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In all the best practices and how-to’s, it’s easy for a small business to get lost with applying every customer service tip.
You don’t have the budget of Amazon or the resources of Nordstrom. Forget a 50-person department dedicated to customer support – you don’t even have fifty employees, period.
Does that mean tiny businesses don’t have what it takes to provide amazing customer support? Far from it! Deep down you know that customer experience can be one of the most powerful tools to drive customer retention and business growth—and you’re not wrong. That’s exactly how we’ve built Kayako’s customer service software, and influencers have been saying this for years.
Anthony Tjan, CEO of venture capital firm Cue Ball, holds that small companies are actually better at customer service than bigger businesses:
For my money, the two best customer service practices are sincere empathy over indifferent calmness and common sense over standard operating procedure. These two simple guiding principles remind us how easy it can be to transform the customer experience. Anthony.
How tiny businesses can improve customer support
Forget money and manpower. Small businesses have resources and strengths that large corporations can’t replicate. By allocating those resources in the right way, you can leverage your unique superpowers to create out-of-this-world customer support experiences. You can set your business apart from the crowd – without the multi-million dollar investment.
Focus on the customer experience
One of the best ways to lighten the load on a small, overworked customer support team? Make it radically easy for customers to use your product. When you create an effortless customer experience, you can cut off customer struggles before they become a problem. And your support team will feel a tangible weight lift off their shoulders.
No matter the role, everyone is working to make life easier, better, faster for customers. Every member of your team contributes something unique to the customer experience. The way you measure those contributions will vary from one person to the next.
When you’re focused on creating great customer experience, it helps to use metrics that speak to that focus – even for roles like engineering and marketing.
Share customer experience benchmarks across the business
Each team member now has their own customer experience goals to work toward. That’s great. But to help everyone stay super engaged with the customer experience as a whole, they need to see the impact their work has on moving the needle.
If you’re thinking customer experience isn’t the easiest thing to measure, I hear you. We recommend using Net Promoter Score (NPS) to get the best feel for customer happiness – and sharing your NPS performance far and wide across the company.
Amazon does a lot of things right when it comes to customer service and support. That’s why they’re consistently rated number one in customer satisfaction. Everything they do holds the customer first and foremost in mind.
One of your most powerful tools here is your support department. They talk to customers every day, have a deep understanding of their struggles, and are often a customer’s only point of contact after a sale. That’s why they’re an invaluable resource when it comes to helping the rest of the team create an effortless customer experience.
Big businesses operate the way they do because scale and budget are their strengths. Smaller businesses can’t compete with those – but you have your own, separate strengths to draw from. Namely, you aren’t bogged down by rigid operating procedures.
Small businesses draw strength from their agility. They leverage flexibility to infuse every customer interaction with personality. How can you take advantage of that freedom? I’m glad you asked!
Hire for emotional intelligence
As Anthony Tjan noted, empathy and common sense are two of the most powerful assets of small businesses. If you’re going to wield them against crappy customer experiences, everyone on your support team should share those strengths.
During the hiring process, we look for role-specific skills, related education, even traits like adaptability and self-motivation. To give your business a leg up, you should both hire and train for emotional intelligence, too.
Empower customer support agents
One of the best things about small businesses is the lack of red tape. You aren’t tied down to rigid operating procedures or complex tiers of escalation. When agents have to rout customer issues to superiors, it adds time and frustration – not exactly something you want customers to feel.
Take advantage of the flexibility and empower your support team. Give agents the authority to make decisions. Give them the autonomy to take action and proactively solve customer problems.
Learn from the big guys
There are plenty of benefits to doing customer support the small business way. Still, big businesses do get a few things right. That’s why it’s important to combine your small business strengths with learnings from how the big guys have done it.
Think about behemoths like Amazon or Nordstrom – they’re renowned for their customer service. To scale that service takes big business resources, but to learn from it is free!
Consistency breeds loyalty
One of the toughest aspects of customer support is providing a consistent experience. Agents are human – they react differently to the same problem depending on the day. Some days are crazy busy. Some aren’t.
Regardless of behind-the-scenes factors, customers expect a consistent support experience every time. They want to know what to expect and to have those expectations met. Always. That’s why larger businesses have routinized workflows and escalation tiers. They enable support agents to provide the kind of consistency that breeds customer happiness and loyalty.
Invest in the best
When a multi-million dollar budget isn’t one of your strengths, it’s easy to fall victim to the skrimp-at-all-costs mentality. “We’re small, we can’t invest,” you think.
The truth is, working within a smaller budget is more about deciding where to invest to get the biggest return. What aspects of support can you actually improve by devoting some of your limited budget and manpower? It comes down to two things:
The right people and
The right tools for those people.
The right people
We’ve already talked about hiring for emotional intelligence. It’s one thing to identify job candidates who have the right stuff – it’s another to invest in those candidates. That means a few things. It means seeking out people who might be a good fit. It means being willing to pay up for high quality employees.
And it means investing in your existing employees.
Make emotional intelligence (sometimes called EQ) an integral part of your support training. Caring, empathetic individuals give your support team a head-start, but EQ training keeps them at the top of their game.
The right tools
The right people want to be successful. They want to help customers and make their experience as effortless as possible – but they can’t do that alone. Your team needs the right tools. Tools that enable them to stay organized, to anticipate customer needs, and to understand the customer journey on a deeper level.
Investing in powerful communication and helpdesk tools (like Kayako) enables your team to provide the fastest, most effective support. Meaning they can help more customers and leave them happy as a pig in mud.
A+ customer support as your business grows
When your business is small, it’s easy to think of business growth as the only metric that counts. But if you aren’t leveraging your customer support team, meaningful growth might elude you.
We know that customers spend more money when they’re satisfied – even if that means switching to a competitor. Seventy percent of consumers are willing to spend more with a company that provides great service. That’s why businesses who focus on high-quality service and support earn 60% higher profits than their competitors.
Here’s the bottom line. Providing customers with top notch customer support means you can:
Charge higher prices,
Keep more customers around, and
When your business is small, it’s vital that you wield every tool and in your belt to keep customers happy and spending. And customer support is one of those tools – no matter how small your support team.
There are so many different ways to onboard new employees with a training program. It can be hard to know which way to start, especially if it’s your first time.
You need to consider what kind of culture you are trying to foster, what priorities you want your team to have, and make a plan to preemptively correct problems and questions before they’ve even come up. It’s like trying to read the future without knowing what happened in the past!
To help you build your own customer support training program, I’ve collected some key insights from managers at other SaaS and tech-industry companies to help make sure you’re getting it right from the get-go.
3 Principles of a good customer support training program
Consider the three below as entry points as you get more detail in creating a training program that works:
Set up documentation
Collaborate with your team
Don’t let training fade out
1. Set up documentation
Good docs right from the start
As a customer support professional, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of good documentation. The same goes for your employees! Make sure you are setting up an environment that lets people learn in a way that makes the most sense for them and allows them to find answers to any of the common questions that they might have. Companies like TeamSnap and Kayako (as well as Trello ourselves) use Trello boards for training and onboarding.
Your training can include HR boards (which would have information such as how vacation works for your company, and what your health benefits look like); a Support Onboarding board (which includes information about how the support team works, what tools your team will need access to, and any important foundational principles they will need to learn), and an overarching Support Planning board which functions as your team’s home base.
Jenn Southan, Director of Customer Support at TeamSnap says “not only does [this] allow the new employee to see everything that’s coming, it also allows them to work autonomously with checklists and other information for what they need to get set up.”
Continue updating docs
Your internal documentation should never go stale. You know how you cringe when a customer emails in about an out-of-date screenshot? You should feel the same way about the things your employees use to learn, too. Implement a tool that notifies you when a document hasn’t been updated in a few months, and be sure to create a culture of over-documenting for your team.
That way, your internal customers (AKA your employees) will never provide the wrong answer mistakenly, and they will feel empowered to keep learning about the nuances of your product. Similarly, as they create internal resources, they will also expand their skills to be even better at writing docs for the outside world.
