Building a customer service experience that organically drives customer satisfaction (CSAT) is not easy.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some techniques (all powered by customer sentiment analysis insights) to propel your your teams toward best-in-class CSAT.
Each of the ideas discussed aims to:
- Improve your customer service program
- Boost agent experience at all customer touchpoints
- Increase customer satisfaction
- Contribute to business growth
We dive into the detail behind why and how these eight ideas can help your department:
- Automated customer support ticket tagging and classification
- Channel expansion
- Drive revenue from support
- Implement a chatbot system
- Champion emotional intelligence and empathy in your teams
- Implement self-serve
- Tackle data silos
Before we dive in, let’s quantify why good customer service is so important for all businesses — and consequentially very worthy of your time 👏
Customer service is the #1 contributor to business growth
And I’m not exaggerating.
Excellent customer service drives retention, customer loyalty, repeat purchase, basket size, and referrals.
Not only is customer retention cheaper than customer acquisition, but existing customers spend more and refer more.
Existing customers are 60-70% more likely to buy more of what you sell.
Furthermore, research by Fred Reichheld shows that a low 5% increase in customer retention leads to an increase of 25-95% in profits.
Isn’t it starting to sound absurd that companies focus so heavily on acquisition?
Here’s why we should focus on customer service retention:
• If your customer trusts you and has a great experience with your product, they’ll end up buying more products/services from you. It’s easier for them to buy more of your products and services due to switching costs—rebuilding trust, taking a risk on quality, etc.
• If they are already in love with your business and know you go the extra mile, they will refer their friends and acquaintances to you (more customers for your business).
As a marketer, I notice this reality every day. For example, imagine that I hire an agency to develop a new website for us.
Their output (the product) is ultimately extremely important to me. But, equally important is that the work is on time, the communication is clear, and my expectations (aka customer needs) are understood well.
Those elements are the quality of their customer service skills and are where the trust is built. Hit both points and I’ll purchase from the agency again. Perhaps even purchase some of their other products.
And, when asked, guess who I’ll refer from friends?
The cycle continues and this agency can run an efficient, low-acquisition-cost business that runs on referrals.
Indeed, word of mouth is the most valuable customer acquisition channel.
Fred Reichheld also conducted an extensive eCommerce study and found that:
• Every eCommerce customer referred a minimum of three new customers after their first purchase
• After 10 purchases, the same person referred an average of 10 customers to the retailer
To clarify: customers refer other customers. Returning, happy customers refer even more customers. The longer they return the better this virtuous cycle becomes.
Because customer service is a direct influence on a customer’s experience, it deserves much more attention.
Customer service teams must know their importance to a business. You deserve more investment, authority and acknowledgement.
After all, happy support agents = exceptional customer service = happy customers. Win. Win. Win!
Teams that know their strategic importance are also less likely to experience customer service burnout.
I could even give you 100 examples of how great service can skyrocket your business (we also wrote an eBook that explains how to sell the value of customer service internally).
But, you’re likely here to get customer service improvement ideas. So, here are nine that will help you improve customer satisfaction, agent experience, and business growth.
Related read: Support ticket insights - Why support tickets are your most valuable insight channel.
8 unique value-driving customer service improvement ideas
1. Implement support ticket tagging automation using AI
Every customer service department must have a grip on the problems facing their customers.
However, we live in a dynamic world and the problems faced by your customers yesterday are likely different from the ones they’ve been facing today.
When you see a spike in a new issue, you’ll know what's driving it perhaps intuitively and anecdotally.
However, to make the right people in other departments take action against the new issue you’ll likely face the objection, “show me the numbers”.
They want evidence so they know whether to prioritise your issue or not. To get support ticket insights, you can manually analyze all your customer support channels and consolidate them under one roof.
But it’s frustratingly time-consuming and manual ticket tagging leaves room for human error and discrepancies. It's just not the best way.
If you use multiple people on your team to tag tickets, it becomes ever harder to train agents to understand tickets and uniformly tag them.
This is where support ticket analytics swaggers into the room. SentiSum users can log in to the platform and digest the largest drivers of customer contact (like in the below image).
You can filter for which day, week or month you want to look at.
Even filter for today to get quick insights to help prevent current issues from troubling future customers (or may bother potential customers).
British Airways, initially used manual tagging to collect and manage customer queries across all their conversation channels.
