Support Teams - The Secret to Great Customer Service
Build an operation customers love by optimising your back office functions.
August 20th, 2018
Great customer service operations rely on much more than just a frontline team of advisors. They, and your operation, are only as good as their supporting teams enable them to be. The secret to building an effective, scalable operation, is nailing these support customer service department functions:
- Learning & Development
- Workforce Management
#1 LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT
A Learning & Development (L&D) team are responsible for an advisor’s initial training when they join you, as well as their continued development.
Don’t fall into the trap of asking advisors to learn on the job when your supervisors are already busy – they won’t be able to offer the best solution and they’ll take too long finding it. You’ll end up turning your customers off.
Each L&D function serves to boost your advisors’ effectiveness during different stages of their time on your team:
Your team needs a vast amount of knowledge about your company, not just your products. They should know what your brand’s values are, who your core demographic is, and why it is they choose your brand.
That information all affects how they should talk to customers, whether over the phone or via text-based channels. Customers shopping for an Armani watch will have different expectations to those browsing an unbranded supplier’s website.
An L&D team can create a training course that initiates advisors into the business first, moving on to customer service specific processes only once they understand who they’ll be talking to.
The material for this stage of training will be highly dependent on what your operation looks like specifically, but we recommend covering the following, as a minimum:
- The goods/services you offer
- Which system you use and how to use them
- Most common query types, including examples
- The processes customers’ orders follow
We highly recommend including shadowing in your training programme. Once they have the theory of how your processes work down, the best way to cement that knowledge is to see it used in context.
Continually building the skillsets of your advisors shows them how invested you are in them. Their success is your success, so investing in your operators’ skillsets is a great way to strengthen your business and build positive relationships with your team.
There are multiple benefits to a professional development programme:
- Higher skilled advisors
- Greater operational flexibility when you train them across channels
- Increased employee retention (and so lower recruitment costs)
- Identify people with the abilities to make great supervisors early
- Greater scalability – advisors have the skills to use their time more effectively
An L&D team can create development paths for each area of your customer service team, preparing supervisors of the future and identifying and honing the skills of operators who have the potential to move into a support area themselves.
Advisors are human. They have good days and bad days. When the quality team (see below!) spot an advisor who’s had a few too many bad days in a row, or supervisors identify below-par performance in real-time, your L&D team can step in to provide support before a bad day for an advisor turns into a bad customer experience.
That support could just be a 1:1 conversation about how they can address any areas of concern, or a dedicated pit stop to offer additional training on a specific knowledge gap.
A quality monitoring team will help you retain more customers, an important boost to your bottom line given attracting new customers costs 4-10 times more than retaining them.
The three main concerns for a quality online customer service team are:
- Spelling and grammar – well-formed sentences inspire confidence
- Tone of voice – customers expect CS to fit your branding
- Product knowledge – accurate advice is the best advice
Your quality team can (and should) check your team’s performance in these areas in a variety of ways. Quality assessment should be as much about identifying knowledge gaps and training needs for L&D as it is about measuring operator performance.
The key is to not make advisors feel like one low quality score is the end of the world. Let them know how you assess quality, what your minimum score expectation is, and the various ways your L&D team will help them reach it.
This is how we make sure advisors’ product knowledge is up to date. Make them a mandatory part of the job role – but avoid tension by making them fairly quick to answer (if the advisor has been paying attention). Our quality team make sure questions are easily answered with a quick search on a team’s knowledge base, or by checking the Workplace group for client’s updates.
Using a checklist, your quality team can check a set number of incidents for each advisor. Check the areas in the bullet points above, plus any mandatory process steps (like passing DPA). We recommend at least one check per advisor per week.
Sometimes the best way to test your customer experience is to immerse yourself in it as a ‘customer’. This can be used not to just assess individual advisor performance, but the experience as a whole. How long did you need to wait for a response? Was it easy to find a way to contact you on your website?
Finally, the quality team should use advisors’ score in each area as the basis of your bonus system. This is an easy way to reward top performers and incentivise high quality service.
Deep insights require more than just data logs maintained by supervisors between tasks. Their time is much better spent supporting their teams and handling complex interactions (and so protecting the customer experience).
Reports that deliver actionable conclusions require a specific skillset – you need a dedicated reporting team who can bring them to the table:
- The ability to break down complex problems to identify their causes
- Spreadsheet building (including formulas)
- On that note, great mathematic and statistical ability
- Familiarity with reporting dashboards like Power BI
- An understanding of databases and SQL
Those skills together will enable you to achieve comprehensive reporting across your operation. Here are the highlights.
Effective historic reporting relies on identifying the best metrics for accurately assessing your team’s performance. Balance between measures of service productivity and quality so you don’t prioritise one over the other. If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve recommended our top 5 KPIs to help you achieve this balance.
We highly recommend a reporting team that monitors and analyses operational performance in the moment. Reporting after-the-fact doesn’t let you solve a problem as it emerges. If you have a team watching productivity and reporting any concerns to L&D as they occur, you can nip them in the bud before they take a toll on your customer experience.
A forecasting team helps to resource your team more accurately. Rather than wasting resource with shifts based on when you think you’ll get contacts, use trends to create a forecast that lets you resource to the hours you know you’ll get contacts.
This creates a more cost-effective team that protects your customer experience – customers aren’t left waiting in a queue for a response.
#4 WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT
You can’t have a cost-efficient customer service operation without workforce management (WFM). They make sure you aren’t paying any more than you need to in labour costs and optimise team productivity.
This function overlaps a lot with the forecasting function of your reporting team. Once they produce that forecast, the WFM team to make sure you don’t have too few (or too many!) advisors during each hour. This can involve contacting advisors to discuss moving shifts, looking for opportunities to move them between channels during busy/slow hours, or offering overtime to fill any serious resource discrepancies.
Make sure the forecast is locked in with plenty of notice for advisors if you end up asking them to move their shift. You can see what ours looks like below.
This involves a lot more than a simple check of ‘is everyone who’s supposed to be in the office right now actually in the office.’ Your communications software will have various states an advisor can be in (e.g. ‘online’ ‘away’ ‘in meeting’) and making sure they’re in the state they’re supposed to be in is crucial to making sure your team is working as efficiently as possible.
That might sound like an overwhelming task if you have a large team – you’d need one person to constantly have their eye on a status display board. Instead of tying up someone’s time with such a tedious task, automate it. Our WFM team receive automated messages every time an advisor’s status changes and doesn’t match what’s in the rota.
In the lead up to their breaks, advisors on webchat will need to change their status so they don’t receive any new chats before going on their break. That means they handle less volume than they usually would.
Rather than asking them to carry work over into their break so you don’t lose efficiency, the WFM team can assign them non-live interactions (emails, social media posts, messaging app messages) to handle whilst waiting to hear back from their customers on webchat.
Sound like a bit much just to save 5 minutes of productivity? On a team of 20 advisors, that’s an extra 75 hours of productivity over the course of 5 working days.
An effective, scalable customer service team is dependent on these supporting areas. These areas aren’t all completely independent of each other, in fact they’re most effective when they work together. That’s the secret to offering the best customer service.
If you want a bit more detail about how best to implement each area, each of our teams of experts would be more than happy to help. Contact us now and they’ll reply as soon as possible.