25 tips for improving customer service in call centers in 2023
Companies that want to improve customer service in the call center may not know where to begin, so we've created a list of 25 tips from call center ex...
The Team at CallMiner
July 02, 2019
Customer experience management is the process of controlling interactions with leads and buyers at an organization with the goal of providing satisfactory care. Managing the experiences of customers is something that can seriously affect the overall health of a business. A poor customer experience (or CX) with a brand can lower satisfaction, retention and even revenue. On the other hand, a well-constructed and understood CX can improve both customer and employee satisfaction within a company. Many individuals consider customer service and customer experience interchangeable. This misconception is both common and untrue. Customer service is a part of the overall experience of your buyers, not the whole journey. For instance, buyers who are first unaware of your organization become aware via advertising or other forms of marketing (SEO, word-of-mouth, etc.). After this, those prospective buyers move through some sort of sales process. Those who buy will then continue knowing about your brand past the sale. These post-sale interactions are also part of the overall experience.
To optimize the customer experience, customer experience analytics solutions are becoming a must for modern companies. CallMiner’s conversation analytics solution scores 100% of your customer interactions to provide in-depth insights and unsolicited feedback, giving you unprecedented visibility into the voice of your customers (VOC) and the voice of your employees (VOE).
How do you put those insights to work to improve the CX? This article is a compilation of 25 direct quotes, tips, and best practices from a range of industries. Each entry is from a company or professional in both their field as well as the topic of customer experience, offering tips and insights on effective customer experience management.
1. Begin with a clear vision. “The first step in your customer experience strategy is to have a clear customer-focused vision that you can communicate with your organization. The easiest way to define this vision is to create a set of statements that act as guiding principles.
For example, Zappos use their Zappos core family values and these values are embedded into their culture, which includes delivering wow through service, be humble and embracing change.
“Once these principles are in place, they will drive the behavior of your organization. Every member of your team should know these principles by heart and they should be embedded into all areas of training and development.” — Stephen MacDonald, 7 Ways to Create a Great Customer Experience Strategy, SuperOffice; Twitter: @SuperOfficeAS
2. Hire people who don’t hate their jobs. “OK, I know this sounds basic, but so many companies still treat customer service as a necessary evil I thought it important to discuss. What if instead, companies realized that support is typically a very difficult job, which requires certain skillsets to be performed well? What if they viewed a CSR as a professional job and offered a great working environment that attracted people and reduced turnover, instead of burnt them out in an average of nine months?
“How good could support be if your company screened for empathetic, friendly people that genuinely enjoyed solving problems, then provided a great working environment that encouraged them to stay? What impact would that have versus hiring, training, and repeating on a regular basis? In my experience, this single factor has made the biggest difference in providing a superior CX. Without fail, all companies that provide an exceptional customer experience enjoy low turnover as a result of providing a fun and enjoyable working environment for CSRs.” – Errol Greene, Customer experience: Nine best practices that separate the leaders from the laggards, MyCustomer Twitter: @MyCustomer
3. Become people-centric. “If you want to move beyond cosmetic changes and lip service to real changes in both the employee experience and the customer experience, the first thing you have to look at is your company’s culture.
“What is culture? My favorite definition is Herb Kelleher’s: ‘Culture is what people do when no one is looking.’ To add a little more detail to that, culture = values + behavior.
“While customer experience strategies must include a priority focus on the employee experience, they often don’t. Many companies believe they can improve the customer experience without improving the employee experience. I’ve heard it many times over the last 25+ years.
“At the root of what both employees and customers experience is a company culture that focuses on both of their needs – and puts them before profits or shareholder value. Does your company have a people-centric culture, or is it profit-centric and profit-driven? Companies must make money, but there’s a better way of doing it that benefits all constituencies involved.
