The 9 Customer Service Best Practices to Achieve Customer Service Excellence
- Research findings show 9 customer service best practices led to customer service excellence.
- When contact centers succeeded in a majority of the 9 best practices, they achieved Best-in-Class (e.g., top 15 percent) performance results.
- The 9 practices are symbiotic, meaning that achieving anyone contributes to others. When pursued holistically the contact center lowers operational cost, accelerates time to value and decreases risk.
Achieving customer service excellence is more of a dream than a vision for many contact centers or customer service organizations. It's not that they don't want to advocate for customers and maximize their contribution to the company, it's that they don't have a road map to get there.
The most recent research report, Customer Service Excellence; What Best-in-Class Customer Service Leaders Do Differently Than Their Peers, provides a data-driven and insights-based road map. It shares what excellence really means, how its measured and how the top performers achieved what is an elusive objective to so many of their peers.
Good customer service solves the customer's problem and feeds the problem back to the origination point for root cause analysis and resolution at the source. Service excellence builds on that core operational capability to achieve more strategic goals. For example, the Best-in-Class support organizations operate as profit centers, offers fee-based premium services (i.e., concierge, SLAs, entitlements) and measure their financial impact via customer lifetime value, customer retention and revenue contribution.
These strategic objectives are not achieved by random pursuits. In fact, the research found that the Best-in-Class Customer Service Leaders (i.e. the top 15 percent) applied 9 specific best practices that put their performance and financial contribution far ahead of their peers.
Here are those 9 customer service best practices.
Start with a Growth Strategy
Customer service leaders recognize execution without strategy is haphazard and aimless. Customer service growth strategies do two things – they adopt a definitive customer strategy that shows which actions create desired business outcomes and they allocate measured resources and investments to grow and retain customers.
A contact center growth strategy shifts the mission to include revenue contribution, so that the customer service organization is considered less as a cost to be minimized and more of an investment to be maximized. While good customer service helps control costs, growth companies are more interested in the potential for increased top-line revenues.
The Best-in-Class contact centers were 2X more likely to be measured by their profit contribution to the company. While there is a broad body of knowledge suggesting that contact centers maximize performance when organized as a profit center rather than a cost center, the research shows that this often-quoted operating model is less often achieved.
Culture and the Agent Experience
Culture isn't something you do, it's who you are. And when agents become part of an explicitly defined growth culture, they excel in delivering differentiated customer experiences and essential company objectives.
The research found several customer service culture-driven performance results. Contact centers operating with intentional corporate cultures achieved:
- 27 percent higher customer satisfaction (CSAT) than those who did not
- 32 percent higher Customer Retention than those who did not, and
- 21 percent lower staff turnover than those who did not
It's a simple pathway. Corporate culture advances the agent experience which improves customer satisfaction which drives company financial objectives.
Quality of Service
The quality of customer service is measured by solving customer challenges timely, accurately, completely and pursuant to the customer's goals. High quality of service increases customer satisfaction and retention. It also creates customer advocates that share their affinity on social networks and elsewhere. The research surfaced 8 methods that delivered the highest Quality of Customer Service results, customer satisfaction scores and company financial performance.
Omni-channel customer service delivers an integrated and unified customer support experience across channels and devices. The research found the financial uplift of omnichannel customer service is significant and sustained for those who succeed.
Contact centers that delivered convenient, low customer effort omnichannel support that achieved high customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, earned higher revenue growth, increased Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), improved customer retention and lower cost to serve. That's in part because an omnichannel customer support strategy can route certain types of calls to lower cost channels.
The research found a big difference between the Best-in-Class contact center leaders and their lower performing peers in terms of customer segmentation. 85 percent of the Best-in-Class used customer segmentation to define their service delivery model. That figure fell to 49 percent for medians and 24 percent for laggards. Most medians and laggards instead applied a one-size-fits-all approach.
Instead of a single support approach for all customers, value-based customer segmentation strategies find a balance among the cost of service delivery and the customer economic impact or potential. Value-based segmentation strategies seek to retain the small group of the highest value customers, grow the economic value of the largest segment of mid-value customers and make unprofitable customers profitable.
Voice of the Customer
Companies don't get to rate the contact center quality of service, customers do. So, customer service groups need to understand what customers most want in order to deliver targeted services and predictable outcomes. The best way to do this is with a Voice of the Customer (VoC) program that captures, categorizes and prioritizes customer goals, expectations, preferences and dislikes. This data feeds your CRM software customer 360-degree view so that customer expectations and insights are easily accessible in one place and can be used by any customer facing staff person for an improved customer experience.
VoC also delivers the input to improve your products and services. When customers share their goals, pain points, complaints and what they care about, they are advising how to improve or create innovative products and services. It's the best market research that money can't buy.
Software technology brings automation, information and scale to customer support operations. It is the facilitator of consistent delivery, the replacement for manual labor, the process automation to improve the agent experience and the top tool to realize contact center cost savings.
CRM systems were cited by the Best-in-Class as the single most important contact center technology. However, this group's design and use of CRM software differed from their lower performing peers. The research found that what separated the most and least effective customer service technologies was less about the actual applications and more about how they were designed and implemented.
Lower the Cost to Serve
There is no shortage of techniques to squeeze out cost reductions in the call center. The research found a high number of processes that delivered (often temporary) incremental cost reductions and a short list of methods that delivered the biggest cost takeout.
The three factors that drove the most significant and sustained cost reductions were technology automation, business process improvement (BPI) and staff productivity. Interestingly, these efforts are extremely synergistic.
The research found that when they were pursued together, they achieved greater cost reductions than when pursued individually. The research also found that call center benchmarks accelerate cost reductions. Industry benchmarks show where the contact center is already efficient and should limit more investment and where it's weak and will get the most benefit from time and investment.
Most contact centers are data rich and information poor. They understand the value of data but struggle to transform it into actionable intelligence. Data is a valuable but unused asset.
The research found that contact center analytics, sometimes referred to as business intelligence, are extremely influential in improving operational and financial performance. Performance analytics surface variances that need quick course corrections and drive improvements to decision making. Even small improvements are shown to deliver significant and sustained financial benefits.
Contact center dashboards are one example of using analytics to get the right information to the right person at the right time.
One More Thing. Participation is not Dedication.
Most survey respondents indicated they adopted all or most of the 9 best practices.
However, there is a big difference between adoption which is often a casual participation and dedication which creates expertise.
Dedication requires programs with executive sponsorship, accountable resources, enabling technologies, performance analytics and continuous process improvements. Dedication goes from being a generalist to becoming a specialist.
And when the criteria for dedicated programs are considered, only the Best-in-Class engaged in 7 or more, on average, of these best practices.
The evidence-based best practices can be applied individually to deliver incremental improvements. However, an integrated mix of best practices is needed to achieve real transformation.
To advance from incremental to exponential business outcomes, consider your current performance in these nine areas, and identify the biggest uplift opportunities.