Josh Melick’s Ideas to Improve your Customer Service for 2021.

Fortunately, we are all slowly emerging from the COVID crisis. That means we are getting back to work and back to a new “normal”, including servicing customers. It’s a great time to revisit your customer service processes and understand where you can improve in 2021. I’ve noticed a few trends recently and I’ve had my share of frustrations when dealing with companies I patronize. Let’s get to it!

The first thing I want to talk about also happens to be one of my favorite words: Concierge. Everyone loves a great concierge. Need dinner reservations? Event tickets? Helpful advice? Something taken care of?? A great concierge can make it happen. Who wouldn’t want that?  This philosophy is at the core of true customer service. Maybe that sounds absurd, but many successful companies are built around the concept. Return policy at Nordstrom. Customer happiness at Zappos. The usability and obsession of Amazon. I frequently use all of those brands. Consider other day-to-day instances such as a personal banker at First Republic Bank, or the genius bar from Apple.  These companies have all found ways to create delightful experiences for their customers. It’s built right into their business model, and it requires conscious planning, building, and pricing. Not all businesses can operate like that — but their customer obsession is rewarded with higher prices, better retention, bigger  margins, strong growth. That should be your target as well. What areas of your business can you differentiate through better, more concierge-like customer service?

All companies want to provide quality customer service — but many don’t.

Most businesses want to have good customer service. Most employees want to help and do the right thing. So where do they go wrong? Not having processes or systems that enable their goals. Since I’m a technical operations-type person, my first action is always trying to see where things break and build a better system to improve it. This stuff is hard, not easy, and sometimes has real costs attached. For 2021, pick one area. Or two. The big ones. Find someone to help, whether internal if you have it or go external for that best-practices knowledge. Sunset that old tool. Re-architect the CRM to get rid of the old data and simplify the data model. Make sure you are clear on what is the system of record your team uses. And ensure that system has the data your team needs and/or the links to where that data lives. If you don’t have this structure in place, you’ll never get where you need to be. Just as importantly, that data needs to be in the cloud. And accessible. Make a goal and get working on this.

Next on my list of common challenges is better consolidating across various channels. Today consumers want support at any time and from anywhere. You should try to offer this, but that’s also an impossible problem. Better to pick the channels where you can win. Cut out a few channels that are too low volume. Twitter isn’t really a support channel for most companies. Chat and online are great tools — and are only growing — invest there. Make those channels work with the CRM / system of record you are working on from the last paragraph.

Finally, the biggest hurdle of all:  having helpful support staff! Humans. They don’t make things easy. But first and foremost the experience your customers have is determined by their interactions with your team. Celebrate success. Reward happiness and positive resolutions. Make the team really understand that customers come first. This is hard. Really hard, but essential. Make some hard decisions here — you probably already know a few team members not making the cut. Or maybe you’ve got some policy issues in mind. Fix these things. No time to waste.

Make progress on each of these and you’re sure to raise your NPS scores. Your success in 2021, your future — and your business — depend on it!

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