“How do you design a people-centric culture? It’s definitely a culture shift (obviously), a mindset shift, and a behavior shift for most companies!” – Annette Franz, CCXP, On Becoming People-Centric, CX Journey; Twitter: @annettefranz
4. The importance of being reachable. “Business communication plays a big part in shaping your customers’ experience. If you’re not meeting customers where they are, you’re missing out on an opportunity to engage them when they are most interested or in need of help.
“Succeeding in this area of customer experience means your business must first determine which channels your customers are most active on so you can adapt your approach and serve them there.
“From there, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the channel — whether it be social, email, live chat, or something similar. Ask yourself: How are our customers communicating on this channel already? And how can we use this information to make our outreach feel more native?
“Reachability can serve as a helpful competitive advantage if you execute it properly, so it’s important that your business has a handle on your customers’ preferred channels, and are providing reliable, consistent service through them.” – Carly Stec, How to Define a Customer Experience (CX) Strategy, HubSpot; Twitter: @HubSpot
5. Assign ownership for the experience process. “It starts with you, as a business leader. CX management demands senior leadership and strategic commitment to put it on a success path built on coordinated tasks and shared goal across the organization. CX management crosses over into different departments, such as sales, marketing, support and operations, but someone has to steer the whole organization towards the main goal.
“For small business, this can be the owner, CEO or the marketing head. But for larger organizations, things can get muddled among the marketing director, sales director, operations head and a motley crew of vice-presidents. The C-level executive, either the CEO, CMO or COO, must step in and lead the way. At the least, a VP for CX must be identified and given authority to lead the crossover teams and the task to report to senior management.
In 2018 Temkin Experience Ratings, a leading customer experience industry benchmark, leadership is identified as a key competency to successful and sustainable CX management.
“Like any competent project leader, the CX manager ensures the following:
“The good news is, CX managers today have a slew of cloud solutions to meet their goals. Case in point, a help desk like HubSpot Service Hub allows you as the CX leader to at once see the big picture and ground details. Your team can log, organize and track all customer issues in one place, while they keep tab of agent performance like response time and customer satisfaction rating. This means customer demand can be effectively managed and the support team coached properly based on key CX metrics.” – Nestor Gilbert, 5 Customer Experience Best Practices: Is Your Team Following Them, Finances Online; Twitter: @Financesonline
6. Dig deep into the voice of the customer. “Companies that embed the voice of the customer into the fiber of their business, gathering feedback everywhere the customer is and delivering it to every employee to close the loop, get far better results than those that do not. Medallia found that 66 percent of its customers capture multi-channel feedback, which can include email, interactive voice response (IVR), online, mobile, receipts, and social posts — and the trend is growing. Having the right systems in place to capture customer feedback, deliver tailored insights and prioritize actions to every employee drives measurable improvement. For example, companies that enable their employees to access customer feedback ‘on-the-go’ via their mobile devices achieve a Net Promoter Score (NPS) 11 points higher on average than companies whose employees don’t.” – Five Best Practices for Customer Experience Management Programs, IT Business Edge; Twitter: @ITBusinessEdge
7. Set benchmarks correctly. “Benchmarks are valuable for providing organizations with a relative metric of performance. There are two broad category benchmarks: internal and external. For internal benchmarks, the most common approach is to assess the same metric(s) to track performance over time. For external or competitive benchmarks, the most common approach is to collect data on the same metrics for your organization and competitors or peers in order to assess performance relative to others.
“Best practice goals for benchmarking in B2B CX research:
8. Manage the expectations of your customers. “Customers tend to expect the world, but promising them the world may not be the best tactic, because what happens when you make promises that your business is unable to keep? Instead, tell your customers exactly what they can expect from you, and then work hard to exceed those expectations. Customers see that your business is willing to go the extra mile, and you won’t have to worry about damage control for unfulfilled promises.” – Customer Service Best Practices, Salesforce; Twitter: @salesforce
9. Close the loop with triggering alerts and feedback. “Empower your frontline to close the loop with the end customer by triggering alerts and managing corrective actions that must be taken:
“This is where the majority of company’s fail in the CEM initiatives
“A staggering 71% of respondents say that their VoC program is not successful in driving action.
