We have spoken at great lengths about how sales software can boost small business, and how it can help with customer relationship management. Today we are going to take a deep dive into the customer service aspect of customer relationship marketing. Read on!
What is customer service software?
To begin to address this question, it is helpful to start with an overview of customer service functions. This will allow us to clearly illustrate where and how customer service software can help streamline business operations. Simply put, customer service is every interaction with the customer.
Customer interactions happen at every stage of the sales and support process. When you want to sell a product to the customer, your business is engaging in customer service. It’s worth noting that this is one of the most important phases, since blowing it here means no sale for your business. During the process of a purchase, customer service is equally important since the customer can back out right up until money is exchanged. Of course, after the sale customer service is also important because the customer can leave a bad review, or generate negative word of mouth publicity for the company if they abandon their customers after the sale.
After the sale, customer support can take many forms. The most familiar is the phone, where the customer calls in with an issue. Modern times has seen the rise of online chat or email as a customer support avenue, and both have their merits. Even more recently, social media has become a hot bed of customer support activity. This is a public venue for the customer to interact with the business, which applies extra pressure to maintain high quality standards in customer service.
How does software impact customer service?
In the good old days, customers would call in and be greeted by a human who would direct their call manually. Those days are long gone. Modern customer service software systems are sleek and efficient, and can automatically route customer calls with the mere utterance of a word. More generally, customer service software streamlines the process of documenting, routing, tracking, resolving, and reporting on customer issues.
Customer service software is available as a standalone product in many cases, or even as an integrated part of the best customer relationship management software packages. Examples of these include Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
Regardless of whether or not you get a standalone system or something integrated within a larger CRM software package, there are going to be some common features. We shall elaborate on these below:
Live chat – as the name suggests, this allows customer service representatives to chat with customers online and automatically retain key information from these conversations in the trouble tracking system. Many customers actually prefer this method of communication to the phone.
Customer Self Service – We are all familiar with the frequently asked questions section of a service or product website. This is a way to convey relevant and helpful information to the customer, who is likely going to search it out for herself anyway. Another popular form of customer self-service is the how-to section of a product or service website. If the documentation fails to provide the answer the customer is looking for, then there is usually a system for submitting a help ticket.
Analytics and reporting – these are a set of features that allow managers to create reports that allow helpful analysis of relevant data. For instance, they can chart time to resolution, customer satisfaction, and other important indicators. It is a vital tool for assessing the performance of the customer service team.
Knowledge base – related to the FAQ and documentation is the knowledge base. This is a repository of known issues and their solutions, with a search feature to allow rapid locating of answers for the customer or customer service representative.
Multi-channel management – this allows the customer service department to interact with customers through multiple channels, such as phone, web chat, email, mobile app, and social media. Issues are stored and routed to the appropriate agent for resolution.
What are the benefits of customer service software?
The primary benefit of the best customer service software is an enhanced user experience for the customer. Think this doesn’t help your business? Think again. Improving the customer service experience of the customer is the number one priority for the CS team. The reason is that poor experiences lead to bad word of mouth advertising, or worse yet, bad reviews on Google or Yelp, etc. It is far more efficient to take care of your customer when they have a problem, than to have to mitigate the damage from dismissing them.
Beyond the improvement of the customer service experience, there are numerous other benefits to be had from customer service software systems.
The ability to document each and every contact with the customer is crucial for ensuring accountability within the customer service team. In old pen and paper systems, records could get “lost”, which made performance coaching difficult. This is virtually impossible with modern customer service software systems, so accountability is baked in from the start. This allows the manager to provide ongoing and actionable feedback to the customer service representative.
Enhanced Account Coordination
When an organization combines sales force automation and customer support systems, they can take advantage of a force multiplier effect. This combination gives both the sales and service organizations unprecedented visibility into the customer’s data, which allows sales representatives to know of any issues before they ever pick up a phone. It can also let the support representative know the moment a repair part arrives, so that duplicate orders for spare parts are not placed to service a customer.
Taking it a step further, by coordinating with the accounting department, the customer service representative can see what, if any, discounts the customer is currently receiving. Not every complaint is legitimate, and some are just fishing attempts to get a lower bill. If the customer is consistently behind in paying, the customer service rep could be made aware and have access to more relevant information when formulating a strategy to resolve a complaint.
Improved Asset Management
By interfacing the customer service software with the inventory systems of the business, it is possible to provide the customer with accurate information on when they can expect replacement parts to arrive. In addition, by identifying customer issues before contact with a representative is made, the customer service software is able to pair up the customer with an agent who is more experienced at resolving their particular issue. This gives the customer a faster, more favorable resolution to their problem, as well as makes life easier for the customer service team. Talk about win win.
For issues that are too complex to resolve by phone or email, there are numerous self-help systems. This allows the customer to resolve the issue on their own, which improves their experience and creates brand positivity. Simultaneously, it allows the company to scale their efforts quickly while maintaining customer satisfaction.
Reduced Time to Resolve Customer Problems
Long considered a key metric of customer service performance, the amount of time required to resolve a customer issue is one of the key parameters for an organization. By employing smart customer service software, a business can reduce the time required to resolve an issue by a significant amount. This results in lower costs for the business, while concurrently improving the overall customer experience.
How to know which software package to purchase?
So you have decided that your business can really benefit from customer service software. You have committed to taking the plunge and want to seek out a suitable software solution. Where to begin? Well, typically your organization will fall into one of the following categories:
Enterprise – As the name suggests, this is a large organization with many employees. They have complicated requirements and will most likely value the capabilities that integrated systems (i.e. customer service as a subset of customer relationship management software) provide.
High volume Call Center – If you operate one or more large call centers then you have a unique set of requirements. Standardization of the customer experience is going to be the order of the day, so scripting and automated rules are the key features you want.
Field Service – If your company has representatives that travel out to meet the customers, then you have a different set of needs. In particular, mobile access is going to be especially important for your team. They simply must have access to the resources they need from their mobile device, so this is one key feature you want to make sure you get. Another feature that will be important is integration with other applications.
Small business – If you have a small team, and a relatively small customer base, then you don’t need the solutions offered to the enterprise grade companies. Trouble ticketing and interaction tracking are going to be key features you want to seek out in a software solution.
In the modern era, customers expect top notch customer service. What’s more, they expect it at all stages of the interaction. The more traditional approach of just hiring more representatives is no longer useful to meet the demands of customers in this new climate, as the personnel requirements simply aren’t’ feasible. Consequently, organizations turn to customer service management software that allows them to multiply the productivity of their existing employees. This improves customer experience while helping the bottom line of the company.
Your company may benefit from this software, but your needs will depend on the size of your organization as well as your business model. We have provided some useful guidelines for features to look for, based on organizational size.
Some key questions to ask of the software vendor are:
- Will this integrate with my existing systems?
- Does it include a live chat option?
- Does it support mobile devices?
- Does it allow for scripts and rule based systems?
Asking these questions, and more, will help you arrive at a decision on which customer service software system is right for your business.
One thing that cannot be overstated, however. Despite all of the fancy features, and promises of streamlining your operations, you must keep one simple fact in mind: the point of customer service management software is to enhance the customer experience. Period.
If the customer senses that they are an afterthought, they will make this known, and you will have a whole different set of problems to deal with.