In all likelihood, you love your product.
When you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur and new small business owner, you’re desperate to make sure your customers love it, too. So, you wear the hats you need to. Chief designer. Technical support. Customer service.
At this point, YOU are the customer service.
While things may start out simple and straightforward, scaling upward can be challenging as businesses like yours grow. You constantly hear one answer to the question of running your business well — excellent customer service.
But the real question is, how do you consistently deliver good customer service once you’ve moved beyond the one-person-show?
Since this is a topic near and dear to our hearts, we want to share with you how we manage customer service.
People — Articulate, Cool, Problem-Solving People
When was the last time you called an airline or a bank and dealt with an actual human being? Never?
Let’s try another question: what’s the first step of good customer service?
If you said amazing customer service people, you’re right! That’s no trick question — you know this. You also know that customer care is more than a series of scripted events.
Think again about the airline/bank example above. Yes, these automated systems do offer answers to basic queries but as soon as you have a question that’s outside of what’s scripted, the phone robots can’t do a thing for you. There’s a lesson to be learned from this example.
You can’t hire someone who doesn’t appreciate or respect your customers and then hope you can script them to success.
You’d be much better off with a robot, in that case. Instead, your goal should be to have a mix of company policies and excellent people who can improvise, have empathy, and genuinely care about making things right.
These should be people who are well spoken and articulate both in written and verbal contexts (communication is key in customer care), people who don’t get flustered easily (customer care employees will undoubtedly face criticism, to put it lightly, and need to keep their cool when customers don’t) and people who can detect trends and underlying issues while looking for ways to solve things fundamentally (as opposed to just in that particular customer’s instance).
Don’t be like the many companies who have forgotten what good customer service looks like. This is something that is entirely within your control. Hire the right people and you’ve already won half the battle.
Process — Measure, Measure, Measure
Alright, let’s say you’ve got the right people in place. Now it’s time to implement the process.
There are two things we make absolutely clear to our customer service team when it comes to solving problems and both of them are centered on immediacy:
1. Solve customer issues immediately and up front
2. Solve the underlying cause immediately
For us, that’s a time frame of 24 hours or less but that may differ depending on the nature of your business. The real key to making this system work is tracking. Make sure you agree up front with your team on a good resolution time for the issue at hand. A tracking system will allow you to hold each team member accountable as you drive towards a timely resolution.
One complexity we have to deal with is varying time zones, so it’s important that we stay on top of this. We also want to make sure that we prevent the trend of one team member asking another team member asking the customer support team to fix it. Tracking keeps one person accountable, soup to nuts. No hand-offs.
As for determining (and resolving) the underlying cause, that’s a little more complicated. This is the critical component most companies seem to miss and where we feel Greenback truly excels. But how do we do it?
Each day, at close of business, our tax practice manager starts a thread in our internal project management tool outlining how many issues came up that day, the nature of the issues, and so on, one by one until they’re all accounted for. Sound laborious? It is! Worth it? It is! In the process of outlining and having to write out what our customers tell us, we reach a level of understanding that reading alone simply cannot. Since each case is resolved within the same day, the list is basically a list of resolved customer cases.
Every morning, we review the list and assign out owners for what we call the “5 Whys” analysis. The “5 Whys” is a technique explained in detail here. Simply put, by drilling from the top down, you uncover the root cause of an issue by means of a series of “why” questions.
This is purposefully done as a task due the same day. That means, within 24 hours of discovering a customer’s issue, we are forcing ourselves to stick to the deadline and utilize a systematic approach to get to the fundamental issue and prevent similar occurrences from happening in the future. On top of that, the process is not managed by the customer service team. It’s managed by our management team (that’s right). So, the owners of the underlying fixes are marketing ops, sales, etc. — the people building the project.
Conclusion — Learning, Little by Little
So, in short, what does good customer service look like for companies that have expanded beyond one person as the entire customer service team?
Making sure that your team is courteous on the phone and prompt in addressing customer issues is important, yes. But not as important as hiring the right people who will take the time to learn and understand your customers to begin with. Right there is a good example of solving the root cause rather than focusing too much on a particular instance.
The right people are important and the right process, just as much so. Great customer service is about learning from one customer, fixing their problem and then immediately holding yourself — and your team — accountable, little by little, to make sure that no customer has to experience that situation again.
And the best part is that it’s all within your control. Feel otherwise? It’s time to start asking why. See how quickly you find the root cause and the solution to your problem. At least, that’s how we do it at Greenback!
Greenback Expat Tax Services offers the most experienced expat accountants, the highest level of customer service, and superior expat tax services for Americans living abroad.