“Only 29% of respondents said that their programs are fully or mostly effective in driving actions. However, it’s unclear as to whether they know this for sure because only 22% said that their programs are fully or mostly effective at tracking improvement projects.
“CEM Personalization focuses on customers (Customer Feedback; Closing the Loop) and employees through:
“CEM personalization, Oxley explained, means tailoring the experience throughout the customer’s journey to get the most out of the data, insights, and actions made possible by a CEM platform:
“To do this we need to focus on both the customers and the employees.
“The focus on customers means how to apply personalization in getting the right feedback at the right time and how this impacts the customer issue resolution process.
“The focus on employees is also a very important part of personalizing a CEM program because it drives frontline engagement and the effectiveness of coaching and training made possible with a CEM platform.” – Jim Tierny, Focusing on the Key Pillars of Customer Experience Management, Loyalty 360; Twitter: @Loyalty360
10. Understand the difference between customer service and customer experience. “Customer service is a key part of customer experience. However, customer experience encompasses much more besides and takes a more holistic approach to engaging customers.
“Most often, customer service will only come into play when a customer or prospect is seeking out information or has an issue that they cannot solve on their own. This service is priceless, but it is reactive and only comes into play when people are in need.
“Whereas a customer experience strategy is more proactive and works on the overall image and impression of a brand that is communicated as people move through the sales funnel and beyond conversion. By thinking through and improving these initial interactions, people are less likely to need to reach out to customer support and this improves the user experience overall.
“This could be as simple and actionable as writing a new FAQ for your website. Or as abstract as building a reputable and reliable brand image over time that will make prospects feel comfortable making a purchase without feeling the need to research your reputation.” – Louisa McGrath, Customer Experience Management: 5 tips and tools for marketers, Rebrandly; Twitter: @RebrandlyBuzz
11. The importance of positivity. “Maintain a positive attitude. This is the most important element in delivering a positive experience to your customers. Appear eager to solve their concern. Take a long-term viewpoint of the importance of maintaining a relationship with each customer. Such goodwill will produce repeat business.” – Stephanie Parson, 12 Tips for a Positive Customer Experience, Customer Service Manager
12. Gather accurate feedback from your customers. “Be sure you provide customers with the flexibility to accurately convey the reality of their customer experience. To that end, use rating systems that offer a wide range of options—one to 10 is recommended—and multiple-choice questions that aren’t limited to one answer.
“Here are some standard feedback form questions you can use:
“Once you have created the forms and added them to your social media accounts, receipts, emails, and website, check responses on SurveyMonkey weekly. Keep track of trends and begin to note ways you can improve the customer experience. Easy solutions you can implement right away; bigger solutions will need to be planned and executed carefully. Be sure you have ample data to show that these solutions are necessary and are likely to improve customer satisfaction.” – Kristi Brown, Customer Experience Management: The Ultimate Guide, FitSmallBusiness; Twitter: @FitSmallBiz
13. Use multiple sources of data. “Many times, marketers measure the success of CX based on vanity metrics. While vanity metrics have their place, they don’t reveal much when it comes to CX.
“Brands would be off to a great start with using emails to converse and establish a relationship with their customers. Matt Harris (CEO, Sendwithus) says that while Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a great way to understand brand health, it gives us a one-dimensional picture. To truly get the bigger picture, it is necessary to gather data from feedback forms, focus groups and interviews, engagement data from website analytics, and social interactions etc.” – Indrajeet Deshpande, 5 Tips from the Experts to Improve Customer Experience, Martech Advisor; Twitter: @MarTechAdvisor
14. Refine your strategy over time. “Once you’ve developed your customer experience strategy, be prepared to change it. Your strategy should be constantly evolving to meet your customers’ needs and align to your business goals. Stay current on what’s trending within your industry and in customer service so you can stay on the forefront of those trends. As your business and your customers evolve, your CX strategies need to evolve, as well. Be self-critical and continue to innovate and refine your customer experience strategy when necessary.