Provide role clarity
One of the key things to document that often gets overlooked in the first round of training is: what can an employee expect of their role in the months (and maybe even years!) to come? Jason Schleifer, Head of Creator Success at Nimble Collective, includes a 3-month checklist in the onboarding documentation for his new employees. Along with showing the person what they can expect from the next few months of training, it “focuses on clarity in the role and how customer success fits into the company and how to find empowerment [in the role].”
At Trello, we do this by creating checklists of the employee’s role responsibilities over the first three months. We also share a list of the questions to consider before the first, second and third-month status check-ins that we hold on top of our weekly one-on-ones. This gives the employee a framework to understand where they are going, but also to see how their performance is stacking up to our expectations.
Kayako does something similar. They have mapped out an internal career ladder and listed the set of specific responsibilities that they expect from each role. Along with an expectation of traits, skills, and behaviours of the people who fill that role. All to make it possible to move between roles move between roles.
2. Involve all of your team
Set up a good mentor program
In Kayako’s Advanced Guide to Customer Service Training they write “One-to-one training is vital for new employees. Ensure they don’t sit in a room isolated and bemused by the software before them. They’ll end up resenting the company, when all they needed was a mentor.”
Mentors serve as an excellent sounding board and buddy for people within the first few days of their employment. It also helps to set up people are lifelong peers and supporters. So, pick your mentors carefully.
Mentors should be people who have a solid knowledge on the product itself, exceptional patience (even for a support person), and a drive to see others succeed. While they don’t need to have an interest in management, many of the skills of mentorship do lend themselves to that career path.
At Trello, we set up an in-depth schedule between the new employee and the mentor over the course of the first week, after which they are left to create a schedule that works for the two of them best. Usually, we have the same few employees work as mentors each time we have new team members onboarding.
Develop your other non-new members
Having new employees come aboard the team gives you an excuse to provide opportunities for other, non-new members of the team. For example, think if there are any people who were too new last time you hired, but now might be a great fit for mentorship. Similarly, with your hands full with onboarding and management, maybe there’s something that you usually do that you could pass off to someone else?
Chances are, if it’s something that you really love to do or are really excited about, one of your employees is equally (if not more so!) excited about it. They deserve the chance and you, as their manager, should give that to them.
Make an effort to connect remote teams in person
No matter who you talk to, we all agree that it’s important that the people from remote teams meet close to the start of their employment. At Trello, we fly in the new employees, and a few of our older team members to one of our office locations during their first week. Alison Groves of Highrise disagrees, though. At Highrise, they usually wait until the third or fourth week to “let the person get settled in a bit, pick up some basics. More nuanced questions will arise in later weeks, and those are better discussed in person.”
Depending on what kind of product you are training the people on—and if your team is remote—you can tailor your own onboarding schedule to modify when your team actually meets in-person.
3. Don’t give up after the first 3 months
Employees in stale roles get frustrated
If you stop giving your employees opportunities for training and leveling up after their first three months, they will get bored. As Kayako says in the The Advanced Guide to Customer Service Training, “your team will experience a building frustration about carrying out the same tasks with the usual customers each day.”
You wouldn’t teach a child to read and then never give them a book again, would you? Then don’t do the same to your employees. Continue to give them opportunities to grow and learn and shift their roles in ways outside of the inbox.
At Trello and Kayako, we do this by implementing OKRs. Every quarter, we have a new set of projects that people can work on that will push their limits to grow professionally and personally. Because of this, we have an average CSAT in the 90th percentile, and an average turnover rate of one person every two years.
Have a training/education budget
At Trello, along with a generous training and education budget, we also do something that we call Out of the Queue (OOTQ) time. What this means is every person on the support team has a mandatory chunk of their time spent out of the queue working on OKR projects or personal development. The amount of time normally adds up to about 20% of their 40-hour weeks, thus leading some companies to call it 20% Time.
Implement growth processes
Similar to the point above about making sure that your new employees know what is expected of them in their first three months, create processes so that your support team employees know what growth looks like.
One of the leading reasons for dissatisfaction in their role that I’ve heard from support people is feeling like the only path that they could take to grow was management. This is never the case, so make sure you let your people know where the opportunities for growth are and work with them to understand which would be the best fit for their personality and skills.
Don’t forget to give (and take) feedback
Always be offering consistent positive and constructive feedback to your employees. This is especially critical in the first three months of a new hire.
As a new employee, they are determining their comfort zone and where they fit within the team. By offering insights to them in the form of feedback, you help to shape where they see themselves and where they focus their attention. It also lets them figure out it, conversely, maybe your company isn’t a great fit for them. It’s better to learn as much about each other as possible before the first three months is up. Along with offering, always ask for it, too.
A culture of feedback is a culture of growth, and your team will continuously strive to be better if you let them know where their strengths and weaknesses lie.
A training program is just the start of your growth-driven culture
A training program does not end in the first week or the first three months. Create a culture of learning and growth throughout your team, and you will see exponential improvements in how your whole team approaches customer support and success.
Keep an open mind about opportunities and letting your team flex into areas that might seem strange at first. Allow them to share their learnings with the team as a whole through updated, in-depth documentation and watch as your whole support strategy shifts and becomes even more elevated.
Allow for clear communication (both verbally, in person or over video, and written in documentation) to help keep everyone on the same page and allow people to find information asynchronously. Mostly, encourage curiosity and out of the box thinking, and it will end up supporting and benefiting your whole team.
At Kayako, we’ve always been concerned with building our company as diverse and inclusive as possible. It’s in our DNA as well as our mission.
We always thought that—because over half of our employees are based in India—we’re doing well on the diversity front by default. We also knew we’re not doing any better than your average tech startup in gender (and some other areas) and we’ve made deliberate efforts from day one to improve.
Finally, at the end of 2017, we ran a short internal demographic survey. We asked questions about gender (and identification), age, nationality, race/ethnicity, location as well as those about disabilities.
An honest look inside Kayako’s diversity and inclusion
To understand results further:
We’ve split the answers into departments: Tech, Non-Tech, Leadership, and Overall
And we thought it relevant to break up by two office locations: London, UK, and Gurgaon, India.
61 out of 69 Kayako employees filled in the survey at the end of last year and even though we had a pretty good idea where we stand, we found the results a little….underwhelming.
1. Gender Identity:
2. Age group:
4. Location of work:
6. Marital status:
10. Department of work:
In Kayako, we fail on a diverse and inclusive culture when it comes to age and race. It’s alarming because we learned that:
We employ one single person of black origin.
Only 25% of our workforce is female and we employ one single female engineer.
We have no-one who identifies as gender non-binary.
So, clearly, we’re not where we want to be. We recognize that we’ve been taking steps to move in the right direction, and we are continuously developing concrete plans for further improvement. But we are far from there.
We try our best. And we’re still small enough to be able to glance at where we stand on diversity. But we never really ran any numbers. So we never really knew where we stand. Until we ran our recent survey.
Let’s break it down by our offices located in London, UK, and in Gurgaon, India.
In London, we have a reasonably diverse workforce when it comes to age and gender, but not at all that diverse when it comes to race. This is mind boggling, when you consider the diversity of the city we live in.
In India, we’re not doing particularly well on age or race. Age is a tricky one to analyze. We hire most of our back-end engineers in India and they tend to be younger. Lack of diversity on race could be explainable by the fact that Gurgaon isn’t as diverse as London. Almost everyone you encounter will be South Asian by default.
Yes, both our founders are male but at a time when our leadership team was bigger, we were able to say it had a 50:50 gender representation. Today, gender stands at about average for a technology company and we employ no-one with a disability, anywhere.
We have always tried to take active steps to remove any bias in the hiring process. We value diversity of thought and backgrounds and we look to hire genuine people who will push our culture to be more inclusive and more human. We never knowingly discriminate and we take active steps to advertise far and wide. And yet, our Team page doesn’t look the way we’d want it to.
Still, here are all the steps we’ve taken so far:
We’ve put in place processes and policies that support equal opportunities. These aren’t simply words on a document.
We write our job specs in a gender neutral language and we don’t discriminate based on gender, age, religious beliefs or sexual preference.
We operate a fixed salary structure, which means that two people contributing to our company in the same role at the same level receive equal pay and comparable progression opportunities, regardless of their gender, age, etc.
