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3 Ways to Make Your Customer Service Shine

The best companies don't just build great products, they obsess over the customer experience.
3 Ways to Make Your Customer Service Shine
Image credit: Shutterstock
By Entrepreneur Partner Studio Staff

The best companies don’t just build great products, they obsess over the customer experience.

Sprint, which has received #1 rankings in various service and product categories since 2010, and been named the most improved company in customer satisfaction across all U.S. industries, is a great example of that.

We talked to Scott Barli, Sprint’s director of business client support, about how the 118-year old company has reinvented their customer experience--and how other businesses can do the same.

1. Solve simple problems proactively.

A simple formula for improving your customer service: reduce the number of negative interactions as much as possible while increasing your number of positive interactions and resolved issues.

Not all negative interactions are unhappy. But say someone’s calling in just to change a setting they could access through their account online, Scott says: that’s the kind of transaction Sprint works to eliminate through self-serve documentation. If people don’t have to call in for that, it makes them more satisfied overall and saves reps’ effort for trickier calls.

That leaves the issues that can’t always be easily handled online, like figuring out how your service will change after you move offices or trying to turn your employees’ mobile devices into full-scale business phones.

When you’re able to double down and devote more time to concerns like these, you build trust with your customers and increase the quality of those relationships. To drive that point home, Sprint doesn’t incentivize its reps to cut call times down--they check, instead, to see whether you had to call back in within a 30-day period. This helps ensure that reps are actually helping fix problems, versus offering temporary solutions.

This is also why most Sprint business customers get a dedicated customer support rep that they can call when they have questions. Rather than calling into an anonymous line, they call Joe, and Joe takes care of everything. Over time, this helps cement the customer-company relationship and provides that feeling of personalized service.

How can a smaller business follow Sprint’s examples of proactively solving the simple problems? One recommendation is to put extra time and effort into making sure the way your business communicates with customers is very clear. Avoiding misunderstandings or confusion goes a long way toward heading off potential customer service problems.

2. Promote an owner mentality.

In a truly great business, an owner mentality drives everyone on the team. On a customer support team this means that from the most junior rep to the most senior VP, everyone is equally responsible for ensuring a high quality of customer experience.

To promote that owner mentality, you have to empower the people on your team to go to any length to make things right for customers, a lesson Barli saw illustrated well when one long-time Sprint customer called into support with an urgent request.

You could hear the panic in his voice, Barli recalls, as he told the story of how his wife had just dropped her phone in the airport and broken it. He was despondent. His wife and daughter had just flown to New York, he explained, and were leaving the next morning on an overseas flight. It was 11 p.m.--they couldn’t go to any stores--and he was dreading the idea of his family getting on an international flight with no phone to get in touch upon landing.

The easy response, Barli says, would have been to say, “We’ll ship her one!” Instead, the rep took ownership. They called the local Sprint branch, found someone (who ordinarily dealt with B2B customers) to drive to the office, get a device, and deliver it to the customer’s hotel room.

That kind of response isn’t outlined in process, Barli says. It was just a response to one customer and what they needed.

Employee empowerment and sense of ownership is easier to instill within a smaller business — where people tend to wear many more hats, staff tends to be more close-knit, and owners tend to be more involved with the day-to-day workings of the company.

3. Connect your work to your mission.

As an organization, giving back to your community is one of the best ways to increase your team’s empathy and up the level of service they’re capable of delivering.

At Sprint, this has manifest in the 1Million Project--an initiative to deliver one million mobile devices, complete with usage plans and data, to high school students without home internet. There are 5 million such students, and all of them struggle to get their homework done, communicate with their teachers, and apply for jobs and internships. This is a crucial way that Sprint can help make life easier for those who need it most.

Organizationally, this initiative is more on-the-mark than previous attempts at giving back. With the 1 Million Project, Barli says, everyone on the team gets an intimate, up-close understanding of the impact of having connectivity. They can see just what it means for people who don’t have their product, and need it, to get it.

Giving back is generally a good success strategy for any type of business, regardless of size. When you’re able to connect the work that people do every day with a larger mission and set of principles, however, you get one of the most powerful motivational techniques possible.

Old-School Industries Require New-School Customer Experience