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Antonio Jurlina - How to build a killer customer service team in 7 steps

How to build a killer customer service team in 7 steps

If someone would ask you which job you consider the most difficult but the most beautiful and challenging at the same time, what would you say?  How many people would think of customer service? 

Antonio Jurlina June 17, 2021

Reading Time8 min

There are several scenarios: only a few, about 50%, or none. Of course, I ruled out the possibility that customer service fits this description perfectly for everyone, since let's be honest - the odds of that happening are pretty slim. 

So, why is working in customer service considered difficult? 

Well, for starters, one could say it is due to the endless customer expectations. 

The real question is: What can you do to anticipate the needs of our customers and form a customer service team prepared to cover all the bases? 

Based on our own long-standing experience, here is a glimpse of all the factors essential for customer service to pass with flying colors every time.

Just the right team structure

Our Customer Service team is a part of the Customer Relations department, along with the Digital Marketing and Content Management team.

Previously separated, they were merged to follow the complete vertical integration of our company and join efforts in providing a unique and quality customer experience. And it was worth the effort, since this reorganization resulted in better communication flow and more efficient task distribution.

In the following text, I will focus on customer service and from personal experience advise on how to form an impressive customer service team. 

Skills put to good purpose

The customer service team's mission is primarily to successfully respond to all kinds of customers' inquiries; usually received via tickets, emails, and live chats. Basically, that’s customer care at its finest. 

So, if you contact us you can expect to:

  • get all relevant information about the service and product 
  • be at ease about whether the info you got is accurate or verified (there is no other kind in our book)
  • leave chat or inbox as a satisfied customer
  • have all your technical issues supported and serviced quickly and efficiently.

In short, we provide complete and best possible service to our clients' customers with the goal of long-term satisfaction of each customer, regardless of the communication channel.

There is one challenge that has to be handled daily to make sure customers have only happy thoughts about our service. Luckily, it doesn't take a whole village to accomplish this; only a bit of good will from both parties to stay on the same page. And from personal experience, I can tell you that making sure all is understood sometimes feels like a form of art, at least. But when done correctly, it brings an immense amount of pure joy after a job well done.

Constant education and sharing of useful information help us to achieve that. If you conduct internal education, briefings, meetings, forums, feedbacks, and feedforwards, there is nothing you won't be prepared for. And you'll get it right every time you decide to take the customer's satisfaction level to new heights.

As mentioned, our team maintains and enhances its skills with continuous improvement-based feedback and feedforward 1-on-1s. Overview goes both ways: team leader to agent and agent to team leader. While feedback has its roots in past happenings, feedforward is focused on determining future goals.

All our procedures are created for coping with various scenarios we run into with every new customer inquiry and are highly organized: from step-by-step guidelines and communication applications for real time information sharing to monthly work schedules and structured reporting on work and performance. 

All of this makes us 'ready, steady, go!' kind of team, prepared to tackle any challenge. 

Tips and tricks on how to form an efficient Customer Service team

1. Form a 'killer team'

There is no perfect formula to do this but the team of complete, totally different individuals seems to be a perfect way to go. Ignore years of experience working in customer service because it's usually irrelevant - you never know how much someone can actually surprise you.

Pay close attention to whether the team is ready to take responsibility for tasks and daily challenges and whether you can count on them, feel at ease next to them and that’s how both sides will work with pleasure.

In addition to a good team, you will also need organized processes.

2. Organize the processes and procedures

At all times, every team member should know what their rights and obligations are, both in general and in terms of individual projects/clients. 

When the team knows what to do, where to find information, who are the right people to ask questions, and how to synchronize in the execution of tasks, your job is done.

Once you have established all the facts, it is necessary to organize the processes of work execution, data organization, data analysis, create official documents, data tables and statistics, and for all this you can use the almighty Google tool’s - Sheets, Docs, Drive, Meet etc.

We call this document the Internal Knowledge Base.

3. Organize an internal knowledge base

Your internal knowledge base is the source of all information concerning your team and their relations with customers (internal info for the agents and external content for publication).

