four or five poorly managed ones.
2. Learn to use social media correctly
Social media offers an excellent opportunity for your company to offer customer service in an environment where your customers are already congregating. Just make sure you understand the responsibilities that come with social customer service.
Studies show that people feel they deserve a response within the same day, while 42 percent want feedback within an hour of a customer service inquiry. Having a full-time social media customer service rep will help you reach these goals.
3. Give trusted team members autonomy
While you should be cautious when it comes to giving a lot of unsupervised freedom to lower-level employees who haven’t yet proven themselves, there’s something to be said for providing your most trusted team members with the autonomy to promptly deal with customer service issues.
One practical way you can do this is by providing these trusted employees with good business credit cards that they can use to fix or solve customer issues immediately. In other words, instead of having to climb up the ladder and get approval from multiple people just to take care of a $20 expense, the employee can take care of it at their discretion. In the long run, this autonomy breeds better responsiveness.
4. Make the chain of command clear
When you look at inefficient customer service departments, one of the more common traits is a lack of clarity regarding the chain of command. People on the lower levels of the chain don’t know who they report to. People at the top aren’t always sure of how much power and freedom they have to call the shots. It’s a vicious cycle that leads to slow response times and frustrating customer experiences.
The solution to this problem is to make sure everyone is on the same page. The more you can streamline the chain of command, the faster the response times. When response times are fast, customers will be satisfied, too.
Give your customers what they want
Your customers choose to spend their hard earned time and money on your products and services. This should give you a sense of responsibility to care for them and make sure their needs are met. And while every consumer has their own specific needs, each customer deserves responsive service when they have questions, requests, or needs. By increasing your level of responsiveness, you’ll create more satisfied customers, which in turn strengthens your brand and attracts additional customers. It’s a sustainable loop your business can come to rely on.
Leverage these powerful channels to engage customers in 2018
January 9th, 2018
Mark Cuban is fond of saying, “Sales cure all.” In other words, no matter what challenge your business is facing, generating sales can help you get out of a slump.
This year is an exciting year for entrepreneurs. The U.S. economy is heating up and tax reform means even more money will be injected into the economy in the coming years – ensuring continued growth. So, how can you make sure that your company gets its share in a booming economy?
Reengage previous customers with email marketing
The lowest hanging fruit in sales are customers that have already interacted with your brand. It’s important to reengage past customers as your product line evolves with time. Are they aware of all your new products and services, or how you’ve improved existing products to help meet their needs more effectively?
Email marketing is a go-to way to reengage previous and existing customers. An email address is normally required when submitting an online order, and the resulting customer database you’ve built is invaluable.
For inspiration, take a look at the most popular self-help content in your knowledge base. What are existing customers experiencing and engaging with? This data is important for product development, but it can also serve as a starting point for developing email marketing content that meets the customer where they are.
Take customers on a journey
There are so many ways to make money online. It’s an exciting time to work in digital marketing! But, don’t let your marketing firm push you into a position where you’re spread too thin. Just because you could make money in something doesn’t mean you need to do it right this second.
Instead, prioritize. The way that I decide what’s most important is by stepping back and considering the journey that I’m crafting for customers. Am I effectively communicating my brand’s values, commitment to service and passion for the solutions we deliver?
Self-published eBooks are awesome tools for communicating values!
Instead of sending customers a bunch of promotional emails with links to your product pages, why not earn their attention by offering them a look behind the scenes? An eBook is more powerful than a blog post because it provides a platform for communicating a long-form message.
Sir Richard Branson is the genius behind Virgin brands. As he scaled to international fame, he leveraged his name by publishing multiple best-selling eBooks; these include “Screw It, Let’s Do It: Lessons in Life and Business”, “Losing My Virginity: How I've Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way” and “Finding My Virginity: The New Autobiography”.
You don’t have to run a multi-billion-dollar international franchise in order to generate revenue and engage customers with eBooks. All you need is a topic that is relevant to your target audience – just like any form of content marketing.
If you’re a B2B company, then you’ve got it made in the shade. Self-publish a series of eBooks that cover lessons you’ve learning through managing your own business.
For traditional consumer brands, it’s a little more tricky. You need to figure out the kinds of in-depth problems your customers can’t solve for themselves by reading a blog post or watching a YouTube video. For example, if you sell home improvement hardware, you might publish a few eBooks that list in-depth steps and insights for homeowners looking to cut costs by completing portions of a remodel on their own.
You have to meet the customer where they are. Why are they going to buy your product or service? How can you help them tackle a situation that leads them to leverage your product or service? Self-published eBooks do an incredible job of communicating complex topics for customers that need advanced solutions.
Video content continues to dominate into 2018
With more than 1.3 billion users, YouTube isn’t a new channel. But the way it’s being used by brands is evolving. There are two rules to effective video marketing – your video needs to be as short as possible, and it needs to quickly educate the viewer in an approachable way.
The day of long-form product promos and vlogs with CEOs is over. Sure, there will be die-hard fans that want as much as you’ll give them, but new customers just getting acquainted with your product want to get in and get out – fast!
