service isn't just in the eye of the beholder. In a Web 2.0 age where terms like "customer experience management" and "customer relationship management" are making headlines, providing outstanding customer service is still part art, part science -- and all about the customer.
Providing great customer service requires ongoing training, analysis of trends, really listening to your customers, and the ability to adapt to changes quickly and efficiently. All of that, plus a good dose of common sense -- asking yourself and your team how you all like to be treated when the tables are turned and you're in the role of customer.
To help keep your team fresh and focused on the customer, we've gathered customer service advice from several tech gurus who specialize in providing critical tools for the customer-serving masses. Our first three tips come from CRM expert Salesforce .com: leverage a community of experts; share helpful resources; and go mobile. Let's take a look.
Leverage the Community
"Encourage [your sales and customer service] agents to collaborate with external experts in your industry. Use their feedback to determine which areas of your products and processes need improvement," say the pros at Salesforce.com. "Customers are less likely to post egregiously negative comments when interacting with an individual rather than a brand."
Share the Knowledge
Salesforce also suggests helping your customers become sources of knowledge. That means sharing useful content, such as a blog post, webinar, or white paper to help solve their issues, and equipping them to share this information with others.
Mobilize Your Service
While businesses are beginning to provide in-app and text SMS support, Salesforce estimates only 25 percent of businesses have mobile customer service strategies. Yet, another estimate suggests sixty percent of consumers have the customer support apps from companies they do business with and whose products and services they buy. That means mobilizing your service offerings is becoming increasingly important.
Get Closer to Your Customers
Monica Norton, senior director of content marketing at ZenDesk, has a few tips of her own: Get closer to your customers; build good will; and, have a plan.
"Just like in your personal life, the best way to develop close, long-lasting relationships with your customers is to devote your time and energy to the process," she writes in a blog post. "Ask your customers for their input, listen to what they say, and act on what you learn."
Build Good Will and Plan Ahead
In terms of building good will, she says, if you focus on the customer experience when everything is going well, your customers are more likely to forgive and forget when something goes awry. Then, there's planning.
"Decide in advance how you'll respond when a problem erupts," Norton advises. "You won't have to waste time deciding what to do in the heat of the moment if you already have your playbook ready to go."
Oracle also offers some handy tips for helping your customers help themselves in an infographic called "Three Key Tips for Transforming Self Service." The enterprise tech giant reasons that connecting customers with the information they need quickly is more important than ever.
Seventy-two percent of customers prefer using companies' websites to answer their questions, according to Forrester Research. But TSIA Technology Insight reports that only 52 percent actually find the information they need. The three tips, then, are: know your customers; empower your customers; and adapt to changing behaviors.
Know Your Customers
"Choose a knowledge management tool that will: identify customers' current and downstream needs, deliver personalized online content and answers, and accelerate their service journey with smarter searches," Oracle suggests.
As for empowering customers, Oracle is big on leveraging social media and collaborative service tools to help businesses share information socially. Social sharing also enables rapid, low-cost content development, and can help reduce contact-center workloads.
Be Ready for Change
The final bit of advice for providing great customer service is to always be ready to adapt to changing behaviors. Oracle advises that customer service teams as well as their sales and marketing counterparts need to harness social monitoring, analytics and customer feedback.
Careful monitoring -- keeping tabs on customer satisfaction and customer reactions -- helps identify support issues and knowledge gaps early. It can help guide training and also help your team deliver consistently high-quality service over mobile, social, and web self-service channels. And as a next step, monitoring customer feedback can also provide much-needed input service alerts, knowledge updates, and of course, new product and service offerings.