“As innovative as a service or product may be, what really makes a business stand out is a wonderfully memorable customer experience. By implementing these tips into your customer experience strategy, you could be helping your company secure lifelong customers who will always champion your brand.” – Chris George, Council Post: Five Tips To Create A Memorable Customer Experience, Forbes; Twitter: @Forbes
15. Create and use buyer personas. “To create the best customer experience, you have to first understand your customers – who they are, their motivations and concerns. If your organization wants to deeply understand customers and empathize with them, you need access to in-depth intel.
“There are two ways you could do this –
“For instance, yours could be Jack, a 32-year-old man who’s saving to buy a car.” – Amritpal Dhangal, Top 14 Ways to Create a Great Customer Experience Strategy in 2019, Acquire; Twitter: @acquire_io
16. Make good use of email templates. “When personalizing an email – focus on personalizing only the body of the email, for the rest of the email anyway has a standard template to follow.
“As working professionals, we make hundreds of decisions every day. The fewer decisions you have to make as a team, in a team, the easier it is to collaborate smoothly.
“For example, when you are composing email replies to your customers, take a few decisions off the plate, decisions such as what structure should the email be, how should it start, and how should it end, etc.
“Compose an email template for the basic structure of the email – the greetings, introduction and conclusion. While for the body of the content, you can work on personalizing the message.
“Standardizing email templates to be used by all team members when replying to customers, etc., especially in sales and customer service departments can help smoothen the workflow by removing unnecessary work and effort and will reduce the chances of making mistakes such as forgetting to include a signature, etc.” – Project management tips to improve customer experience, Mopinion; Twitter: @managefeedback
17. Build actual relationships. “While some business are turning to chatbots, building relationships with customers is still key for small businesses. In fact, during the interviews, everyone said open communication, with the goal of creating an environment where customers truly want to engage with the business, was crucial for their success.
“Through the conscious creation of an environment where your customers like you and want to do business with your company, you will increase word of mouth and build a loyal base that wants to see you succeed.” – Dianne Denton, 7 Tips From Small Business Owners Who Get Customer Experience Right, CMSWire; Twitter: @cmswire
18. 6 fast tips for motivation. “Customer experience is mainly about people. Your people need to know the real problem your company solves for your customers. You do not need a 360-degree view to manage the customer experience. Just recognize every interaction with a customer is important and treat it as such.
“Partners, suppliers, staff, consultants and even sales calls are potential customers too. The lower levels of your company reflect the top levels, so you will need C Level buy in to make it stick.
“Action, action, action, take the feedback and implement. Customer Experience Management is a journey, not an end point.” – 6 Quick Customer Experience Management (CEM) Tips, Awardaroo; Twitter: @awardaroo
19. A great customer experience is linked to growth. “Customer Experience is inextricably linked to growth – when you give the customers not only what they want, but also what they need in a way that leaves a positive impression, you’re making an investment sure to pay dividends.” – Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré, Tips on Improving Customer Experience from Six CX Experts, Wootric; Twitter: @wootric
20. Remaining creatively agile. “Creative agility is also foundational for delivering on the promise of CXM. Creative agility is the ability to make the right content faster for every step in the customer journey. It also lets companies continuously test and optimize experiences in real time, which we all know fosters innovation. Creative agility is not possible without tools to build standout experiences, as well as real-time customer profiles that guide decision making throughout the creative process, and intelligently deliver personalized content at scale.” – The Customer Experience Management Mandate, CIO; Twitter: @CIOonline
21. Don’t forget about the post-sale experience. “Your customers always do a little bit of homework before they connect with you. So how do you create trust and make them come back to your site?
