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An Entrepreneur's Guide To Scaling Up the Customer Service Experience The pandemic and the need for social distancing has impacted our everyday interactions and made consumers search for digital equivalents of nearly everything

By Niraj Ranjan Rout

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"Good service is good business". This oft-quoted maxim rings true, especially in a post-pandemic marketplace. The question that arises then is twofold: one, what makes customer service a business essential in today's market landscape and two, how to provide customer service that lends an edge to a business?

Why is it essential to provide great customer service?

The question may sound like a no-brainer but it is essential to understand it in the context of the current, somewhat fluid and uncertain scenario.

The pandemic and the need for social distancing has impacted our everyday interactions and made consumers search for digital equivalents of nearly everything: from education to entertainment to healthcare and fitness, including customer service. In such a climate, a company that offers superior customer service experiences will clearly have leverage over competition. This assertion is backed by a global research report, "Customer Support Through the Eyes of Consumers in 2020" published by Hiver. According to the report, more than 80% of consumers want customer support to be more empathetic or more responsive during COVID-19.

A happy customer tells a friend; an unhappy customer tells the world

Modern-day customers are more likely to share their negative experiences with a brand than the positive ones. In fact, based on Hiver's study, nearly 89 per cent of customers are likely to talk about their poor customer support experience by advising their friends from buying the product or service, actively sharing their opinion in their circles or leaving a negative review on social media and other e-commerce sites.

This is not good news for sectors such as travel, hospitality or electronics where user reviews play a crucial role in driving business. Bad customer service can not only contribute to churn but also curb new business opportunities and put a dent on customer acquisition efforts.

The challenge for any entrepreneur, therefore, is to instil a company-wide culture of customer centricity and ensure that their company provides great service.

Here are few things that entrepreneurs can do to scale customer service and help their companies deliver exceptional service:

Ensure consistency: Consumers have very little tolerance for sloppy service. The aim must be to streamline your customer service team's efforts into delivering great experiences on a consistent basis. Have SLAs for customer support metrics like first response time and average resolution time. This ensures your agents are aware of expectations set upon them. Agree on a consistent tone and language so that the customer has a smooth experience, no matter who they're interacting with. Set up standard processes that enable easy collaboration between agents as well as with other functions in the company. These are some of the basics to ensuring that your customer service quality doesn't slip below standards.

Deliver faster service: Customers today want their issues fixed a lot faster. The shorter their waiting time, the happier they are. One of the ways to reduce resolution time is to maintain a comprehensive and updated knowledge base which has answers to common customer queries. This makes life easy for agents and allows them to respond to customers quickly. Additionally, it reduces the load on your service team as customers can look up the answers themselves. But since not all issues can be resolved quickly, it's important for support teams to set clear expectations with customers. If something is taking too long, they should proactively inform customers about it and provide them with a clear timeline by when the issue will be resolved.

Leverage technology in the right way: This is a challenging one for all businesses. Data has proven that ineffective or overly robotic chatbots are annoying. At the same time, let's not forget that technology is a great enabler of efficient service. It's just about how you use it. For example, you can automate the process of assigning queries, organizing and segmenting customer issues, and looping in the right person for the right customer request. Technology, if used in this manner, takes care of all the grunt work, saving your agents a lot of time and effort, which they can instead spend on delighting customers and building strong relationships.

Invest in intuitive technology: A lot of times, a major deterrent to great customer service is the software you invest in. Your helpdesk software should be easy to use, intuitive, and come with all the key functionalities needed to effectively manage queries. Investing in a helpdesk tool that is overly complicated to use makes daily life difficult for your agents, and ultimately impacts the speed and quality of service. Additionally, on-boarding and training new agents become painstaking as they'll take time acclimatizing to the helpdesk.

Train your support staff: The support you deliver is only as good as the people you've got on your team. This makes it very important to invest in their training and ensure they are well equipped to deal with all kinds of customers. Identify areas of improvement for your support staff and accordingly, create training programs for them. For example, if someone needs help in writing better customer emails, enroll them in a workshop on crafting customer communication.

Focus on building customer relationships: Support teams are usually more focused on how many tickets they can close in a day than how they make customers "feel'. If you want to deliver service that turns customers into brand loyalists, encourage your team to stop seeing real customer problems as mere tickets. Great customer service is as much about emotion as it is about processes and technology. Truly understand your customers' pain points, get to the bottom of their issues, and consistently go the extra mile for them.

As the virtual marketplace gets more and more saturated by entrepreneurs from different sectors, the businesses that have the edge would be the ones that invest in delivering truly stellar customer service.

Scott Cook, the co-founder of Intuit, sums up the recipe for success perfectly: "Instead of focusing on the competition, focus on the customer."

Niraj Ranjan Rout

Co-Founder and CEO, Hiver

Niraj Ranjan Rout is Co-founder & CEO of Hiver, a Gmail-centric customer service solution. Hiver has over 1,500 customers across 30 countries, including the likes of Hubspot, Harvard University, Vacasa, Airbnb, Pinterest and Shutterstock among others. An alumnus of IIT Kharagpur, Niraj completed his B. Tech in Electronics and Communications and went on to work with the Electronic Design Automation firm Mentor Graphics for five years. He took his first entrepreneurial plunge along with Nitesh Nandy when they started Mobicules, an app and web development company.

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