customer service agent

If you have a cell phone, cable TV provider or vehicle, chances are you know exactly how it feels to be on the receiving end of horrible customer service. Entire webpages have been dedicated to housing the digital ire of customers ready to set fire to their contracts or take a brick to their hardware following a poor customer service experience.

Businesses are spending billions of dollars a year on customer service, and they’re still getting it wrong. The reason? You can’t spend your way out of a bad customer service culture. You have to build it one piece at a time, and it starts at the top.

PDI was built on great customer service. It’s woven in to the very fabric of our corporate culture, and it’s one of the reasons we continue to have raving fans even as we scale into a global provider of enterprise management software. I recently sat down with Matt Avery, PDI’s VP of Support & Product Maintenance, to get his thoughts on the keys to building a successful customer service culture. Here’s what he had to say.

Leadership Buy-in

MATT: Any organization can say it wants to be customer service-centric, but true commitment to customer service starts at the top. Employees can feel that. If it’s not important to your leader, it won’t be important to your organization. From the beginning, PDI has made customer service a visible part of who we are as a company at every level. When great customer service is fundamental to your business, it extends beyond a customer’s interactions with the support team. Everyone in the company realizes they are the face of the brand to every customer with whom they interact, and they take that responsibility seriously. That’s how you ensure a 360-degree customer service culture that encompasses every person in your organization.

Build Relationships and Ask for Feedback

MATT: Building relationships with your customers is a big part of maintaining a great customer service culture. In addition to quick response and issue resolution times, the best support always has a personal touch. At PDI, we’re fortunate to have a team of people with considerable tenure, so in many cases those customer relationships have been built over several years. However, humanizing the customer service experience doesn’t hinge solely upon long tenure. It’s about the approach. Empower your team to throw away the script and really get to know your customers. When customers have a relationship with your team, they tend to give you grace during the rough patches.

Another way to build relationships with your customers is by asking for feedback. It’s something we constantly do as an organization. Companies who truly value customer service are willing to make changes to improve the customer service experience, even if the changes are costly. And it ultimately shows customers that you care and are willing to invest in making their customer service experience the best it can be.

Retain Good Employees

MATT: Retaining good employees is paramount to providing great customer service, and there are several things companies can do to create environments that are conducive to achieving that goal. First, make sure employees are engaged in challenging work on a daily basis. I have people on my team who have been with PDI over 20 years, and they still don’t know everything about the software because it’s constantly changing. Every day should be an adventure for your employees—the opportunity to learn something new. Second, it’s important to pay attention to team dynamics. No one wants to stay in a toxic environment. If there’s a person who only brings negative energy to the group, coach them, and provide an opportunity to improve. If the coaching attempt is unsuccessful, consider encouraging that person to find another place of employment before that toxicity causes your top performers to leave. Lastly, look for opportunities to incent employees to further the company’s goals. At PDI, self-service and our online community, PDI Connections, play a large role in helping us fulfill our customer service mission. In addition to maintaining a high customer satisfaction score, we reward employees for contributing knowledge articles to and interacting with customers in our community.

Create an Engaged Customer Community

MATT: Cultivating an engaged customer community is incredibly valuable to the customer service experience. There are several ways companies can do this, but one way to achieve that goal is by building an online customer community. We launched our customer community, PDI Connections, in 2010, and our customers have flocked to it by the thousands. Aside from blogs, forums, documentation and knowledge base articles, the site helps them easily find answers to questions, exchange ideas with other customers, connect with PDI employees and even contribute to future product development. In addition to fostering a thriving ecosystem of interaction between employees, customers and partners, online communities have the added benefit of reducing supports costs and enabling a support model that allows growing companies to keep that personal touch even as they scale quickly.

Along with product satisfaction, customer service is at the heart of any successful company—perhaps more so. A great product can help you gain a new customer, but great customer service will help you retain their business and create a raving fan of your brand. Since it’s customer service week, let’s all take a moment to celebrate those customer service teams who make our lives a little easier. Here’s to you!

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