“Evaluate the information you have asked for on your contact page. If you are not getting enough information, you can try to collect it later in the process. To reduce confusion and invalid input errors set each field’s expectation very clearly. Don’t pressure your customers for information. For instance, making irrelevant fields mandatory or forcefully asking your customers for their birth date will create discomfort.
“Customers should know what will be done with their information and why they are being asked for it. Assure your customers that their email address will not be added to any marketing lists or shared with any other advertising partners.” – William Johnson, Effective Tips to Improve Your Post Sale Customer Experience, Small Biz Trends; Twitter: @smallbiztrends
22. Mapping out the events customers experience. “Projection mapping is a technology that is used to turn common objects into interactive 3D displays. This technology is immensely useful in events when you need to make your audiences feel like they are in a completely different environment. Your competitors won’t be able to match you and you can certainly secure the attention of your target audience.
“Projection mapping is able to provide a more engaging experience with the help of visual simulation. This adds an element of interactivity and gains a better ROI in terms of publicity.
For example, as a car manufacturer, you can use projection mapping to display a 3D visual of your car where the users can touch and feel the different features of the car using an interactive touchscreen.
“I have always believed that both offline and online marketing is important in order to turn any business into a brand. Hence, offline interactive experiences are extremely necessary to keep the audience’s remain connected with your business.” – 5 ways to improve customer experience in 2019, Smart Insights; Twitter: @SmartInsights
23. Customer experience starts with the executives. “A good first place to start your CEM journey is at the top of your organization. Through their actions and established policies, top executives set the tone and culture of the company. Without their support, the success of any program is likely to fail. We know that companies who have executive support around the CEM program have greater success (e.g., higher customer loyalty, higher satisfaction with their CEM program) compared to companies with little/no executive support.
“Here are a few things start-ups can do to improve executive-level support:
24. Incorporate a customer-focus in the vision/mission statement. Support the company mission by presenting customer-related information (e.g., customer satisfaction/loyalty goals) in the employee handbook. Use customer feedback metrics to set and monitor company goals.
25. Identify an executive as the champion of the CEM program. A senior level executive “owns” the customer feedback program and reports customer feedback results at executive meetings. Senior executives evangelize the customer feedback program in their communication with employees and customers. Senior executives receive training on the customer feedback program.
26. Use customer feedback in decision-making process. Include customer metrics in company’s balanced scorecard along with other, traditional scorecard metrics. This practice will ensure executives and employees understand the importance of these metrics and are aware of current levels of customer satisfaction/loyalty. Present customer feedback results in company meetings and official documents.” – Bob Hayes, Three Customer Experience Management Tips for Startups, Business Over Broadway; Twitter: @bobehayes
27. The experience of user-generated content. “Finally, user-generated content refers to any content that is produced by users or customers, rather than the business. Within the travel industry, one of the most obvious examples of this is images that are uploaded to social media websites by users, and these can be extremely influential, because they often represent customer opinion.
“For those in the tourism industry, the trick is to find ways to allow customers to create user-generated content that adds to their experience, while also serving as positive word-of-mouth marketing. Many tourist attractions, for example, achieve this through branded photo booths, which allow customers to capture moments from their visit and upload them to social media easily, complete with a logo or some other form of subtle branding.” – 8 Ways to Improve Customer Experience in the Travel Industry, RevFine; Twitter: @RevManBlog
28. Be able to predict and prevent customer experience issues. “It does not matter if a customer is satisfied with your product or not; if a problem occurs and your company can’t solve it in a proper and timely manner, you’re creating a fast track to frustration. Therefore, it is paramount always to be one step ahead and be proactive. Chances are if one customer experiences a problem, many more will in the future. Give agents the authority to route issues to the appropriate department in the real-time, and let your customers know about potential problems before they discover them on their own. Bonus: reach out to offer a solution. Empowered customers are happy customers.” – Jason Grills, 7 Simple Ways to Improve the Customer Experience, ICMI; Twitter: @CallCenterICMI
What best practices have made your customer experience management program a success?