The key to maintaining a high standard of customer service is a detailed customer service process your team can follow. In other industries like aviation or medicine, professionals have a checklist or process to follow before they can fly a plane or conduct a medical procedure. The same framework applies to managing a high-performing customer service team.
What are customer service process?
Simply put, a customer service process is a system of rules and procedures that ensure customers are responded to and helped in a timely fashion. The number one goal of a good customer service process is the customer's experience is of utmost importance. If your team works in a call center, there must be a system for how fast customer service representatives should answer phone calls, when phone calls should be escalated to a manager, and a script for how to respond to customer requests.
A common strategy to create a customer service process is using a flowchart since this type of diagram is easily understood by customer service reps. Once a flowchart has been created, customer service reps should have a place to document customer meeting notes, customer feedback, and other important information gathered during the customer interaction. A standard customer meeting template or meeting notes template should be used whether you are interacting with customers over the phone or in person.
What are standard operating procedures (SOP) and why do you need them?
A standard operating procedure document is created by the company to help employees of that company know how to handle multiple scenarios in a business setting. The reason SOPs are needed in the workplace is so that routine activities such as onboarding a new employee, managing project deadlines, and one on one meetings are all standardized for employees to execute.
What should a good SOP contain? Here are some key components of an effective SOP:
This is a headline for the SOP so that when an employee is browsing the company’s SOP, it is easy to understand what that SOP is about. Treat this is text that you might find in an index.
Since your company is composed of many departments, you should write which department this SOP belongs to. A customer service SOP wouldn’t make sense to use in the finance department.
Why does this SOP exist? If an employee is new to the company, the title of the SOP only provides a high-level description of the SOP. The purpose gives more clarity around why the business activity or routine is important for employees to know.
The language you use in the SOP may be specific to your company. A lot of jargon and acronyms may get built up as your team grows. If the SOP contains any acronyms, it’s important the employee knows these terms so that they are not confused when reading the SOP.
The most important part of the SOP. This is a step-by-step list of the procedures the employee should follow when encountering a routine or business activity that has an expected outcome. These instructions could contain the flow chart described above.
Importance of SOPs for customer service
How can SOPs be applied to customer service? For customer service departments, SOPs ensure consistency when customer service reps are responding to and working with customers.
“The experience that individuals have with a company and then what they hear from friends and family influence their perception of and likelihood to do business with a company. It’s absolutely an essential moment of truth for companies." - Megan Burns, Forrester Research
As this quote shows, that experience your customer service team provides to your customers is a “moment of truth.” First impressions mean a lot, and it’s not different with a well-running customer service department. If a customer calls their credit card company to dispute a billing issue, they would not want to be treated differently every time they call the credit card company. SOPs help credit card call centers, for instance, maintain a level of consistency so that customers know what to expect when calling customer service.
Improving and empowering a customer support team
Another advantage SOPs have for your customer support team is improving their productivity and empowering them to give better service to customers.
With SOPs in place, new customer support reps can be onboarded and trained faster since customer service managers can follow the SOP like a chef follows a recipe. As customer service managers hear and deal with different customer scenarios, they can add to the SOP so that it accounts for multiple customer service scenarios. In the future, a new customer service rep who faces one of these scenarios already has the proper documentation to do their job effectively.
Time is not wasted, and productivity increases as customer service reps can handle more calls and requests. The SOPs also give managers a standardized way to measure performance since metrics such as turnaround time and response time are documented in the SOP.
Finally, your customer service team consists of people who have good days and bad days. When someone knows exactly how to do a business activity or routine, there is no ambiguity or guessing on what needs to be done. This increases the customer service rep’s confidence since they know exactly how to handle a difficult customer scenario. The SOP tells them how to resolve the conflict, which gives them more confidence and willingness to help more customers.