5 tips for creating a customer-centric support organization
Customer relationships are as important as ever. Your customers (and likely future ones as well), feel their support experience is just as important as a company’s product. The following statistic illustrates how crucial it is to always put the customer first:
90% of Americans use customer service as a factor in deciding whether or not to do business with a company. - TrustPilot research
By putting more emphasis on strong support practices, companies can significantly improve their ROI. A Glance Inc study reported that 70% of Americans would spend more with companies that provide excellent customer service.
But how can support leaders ensure their organization consistently provides great service? Through customer centricity.
What’s customer centricity?
Customer centricity is putting the customers’ happiness at the heart of important business decisions. It’s empathizing with customers and focusing on their satisfaction throughout their journey to provide them with the best possible experience.
Customer-centric organizations have higher loyalty, retention, and referral rates, ultimately staying in business longer than those that neglect their users. In their research, Deloitte and Touche state companies with a customer-centric culture are 60% more profitable compared to those that aren’t.
As a support leader or stakeholder, how do you make sure the team understands and works towards a customer-centric strategy? By making it part of the support team’s culture and using the right tools.
In this article, we’ll give you 5 tips on creating a customer-centric support organization:
1. Empower support leaders and agents with the right technology
To start, make it as easy as possible for agents to resolve tickets without sacrificing a great customer experience. Many businesses opt for customer support solutions (also called help desk software) that give agents a clear view of all open tickets and their queues without changing tabs.
When agents can get customer information (a list of unassigned tickets, their queue, a customer timeline, and profile) in one place, they’ll be more efficient, focused, confident, and accurate when solving issues. The more confident agents are, the more they can get right to the issue and provide the best possible support.
The right support tech stack can also help agents limit repetitive, manual work that takes time away helping customers. It’s natural customers have issues that come up again and again, or complex questions that require more time to solve.
Technology helps agents and managers during quiet periods, but what about when there's a product issue and support gets slammed with tickets? A support team’s help desk software should be able to leverage data to the millisecond in real-time. Features such as AI-powered suggestions, a real-time dashboard, and automatic actions can enable managers and agents to create better customer-centric experiences. Below, we’ll take you through three examples of how a manager can use a help desk software to deliver a better customer experience using data in real-time:
AI-powered suggestions provide faster, personalized replies
AI-powered pre-written responses inside the reply box prevent agents from having to spend time manually typing out greetings, closings, personal information, and solutions to common questions. Features that simplify their workflow and keep communications personalized help them resolve more tickets and maintain high service standards of service. Customers in turn feel they’re treated as individuals and know agents are on top of their issue.
A real-time dashboard helps support leaders manage incoming tickets and agent capacity
When there’s a surge in support tickets, a real-time dashboard gives managers a view of where agents are (whether they’re offline, on a ticket, or on a break) in real-time so they can easily make sure tickets get assigned to the available agents. Platforms that allow managers to move agents around, assign them to a specific ticket, or add more agents to calls helps the team handle more requests during high volume times. This gives customers resolutions faster and prevents other calls from waiting on hold.
Automatic actions identify and address potentially bad customer experiences Real-time data also comes into play when managers want to monitor metrics like customer satisfaction. Using a real-time engine, managers can use automation to correct a potentially negative customer experience. If a manager wants more visibility into whether customers are waiting too long on hold, they can use a rule engine to set up an “if-then” condition. They’ll get notified when the customer has been waiting too long and can reassign an agent or take the call themselves.
What this could look like: if a customer waits more than 10 minutes on hold, then notify the manager in real-time and assign a free agent to the ticket.
With real-time data, the customer doesn’t need to wait on hold for an agent to solve their problem. With up-to-the-millisecond data, managers can ensure agents are on top of issues and quickly and accurately address customers, which helps move organization more towards customer eccentricity.
2. Prioritize customer satisfaction and make it part of your values
CSAT isn’t just another metric for businesses to measure. It’s one of the main ways to understand whether customers are happy or not and a quick view into agent performance. It lets businesses answer the always-relevant question: How are we doing as a customer support organization? Measuring CSAT is one way to see if support is on the right path in becoming more customer-centric.