When we introduced our staff benefits, we took extra care to ensure that they are inclusive: childcare vouchers, generous parental & adoption leave, sick leave, unlimited holidays and others.
Our office is wheelchair accessible and our team events don’t revolve around sports and beer only.
We have a visa sponsorship licence so that we can hire people from outside the EU. To avoid unconscious bias in our hiring process, we use standardised application review – we ask a set of questions on the application form, so that the reviewer’s initial assessment is based on easily compared answers and we us the CV as a secondary source of information.
We are (in the process of getting) Living Wage accredited and don’t offer unpaid internships.
We support any initiative by our employees that would bring us one step closer to creating a truly diverse and inclusive company.
Why we want an inclusive and diverse workforce
There’s a plethora of research to support the notion that ‘diversity is good for business’. According to McKinsey’s Why diversity matters report:
Ethnically-diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform financially
Gender-diverse companies 15% more likely to outperform.
The McKinsey’s follow up report Delivering through Diversity (published in January 2018) reaffirms the global relevance of the link between diversity—defined as a greater proportion of women and a more mixed ethnic and cultural composition in the leadership of large companies—and company financial outperformance.
For gender, the executive team shows the strongest correlation, showing that female-fronted management teams were 21% more likely to make or exceed their profitability goals compared to firms lacking women in decision-making roles. But overall, ethnic diversity was more important than gender diversity, according to the study.
Companies that ranked in the top 25% in terms of the ethnic mix of their executive boards were 33% more likely to be profitable than firms in the bottom 25% for diversity.
Finance aside, more diverse companies also tend to be more innovative, and this is linked to three main reasons:
Teams with a broader range of people have a wider range of interests, experiences, and backgrounds to draw upon. They understand potential users of products better than less diverse teams. They think about problems in a different way that might have been expected and as a result they tend to be better and more innovative problem-solvers.
More diverse companies attract and retain more diverse talent. If everyone in your company looks the same then you are cutting yourself off from other types of people – they don’t want to come to work for you.
More diverse companies have a sort of “halo effect”. They’re more attractive not only to women and minorities, but also to people who are not women or minorities, who want to work for more enlightened organizations.
But a diverse workforce doesn’t always make good business sense. If you’re an early-stage startup, there may be various reasons not to prioritise diversity in the hiring process. There’s time constraints, and budget constraints. There may be lack of resources to hire a diverse team in an industry with a skewed talent pool or there may simply be different priorities that take the front seat. And while these priorities may be valid, these companies should be aware that they’re acquiring a ‘diversity debt’.
Here’s a good article from our friends at Monzo about the diversity debt and what they’re doing to mitigate it.
Our goals and aims
One of our goals has always been to give everyone a greater voice to amplify the good they’re doing in the world. We are very aware that in order to do this, we need diverse voices on our team – a variety of perspectives, experiences, ages, races and ethnicities, abilities, sizes, nationalities and cultures, gender identities and sexual identities, backgrounds, classes, and more.
Our aim is to build an organisation that is collaborative, where you have a voice, have an impact and space for feedback. But conversations about diversity in the workforce need to focus on what underrepresented groups can do for the business, instead of what the business can do for underrepresented groups. For us, a diverse workforce does make good business sense.
Steps, tips, and tricks for Kayako to be more diverse and inclusive
In our quest to create a more diverse team and a more inclusive environment for all, we devised a list of promises:
We’re committed to equitable salaries that are fair for all.
We seek talented teammates from all over the world.
We strive to use language that’s welcoming to all.
We practice empathy, truly making the effort to listen and understand. Show kindness, and value different perspectives, experiences, and ideas.
We do our utmost to recognize and combat unconscious bias.
We support families of all types.
We encourage everyone to bring their whole authentic self to work.
We are committed to create safe spaces for everyone to be able to have difficult conversations.
We amplify and elevate each other.
We encourage everyone to share their knowledge to build our teammates’ skills and abilities. We want everyone to be open to learning as much as possible.
We ask everyone to ‘assume positive intent’.
We encourage people to speak their mind.
In our careers page update, we’ll make explicit that both our offices are wheelchair accessible, provide details on the usual format of our interview process and explain how to notify us of reasonable adjustments we can make to accommodate any disability.
We will continue to hire for empathy and difference and keep focussing on emphasising diversity of thought in the hiring process.
We will continue listening to our team to make sure we keep improving.
Join the mission to supercharge your business through diversity and inclusion
Join us on the quest to create a more inclusive workplace for all. Here are some top tips we’ve already taken and you can take too:
Attract people from diverse backgrounds. Advertise your job far and wide, make sure they reach as diverse groups of people as possible. Don’t just recruit people who are different—or hire because of it. Once hired allow them to be different.
For instance create ‘female coded’ job descriptions. Data shows that men..
You might believe social media is a boon for customer care. It’s understandable. A Google search for the phrase ‘social media customer service’ returns 117 million results.
It’s easy to find authoritative articles, like this one, that claim customers love to use social media for customer support—and they have statistics to back it up.
And yet, our investigation tells a different story:
Only 3% of consumers picked social media as their go-to channel over live chat, phone, and email. Whereas 41% picked live chat, in a recent live chat statistics survey we conducted.
Why is conventional wisdom so confused about social media’s place in customer support?
Why are we told social media is a customer support magic bullet?
1. The hype machine
Those who are best at social media are also the loudest and write the most about it. It’s the nature of the beast for a pro-social-media viewpoint.
2. Outdated statistics
When a modern messaging app wasn’t an option for customer support, social media was a favorite for many consumers. For example, in 2012 Nielsen reported that a third of consumers prefer social media when compared with the phone. That number will have increased by now. However, when live chat is presented as an option, preference for social media drops.
Why? Most likely because live chat does everything for customer support that social media does, but better. The same people who prefer social media over phone or email will leap to live chat, as will a handful of those who would previously chose the phone or email.
Social media could tear you apart, or give you great press
Place yourself in a small town 100 years ago. Horse and carts trundle down the streets. Maybe one or two hot-shots are cruising around in a Ford Model T (the showoffs).
Imagine owning one of three bakeries in town. You recognize almost all your customers on sight. You greet them with a smile, and cheerfully chat with them as they go about their buying routine.
One day, three people come in who aren’t regulars. You ask what brings them in. They say their usual baker (who’s a bit of a grump) sold one of them a slightly stale loaf. He then refused to refund her, and she decided to take her custom elsewhere. Her friends, of course, followed suit.
It doesn’t stop there. Throughout the week you see more new faces walk in. As the story spreads along the grapevine of small town gossip, other people recalled underwhelming loaves that they bought from the grumpy baker without bothering to complain. The story of his disregard for a loyal customer convinces them to try this other, more agreeable baker who they are now hearing about.
In small towns, customer service has always been critical.
Throughout the 20th century industrialization and urbanization swept the globe. A complaint shared amongst friends at a book club now had almost no effect on the profits of the majority of businesses we dealt with. Since it was no longer profitable, customer service slipped. Frustrating automated phone trees were installed, and human contact became a premium.
When social media entered the scene, there was one purpose we were desperate to use it for – complaints.
Suddenly, a complaint could reach everyone. A poor product that’s not refunded or dealt with can be ranted about on Twitter or Facebook and be reshared until hundreds of thousands of eyeballs have seen it.
The problem is made worse by the fact that people tend to talk about bad experiences more than good ones. According to Marketing Charts, consumers who suffer a bad interaction are 50% more likely to share it on social media than those who had good experiences.
The grapevine of gossip is back, this time on a global scale. Social media is the perfect vehicle to publicly complain, and gain attention to problems quickly.
How do you stop a complaint from ever reaching the world stage? Address the issue before it ever leaves your walls.
The live chat advantage
Massive advantages come with digital technology, (such as automation). Only problem is, they come lumped with parallel disadvantages. Imagine a store where there are no humans to speak to. If you have an issue you have little option other than to leave the store and complain about it to your friends.
What would change if you planted staff members around your store, available to chat to at a moment’s notice? Now you have something closer to the Apple store, which provides such a pleasant experience that people are known to go there just for fun. That is the live chat advantage.
