With nearly 70% of purchasing decisions dependent on customer experience, brands need compelling inbound client service strategies. Inbound client service agents play a significant role in implementing these strategies and influencing how consumers view brands. Despite being aware of this opportunity, a majority of companies can’t afford to invest in a high-end contact center, let alone afford to pay the $53,000 annual salary expected by most well-trained agents. That investment doesn’t even include the costs associated with setting up and maintaining a contact center workspace.
For this reason, outsourcing inbound client services has become an effective solution for small to medium-sized organizations that wish to provide exceptional client service across all touchpoints. Today’s third-party inbound contact centers have evolved into the Swiss Army Knife of client service, expanding to provide support over a variety of mediums beyond just the telephone. The agents they employ are social media savvy, have strong communication skills, have specialized training, and view what they do as a career rather than merely a job.
Most importantly, third-party contact centers know how to create inbound client service strategies that are tailored for each brand. Below are a few inbound client service strategies used by the best.
Problem Solving Is Key To Inbound Client Service Strategies
Effectively managed organizations employ leaders who can teach their employees problem-solving techniques. According to the American Society for Quality, suitable solutions can be found by following this four-step problem-solving method:
- Define the problem. Analyze the problem so that your focus is solely on the problem and not merely its symptoms. Flowcharts are used to pinpoint the steps expected in a process, along with cause-and-effect diagrams to represent and diagnose core causes.
- Generate alternative solutions. Numerous alternatives to the problem should be developed before making a final decision. Evaluating alternatives as they’re proposed is a common problem-solving mistake. This results in people choosing the first acceptable solution, even if it’s not the best fit. People often miss the potential for learning something new when they’re focused on trying to get the results they want. This tactic prohibits real improvements.
- Evaluate and select an alternative. When selecting the best alternative to an issue, skilled problem solvers use a sequence of considerations.
- Implement and follow up on the solution. Management may be asked to coach others in implementing solutions. Yet oftentimes, they’re expected to “sell” the solution or promote its implementation. Regardless of how the solution is introduced and implemented, feedback channels should be established. This allows for continuous monitoring and testing so solutions can be updated in response to succeeding changes.
Creating a Customer Care Toolset is another great addition to the process of problem-solving. Remember that the resolution is typically in the eye of the beholder, so to speak. It starts by getting the person to state their perception of the problem and then asking them what they see as a solution. Listening and validating are critical aspects of problem-solving.
Create a Customer Service Culture
Many consumers envision inbound customer service as phone banks crammed with rows of apathetic employees wearing headsets. Unfortunately, the people using those headsets often sound as uninterested in the calls they take as the stereotype suggests. In a hypercompetitive marketplace with countless competitors vying for consumers’ patronage, your organization must offer more than the stereotypical. This requires creating and nurturing a customer service culture among your employees that is deep-rooted and sincere.
As pointed out in an article published by HubSpot, “A customer service culture is about what’s happening inside your company. The culture is how your company’s visions, values, and mission are upheld with [sic] your employees and customers. With a positive customer service culture, your employees will feel empowered to put the customer first.” Some recommended steps in creating a customer service culture include:
- Defining and reinforcing your culture.
- Creating a hiring process that recruits people who fit in with your culture from day one.
- Treating all of your employees with respect and dignity.
- Creating team camaraderie that is more than superficial.
- Investing in your employees’ professional development.
- Always rewarding and providing feedback to your employees.
To Provide Excellent Client Service, One Must Understand the Client
Interacting with clients means interacting with unique personalities. It means understanding human psychology, as well as being able to empathize. Imagine hiring a team of psychologists to handle inbound client services. Despite being cost-prohibitive, such individuals would possess an uncanny ability to assess each caller’s wants and needs while also making them feel at ease. They would achieve this by discerning the difference between rudeness and frustration, between anger and exasperation. Most importantly, psychologists are trained to practice emotional self-regulation when dealing with those who do not.
The good news is that such skills can be acquired without having a degree in psychology. Many psychologists are naturally gifted at being in tune with those they interact with, as are inbound customer service agents. But it takes time and patience on the side of recruiters and employers to sift through agent candidates until they find the gifted few who possess these abilities. Of course, this requires recruiters and employers to look past the need to fill seats and stay focused on the primary objective: hiring gifted people. Furthermore, they take steps to ensure their agents have the training and coaching needed to enhance their gifts.
Customer Care to Customer Experience
Your ability to satisfy and retain clients is significantly impacted by the level of customer service you provide. Some may use the terms client service and experience interchangeably, but they mean completely different things for your business. Customer service is just one touchpoint out of several others and typically refers to clients’ interactions with representatives, as well as with automated and non-automated systems. Out of all the touchpoints, the quality of customer service provided has the most significant impact on client satisfaction. The others are merely ancillary. Customer service is reactive, while customer experience is proactive.
Client service usually begins when a client initiates a dialogue with a brand because they have a question, want to make a purchase, or need assistance. Client experience, on the other hand, aims to delight clients during every interaction, whether or not they’re spending money. Customer experience should remain consistent, no matter the situation.
For example, answering a client’s questions about a product or service is reactive; offering to assist them in using that product or service properly after purchasing it is a part of the overall experience. The level and quality of post-purchase assistance will impact the client’s experience as a whole, so being able and willing to honor any promises made to the customer is important. In other words, be judicious when offering post-purchase assistance.