Prioritizing customer satisfaction is an ongoing, daily practice; each customer comes with their own needs, requests, and idea of a positive experience. Essentially, this boils down to agents treating customers as individuals with their own set of challenges. Here are a few ways agents can be more customer-centric and improve CSAT in their day-to-day operations:
Review customer details and ticket history before responding
Stay current with product or services changes and bugs. The more knowledge an agent has, the faster they can solve the ticket. Encourage agents to become product experts so they’re more empowered and motivated to give thorough responses.
Practice active listening and soft skills. The agent represents the brand, so knowing how to authentically respond is crucial (more on which soft skills to master below).
Admit to any faults or misunderstandings. Customer centricity doesn’t just mean resolving issues. It’s about going above and beyond to make customers happy. Things sometimes go wrong, so an apology or a gesture can help maintain a relationship with the customer.
Reflect on previous CSAT performance and find opportunities to improve. Spending 15-20 minutes a day looking at their previous CSAT scores and considering how they could have handled the ticket differently
Everyone wins when support organizations measure and continuously work on improving CSAT as part of a customer-centric strategy. Agents feel good about the service they provide, customers see how the company went above and beyond to make them happy, and the business grows with loyal customers.
3. Hire the right people
All agents need hard skills such as product knowledge or proficiency in a certain tool, but great agents also master interpersonal savviness. The traits that define how people relate to each other are called soft skills and they’re an essential part of becoming a customer centric organization. When hiring your next support agent , make sure to keep the following soft skills in mind.
Empathy is the ability to understand someone’s emotions and their point of view. When speaking with customers (especially frustrated ones), leading with empathy shows customers they're individuals experiencing a challenge, not just profit generators. When agents reply with kindness and understanding, customers feel heard and both sides will move towards a satisfying resolution.
Mumbling, using confusing language or industry-specific jargon, won’t get the point across to customers. Communicating issues clearly and concisely in a way any customer can understand will create much stronger customer experiences.
Sometimes, customers may struggle so hard with an issue, they work themselves up and take their frustrations out on the agent. Agents who can stay calm and patient can prevent the situation from getting even more out of hand. In the long term, the customer may even remember that even when they felt helpless and confused, the agent was able to turn a challenging situation into a positive experience.
Properly managed conflict can increase loyalty rates, retention, and boost your brand image. Look for agents with effective conflict resolution skills. They’ll be able to resolve issues before they become bigger.
It’s human nature; customers will trust agents more and have an easier time opening up when they feel heard. Agents who listen and respond to the customer in a helpful, kind tone can get to the heart of the issue faster.
The ability to read emotions
Customer interaction with agents can change a users' entire view of your company. If a customer is in a chattier mood, adopt their light tone and have more of a conversation. Even one positive interaction can deepen their relationship to the company.
When customers are clearly agitated, agents need to be able to empathize and practice patience. Showing they care enough to diffuse some of the tension gives everyone a better experience.
One last note on hiring
Hire people with the right soft skills who understand the ‘why’ behind prioritizing the customer experience. During interviews, ask questions that demonstrate an applicant’s empathy level or willingness to put the customer first.
Once they join the team, keep everyone accountable. Uphold a customer-centric mentality for your more experienced agents as well by checking how they’re supporting the culture. Ongoing reminders, check-ins, and trainings will help employees stay motivated, be successful, and remain aligned with your company’s values.
4. Collect and apply customer feedback
To make sure you’re always striving for a positive customer experience, you need to know what customers want, need, and whether they’re satisfied or dissatisfied with your company. Customer-centric organizations not only collect customer feedback, but they also incorporate it into the roadmap when appropriate.
By tracking helpful or unhelpful votes on articles, CSAT, NPS, multiple-choice surveys, or open-ended questionnaires, businesses know if customers are happy or not with the service or product. After collecting their responses, companies can use customer feedback to power positive changes in the business.