With live chat you’re able to catch issues before they leave your “walls” (webpages), and you’re significantly reducing the chances of having a social media customer service PR crisis.
Beyond complaints: The customer relationship
Timely is a SaaS company that I feel like I have a relationship with. While their software is a cool time-tracker, it’s the company that I feel attached to because Timely is a company that listens.
Within their app you’ll find a little live chat button in the lower right hand corner. Crucially, when you shoot off a question, I’m not left hanging, someone responds.
I pay for their premium service even though I don’t strictly need the fancier features. What’s going on, psychologically, to compel me to do that?
Whenever a bug showed itself in the software, I would tell them via live chat, and they would respond with gratitude and an assurance that it would be fixed soon—and it often was! I started to feel like I helped with the development of this software, like there was a part of me in it.
In truth, I’m just like 73% of other people who say a business that values a customer’s time is the most important thing they can do to provide them with good service. If I take the time to tell a company about something, the least I expect is that I’m heard and my input is valued.
Each month I pay my subscription to Timely, and that bottom line revenue is directly connected to their responsiveness. They can drop the ball and ignore a few messages from me without losing me. But if that continues for too long, however, I may start reconsidering my paid subscription.
Time invested in building relationships with your customers pays real dividends.
What keeps people coming back to live chat?
The two keys to live chat’s superiority in customer care is its privacy and ease. No matter what system you use, keep these two factors in mind:
Most customers who encounter problems, will keep it to themselves unless there’s an easy way to talk directly with your staff.
If you have an easy live chat system installed and responsive reps behind it, you give your customers and prospects a way to voice their concerns and problems in a safe place. As long as they feel listened to, the vast majority will want to keep the conversation private, rather than take to the public stage of social media.
2. Reduced effort
The Harvard Business Review claimed the #1 most important factor in customer loyalty is the reduction of customer effort.
Sprint, for example, saw an increase of 31% in private messages 3 months after launching Facebook Messenger for customer care. Clearly, it was better than nothing, but why try to wrestle another platform into a live chat substitute?
The problem is they forgot about the cognitive effort required to switch platforms to begin a transaction. If they’re experiencing an issue on site and there’s no live chat, they have to navigate to a new site, find the correct Twitter handle and fit their complaint into 240 characters.
Having live chat available to begin a conversation significantly reduces customer effort as soon as a customer runs into an issue.
Modern live chat tools are built to be as low-friction as possible.
Give your customers a modern messaging experience on your website. This way you reduce the effort needed for your customer to search for the most interactive channel. You don’t need to switch platforms, or search for a company’s profile in order to send a simple message.
Instead, the chat box is a single click away, and it never leaves the website itself. This may not sound like a big difference in effort, but it’s certainly enough for someone with a simple question to think, “Ah, screw it.” and hop right onto your competitor’s site.
When was the last time you shopped for something that’s an everyday staple? Chances are, you found way more options than you needed and ended up choosing one at random. In today’s maturing marketplace, you aren’t the only one.
In 2018, the vast majority of products on the market are pretty similar. They’re good quality and generally last a good while. If they weren’t, that company would be out of business in a virtual minute. That’s how the business world works today.
Many products have reached critical mass. Cars, coffee makers, clothing… they’re as good as they’re going to get. As consumers, our needs are satisfied all around. That’s why we’ve stopped looking really hard for solutions.
What does that mean for businesses? It means consumers expect great product quality, but it’s no longer a currency that differentiates your business. When consumers don’t feel the need to look around as much, your business depends on customer retention and loyalty to survive.
Why bother with a customer loyalty program?
What do we mean when we say “loyalty?” Loyalty usually refers to a strong sense of support or allegiance. We talk about being loyal to our family and friends, to our employers. For most of us, loyalty is more of an emotional concept than a concrete, measurable one.
When we talk about loyalty from a business perspective, though, the usual definition doesn’t quite fit. What we mean by a “loyal customer” is someone who repurchases. A customer who comes back for more. The business idea of loyalty focuses more on the behavior of customers than the feeling.
As a whole, customer loyalty programs can’t inspire real, emotional loyalty. That’s the job of your product and brand. So why do we bother with customer loyalty programs at all? According to Lance Walker, CEO of New Zealand’s biggest loyalty program, there are a few reasons:
Loyalty programs encourage repeat purchases.
They differentiate your business from a sea of similar products.
They give retailers a mechanism to better understand customers.
Customer loyalty programs are an effective way to inspire behavioral loyalty, and that can make a big difference for your business:
Sixty-one percent of small businesses said repeat business is responsible for over 50% of their revenue.
Not to mention the most important effect of a loyalty program: getting to know your customers. Sixty-four percent of retailers surveyed credit their loyalty programs as the most effective method for connecting with customers.
Why are loyalty programs so successful, even when they can’t inspire true emotional loyalty?
It’s the idea that customers who receive a benefit for buying feel compelled to spend more. Two studies looked at the impact of receiving a mint or chocolate with the bill at a restaurant. They found that a small piece of candy increased tip amounts in a measurable way. Treats and rewards like this tap into the theory of reciprocity.
What are some examples of amazing customer loyalty programs?
With customer loyalty programs, there are as many variations as there are competitors in the market. Loyalty programs can be anything from a simple punch card to a complex reward system to referral programs—the options are endless.
There are a few types of loyalty programs that perform better than others, though. Let’s look at a few popular ones and see what we can learn.
Sephora beauty insider loyalty program
Sephora’s loyalty program—called Beauty Insider—is wildly popular among customers. They use a simple point system where every dollar spent earns one Beauty Insider point.
It’s free to join, and as customers rack up points, they can unlock higher loyalty tiers and corresponding rewards. Customers redeem points for free beauty classes, supplies, and free or discounted two-day shipping.
Sephora’s program works because it’s both simple and enticing. Customers collect points automatically as they shop, and there’s no PhD-level math involved—$1 spent equals 1 point earned. Customers are encouraged to spend more to gain access to VIB and VIB Rouge reward levels.
If you’ve been on the internet long enough to read the beginning of this post, you know about Amazon Prime. You might not consider Prime membership to be a loyalty program, but think about it this way—Amazon Prime members make up the most active and loyal Amazon customers.
We already noted that a main goal of customer loyalty programs is to drive repeat purchases. To do that, you have to address any barriers to making a purchase in general. Amazon Prime membership allows loyal customers to make an upfront investment in exchange for a better order experience—namely, free two-day shipping.
For a business with a ridiculous amount of competition on the web, free two-day shipping is a huge differentiator. Having paid for the perk in advance draws customers back to Amazon again and again.
American Express is known for their cardholder perks. In 2015, they launched a new loyalty program, called Plenti, that allows customers to earn points at a variety of partner businesses and redeem them at the partner of their choice.
That means customers can earn points when they fill up at Mobil and use them to splurge at Macy’s.
Plenti works because it simplifies the loyalty program on the customer’s end and offers them more flexibility. Instead of keeping track of 15 loyalty cards, they only worry about one Plenti card. And pooling reward points means they can earn faster and redeem wherever makes the most sense for them.
Customer loyalty programs for small businesses
You might’ve noticed something about the awesome loyalty programs we just highlighted: they’re all run by huge companies. Sephora, Amazon, and American Express have access to a lot of resources and flexibility that small businesses don’t.
Does that mean a small business can’t pull off an amazing customer loyalty program that rakes in repurchases and drives brand love? Nope!
There are a few key challenges that smaller businesses have to contend with. Here’s how to overcome them:
1. Price competition. As a small business trying to compete with the Amazons of the world, your margins are already razor-thin. If offering crazy benefits and outrageous discounts isn’t doable for you, you aren’t alone.
Keep rewards reasonable. Small businesses have access to other resources that behemoths don’t—like personal interaction and customer service. That means customers need a smaller incentive to come back and spend more.
2. Expertise to design an effective program. Sephora has all the budget in the world to throw at developing a great loyalty program. You probably don’t, and that’s okay. Customer loyalty programs can be as simple or complex as you can manage.
If hiring a customer loyalty expert isn’t in your budget, keep it simple. For many small, local businesses, the lowly punch card can be even more effective than a complex point system.