Your knowledge base should contain all the valuable information you will ever use in your work. 

We are human and we cannot remember a wealth of data from the recent or distant past, and that is why your knowledge base can do everything. You just need to organize it well, constantly update and maintain it. It is a tool that will always be at hand, which is something you will quickly learn. Also, this data collection is beneficial when new members join your team, and it shortens the time needed for them to understand the concept of their new job.

Helpful hint - Make sure your team actively participates in creating and maintaining the knowledge base. They are the ones who will be using it the most with the customers and have all the helpful information at the grasp of their hands.

4. Organize a unique CRM

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a unique “treasure” that unites all interactions with existing and potential customers.

The main goal of CRM is straightforward and clear: improve business relationships to grow your business.

A CRM system helps many companies stay connected to customers and organize all customer queries in one place to maintain more straightforward, faster, and more efficient communication.

Also, this tool is excellent for tracking reports to improve business processes. You can track how many customers call you, how many emails arrive, how fast they are resolved, and how many responses your team has made. All this data can be used for several business reporting purposes like in presentation materials, sales efforts, client and management reports, etc.

Choose the best system for you, organize it, adapt it to your needs and desires.

5. Determine your focus, detect and highlight your strongest points and win the market

The business market is one huge and challenging place to be. In order to survive and stay in the game as long as possible, you need to define your goals, detect and highlight your strongest points and win the market. But you need to be unique in your conquests.

Like any company, you need to know the core of your product or the services you offer.

But you also need to know which market you are focusing on: a domestic market where you want to make your potential customers aware of your brand or a foreign market where you want to do the same and/or offer your services. And of course, determine in which languages you will provide service and, based on that, focus on specific market regions (e.g., our primary aim is acquiring clients whose customers need assistance in English).

These elements are not always easy to determine. And they shouldn't be. By taking time and energy to define these basic parameters right, you will gain a broader perspective of actions you need to take to achieve success.

For example, after our team defined and set our goals (long-term and short-term), defined the services we specialize in, researched the market, we focused on those who might need our services.

Our customer service team is expert in these areas: 

  • Blockchain - We provide long-term assistance and advisory on blockchain-facilitated processes to our worldwide partners, clients, and clients’ customers.
  • Travel and hospitality - Supporting travel and hospitality brands and a variety of connected services is our passion. Carefree traveling is our priority.
  • Global financial services - Professional guidance from signup to successful transactions and beyond is one of our specialties. 
  • Technology and security - Technical customer support will serve as high-quality guidance in all areas, with an in-depth knowledge of hardware and software in question.
  • Communications - No matter which platform or tool is required, we are quick to adapt while maintaining the highest communication standards.
  • Retail - Our customer-centric attitude leads to an increased retention rate.

To our clients, we offer:

  • Integrated customer services
  • Customer acquisition
  • Cross-selling and upselling
  • Customer retention
  • Technical support
  • CX and CS advisory.

Once you have covered the previous steps, it might seem like you have only one thing left - go and win the market. 

But not so fast. Find your tone of voice first.

6. Tone of voice

For all outgoing communication, shape your unique and recognizable tone of voice.

Remember, this is very important because you will be communicating your company’s values and company mindset with your audience.

Your tone of voice will serve to build trust and connectivity and, consequently, affect the revenue of your business.

Therefore, find your tone of voice and be consistent in using it - let it be loud, clear, unique, and "visible" everywhere and anytime.

Now you’re ready to win the market. 

7. Your customers are your no.1 

Put your customers in the first place. Always. Without exception and apology.

Since you made it this far, here is a bonus advice:

Be the right hand to your client

Prepare detailed reports on your customer service for your client - show the client detailed numbers - received inquiries per day, number of answers sent to customers per day, number of resolved customer inquiries per day, how fast they were resolved, etc.

I will be precise and show that on a concrete example focusing on our Q1 and Q2 this year. 

We receive an average of 113 customer inquiries per day, send 205 responses per day, and resolve 106 customer inquiries per day.