How can you collect feedback? To help you get started, we compiled a few of the most popular ways to gather feedback and how you can apply it to your business:
Asking customers to rate whether an article was helpful or unhelpful: Support teams need to know whether their content is actually helping customers solve their issues. An easy way to get this information is by asking customers to rate whether an article is helpful with a thumbs up or unhelpful with a thumbs down.
Support leaders and agents can then take a look at their data to see which articles received thumbs down and make changes accordingly. Maybe the photos are outdated or the information could be worded better. Use the data as a way to continue putting the customer first and create content that will help them succeed.
Net Promoter Score (NPS): Collect a sample of your customers and ask how likely they’d recommend you and leave space for them to elaborate. NPS asks, “On a scale from 1-10, how likely are you to recommend this to someone you know and why?”
Once you’ve calculated NPS, you can determine any areas of improvement and opportunities. Just be mindful that in order to better understand customers’ feedback and their experience with your company, you need to ask customers some sort of follow up question that encourages them to explain their score.
If customers score your company as an 8, and write they love the product, but it took agents 30 minutes on the phone to solve their issue, support leaders know customers want faster service.
They can focus on closing knowledge gaps within the team or create a new plan for getting the right tickets to the right agents so customers get their problems resolved faster.
Multiple-choice surveys: Companies must make it as easy as possible for customers to provide feedback. A short, multiple-choice survey is easy for customers to fill out and helps businesses gather important information such as whether support quality standards are met. Here are some example questions a support organization may ask:
How knowledgeable was the agent you spoke to? (Use options such as 1. Expert-level knowledge, 2. Mostly knowledgeable, 3. Not at all knowledgeable)
How easy did we make it to solve your problem? (Use choices such as 1. Very easy, 2. Was somewhat challenging, 3. Wasn’t easy at all)
Was your problem solved? (Use choices such as 1. Yes, 2. Mostly, 3. Not at all)
After getting customers’ responses back, you can see where the team needs to adjust. If a customer suggested their agent’s communication skills could improve, you could take the response back to the agent and go over best practices. Or, you could sit with an agent on future calls and give immediate feedback.
Open-ended questionnaires: Gain new insights and gather ideas for how to improve customer-centricity by allowing customers a free hand to write whatever they want. Here’s a sample open-ended question:
How can we improve the support experience?
When customers reply, they’re giving you a great opportunity to read what they want from you and make any changes to meet their needs. Maybe a large percentage of surveyed customers want a more convenient way of contacting support. Share this feedback with the product team and work on how to incorporate their responses into your roadmap. In the end, you could have a whole new feature that improves their experience, like widgets embedded into your website so customers can access support wherever they are in their journey.
5. Celebrate those who demonstrate customer-centricity
As a manager, you know employees recognized for their hard work are happier and perform better. Keep agent morale high by celebrating when they’re reaching their goals (ex. high CSAT scores, retention rates) and embodying a customer-centric culture.
During team meetings, call out agents who meet their goals or include them in your company newsletter. Even a simple acknowledgment raises employees’ spirits.
Empower agents even more by asking them to share exactly how they achieved a high customer satisfaction score for a customer interaction. This creates a good teaching moment for the rest of the team by reinforcing your values and how to collectively achieve goals. Though no business achieves customer-centricity overnight, celebrate each time agents succeed and you’ll create a happier workplace.
To work towards customer centricity, treat your customers to great service
Customer-centricity isn’t just a buzzword. It’s a way to consistently make sure customers are happier and receive the best possible service. Start transitioning into a customer-centric org by:
Empowering agents with the right technology so they can quickly resolve tickets without decreasing CSAT
Using CSAT to measure whether customers are satisfied/dissatisfied with your company
Hiring agents who understand your values and train all employees on how to make the customer feel heard
Collecting and applying customer feedback into your roadmap
Celebrating and rewarding those who successfully embody customer-centricity
Consumers today don’t just care about your products, they care about their experience. Help them always choose you by making customer-centricity an integral part of your support strategy.
Check out our other articles on building a successful customer support strategy: