Last week, customer service expert Micah Solomon described customer service as “fast but never rushed” in his customer column over at Forbes. (Which we follow, by the way. He’s awesome!) It made me think about how to apply this further on our daily customer support operations.
To begin, what’s the difference between fast and rushed service?
Rushed service prioritizes efficiency over customer experience. It demands a smaller window of time to finish a task, often at the risk of alienating customers.
Fast service, on the other hand, recognizes that efficiency and the customer experience are equally important. It also allows room for flexibility and accommodates varied tastes, without resorting to one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter responses. It means taking the time to listen to what the client truly needs and asking clarifying questions to make sure you get it right the first time.
Simply put, fast but not rushed customer service makes a client feel like they’re dealing with a human being who truly cares about them, and knows that their time is valuable.
Here are a few tips to help you strike this tenuous balance perfectly.
1. Streamline your processes.
Few people relish the transactional, administrative stuff like paperwork, filling out forms, or waiting in line. Review your company process regularly and don’t be afraid to question the relevance of certain outdated policies that don’t serve your clients and only make the process longer. For example, instead of letting clients wait in line and fill out deposit forms in a bank, leverage on technology and let them fill out a self-help machine. Perhaps a touch screen monitor with all the information readily available at the counter. For phone or email support, set up online or mobile infrastructure that will allow them to fill in (or dial in) information while they wait.
2. Use technology to respond to clients immediately.
Did you know that 71% of chat customer expect a response within 5 minutes? What works for email etiquette works for online customers too: set up an automatic response system that lets them know you’re there, and then make an effort to follow up consistently. Always keep them updated about what’s going on and set time frames: if you said you’ll be back after 10 minutes, make sure you’re back within that time frame. You can also send them information for them to look at before you give them a call out as needed.
3. Avoid unnecessary “gatekeeping” information gathering.
If you’ve ever had to answer ten personal questions before a telephone customer service agent could give you access to your insurance information, you know what a time sucker this process can be. Clients in general are wary about identity theft and are uncomfortable about giving out their Social security no. and home address to some random stranger over the phone, so find a way to identify a client properly without making them feel like they are in an inquisition.
4. Leverage on big data to deliver personalized service.
Your clients leave digital footprints all over the internet, and there’s no excuse for any business not to take advantage of the many information-gathering technologies available today. Cost is no longer an issue. The likes of GoogleAdsense or Google Analytics are easily accessible, simple tools that anyone can use. Big data is no longer exclusive domain of large corporations, so make use of this goldmine to gain insight into customer behavior.
5. Have enough resources on hand when needed.
Telling a client that their chosen item on the menu is unavailable is a sure-fire way to annoy them and leave a bad impression. Having a second choice unavailable can mean customer service suicide. Take the time to study the changing seasons of your business, and move along with it, putting in a buffer for good measure.
Finding the sweet spot between delivering speedy, but leisurely customer service consistently is a unique business attribute that can become a real competitive advantage.