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Is Your Customer Service Department Prepared for Today's Consumers? Keeping your audience happy means handling customer service challenges before they develop. Besides, bringing joy to customers is -- and always should be -- the name of the game.

By Ari Rabban

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Thomas Barwick | Getty Images

Customer service is entering a renaissance. Technology is completely redefining what it means to help your customer base, with use of live chat expected to grow by 87 percent over the next 12 months to 18 months. Why waste time hopping from department to department on a call when you can just type out a few questions and get straight to the heart of an issue?

But even with this technology in place, not all businesses are equipped to handle live chat -- not to mention many of the other platforms now used for customer service.

Questions and complaints sent through these channels are just like those sent through any other means of communication. No matter the format, the goal for customer service teams is to provide a fast, clear and actionable reply. It's all about optimizing technology to take a proactive approach to service.

A well-attended, well-prepared customer service center helps. Sure, training employees and providing top-notch software can carry a hefty price tag, but you want staff who can reply by phone, email or real-time chat -- no matter what the cost.

Related: 7 Tactics That Show You're Getting Customer Service Right

Always a worthwhile investment.

When you commit to investing in your service department, you do more than nurture loyalty from your customer base. A recent Forrester survey discovered that this investment greatly improved individual team members' productivity. Things become more predictable in how staff handles communications, and that predictability translates into greater efficiency and productivity.

With all your tools and resources geared toward service, employees can focus on the customer. They can develop a consistent approach, learn from each interaction and grow into their roles.

Keeping existing customers happy is often easier -- and more cost-effective -- than attracting new ones. According to Zendesk, a full 85 percent of customers will pay more if it means a better customer service experience. And the best way to keep customers happy is to leverage all the tools available to you. Technology allows you to follow up and resolve issues in a timely fashion.

While questions and complaints will vary, how you go about ensuring your company can tackle them will always be the same, and it often includes the following:

Related: 4 Assumptions Needed to Deliver 5-Star Customer Service

1. Go social with service.

While marketing is often the first thing that comes to mind with social media, it's part of the overall customer experience. Neglecting this channel means you miss out on a great touchpoint to engage with consumers and offer solutions to their problems.

JetBlue is a prime example of social media service at work. After a customer tweeted an image of his in-flight video screen malfunctioning, the airline's Twitter representative addressed the issue directly and offered a credit on his flight. What might have been a public bashing of the company turned into a publicized success story.

But social media can do more than help your company build customer relationships. It's also a great place for employees to connect. Setting up a Facebook group or using its new collaborative platform, Workplace, offers staff a space to chat, ask questions and discuss business on a social level.

2. Give staff the necessary resources.

Not all employees will be effective communicators out of the gate. Train new hires on how to best interact with customers through all touchpoints. Cover skills like writing emails, working the phones and handling complaints or questions over social channels.

What's more, make sure employees master the key customer service skill: listening. If employees can listen to customers, they're more apt to uncover the root cause of the issue and offer the best possible solution. Plus, the act of listening can help speed up the whole customer service process.

3. Stress the "other foot" philosophy.

Companies can sometimes forget to put themselves in the customer's shoes. If that shoe were on the other foot, how would they like to be treated? Before recommending something, make sure your team considers why someone is asking the question.

The same holds true for interactions within an organization. Think of the other party when offering advice. If you don't agree with how someone is doing something, there's often a reason. Transparency and clear communication among the team can help clear up confusion and quell frustrations from the get-go.

Take Zappos, for instance. Transparency is one of its core values -- so much so that it offers vendors access to company information. You can learn about its user experience, customer service and marketing efforts. Zappos put itself in the shoes of other companies by asking what would make it easier to conduct business with one another.

4. Work up those case studies.

Creating a point of reference is critical to solving customer service challenges. Develop case studies by reviewing what customers ask about most often. Group questions and complaints into categories, and then number them from the top down.

Related: The 4 Essentials of a Customer Service Plan

Once you establish your list, track and measure your efforts. Study the cases, and improve how your team deals with each category. You may find that automation can be utilized to answer repeat questions. Or perhaps you can route certain issues to those best equipped to provide solutions. Learn from these cases to provide better, faster service.

Investing in the tools and training ensures your team will always be ready for whatever customer challenges come their way. You want to keep your audience happy, and that means handling customer service challenges before they develop. Besides, bringing joy to customers is -- and always should be -- the name of the game.

Ari Rabban

CEO of

 Ari Rabban is the CEO of and a veteran of the IP communications industry.’s virtual phone service builds on the digital VoIP industry experience of its founders to deliver a complete suite of enterprise-grade unified communication services at an SMB price. Ari was named among the Top 20 Most Influential People in VoIP 2012 and currently serves on several boards, including the New Jersey Tech Council. You can follow him on Twitter @arabban.

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