3. Scale and benefits for customers. If your business is small, there are only so many things customers can buy to earn points and so many things they can redeem points for. For businesses that don’t run on frequent purchases, that can make it hard to design a program that brings real value to customers.
The solution? Take a hint from American Express and partner up with other local businesses.
Customer loyalty programs for software businesses
There are some businesses that naturally lend themselves to loyalty programs. You might think of retailers like Sephora, restaurants and coffee shops, even credit card companies. One industry that probably doesn’t come to mind right away is software. After all, software companies don’t traffic in the kind of products that lend themselves to small, frequent purchases.
Can software businesses employ and reap value from customer loyalty programs? You bet!
Customer loyalty programs look different for every type of business, and software companies are no exception. There are several ways software companies can adapt the basic loyalty program template to work for them and their customers.
Offer immediate rewards. Software sales are fewer and farther between than retail purchases, but they also tend to boast a higher price tag. It doesn’t make sense if customers have to make eight purchases before they see any return.
Adopt referral marketing. In a market like software, there’s one thing that rivals the value of repeat purchases—referrals. Reward customers for referrals that turn into real business, not just their own purchases.
Partner with other brands. If a loyalty program seems out of reach for your business model, consider partnering up with another business.
Live off the loyalties
If you’ve been wading through this blog post waiting for the 7x statistic, at last, here it is: it costs businesses an average of 7 times more to score a new customer than to keep an existing one. That number is oft-cited for a reason—it is, in itself, the best argument for investing in a customer loyalty program.
Alone, a loyalty program can’t make your customers fall in love. But combine a robust program with a tablespoon of A+ customer experience and a dash of high-quality offering, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for brand love and eternal loyalty. Bon appétit!
Support reps get tons of training from the moment they start their job—whether it’s on products, new feature launches, or soft skills like communication. This is great. Training gives new hires a solid baseline to start their jobs and do them well.
While training is vital, it isn’t enough to help employees grow professionally at your company or in their careers.
Customer support reps—just like anyone else—need one-on-one time with their managers and direction to hone their skills and develop their craft. After all, there’s a lot to learn in a training program. The work of a customer support rep spans a spectrum of psychology, hard and soft skills, and emotional intelligence. These can’t improve through training alone.
That’s where coaching comes in.
Why coaching beats training support teams
Training by itself offers diminishing returns. You probably know this anecdotally (how many hours can you sit still listening to someone else anyway?).
In their book, The Effortless Experience, co-authors Matthew Dixon, Rick DeLisi, Nick Toman found: “Organizations that focus on training (often at the expense of coaching) tend to have relatively lower-performing teams compared to organizations that prioritize coaching (often at the expense of training).”
There could be a number of culprits behind this:
Training is inherently passive and too much of it can get boring.
There’s only so much you can absorb in one session.
Training programs are not usually tailored to individuals either, so a lesson may not match an employees’ goals or learning style. That results in lower performance, too.
Training is great for introducing new topics and approaches, but mastery doesn’t happen there.
Mastery happens on the field or, as we like to call it, in active mode. This is why coaching needs to be included in a support rep’s development.
Coaching builds and refines much-needed support skills
Coaching hits the switch on active mode learning. What makes it different from training?
In coaching, employees get individualized, one-on-one feedback and support to help them guide customers through positive experiences. It’s also where reps master their skills and funnel it into better interactions.
Daniel Mooney has been on both sides of the table as previous Product Support Manager at Redgate. He says of 1:1’s,“The feedback is not where it stops—the follow up to that is suggestions of how I improve. Being provided examples [of interactions] and suggestions for how I could have improved on that interaction was essential for my understanding and improving!”
Coaching gives employees a sense of ownership
Investing in support team coaching starts to pay off immediately. When coaching is based on specific feedback (more on that later) and Objective & Key Results (OKRs), reps put that coaching in practice right away.
The result is that your team can more easily shift from running on rules and restrictions to one that empowers employees to improve individual interactions—making judgment calls, steering customer conversations towards positive resolutions and taking ownership of the outcome.
Use coaching to achieve OKRs
It’s easy for customer support reps to feel out of the loop about larger company goals. They’re handling daily interactions and resolving cases, but they might not be aware of the larger goals of their organization. This is where OKRs come in. OKRs help bridge this gap and help individual employees and departments better understand how they are contributing.
For example, if a business wants to focus on retaining more customers, but support reps haven’t been told this is an OKR, they may not know that they can be taking steps to increase customer satisfaction, such as reducing wait times or improving FAQs to help customers find answers to questions faster.
OKRs are typically not a focus of technical training, so that’s where coaching comes in. 1:1’s give you, the manager, the chance to articulate these big picture goals with your employees and talk about ways they can contribute now and ways they can grow their skills over time.
Coaching gives employees consistent feedback
While most people think of criticism when they hear the word feedback, they shouldn’t. When used effectively in 1:1s, feedback is a valuable tool that can improve employees’ skills, achieve OKRs, diagnose and fix problems, and motivate your team.
Use feedback to:
Talk through a recent issue from a place of learning, rather than criticism, to highlight how an employee can improve next time.
Congratulate an employee on a job well done and highlight what specifically he or she excelled at (don’t just say, “Great job!”.
Review comments from customers about interactions and analyze key trends to problem solve ways to improve.
Use coaching to highlight best practices
Many of the hard skills that support reps need to control a customer conversation (positioning alternatives, anchoring expectations, etc.) and grow in their careers aren’t learned in training. They’re learned through practice, instant feedback, and repetition. Any great coaching initiatives you’re planning to add to your support department must include role-playing.
On our own support team at Kayako, coaching takes the form of scenario redux and role playing real interactions with customers.
The reps who actually worked on the issue start off the scene. Then the moderator calls in others from the audience to jump in and replace them to carry on the role of the support agent or success manager. Everyone pays attention because they know they can be called on from the audience to play any role at any point during the discussion.
After we’ve played out the scene, the success manager leads a discussion, going over questions like, “What would have they done? Why?” During these sessions, we question everything.
Use coaching to help employees grow
Adding regularly scheduled 1:1’s to your coaching arsenal can help your employees grow professionally, as well.
1:1’s present the perfect opportunity to not only give positive and negative feedback and talk through an employee’s recent work, but it also creates a space for employees to share personal problems that may be affecting work, as well as their larger goals with your company and beyond.
It’s a good idea to start any 1:1 by asking how things are going for the employee and if there’s anything you, as his or her manager, should know about at work and at home. By asking these questions, you can create a space where your employee feels comfortable telling you say, he is experiencing a lot of stress at home. Then you can strategize about how to alleviate any stress in the workplace.
1:1’s also give you the chance, as a manager, to set and check-in about professional goals. You might use this time review the company OKRs your employee is working on quarterly or monthly. Or you might discuss how an employee can develop new skills and expertise that will then help them earn promotions and pay increases later on.
“Some companies where feedback isn’t as much part of their culture don’t consider the small details as a ‘serious’ problem, and this is how they start to fall short,” says Mooney.
The obvious winners in a successful coaching program are the customers themselves. Companies that treat every single interaction as an opportunity to build the relationship require a more granular attention that only coaching can give.
Coaching that asks, “How can we make this customer experience better?” always wins.
A final tip on customer support coaching
Coaching can take on a number of forms depending on your team and company structure, but it must happen regularly and it must be actionable. That is, managers should be able to point a finger at specific interactions and recent performance. Then use small-scale formats, like 1:1’s and role-playing sessions to give feedback and work on making tangible improvements.
Editor’s note: This piece was originally published in August, 2015, but has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
Last year, I worked with a salesman who repeated the same motto on a daily basis: ‘people buy from people’. At first, I thought he was talking nonsense. I thought it was just an obvious fact, rather than a subtle truth.
In short, I’d missed the point.
I’ve since realized the proverb has some value in the world of ecommerce (as well as some limitations).
In fact, people make purchasing decisions based on four things:
1. They are aware your product or service exists
2. They understand it
3. They like it
4. They’re convinced it’s worth purchasing
Of course, persuading people to make a purchase can be achieved without human intervention. A smartly designed store or website with a clear and compelling offering may be enough to get customers buying. If it wasn’t, Amazon wouldn’t exist.