Supplement your content marketing with a robust YouTube channel chocked full of interesting, engaging videos. Track viewer feedback and stay engaged with them in the comments. You’ll find yourself generating a lot more buzz than you do with text and infographics.
Every channel you use to grow your brand needs to feed the same funnel. A unified customer communication platform allows for a diverse audience to reach your team via the path that they’re most comfortable – whether that’s video, blog posts or emails.
If you are willing to build new channels for communicating a story to your market, the customers will come in droves.
5 ways to improve your customer service at the point of sale
January 5th, 2018
Your retail location’s point of sale (POS) is one of the most vulnerable processes in your business. Give a customer a memorable and positive final experience, and they’ll be more likely to associate the entire experience with positive feelings. If it’s clunky and awkward, on the other hand, even a good experience might be tainted with that memory.
So why is the POS so crucial to the average customer’s experience, and what can you do to make it better?
Why POS matters
These are three of the main reasons why service at the POS matters:
Financial ties. We tend to place tremendous value on money—even if we like to believe we aren’t materialistic. Anytime we pay for anything (especially if we’re paying cash), we feel resistance and a bit of a thrill. Maximizing the positive feelings and minimizing the negative ones is important to leave your customers with a positive experience.
Last call. The POS is also the last opportunity customers have to change their mind about a purchasing decision. If the line is crawling and they’re in a hurry, for example, they may leave prematurely.
Memorability. We tend to remember the first and last moments of a given experience more than anything in the middle; it’s why the last bite of food is the most important for a meal. Your customers’ POS experience will come to define their entire experience, in retrospect, so make sure it’s a good one.
How to improve your POS strategy
If you want to improve your customers’ experiences with your POS system, try using these strategies:
Find the right POS software. You can only be as efficient as your POS software will allow you to be. Make sure you compare retail POS systems before you buy anything, and experiment with different settings, devices, and platforms. You’ll want to find a system that offers strong functionality, high reliability, and speed, all for a reasonable price. There are dozens of competitive options available, so at least one is certain to work for your business, specifically.
Improve transaction speed. We all live busy lives, and nobody wants to be stuck in a checkout process for more than a minute or two. Optimizing the transaction speed your system can handle is an easy way to make life easier for everybody. If your line runs smoothly and few people ever have to wait, people will barely notice, but if your line is ever backed up or slow, it will work strongly against you.
Offer more payment options. You should also consider accepting more payment options. Accepting cash and all major credit cards is a good start, but you’ll also want to accept digital wallets and other forms of payment. If you can make life more convenient even for a handful of customers, it will be worth it.
Train your staff on personal engagement. Customers who feel like they have a personal connection to your brand will be far more likely to return, so make sure there’s a personal touch for them at the POS. Train your staff to have more engaging personal conversations, and make sure they’re representing the characteristics you want to be associated with your brand.
Give customers takeaways, bonuses, and surprises. We tend to remember things better if they’re associated with a surprise; it’s part of the reason you can’t remember a part of your routine that you’ve repeated a thousand times, but you can more easily remember some aberration of that routine. Giving your customers a pleasant surprise at the POS can make them remember their experience more fondly, and increase their chances of coming back. Consider adding some bonuses or rewards, even if it’s a coupon for a discount the next time they visit.
These five strategies can make your POS system more positive and memorable for customers, which in turn will improve your customer retention and strengthen your brand reputation. The best part is, few of these strategies require a heavy investment, so even a small contribution of extra time and effort can be enough to tip the scales in your favor.
3 stage-specific ways to scale customer service as your company grows
December 26th, 2017
Your company is growing and your customer expectations will grow with it. How do you scale your customer services to meet these growing expectations? You will need to shift from reactive to proactive when it comes to customer support issues, and there are a few guidelines you can use to scale these efforts.
From customer complaints to product questions, it is essential to keep your customer service streamlined and powerful. Why? Well, one of the biggest reasons has a lot to do with your bottom line. Your customer retention efforts are more budget-friendly than customer acquisition.
If you want to scale your customer service as your company grows, the following serves as a detailed guide.
Early stage customer service
Your business has grown from a handful of employees to a dozen or more, and it is time to make customer service a priority. You already have a customer request system in place and your founding team members are all involved. However, it is time to take next steps.
It is time to hire your first customer service representative. This can be a full-time employee, but can also be part-time or a remote employee you have outsourced. Either way, there sole purpose will be to help customers and alleviate customer service issues from the rest of the team.
Here are a few ways to scale your customer service in the early stages:
Route all customer feedback to one channel. This will be the first step, because before this moment it was all hands on deck to field customer service calls, emails, and responding to contact form queries. Put an official channel in place, like an email or live chat option.
Develop a process that makes sense for your business. Set up a process to track your customer requests by dividing them into volume, quality of requests, and revenue issues, such as upgrade and conversion rates. You will also want to create a few email templates that can answer questions you get often.
