Customer Service In the Tech World
What are the key elements of high quality customer service? How can these be implemented successfully in the technology world and the world of managed IT support?
Individual customers have their own ideas about what makes customer service high or low quality or somewhere in between. The different opinions arise for a variety of reasons. Regardless of the reasons for their opinions about service quality, any service provider needs to hear and understand the customer. There is simply no substitute for active listening when it comes to letting the customer know that you hear their problems and you are ready and available to act on them. This behavior helps establish a good working relationship between the service provider and the customer.
Although there may be a wide range of opinions on what defines high quality customer service, there are some very important topics that are common to almost any and every consumer. A few of the most common and important aspects of customer service include:
Customers hate to be placed on hold, and are also frustrated when their requests for help are ignored or simply not responded to timely.
Perhaps the best way to gauge effectiveness of customer service is to ask the customer for feedback. Are you providing the service they need and want? What would they have you do differently to improve service? Asking these questions ensures the customer feels valued. Answers to these questions will help you know how to better respond to your customer base in the future.
Know and Prioritize Current Customers
Customers can feel frustrated and angry when their managed service provider treats them as if they are a new customer at each interaction…for example, when a MSP asks the customer for information that the customer has already supplied on previous occasions. MSP front line employees should remain aware of the people and companies they serve, and make sure the customer knows this. According to Jay Baer (author of ‘Hug Your Haters’), 62% of B2B customers buy more after a good customer service experience, and advocacy increases; similarly, 40% of revenue at an average B2B company comes from current customers, but they typically spend only 2% of their budget on customer service. This demonstrates how out of touch many MSPs are with their current customer base.
Fix Your Mistakes
Customers tend to become frustrated when a MSP will not own up to a mistake, and lets the problem linger or gives a dishonest explanation; conversely, most customers will feel loyal to managed IT provider who readily fixes a mistake, regardless who is at fault.
Think Long Term (a customer is for life)
By keeping customers happy, they will remain loyal. Keeping the customer happy is key to developing and maintaining a good working relationship. Health of the service provider’s business depends on customer loyalty. The cost of sacrifices necessary to preserve good customer relations is minor compared the cost of failure to do so.
Defining and Benchmarking Customer Service Using Quality Standards
So, we know that Customer Service Quality is very important to the health of a service related business. How do we know whether our customer service quality is up to par and whether it needs improvement? Somehow, a system of measurement is needed. Use of Quality Standards can provide the basis for measuring effectiveness of Customer Service.
What are Customer Service Quality Standards and how are they useful? Quality standards for customer service are a set of requirements or expectations that guide the service providers’ interactions with their customers. The standards are created so that customer service performance can be measured in a consistent way. This information helps the service provider to know how to adjust their operating practices to continually improve customer satisfaction. Quality Standards are NOT meant to replace quality and process improvement. They should be used as an important part of that effort.
There are essentially two types of Standards:
- Foundation Standards – This type of standard is objective, consistent, and the same for everyone. It details specific requirements to ensure consistent and safe delivery of a product.
- Finesse Standards – This type of standard measures how something was done, and allows for style and individuality. It provides room for interpretation. It should reflect the brand.
Both types of standards are useful for measuring customer service quality.
These are clear precise measures that leave no room for interpretation. An example would be time from help desk ticket generation to first contact with the customer to communicate the request was received and to relate details of the work order created to solve the problem. Another example would be time from work order creation/distribution to work order close out. These basic measures provide the means to track trends. Is customer service response time stagnant, improving, or degrading? Periodic review of such measures allows the service provider to adjust resources and/or process to ensure customer service is delivered timely.
Examples would be ‘How Well Did We Address Your Problem?’ or ‘How Likely Are You to Recommend Our Service to Others?’. The answers can be provided via sliding scale, for example rating from 0-5. These measures allow the customer to relate level of satisfaction from their own perspective. They can set the stage for follow up communications when ratings are not as high as desired.
Feedback from customers on service quality can provide valuable insight to the rest of the organization. In addition to focusing the service company on areas where customers perceive problems, the feedback can help the service company understand opportunities for expanding or modifying content offering. It can also help provide strategic direction to support customer satisfaction.
Quality Standards should not be arbitrarily invoked, just to have a high number of standards. It is actually desirable to limit the number of standards to the extent possible while enough to enable the organizations goals. Any and all standards should be supported by and aligned with the company Mission, Vision and Value statements. This is important so that employees remain clear about the objective of the standards, remain focused on the company’s MVV throughout the daily workflow. Clear alignment between customer service standards and the company’s MVV will result in more consistent delivery of high quality service to the customer base. Don’t confuse the customer!
Addressing Misconceptions About Quality Standards
- Misconception: Quality Standards are rigid and scripted.
Clarifications: Service quality is the customer’s perception of how well our service meets his or her expectations. Quality Standards – The requirements, specifications, guidelines, or characteristics established for customer service (Source: ISO).
- Misconception: High quality customer service is expensive.
Clarification: Costs of low quality are significant and may include loss of repeat customers, unnecessary work, escalation of issues, brand damage, loss of referrals, customer frustration, employee turnover, and more.
- Misconception: Quality Standards will demand more resources.
Clarifications: Quality Standards help optimize and free resources. Quality Standards lead to a higher level of customer confidence and less waste and rework.
What Does All This Mean for Your Relationship with Your IT Service Provider?
Does your IT service provider maintain a consistent high quality of service? Does your MSP meet your expectations? How does your MSP respond to issues? Does your MSP provide strategic support through the identification, development and operation phases of your business?
Custom Information Services believes in and lives by these principles of customer service quality. The results speak for themselves. CIS enjoys great customer ratings for product development and service delivery. Their customers realize improved production efficiency, less downtime, and greater profit.
If you do not routinely experience a high level of IT performance, and/or your IT systems are not well aligned with your business, CIS can help you achieve these goals at a great ROI.