So, people don’t always buy from people.
But those four customer concerns above do always need to be answered, and human interactions are a great way of helping customers tick all the boxes. The high value we put on social interactions is hardwired into our brains – it’s the result of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. These inclinations are too deep-rooted to ignore, and one of the reasons bricks and mortar shops still exist in 2018.
Without interaction, customer experience can go south pretty quickly online. In fact, according to Forrester’s data,55% of shoppers are likely to abandon their online purchase if they cannot find a quick answer to their question.
The speed at which customers disappear into thin air can seem overwhelming. But there is hope, and it comes in the form of live chat.
So, live chat doesn’t only provide customer support, it drives revenue and brand loyalty up. Let’s take a look at how a live chat that integrates with ecommerce platforms like Lemonstand can achieve that.
Engagement increases sales
Most internet users will browse online when looking to make a purchase. The majority are simply researching or price-comparing. But it’s engaging a visitor at the right moment that can switch a browsing session into a sale. If you want a high-profile case study, just look at Virgin Airlines. They increased conversion rates by 23%.
Customers who use live chat prior to making a purchase spend on average 10% more per order. In some cases, they spend much more. Intuit.com was able to increase average order value by 43% after implementing a live chat widget on their checkout page and increased sales by 211% by using live chat on their product comparison page. That’s quite a bump!
Customers need someone who can immediately walk them through a sale if they become confused or have a question that can make or break a sale. This helps eliminate bounces away from retail websites and ensure that full shopping carts make it through check out.
There are four steps to raising conversion rates with live chat:
Understanding the scenarios where live chat helps customers
Analyzing conversations to optimize the channel further
Obviously, the conversations themselves need to help rather than hinder sales. So how do you make sure live chat conversations get off on the right foot?
With a bang-up-to-date real-time messaging app that integrates with ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Magento, and Lemonstand (and common ecommerce apps like Stripe), your agents can view each customer’s journey before striking up a conversation. By understanding which pages they’ve viewed and where they may have stopped, or got confused, your agents are now in a position to open with meaningful, tailored questions and advice.
You can see how Kayako completely transforms the quality of interaction you’re able to deliver to your customers, all based precisely on their behaviour.
We all want quality conversations built on accurate information. When you integrate live chat with your ecommerce platform, that’s no longer a dream for your ecommerce business. Endless possibilities to target, engage, and convert visitors into customers emerge. As long as you’re consistently placing customer satisfaction as your main priority, you can’t lose – the only limit is your creativity.
A better understanding of your business
The most surprising aspect of using live chat to drive your ecommerce business forward is the information it will give you regarding your website’s UX. Now you can see how shoppers move through your site, what pages they’re looking at, and where they get held up. If product information needs to be clearer, you’ll be able to fix it quickly.
…and if your site is working just as it should, you’ll have peace of mind. You’ll also know that you’re still doing everything possible to overcome the barriers to conversion that your customers are creating for themselves:
Now you can jump in to help customers like Taylor before they ask for it. Which is great because that’s what the majority of customers would prefer:
According to a study by InContact, 87% of customers want to be proactively contacted regarding customer service issues.
Not only do customers want to be engaged proactively, it keeps them loyal.
Enkata found that proactive customer service can improve customer retention by up to 5%, while reducing contact center calls by 20-30% over 12 months.
Some final tips to make live chat work for you
Don’t act like a machine. live chat’s purpose is to provide your customers with warm, human help. Robotic responses kill the point of live chat
Consider your shopping hours. Don’t assume 9-5 will work if you have international customers. Consider hiring remote support agents based around the globe if you have a problem sourcing local employees to cover off hours.
Boost your social. When your live chat agents receive positive feedback, they should feel confident in encouraging visitors to share their satisfaction on the company’s social channels.
Businesses all over the world are learning how proactive live chat can drive more leads, win new customers, and help grow revenue by smartly engaging visitors with relevant, personal, timely messages.
Maybe now is the right time for your ecommerce business to start reaping all the benefits live chat can offer?
Find out how you can use Kayako to support customers and engage new website visitors with Messenger. Take it for a spin. Free for 14 days.
At Kayako, we do our best to understand not just our customers’ needs, but their customers’ needs, as well. Armed with that empathy and over ten years in the business, there’s been one consistent signal that stands out from the noise in this year’s customer service trends: customers want effortless experiences.
Customers hate putting in effort to get problems resolved. We’ve all been through a customer service experience that’s required more effort than we thought was possible.
Does this sound familiar? Setting aside 20-30 minutes of your day with the idea you could be on the phone or live chat to get a small problem resolved. This isn’t something anyone loves doing.
Something like the above happened to me shortly. I’d purchased flights through a popular comparison site only to find double charges in my bank account. I spent the morning hopping from phone to live chat to find who was at fault. Did my bank have an error? Did the comparison site or airline double book me? I got my answer in the end (and my refund), but it wasn’t an ideal way to spend the first hour of my Sunday morning or my first customer service transaction this year that stressed out.
Which brings me neatly toward 2018’s customer service trends:
Customer Service Trends 2018: Creating Effortless Customer-Centric Experiences
Becoming customer-centric will be the goal of most businesses this year. According to Google trends, search intent for “customer-centric” has been on the rise for the past two years.
What will make a business more customer-centric than the next one? We predict it’s the technology they choose that will reflect how close they want to get to their customers. This is how we see the breakdown happening.
1. Business will be more customer-centric with a whole customer experience strategy
In 2016 one study found that 75% of companies said their top objective was to improve customer experience. That’s because smart companies know they’ll be competing on customer experience: Gartner predicts customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
An example of great customer experience in retail would be choosing Warby Parker over your standard optician to purchase your next pair of glasses. Warby Parker realize that customer experience is not a hype and actually generates profits in the long-term.
Imagine you’ve paid $95 for a pair of Warby Parker glasses. You checked out online with ease. You received two-day shipping for free. When you realized you preferred the other color, your phone call was answered in six seconds, and within four days, your new shiny frames arrived.
Next time you need glasses, would you go to an overpriced opticians, choose from their small selection, pay two-to-three times the price, and have to wait a week to collect?
A brand like Warby Parker are focused on increasing a customer’s lifetime value: the full amount of revenue a customer generates over their lifetime through repurchases. Building a low-friction experience that delights your customer increases the probability they’ll buy from you in the future.
“I think we need to consider throttling back on our obsession with what’s next. Customers still complain about inconsistent and unsatisfactory experiences. Have we moved forward? Are things better? Arguably not. Organizations often cite lack of collaboration and communication, and silo-ed thinking. Being brilliant at the basics and delivering better and more consistent outcomes for customers and employees seems like a great option and one that, I hope, we see more of.” Adrian Swinscoe, best-selling author of How To Wow. @adrianswinscoe
Collaboration will power personal customer support
Personalization will help drive a customer’s respect and loyalty. They want the company to know them well enough to make relevant suggestions, send the right marketing messages, and more.
While Warby Parker store visitors are personally welcomed by a greeter who get you to where you need to go—and their POS system remembers you. It’s easy to see why this retail customer experience makes it effortless for returning customers.
But for an online business, copying this approach is a little trickier. That’s why collaboration will be key to personalization within the business.
“One terrific trend I’m starting to see is companies are creating a customer service vision. This is a shared definition of outstanding customer service that gets everyone on the same page. This is the most important step towards becoming a customer-centric company since it’s pretty hard to be customer-centric if you can’t get everyone to agree on what that means!” Jeff Toister is the bestselling author of The Service Culture Handbook. @toister
Customer support works better as a team sport. This doesn’t mean that everyone works on support. It means that support is respected as a profit-center in your company—as it should— and that engineering, marketing, and sales teams dip in with useful information to help customer support out.
We built this theory into Kayako, via collaborators. Making, say, an engineer a collaborator means he/she can provide information to support reps without directly speaking to customers.
Not only should your customer support software allow other departments to collaborate with your team. But Integrations will make you more customer-centric than ever.