Since the numbers never lie, I can also give you the information that in Q1 and Q2 this year, we closed an average of 618 tickets per agent.

Numerous studies have shown that the average response time to customer service tickets is 7 hours and 4 minutes.

In the graph, you can see your 8-month average statistics comparison for 2019 and 2020.

The graph contains the following information:

  • Chat response time
  • Ticket response time
  • Chat responses per hour
  • Ticket responses per hour
  • Total chat responses
  • Total ticket responses
  • Customer satisfaction (CSAT) on tickets
  • Customer satisfaction (CSAT) on chat. 
Customer service team in numbers for 8 months of 2019. and 2020.

Customer service team in numbers for 8 months of 2019. and 2020.

All customers who submit an inquiry that is not solvable within 24 hours, receive the first reply in which we inform them that we have received their request and that it will be resolved ASAP. 

It is very important to send the customers the first reply, even if you ask them for patience. The customers should know that they contacted the right service at the right time and that their inquiry will be resolved in the way they expect. Being consistent with this is of utmost importance.

You can organize official reporting using Google tools I've mentioned earlier. They are very easy to use, share access (and restrict access), view information, etc. But keep in mind that it's also vital to update all the needed data, including the reporting tables.

Our reporting system is very detailed. Clients who use our customer services are informed about everything, perhaps even about some less relevant information. We want them to be fully acquainted with the whole situation since they should always have feedback on what their customers want most, and ultimately, what’s going on in the background.

And finally… What makes good customer service? 

On one occasion, Ben Motteram, Principal and CX-Expert, said:

 "Good customer service means meeting customer expectations." 

Or as we’d say it: Our customer relations group is like a box of chocolates - sweet and always great to have at your disposal.

Customers' expectations of certain services are constantly growing, which is entirely understandable. We ourselves sometimes fall in the "high-maintenance customer" category in our private lives, so we know firsthand meeting those expectations is not easy. 

It would be good to start by understanding and accepting what customers anticipate, and simply put yourself in their shoes. Key points all customer service teams should be thriving to are empathy, kindness, speed and correct info.

It is always a good idea to put an additional effort into following these guidelines. As a team, we are thrilled that our metric numbers confirm we've nailed these key points.

Customer's viewpoint

Up to now we've talked about our stance on what makes a great customer service team. Customer feedback on the same subject is similar, with slight differences.

I may not necessarily agree on the order of priorities and I may have thought differently before I started working in customer service but still, I am convinced that we would all list the same or very similar characteristics, as proven by the many studies conducted on different types of services, different companies and industries. 

Here is what customers singled out when it comes to the most essential qualities of good customer service: 

Speed

"They can solve my problem very quickly" - is one of the most common customer responses that takes first place. I am sure that this does not surprise you. 

All customers start from the assumption that if they regularly pay for the services used, they can also count on the speed of resolving the query or problem forwarded to the customer service either through an email, phone call or live chat service. 

As an essential item of good customer service, I would emphasize the importance of live chat service as a primary contact. Most customer services are available via email, contact web form, phone, but unfortunately, not all via live chat. 

The live chat service available on the service provider's website is a significant factor that affects customer satisfaction. Through chat, you can provide the customers with all the general information that interests them at any time of the day. Also, let's not ignore the speed of the agent's response to a customer's query via live chat. 

Did you know that the average chat first response time is 10-60 seconds? 

Our team holds the speed of the first response within 4 seconds, which I, as a customer of many services in my off-work time, consider a killer speed.

Many studies show that customers consider expected response time on a live chat:

  • good if the first response of the agent is within 60 min or less
  • better if the first response of the agent is within 5 min or less
  • best if the first response of the agent is within 1 min or less. 

Studies also show that, when offered a choice, the customers pick live chat service in 46% of cases, over all other forms of contact.

Availability

"Customer Service should be available 24/7" - is the second most common customer response, immediately after the speed of resolving inquiries. 

The customer wants to count on customer service at any time of the day if he needs it. The flaw of certain customer services is precisely the availability of limited working hours. 