Create customer support content. This is something Google does, and it works. You can post blog articles that address common customer issues and answer important questions that arise often. These also serve as sales assets, overcoming common objections potential clients and customers may have regarding your products or services.
Middle stage customer service
The middle stage is important when it comes to scaling your customer service department — yes, department rather than one employee juggling multiple customer requests every minute. Now you don’t need to hire a department of customer reps, but adding two or three more may be a good option. It all depends on your company’s unique needs.
Your company may be up to 100 employees and you may be a little worried if you are scaling customer service appropriately. The good news is that the system you put into place at this stage of scale will serve as your customer support foundation.
Here are a few ways to scale your customer service at this stage:
Measure more, and with great detail. You will want a customer feedback tracking system in place that goes beyond the basics. At this stage, think metrics when it comes to response time, resolution of issues, reporting, and track key metrics for new customers, value, and more.
Build a knowledge base. After a 1000 customers you will begin seeing very specific trends in customer issues. One of your new hires should be dedicated to building a knowledge base around all your existing customers and deliver educational support to address the most common issues your company experience. This will save time in the long-term.
Make communication channels accessible. Before your sole customer service rep was sharing an inbox or the company’s 1-800 number. With growth, it is time to scale how customers can reach your reps. Add communication channels like live chat, or a dedicated customer support line. However, be confident in adding these, because once you do, it is not customer-friendly to remove them later.
Maximizing scale in the growth stage
With over 200 employees your scaling efforts need to meet your rapid customer growth. This is a great problem to have as a company, but can be the downfall if customer service is not a priority.
During this important moment in your company’s growth you will need a three to one return when it comes to customer acquisition and retention. Customer lifetime value will be a focus, especially if you have investors to report to.
To scale your customer service appropriately during the growth stage with 200 plus employees, you need proactive retention tactics. This means you will need a leader to manage all customer support efforts. He or she needs to be well rounded technically, a strong leader, and have empathy.
Here’s how to scale in the growth stage:
Track customer churn rate with a revenue number. You hired a stellar leader to manage your customer support team, but how do you or your investors know if they are adding value to the company? A revenue number can link revenue and churn in a way that highlights the value of their efforts.
Turn metrics into models. The metrics your customer service team has been reporting on can be valuable when it comes to developing predictive models. You can examine data and begin asking growth questions like: How can we increase revenue using low hanging fruit? When should we hire another customer rep? What can we automate in the future?
Think permanent platforms and automation tools. The time has come to take everything you have learned about how your customer interacts with your business for support related issues and put some permanent platforms and tools into place. There are a number of ways you can now streamline your customer support workflow, including automating a lot of work with innovate tech, like customer service chatbots.
Scale customer service to meet your unique company growth
It is important to understand that not all companies grow the same way. It often depends on your products and services, and how you deliver them to your target audience. However, regardless of how fast you grow, you will always need to scale and tweak your customer support.
Using the above guide based on company size is a great place to start. You may not need to automate your customer service with a shiny and expensive automation tool if you don’t have a large consumer base just yet. What is essential to your continued growth and success is to keep it simple and scale as needed.
3 ways sales, service, and fulfillment teams collaborate to wow customers
December 19th, 2017
Are your sales, service, and fulfillment teams collaborating? If not, it may cause miscommunication, confusion, and even unhappy customers.
Fortunately, these problems can be addressed by inserting a service team between your sales and fulfillment teams. When such is done, your service team can ensure that your sales team isn’t promising something that the fulfillment team can’t deliver, and your service team can also work directly with customers if a fulfillment issue does arise. Here are some ways all teams can work together to offer a better customer experience.
Set reasonable expectations for customers
Harry Gordon Selfridge, the entrepreneur that opened the Selfridge chain in London during the early 1900s, is credited with creating the motto “the customer is always right.” This motto has created a lot of problems for businesses over the years, particularly for fulfillment companies.
When companies abide by this philosophy, their sales teams make unrealistic promises to their customers. This creates a tremendous strain on the service and fulfillment teams, because fulfillment may not have the resources to meet these expectations and service is then burdened with trying to fix an unfixable (and costly) problem. They inevitably let the customers down, which tarnishes the brand’s image.
The sales team will be able to make more realistic promises to their customers when they collaborate with their counterparts in the service and fulfillment departments.
Plan turnaround times
Sales are very cyclical in many industries. Companies may suffer low revenues for months before a massive number of orders are placed. This can create a large backlog and make it difficult to fill orders on time.
This has made it impossible for companies like Sysco to fill orders at times. Kathan Bhatt, an HCM consultant for Oracle, states that Sysco had a lot of difficulty filling a number of last minute orders after salespeople promised to fill them in 24 hours.
Sales staff need to understand the quantity of orders that their fulfillment team can handle, so they know when to push less aggressively.
Seek more resources to meet growth projections
The entire company depends on the sales team to create accurate revenue projections. The sales team depends on both service and fulfillment to help further develop customer relationships and deliver the product based on their expectations. When these three departments are working together to drive new business, manage customer expectations, and deliver on those expectations, a business can truly flourish.
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