For a business aiming for an effortless experience, it’s vital you’re tapped into the full customer journey. Connecting your customer support software through integrations with popular CRMs (like Salesforce) so that support, marketing, and sales teams know everything they possibly can in any conversation.
Creating a consistent and personal experience as customers move from prospect to customer will make customer journeys effortless. But most companies don’t have this context. Only 8% of organizations say that they have all of their channels connected and, in fact, as many as 70% say that none or very few of their channels are connected, according to Dimension Data.
Organizations that take customer experience seriously through personalization will stand out from the noise and create loyal customers.
Kayako makes customer service simple and personal. Bring customer activity from all your apps into Kayako for true context and faster, more helpful support. Start your free trial.
2. Will AI and bots create friction or free up resources for teams?
Bots and AI can’t be ignored when it comes to customer service trends of 2018. Bots and AI have been building in momentum for years now and will continue to be in discussion for years to come.
Why wouldn’t they be? The idea of reducing costs and human input is very alluring for a department like customer service—one often sees the tail end of a company’s budget.
The idea of bringing down first response time and resolution time over live chat is enough to make you invest in the solution. But how well do they do that?
And chatbots are somewhat successful…
When a chatbot pilot program was initiated in a telco company, it could handle 82% of common queries in customer service. After 5 weeks of tweaking, analyzing, and optimizing by human agents, its success increased to 88%, According to Accenture.
The businesses that build these bots showcase this in their marketing. There’s promises of bots connecting people to right humans when needed—and 86% of consumers expect this.
…But there is still a long way to go
Providing the right information at the right time without human intervention remains a vital flaw in chatbots and AI. Disappointingly for AI and bots, The Information reported that chatbots fail 70% of the time and require a human to intervene.
Imagine this frustration over a customer service interaction. You’re going to be raging with fury when the bot can’t understand you and doesn’t pass you over to a human help you. And who gets the brunt end of your fury? The first support agent you connect with. They’re not perfect, but they will improve their accuracy quickly.
“AI will serve both customers and employees. For customers, AI will continue to handle basic questions and requests, such as a change of address or answering frequently asked questions – and will continue to get better at it. And, while most companies seem focused using AI to interact directly with customers, it is also being used to support the agent, helping them with real-time answers to customers’ questions. No longer does the customer have to wait as an agent looks through screens of information to get accurate answers. And, AI can quickly identify a customer, give the agent relevant history and predict (with uncanny accuracy) what the next problem the customer will have or product the customer will want to purchase.” Shep Hyken, customer service and experience expert and New York Times bestselling business author. @Hyken
3. Consumers want a messaging experience over live chat
Live chat needs to adopt the same kind of user experience as messenger apps, as 38% of customers are not happy with the current live chat experience—and 43% of businesses know their user experience is not good enough.
Consumer messaging offers much less friction and makes it easy to chat with friends. Look at the explosive growth Messaging apps have seen worldwide over past few years:
Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp users send over 60 billion messages a day.
Line Users exchange 20 billion messages every day.
Over 70% of WeChat users spend over 1 hour per day on the messaging app.
Think about the usability these popular mobile apps offer. They have evolved to offer users features such as sending payments, ordering, and booking all through one app. So rather than having to download an additional app or use another website, users can buy goods, submit orders, and book restaurants all through their favorite messaging app.
And these popular apps know this. Facebook has announced it’s beta testing website integration for Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp has launched a business app.
“The first thing customer-focused companies think, “what can I do to make my customers’ lives easier and better?” To become more customer-centric, simply to talk to your customers and find out what their experience is actually like. Then you can begin to chip away at processes and product aspects that no longer serve customers. You can start with the biggest offenders and work your way down. By listening to your customers, and starting small, you will begin to make great strides in customer experience.” Blake Morgan, customer experience author, speaker, HBR and Forbes columnist. @BlakeMichelleM
How will the messaging experience look in B2B?
The one perk of messaging experiences over typical live chat is that customers can take their conversations anywhere. When you use typical live chat software to talk with customer service, you have to go to a laptop or desktop. You’re rooted there until your problem is resolved.
Consumers don’t want this. They want to be able to solve their problems on the go, like solving a problem while commuting on the train or bus. Consumers want to take their support conversations with them.
Creating effortless messaging experiences over live chat will see the conveniences of integrations across apps make life even easier:
Want to see where your recent order is? Live chat and Messenger will be proactive in displaying an update on the status of your order so you don’t have to ask support.
Is your main website is experiencing downtime? On your Help Center Messenger will show the latest update from your status page.
No live chat context will be lost in your help desk. Messenger conversations will easily switch from live chat to email and back again losing no context of the conversation as you switch between channels.
Kayako offers a modern messaging that follows your customer. Your customers are mobile, so your live chat should be too. Try Kayako Messenger on a 14 day free trial.
4. Self-service will become a form of marketing
When customers want to solve a problem or have a question 7 out of 10 people will search online, according to Software Advice. But surprisingly, 55% of customers find web self-service portals difficult to use.
User experience expert, Kathy Sierra, argued in her book, Badass: Making Users Awesome, that the issue is marketing and support documentation isn’t aligned. Kathy argues that customers don’t want to become an expert at using the tool like becoming a master at using a DSLR camera, they want to become an expert at landscape photography with rich depth.
The marketing focuses on the bigger picture that the user wants to achieve, where as user documentation will focus on getting the most out of the tool.
When we talk about customer experience, many of us think about support. We think about the touchpoints between customer and business when the customer needs help buying or using a product.
These interactions make up part of the customer experience, but not all of it.
Customer experience encompasses the entire end-to-end journey a customer takes. That involves a whole lot more than just your customer service or support team.
Creating an effortless customer experience is the whole company’s stance. Everyone in your company, from CEO on down, should look at effortless customer experience as the #1 goal. The means of contributing to that goal vary from one team to the next, but making the customer’s life easier is always the ultimate end game.
Rally employees around the customer experience
Putting radically easy customer experience first is often easier said than done. It gets even harder as your business grows. It’s easy for support teams to keep the customer in mind because real customers are directly involved in their day-to-day work. For other teams across the business, customers can follow the “out of sight, out of mind” principle in a flash.
An organization-wide focus on customer experience takes dedicated effort and cross-team strategy. Wootric recommends a few simple steps to keep employees across every team focused on the customer experience.
Measure Performance with Net Promoter Score (NPS)
Metrics like leads, revenue, and sales put a large emphasis on customer acquisition. That means many teams focus more on winning customers than on keeping them happy.
NPS measures customer loyalty. It can help elevate customer experience to the realm of measurable business goals. That makes it easier to make customer happiness a priority and hold every team accountable to it.
Share Performance with the Whole Company
Measuring NPS is all fine and good, but it doesn’t help employees focus on customer experience unless you share the results with them. Most NPS measurement will involve both a rating and testimonials. Make a point to share both aspects of NPS responses with the entire company.
That way, every team can develop a better understanding of customers’ lives – and the needs and desires that arise from them.
Empower Employees to Take Action
Net promoter data empowers businesses. You can find what customers like and identify areas to improve the customer experience. But at the end of the day, it’s rank and file employees who have the opportunity to make a difference for customers.
That’s why it’s important for them to empower employees to do what’s necessary. Give them the autonomy and authority to improve customer experience and fix any customer problems that arise.
Customer-centric sales strategy
Sales is often the first one-on-one touchpoint customers experience with your business. They’re likely to come in contact with sales long before they need your support team. That means your sales reps are integral players in boosting the customer experience.
To put the emphasis back on customer happiness (instead of hitting a quota or closing sales), you need to design every aspect of your sales strategy with the customer in mind.
Your ultimate goal isn’t $1 million in sales or 1 million new customers – it’s happy customers. That means being honest and transparent when your product isn’t a good fit for a lead. It means putting people over revenue, and letting that concept guide every decision, conversation, and sale.
What does that look like on the ground? It looks like empowered, well-trained sales reps.
Make hiring decisions based on emotional intelligence, in addition to sales skill. Empower reps with both autonomy and the data they need to effectively serve leads and customers. Connect sales quotas with concrete customer experience goals.
Great customer experience is the main goal here, but customer-centric strategy lends itself to more productive and efficient sales reps, too. The goal is to find the right solution for each customer. That means reps have the power to to accept when a sale isn’t a good fit. Then move on to other leads who can actually benefit from what you’re offering.