"I need help, and I need it now" is a possible thought of all of us, and thus of our customers, which is understandable.

Empathy

"The agent was sooo friendly" - is a joint statement of a satisfied customer that took third place, immediately after the speed and availability of good customer service or at least a good agent. 

Of course, satisfied customers' statements are prompted by a positive experience with customer service agents.

I am convinced that these agents achieved the first two qualities - speed and availability:

  • The agents solved customers' requests very quickly, were available at the time of the customers' contact, and showed understanding and empathy towards the customers who may have had a more significant issue using the paid service. 

But even if they weren't able to solve the problem, it was probably enough for the customers that the agents listened, showed understanding by taking on the customer's role at that moment, explained the situation concretely and sincerely, and asked customers for patience while doing the best to fix the problem. Perhaps agents promised to contact customers personally in return as soon as the issue was resolved. But keep in mind that promises made should never be empty ones.  "The agent was sooo friendly" - is a joint statement of a satisfied customer that took third place, immediately after the speed and availability of good customer service or at least a good agent. 

Of course, satisfied customers' statements are prompted by a positive experience with customer service agents.

I am convinced that these agents achieved the first two qualities - speed and availability:

  • The agents solved customers' requests very quickly, were available at the time of the customers' contact, and showed understanding and empathy towards the customers who may have had a more significant issue using the paid service. 

But even if they weren't able to solve the problem, it was probably enough for the customers that the agents listened, showed understanding by taking on the customer's role at that moment, explained the situation concretely and sincerely, and asked customers for patience while doing the best to fix the problem. Perhaps agents promised to contact customers personally in return as soon as the issue was resolved. But keep in mind that promises made should never be empty ones. 

Desirable skills 

These are all small things for the team but big and significant for our customers. 

Since qualities are closely related to skills, I would also mention some of the most essential skills customers consider to keep their customer service in good standing. 

Based on numerous studies, a customer expects agents to possess the following skills: 

  • already mentioned empathy - 49% of customers expect agents to be empathetic
  • ability to recognize customer needs
  • ability to actively listen and question effectively
  • clear and concise presentation of possibilities and solutions
  • anticipating customer needs the agent's conduct based on feedback received from the customer
  • quick and efficient problem-solving through building a customer-agent relationship (e.g., something as simple as addressing a customer by their name, which is a small effort but makes such a big difference)

On a personal note

In conclusion, I would like to share with you my personal opinion on why working with customers is at the same time the most beautiful and the most challenging job. 

Here are my few summarized reasons, without any particular order:

  • sharing experiences (all kinds and sorts)
  • being in someone else's shoes (especially with a total stranger)
  • pushing the boundaries of tolerance (to the sky!)
  • improving the skills of active listening
  • developing two-way communication (applies to introverts - you will give in, believe me)
  • working on yourself (always; and you will never stop).

Of course, like any possible job, working in customer service has many advantages, but there are some downsides. Since I am an eternal optimist, I focus only on strengths.

Here are some of them:

  • we are up to date with all news about our clients
  • we educate our people on a daily basis to be able to give our best 
  • daily, weekly, monthly, and annual reporting is being done for all our projects
  • we created our culture on efficiency and quality, always focusing on the specific and main needs of each project
  • with the internal knowledge base, all procedures are documented, but we can handle any unscripted scenarios
  • combined, we have 50 years of customer relationship experience.

And as for the disadvantages, there will always be some, and there is no need to even think about them. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it is better to always look ahead.

In case you need more convincing, note the following: - Working in customer service is anything but:

  • boring
  • uniform
  • routine
  • average
  • purposeless.

And working in customer service will awaken your:

  • sense of thrill
  • competitive side 
  • drive to advance, achieve and prove your skills… if not to someone else, then to yourself.

Therefore, if you have decided to create your own customer service team and help your customers, just do it! Don’t overthink it. 

And if you have come to the decision that you want to outsource an expert customer service team, or you need expert consultation, contact us and we'll answer all your questions.