Long hold times, calls answered by a new person who is reading a script, blind transfers, and more are happening at what feels like a higher frequency – we have all been there. Calling into a service team these days can be an exercise in patience. More than 65% of people have higher expectations for customer service today than they did three to five years ago; as a business owner, what can you do to set your team up for success and avoid dreaded customer service complaints? Continue reading as we’ve got you covered.
Practices for Improving Customer Service
With only 19% of customers believing that customer service is exceeding expectations, the bar is set quite low for someone to feel like the person they have called or connected with to help with a resolution is really going above and beyond the basics. People want to feel heard, understood, and respected when reaching out for help. This is especially important in the financial services profession, as we deal with our clients and their financial health. The element of human touch can have a huge impact, especially considering 76% of customers expect a personalized or tailored approach to solving their issues. It can’t be a one-size-fits-all way of handling inquiries or follow-ups. Independent financial practices can set themselves apart from the robo-advisor / robocall centers, and it’s not difficult to make it happen.
It starts with your team. The members on a service team need a consistent and seamless approach to issue resolution – everything from how long it takes for follow-up, to what information they need quick access to in order to give a more personalized experience, or the notes taken to help their other team members if that person happens to call back. A robust training program, whether that is a formal training, ongoing mentoring/coaching, online reference tools, or a mixture of all the above, can not only improve the experience for whoever is having a problem that needs solving, but it also instills confidence and clarity into your team. A simple log of frequently asked questions and anticipated answers goes a long way and provides continuity in how service gets delivered. For example, financial leaders have had to navigate quite a bit of market volatility. Have a plan in place for your team to route, answer, or escalate client questions about their personal investments when markets are volatile.
Practice active listening. In the heat of the moment, we have all found ourselves pointing a finger at someone for a mistake or a problem that has arisen and wanting someone to take responsibility or blame for said mistake or frustration. The best way to level-set and neutralize the situation is to practice active listening. And once that’s been practiced, repeating or asking for clarification to ensure you fully understand the crux of the issue at hand is crucial.
Be solution-focused, admit mistakes, and learn. The end goal is to help reach a good outcome and hopefully do so in a positive way. Sometimes there is no way to avoid escalating an issue. You can focus, however, on the solutions to help neutralize the situation, which can ultimately lead to better relationships as you work to problem solve together. Whether the problem came directly from you or was at an organizational level, if an instruction was misunderstood or an error was made, it is always best to address the issue head-on with transparency and let your client know that you found the mistake and you are working to resolve it. For our clients, the important part is the resolution, making them whole. If you have not already solved the problem, explain next steps and a timeline for your follow-up for clarity and confidence.
It takes practice to navigate these conversations, and your team may keep uncovering unknown issues. Take these as opportunities to better how you service clients and stay true to remembering that they, just like you, are human and mistakes happen.
What to Track
There is a lot that we can gather insights on, especially today, in a world where technology is integrated into everything we do. Creating a set of customer service metrics can help keep tabs on resource commitments and follow-ups and can bring to light some of the areas that may warrant better communication from your practice. By having a gauge on what is working well and areas that can be improved, you can develop better strategies while avoiding those that waste valuable time and resources. A few of the top metrics to highlight and consider tracking are:
- Types of customer support requests may help you identify areas of improvement, such as improving product or service features or adding new resources to your knowledge base. This is also where keeping notes as a team is beneficial.
- First response time measures how quickly you send a first response to a request. This excludes automatic replies sent as confirmation of receiving the request. Customers want a reply quickly, so consider response times and communicate service level agreements or targets within your business, e.g., every email is replied to within 24 business hours, even if it’s to simply acknowledge receipt and you’ll be in touch.
- Overall resolution rate analyzes how often your team effectively completes a request. This may relate to how they answered a question or resolved a complaint. It’s important to strive for a high overall resolution rate to foster loyalty and build an effective service team.
Remember – slow down. These metrics give quantitative data to help you understand what is and isn’t working and keep a pulse on areas for improvement. We are all human.
Once a process in place, issue resolution can happen more seamlessly. However, what happens if your tried-and-true methods aren’t enough? Having a clear escalation path is essential. Being able to explain what the escalation path looks like is critical to ensure that future issues are handled well no matter how large or small.
After a problem has been resolved, speak to your team and anyone involved in resolving it. This is a great time to capture feedback about the process and utilize that information to gauge how knowledgeable your team was on the issue and how effective the path to a solution was, so you can alter the process if necessary. You will never know what hiccups there are unless you ask! Following up with your client ensures that your clients feel like they are heard, valued, and that what they have said is being taken to heart and adjustments are being made as needed.
Ultimately, a team working together is always better. Very few people find it enjoyable to call someone in a state of frustration, and even fewer like to be on the receiving end of that kind of call. That is where the relationship aspect comes in – a good experience for everyone involved is the end goal. Keep lines of communication open between your team, lean into programs that will continue to set your team up for success, and remember we are all people. Perhaps add “customer care” to standing team calls so all employees stay informed of common questions and how to answer them.
The beautiful thing about running your own financial practice is that you call the shots. From positioning your service offerings to how you greet your customers, it’s up to you. Remember to celebrate progress on your journey to delivering excellent service.