They created separate categories for each type of complaint and directed their employees to list it under those categories.
But each employee had a different thought process. Complaints, queries and surveys were tagged under different segments by each analyst, and it took them months sometimes to do reporting.
Using SentiSum’s AI-powered ticket tagging platform, British Airways consolidated and tracked the topic and sentiment of every piece of customer feedback and conversation - email, chat, review and survey in real time.
Our AI automatically tagged all qualitative text under different segments and subsegments, the ‘rising topics’ are then distributed every day to other department leads.
If you want to learn more about how we helped British Airways Holidays with a centralized CX analytics platform, visit the case study.
For those looking for a customer service improvement project, bringing clarity on customer pain points to the customer service team (and, therefore, every other team) is the highest impact possible.
It gives you absolute clarity on your customer which is important for tackling churn, improving customer experience, and training your team on the latest issues. Your customer will thank you for getting ahead of their issues, and your team will be more than happy to have less manual tagging work.
Related read: How to buy an AI platform for CX analytics
2. Expand your customer service channels
The internet has increased the number of communication channels your customer can contact you on.
In recent months we’ve even seen an explosion in the adoption of WhatsApp (an 800% increase in customer support through WhatsApp according to Zendesk), causing everyone to ponder whether WhatsApp will be the future of customer service.
As Facebook Inc expands its growth further in the customer service arena, will increasingly see Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp grow in use by customers.
Luckily, help desks like Zendesk centralise every channel. However, there’s still a nuance to each channel that shouldn’t be ignored.
Ask yourself where your customers are and where they most want to contact you.
If you’re extremely active on Instagram, it may be worth integrating Instagram into your helpdesk to receive messages.
If you collect customer feedback on Trustpilot, it might be sensible to create a closed-loop feedback strategy. In which, negative experiences from unhappy customers are turned into helpdesk tickets which can be addressed by your team—never leaving unhappy customers unmanaged.
It can become complex to make sense of customer contact channels, which is why centralisation is essential. This goes for analytics, too.
Take Gousto, a meal-kit delivery company for example. Using SentiSum's real-time topic and sentiment recognition, Gousto centralised insights from nine voice of customer channels into one platform.
We’ve recently launched a new feature that automatically notes negative reviews and social media comments left in social media comments and on review websites. The sentiment analysis detects the negative review and triggers it to become a support ticket that your team can pick up.
3. Kick-off revenue-driving projects
Support-driven growth is easily the future of customer service.
We’ve seen several companies use customer service to:
• Train agents for roles like sales and product management (the deep customer understanding lends itself well)
• Nurture those mid-buying an item into a sale (even increasing basket size)
• Increasing profits by prioritising customers on the precipice of churn (AI tools understand which customers are most frustrated, or have a challenge that historically led to churn, and pushes them to the front of the queue)
Pick one of these or the numerous other ways to drive growth from the contact centre, and have a go at implementing them!
Here’s a Screenshot of a recent post made by the SentiSum Founder & CEO, Sharad Khandelwal, on this subject.
Related content: Read our customer journey mapping guide here.
4. Implement a website-based chatbot system
Okay, we aren’t bringing something innovative to the conversation here...but if you don’t have a live chat with a degree of automation, you need to experiment with it.
If you are browsing a business website, you are likely there for one of three reasons:
• To learn more about the business and how it can help you
• To learn from their blog posts and resources
• To contact someone from their team
If you are on a website for the first and the third reason, a live chat would be a great aggregator in helping you solve your problems.
Here’s an example: Let’s say that I want to invest in chatbot marketing for SentiSum. So I visit Drift’s website to learn more about their product.
As soon as I visit their website, this chatbot pops up. As my sole aim is to learn more about Drift and its offerings, I click on “ yes, please!”.
As soon as I hit that button I get a message explaining how Drift’s chatbot can be used to improve my business. Now I am hooked to it and I click on “Definitely! “
Now Drift’s chatbot automatically starts collecting data about me and my organisation. This takes me down a ladder of ‘yeses’ until they finally have all the data about me.
Drift is set up for businesses talking to businesses—where the primary goal tends to be ‘lead generation’. However, I want you to imagine a situation where you develop a chatbot specifically for your ‘help’ and ‘FAQs’ pages.
You can customize the chatbots to ask your visitors what they need help with. You can then guide them towards self-service resources you have put together on your website.
If needed you can also enable an option to directly connect them to a customer service agent.