Personalized, educational marketing
When it comes to both customer acquisition and retention, marketing plays a few different roles. They’re responsible for drumming up interest, finding qualified leads for sales, and lessening the burden on support.
Marketing’s role in boosting customer experience is simple. Cut out as much irrelevant communication as possible. Then offer, in its place, personalized, educational resources. Resources that actually help consumers find the information they need to make a buying decision and get the most out of your product.
That looks like top to bottom educational content designed to guide customers through every stage of the buyer’s journey. From learning about a problem to comparing solutions to leveraging your product. Personalized, relevant email marketing creates an effortless experience. One that runs all the way from lead nurturing to onboarding to support follow-ups.
Your marketing team works even closer with support today than they might have ten years ago. The ubiquity of social media and its role in customer support calls for seamless integration of social and support teams. It’s vital that social media managers be emotionally intelligent, well-trained, and consummate customer advocates. They should be empowered to help customers in whichever venue they choose.
Design with the customer in mind
Customer experience has a lot to do with what your business does for customers. But a big part of the customer experience is also how your product does what it does. A+ experiences come from every touchpoint a customer has with your business – not just with your employees. That’s why seamless experiences start with customer-centric design.
This can play out in a few ways:
Overarching customer experience design. This is the strategy you set forth that paints a picture of what every aspect of the customer experience should look and feel like.
Customer-centric product design. That means your design or engineering teams are also key players when it comes to improving the customer experience.
Designers can’t read minds anymore than you or I can. That’s why one of the best ways to design effortless customer experiences is to go right to the source: customers themselves. Instead of adding another cook to the kitchen, co-designing with customers gives designers invaluable insight. Insight they can use to create a seamless experience.
For designers, there’s no such thing as too much customer feedback. That’s where beta testing comes in. Beta testing can provide vital input from real people who use your product. That enables designers to build a constant feedback loop that sees customer experience skyrocket.
Feedback-driven product development
Are you starting to develop a product, expanding your offering, or looking to improve an existing offering? Product development is a key process. It sets the stage for who you’ll market to and how they’ll interact with your product and business.
No matter the stage of development, there’s one secret sauce that can help your product development team create the best experience for customers: feedback. Customer feedback is the most effective way to find out what people who will actually use your product are looking for.
Like the co-design process we already chatted about, co-development means developers work directly with customers. They can figure out what needs improvement and what to build out. Meaning they can identify where to invest to create a real difference for actual customers. Instead of throwing spaghetti at the wall, developers game the system. They can stop wasting time on product features or updates that won’t better the customer experience.
Your customer support team is another priceless resource for product development. Customer support reps talk to customers all day, every day. That means they’re a veritable goldmine of customer feedback. Working with your support team provides another layer of valuable customer info that helps development create the best product and experience for your customers.
Create effortless customer experiences
Unique from customer satisfaction and support, the customer experience encompasses every touchpoint between customers and your business, product, and team. Eighty-six percent of consumers say they’re willing to pay more for better experiences. And, 22% of companies can’t wait to invest in customer experience heading into 2018, according to Econsultancy.
As more companies focus on customer experience, those who don’t, risk losing out on both customers and revenue.
Creating an effortless experience for customers takes dedicated customer experience strategy and even more dedicated employees. But when you do, customer experience becomes the differentiator that leads to more business and happier customers.
Let’s just say it: one-on-ones are nerve-wracking.
As an employee, when someone drops a one-on-one meeting on your calendar, it can mess up your whole day.
As a manager (new or otherwise), you can struggle trying to come up with the most perfect and productive way to use your time: you need to get to know the status of what your employee is working on, how they feel, any bumps in the road coming up—it’s a lot of information to cover!
I want to take a little bit of the stress out of the equation for you and help you rock conducting one-on-one meetings with employees.
Prepare for a one-on-one meeting with an agenda
Have a list of your one-on-one meeting questions ahead of time. In fact, maybe even have a set of categories that you cover every single time. A good example of this could be:
What things are working and not working?
How is your workload going?
What are your personal development goals and how are they going?
Bring a case or a ticket to talk about.
Of course, you can talk about things outside of these categories, but having something regular and planned on your one-on-one meeting agenda helps to keep you away from that dreaded first five minutes of awkward silence. It also helps to build regularity and lets both you and your employees prepare for the meeting and have meaningful conversation.
Leave time for personal conversation
For me, one of the main things that I try to focus on during one-on-one meetings with staff is getting to know them personally.
Hopefully you already have some context into what they are doing professionally, so try to leave some time to create personal connections. This can happen at the beginning of the meeting, or at the end, but no matter when it happens, remember to share a little bit about yourself as well.
Create a relationship with your employee that humanizes you right off the bat, and they will feel less nervous in meetings to come.
One to one meetings are not meant to be stressful. Almost everyone has had the experience where a C-level reaches out and says “hey, let’s have a 1:1” without any other context. You sit there and think to yourself “am I going to be fired? Did I do something wrong?” and you fret away until you actually get to the meeting just for it to be a (usually) trivial and simple thing.
DON’T DO THIS TO YOUR EMPLOYEES.
Set expectations for what the one-on-one meeting is going to be about, or at least give them some context.
For example, instead of just saying “Hey, do you have a second to meet later? I put something on your calendar for 4.” You could say “Hey, I’d love to chat about that blog post you wrote. I have some suggestions for how you could do it better in the future. Do you have a second to meet later?”
Put your people at ease, otherwise they won’t come to your meetings with their game faces on.
Your employees’ time is just as valuable as yours is. Don’t use time in a meeting just because you have it. Having a one to one meeting with a manager is meant to be a time for your employees to feel like you are hearing them and their concerns, but that doesn’t mean that you need to drag out the meeting beyond the time it needs to take.
If you notice that you are filling time with conversation just to take the full amount of the meeting, stop. After the meeting, evaluate what you could have done differently, or if there is something you need to add to make it a more full meeting in the future, but do not add additional fluff just for fluff’s sake.
Also, don’t spend 30 minutes of time talking about your amazing weekend getaway, just to leave your employee wishing that you’d spent more time discussing OKRs.
Pick a good cadence
Similar to the above, there is nothing worse than having a meeting every single week and not feeling like you need it. Effective one-on-one meetings cover a large amount of information, and always feel needed.
If you find yourself not getting any real updates with your meetings, play around with the cadence. For example, I will have meetings with some employees for an hour every two weeks, or every week for 30 minutes. Try to find what works for you and stick with it. No one likes a bloated calendar full of unnecessary and meaningless meetings.
The space matters
Pay attention to what environment you meet your employees in. Whether you are remote or in-person, the environment in which you meet your employees is important.
If you are a remote-friendly company, find a great online service that will allow you to have face-to-face videos whenever you need. Make sure that it is reliable for you: imagine if you were in a meeting with one of your team members in person and ran out fifteen minutes into the meeting with no explanation? That’s what it’s like when you get disconnected from a video chat while remote.
One-on-ones done remotely are just as awesome as one-on-ones done in person, but you need to be considerate of the same things: is the room and environment where you are conducting the one-on-one steady? You wouldn’t have a one-on-one in a place where you were going to be interrupted, so you should do the same when conducting them remotely. Make sure you have good headphones, a steady internet connection, and a private room so you can devote your attention to your employee.
Ask about their career
Where does your team member want to go in their career? So many people view support as a stepping stone to other options; by talking about their career regularly, you can help show them that they can keep working in support if they want to.
A good way to do this right from the beginning of your relationship is to have them come up with development goals and list them as items to discuss in each one-on-one. Even if you don’t discuss them every single time, having them listed where ever you keep the agenda for your one-on-one means that you (and your team member) will always be thinking about what they can do to advance further in their career.
A final say on acing one-on-one meetings
One-on-ones do not need to be tricky. Follow the guidelines above and you are already off to a great start with one-on-one employee meetings.
Remember: the goal with one-on-ones is to better understand your employees needs and career growth as well as build a relationship with them. Use your time wisely and expediently, and you’ll be rocking it out in no time.
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