4 Ways to Better Customer Service


by Roy Atkinson
October 25, 2016

What are some of the factors that customers say indicate excellent customer service? The 2014 American Express Global Customer Service Barometer (US version) confirms again what most customer service professionals already know: Customers want their questions answered quickly, and without escalations or transfers. They want professional service, and they value the human touch.

What are some ways we can ensure that customers receive the kind of service they want?

1. Set the right goals

Although it’s important that each analyst is doing their fair share of work, setting goals on quantities is problematic. Let’s face it: Solving customers’ problems or answering their questions quickly and correctly matters more than taking the highest number of calls or closing the highest number of tickets. It isn’t a race, after all. In addition, setting a metric as a goal is a bad idea. You usually get what you ask for, so if you say, "Get 80% first call resolution," you probably will. If is laudable to try to resolve incidents or requests on the first try, but setting the metric as the goal often drives behaviors such as prematurely closing tickets, resulting in call-backs and delays for the customer. The primary goals should be to provide value to the organization and to support customers and keep them working.

2. Make sure they have the tools and training they need to be efficient

It’s hard to be efficient when you have to have multiple applications open on a small screen, or when your systems don’t properly communicate with each other. How much "juggling" does an analyst have to do during or after a call or chat in order to get the right information entered and be ready to serve another customer? Sometimes, analysts come up with excellent "tricks" using existing equipment and software you already have. Make sure there is incentive to share those tips with their peers, and use the information in your future tool assessments. Aim for efficiency: That’s the highest priority for customers.

Make sure that your analysts know what they are doing and how they are expected to be doing it. Training pays off in the long run, in two ways: First, you know you are delivering the know-how your staff needs; second, you are delivering value to the analysts, and that is something that is important to them as well. In fact, "limited opportunities to learn, grow and advance" were the second-largest cause of turnover, trailing compensation by only 1% according to HDI / Robert Half Technology research.

Training helps to ensure the consistency of quality your organization wants and needs. It also helps build the foundation for empowering the analysts to solve problems then and there.

3. Give them the knowledge they need to do the job right, and empower them with good guidelines

There are too many reasons for good knowledge management to list in a blog post, but let’s go back to the top and look at what customers said. Handling their questions or issues quickly and without escalation is best done when knowledge is shared, and when it is kept in an easily accessible knowledgebase. Entries need not only to be searchable, but also findable, i.e., searching produces the most useful information quickly and easily.

Of course, having the information at your fingertips does no good if you cannot capitalize on it and use that information to correct a fault or get the customer the information they need. Provide good, positive guidelines rather than restrictive policies, and give your trained analysts the authority they need to take care of the customer’s requests or incidents. Where escalations are necessary, make the paths clear and efficient.

4. Make sure that your customer surveys are giving the right weight to the right things

Judging from the data in the American Express report (and many others), it is a mistake to give equal weight to customer survey question responses, since not all the items covered will have the same importance to those customers. Of course there are more things to pay attention to than just these four, but if you start here, many of the others will fall into line. What have you discovered in your organization that makes a difference to customers?


Roy AtkinsonRoy Atkinson is HDI's senior writer/analyst, acting as in-house subject matter expert and chief writer for SupportWorld articles and white papers. In addition to being a member of the HDI International Certification Standards Committee and the HDI Desktop Support Advisory Board, Roy is a popular speaker at HDI conferences and is well known to HDI local chapter audiences. His background is in both service desk and desktop support as well as small-business consulting. Roy is highly rated on social media, especially on the topics of IT service management and customer service. He is a cohost of the very popular #custserv (customer service) chat on Twitter, which celebrated its fifth anniversary on December 9, 2014. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. Follow him on Twitter @HDI_Analyst and @RoyAtkinson.


Tag(s): business value, customer service, supportworld

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