You can find a great example of customer support online chat automation on Domino'swebsite. Maybe you can take inspiration from this food retailer and create your chatbot that automatically talks with your website visitors.
Apart from providing great customer service, a chatbot can improve the overall user experience on your website.
All the key providers (e.g. Intercom, Zendesk, FreshDesk) allow you to set up intelligent chat automation.
Although we recommend only automating the very basics. Over-automation is often a pain for customers who just want to talk to their customers.
Get a feel for what makes good automation by browsing your favourite providers. It becomes quite easy to see what’s a pain for customers.
The presence of a chatbot is typically expected by customers and increases their trust and pushes them to complete the transaction. Pre-purchase, a chatbot offers your customer a quick way to clear any doubts they might have about your products and services. When all their objections and queries are cleared, they are ready to buy instantaneously.
5. Train your customer support teams to be more empathetic
Empathy is a game changer for customer service improvement.
It’s a skill every support agent needs to develop and as their leader, you can reach a high level of customer satisfaction by coaching your team on how to develop empathy and understand customers' needs better.
As more and more automation technology is brought into the contact centre software stack, agents will spend more time on active listening - building relationships with customers, and less on repetitive admin.
In the future of customer service, empathy skills will dramatically increase in importance and investing in empathy skills is a customer service improvement idea that will also help your customer service representatives for the rest of their life.
We spoke to Megan about building empathy in your customer service teams. Here where you can find it 👉 How to build empathy in your customer service team.
6. Train your team members to address your customers by their name
This is one of the most underrated tips for providing better customer service.
Training your agents to address a customer by their name (to a reasonable extent, not in every sentence like a crazy person) goes a long way to making them feel special and providing a positive experience.
In research by Agilone, results showed that more than 70% of consumers expect personalization from their customer service experience.
We, humans, are hardwired to engage deeply when we hear our name. So, training your customer service reps to address customers by their name makes it an innately personal experience.
Here’s what you tell your customer service staff:
• Ask for your customer’s name upfront.
• If you’re on the phone, always start the conversation by greeting them with their name.
• If you’re on a text platform, yet again start with their name.
• If you’re on email, include their name on every email that you send out.
Whatever the channel might be, the rules are always the same. Include your customer’s name wherever relevant and needed.
7. Create a Knowledge base or a self-service hub
Creating a knowledge-based shows your customers you care and reduce support ticket volume.
What is a knowledge base?
A knowledge base or a centre is a collection of resources about your product/services. Providing the right details at the right time is part of a great customer experience.
Knowledge bases allow your customers to access the right information to solve their problems and queries.
As a customer service improvement idea, a knowledge centre allows your customers to problem solve and get answers to basic questions without needing to contact your support team.
The option should always be there to talk to a real person, but sometimes people just want quick access to an answer.
For you, a knowledge base works particularly well because they reduce the effort your team puts into those frequent queries.
Analyse your support tickets to work out what those easy-to-answer, repetitive questions are and write a short article to address the problem.
Your customer service team can simply link the article to the customer or invest in an AI tool to auto-serve customers with articles.
Here are some great examples:
8. Tackle data silos by automating the distribution of support ticket insights
Isn’t it annoying when you know what issue is driving high ticket volumes, causing a low Net Promoter Score (NPS) but have no power to tackle it yourself?
For you, it’s a no-brainer. You’re informed and your KPIs are something like contacts per order. Well, those in charge of change (the founder, product development lead, ops lead, etc) need to be convinced to make the change, too.
Good news! We think we’ve figured out how to tackle this gap: implement daily emails that show the biggest changes and the biggest drivers of tickets.
We developed a daily email digest like this to replace manual call center reporting:
Subscribe the right departmental lead to the email and you can forego reporting altogether.
Great customer service is no customer service. No one understands the power of how much data is held in customer service departments. It can set the strategy for customer-centric change across everything from production to marketing and sales.
We get excited by this point because with simple changes we can reposition customer service as a strategic leader for any business.
That leads us nicely to our last point.
Bringing it all together
High-quality customer service is essential if you want to develop a high-growth, high-retention business.
No one starts perfect, so we hope these customer service improvement ideas will help you come up with new ideas for your business that push it forward.
Remember, you're only improving customer service standards if it benefits the customer. Otherwise, you're just being more 'cost efficient'.
That's the old way of thinking.