Delivering customer service is non-negotiable

Great customer service is something that everyone expects but not everyone receives. A 2013 Forrester report, Navigate the Future of Customer Service, states that customer service is “moving from being a cost center to a being a differentiator.” And a report on call center efficiency from the International Computer Management Institute found that superior customer service creates real value for clients in efficiency and customer satisfaction, as well as business unit and strategic value.

Good customer service can’t be bolted on. It must be ingrained in a company’s culture. When a focus on the customer is a company’s paramount business priority, everyone, no matter what their role, is ready and willing to assist. Whether or not a company is in a service business, it can view each instance a client contacts it as an opportunity to provide exemplary customer service.

Providing a superior customer experience is one of the primary drivers of an enviable customer retention rate. This is especially true when a customer service department provisions clients who are accustomed to exceptionally high levels of attention and service to start with. For Fortune 1000 boards of directors, CEOs, boards of trustees at world-renowned universities and high-ranking government officials, you have to get it right the first time or risk losing the business for good.

A phone call is usually the quickest way to reach the support team. Accustomed to a five-star hotel standard of service, senior leaders expect the same level of attention from every service provider, especially when carrying out their professional responsibilities. Based on the value of their time, board members can’t wait to be connected to the right person or interact with a complicated interactive voice response (IVR) system. If a client calls customer service, they need help immediately. Not on hold. Not later today, and certainly not tomorrow.

Have a team available to pick up the phone, every time
This really is the most basic principle of premium service. If someone is calling, they want to talk, so you must answer right away. Inadequate staffing is one of the biggest obstacles to delivering great service. In today’s 24/7 world, if a company doesn’t have enough people to answer the phones around the clock, its customers will start to lose patience and take their business elsewhere. Oftentimes, support calls are from places like the airport terminal or the board room before a meeting. Whether a customer is calling with a technical question about the service they’re using, or even about the device they’re using, they need to know the answer right away.

Use experts to talk to customers
If a client has a technical question, he or she needs to talk to someone who knows the product inside and out, is experienced talking directly to senior executives, and who will go the extra mile to resolve the issue. Good service is based on a relationship of trust, and customers need to be able to trust that the service team will be there to resolve their issues. For example, if for any reason the person answering the phone is unable to answer the query, a qualified person with the right knowledge should call the customer back within five minutes.

Invest in proper training
Companies need to dedicate resources to training not just employees in their customer service department, but clients as well. A unique one-to-one training for users of the product ensures their proficiency in using the product. This will cut down on valuable time a client would otherwise have spent trying to figure out a feature if they weren’t properly on-boarded or updated on the product. In addition, instead of one account manager for each customer, clients should be assigned a complete service team for the duration of the relationship so there’s always a pool of people well-versed with the requirements and customizations specific to each client.

Offer customer service at the times customers need it
It’s commonplace to find executives traveling for work on weekends, getting to work early in the morning and finishing late in the evening, and frequently crossing time zones. A 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday local-hours customer service team is, therefore, no good to a director who is preparing for a board meeting at 9 pm on a Sunday night. If customers work 24/7, service teams need to be available 24/7 too. To address this, consider implementing a 'follow the sun' principle, placing service staff in several regions. When every call is picked up within two rings on average, significantly higher client satisfaction results.

Have a crisis plan
A company can never expect things to operate smoothly 100 percent of the time. Having a clear and strong crisis plan is crucial to maintaining stability and continuity in business operations. During a crisis, a company may find the majority of its support staff without electricity or transportation. But utilizing a global team can ensure that clients are well taken care of and attended to. The service team should believe strongly enough in delivering good service as to be willing to work around the clock to cover for colleagues affected by the crisis.

In the end, quality customer service comes down to understanding clients’ expectations. An educated, well-informed staff knowledgeable about their clients’ businesses is crucial to providing efficient and seamless support. Ensuring that the client feels comfortable and reassured that the support team will be able to help them builds a strong rapport and trust. If a company exceeds expectations to deliver great client service and goes further than its competition is prepared to go, it will lead to higher levels of customer satisfaction and retention, eventually ensuring the continued health and growth of the business.



Creative Director