Client experience is exactly that: an experience your clients have whenever they interact with your company. It goes beyond helping solve issues, answering questions, and showing people how to use products and/or services. It covers the buyer’s journey, including discovering your brand, marketing team contact, sales communication, the purchasing process, as well as post-purchase interactions. In that sense, it’s similar to client service. If a contact center is part of this journey, that would involve hold times, voice clarity, and response times. The agents’ mannerisms (gestures, ways of speaking, and behaving) hold the most weight.
A good brand experience delights clients at each touchpoint; even those that don’t require human interaction. However, customer service is one touchpoint that almost always requires interaction with a representative. Automated technology (chatbots, for example) should never be a primary customer service channel if one intends to provide a pleasant client experience. To provide better service than their competitors, businesses, even if they operate 100% online (such as eCommerce) should have the option for customers to speak to a human.
Both concepts are measured according to their own metrics as well. Customer service metrics for contact centers include Average Call Abandonment Rate, Average Time in Queue, Average Speed of Answer, and Average Handle Time, among others. Experience metrics are more subjective, as they assess your clients’ sentiments. For example, a Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a popular market research metric based on a survey question asking clients to rate a brand, product, or service. This survey might also include a request for clients to rank the likelihood that they would recommend their product or service to someone else.
According to HubSpot, customer service falls under the customer experience umbrella. This is probably because customer experience covers every step of the consumer’s journey, starting with lead generation and either ending after purchase or continuing indefinitely, depending on the product and/or service provided. As stated before, few things in the buyer’s journey help you grow or destroy a brand’s reputation faster and more thoroughly than the quality of customer service.
Examples of Legendary Customer Service Strategies
When it comes to customer service, Nordstrom is regarded as a legend.
That accomplishment is not mere myth either as there exists plenty of documentation to back up the reputation.
One of the most well-known stories about Nordstrom’s customer service took place in Anchorage, Alaska. According to the story, an elderly man returned a set of tires to Nordstrom. The upscale retailer mostly sells apparel, shoes, and various accessories. The last thing you would ever find in a Nordstrom store is tires. However, since the customer had purchased the tires at a store that once occupied the same building prior to Nordstrom moving in, he was adamant that Nordstrom issue a refund. Once the store manager realized that there was no point in arguing with the elderly man, he allowed him to return the tires to Nordstrom.
Zapier’s CEO Wade Foster was obsessed with providing exceptional customer support before he even had customers or a robust prototype. In the early days of the company, Foster reached out to potential customers in community forums to see if they were interested in a product like Zapier. Using Skype, Foster helped new customers to use the barely working minimum viable product (MVP) and used their feedback to improve it. Wufoo founder Kevin Hale played a huge role in shaping Foster’s commitment to customer service. Hale advised him that there are three kinds of companies:
- One with the best prices
- One with the best quality product or service
- One with the best customer service
According to Foster, every one of Zapier’s 200 employees is required to do four hours of customer support each week. It doesn’t matter what their position in the company is. Engineers must work on customer support for a week on a rotating basis. Foster has stated that having everyone in the company interact with customers enables his team to create customer-focused products and services. For example, the marketing team uncovers insights for product positioning, the product team can gauge the usefulness of features, and engineers learn about recurring problems directly from the customer.
Scale Your Company's Revenue Growth Through Customer Experience
Client experience is determined by the interactions your clients have with your organization. This experience takes place throughout their entire journey, starting with first contact and continuing all the way through transforming into a content and faithful client. Client experience is a foundational component of Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Focusing on the experience is essential because clients who have positive experiences are more likely to continue their relationship with your brand and bring their friends and colleagues.
In fact, a global client experience study published by Oracle found that 20% of lost revenue is due to poor client experience. In addition to that, 97% of executives believe that client experience is critical to their organization’s success, with another 93% stating that improving client experience is among their top three priorities for the next two years. Oracle’s report further points out that of those organizations that regard their client experience initiatives as “advanced,” the most successful projects include:
- Creating a training program and incentives for employees to offer a great experience
- Updating core values to include providing the most relevant experience to all their clients
- Implementing a specific technology to enhance client service
Allow Millennial Services To Be A Part of Your Inbound Client Service Strategy
Inbound client service providers should offer more than the bare essentials established in many service-level agreements. One of the disruptive positions we take is that client-centric inbound service is about more than just the numbers. We also believe that when providers only focus on deliverables, it can hurt client satisfaction rather than improve it. Metrics like transfer rate, abandonment rate, time to answer, handle time, and the number of calls on hold are useful but shouldn’t be the sole focus when measuring client satisfaction.
Plenty of research has proven that when inbound client service providers concentrate on experience and satisfaction, they produce better results. Those results are not only better but more consistent when compared to companies that only focus on deliverables. That’s why the exceptional inbound client service offered by Millennial Services goes further than merely following scripts and repetitive actions. We understand that excellent inbound client service requires an exceptional culture of customer-focused strategy.
As a US-based BPO, outsourcing your inbound client services with us will provide you with unparalleled advantages. You get a highly professional, highly trained team that understands your business and your industry. You’ll also get a team that is available when you need it most and that cares enough to understand your clients as much as you do. Millennial Services is composed of client-centric, dedicated, and omnichannel customer care agents. No other third-party inbound service provider cares about your clients’ experience as much as we do. Improve your inbound client service strategy by contacting us today!