Customer service engagement is not something that is necessarily easy for brands. Expectations can run high and no-win situations often arise, but refusing to assist customers is not an option for any business. Online customer service carries even more pressure due to the potential for things to go viral, as well as the general fact that the audience for any engagement can be hundreds, even thousands.
This is why having a customer service plan in place is necessary before any assistance is offered, not only to protect the brand from problematic responses, but also to provide the best help possible for customers.
Since it’s football season, the pre-snap process that teams go through before each play is an excellent reference point for how an online customer service team should prepare for a response. The goal for both is to take what your team is best at and do it, no matter what they are up against. However, doing that requires both preparation and execution, two major hurdles for any team to achieve consistently. The best way to get results is by working through the steps and moving forward with confidence.
Know the Playbook
Before any assistance can be provided, every member of a brand’s online team should know the process and policies in place for customer service. This not only requires clearly documenting the process, it also means everyone must know the steps without that policy in front of them. Doing so allows for smooth, fluid movement through the online customer service process and better execution of your brand’s goals. Even professional teams practice throughout the week; don’t overestimate your customer service team’s skill set and refuse to review or develop their skills.
Read the Defense and Get the Right Alignment
Not every play works. The same is true for engagement processes and response templates. Taking a hard look at what the customer is presenting in their concern is important because the response must take it into consideration in full. Whether it is the customer’s aggressiveness, the structure of their complaint or simply the information they have in place, a great customer service response acknowledges those components and uses them to deliver a solid engagement.
Be Willing to Take a Timeout
There are topics a brand should not be responding to in customer service. Issues involving legal proceedings, extreme events (harm, damage, loss), competitor information and more cannot be addressed the same way as a broken toaster. While key performance indicators encourage rapid response or customer satisfaction, they need to take a backseat to a proper, business-sound process.
Be willing to table a customer service engagement so you can regroup and discuss the best course of action, both within your online customer service team, as well as with important divisions of your company (legal, executive, etc.). Rushing a response very often can be the worst course of action.
If everything with a customer complaint is fine for response, it’s time to put things in motion. Collect your resources, draft a response and then stop. Review your post before hitting “publish” to make sure it’s all in place and it aligns with the brand’s goal in this engagement.
A lot has been made of the word “Omaha” in football games, a term used by several quarterbacks to notify the offense that the preparation is complete and things are ready to move forward. Ensure your online customer service team has their own “Omaha,” whether that involves a senior member reviewing the response before it goes out or a simple checklist for the agent to use to measure their post against.
Drive or Take the Sack
The moment of truth arrives when the post is live and the customer reacts or responds. Not every customer service engagement can be a winner, but it should also not grind to a halt because something new arises. Continue to try to be helpful and responsive as the customer works through your proposed process, but also be willing to take the conversation offline or escalate it to a department, or internal resource, better suited to handle it.
In the end, the most important thing is not to drop the ball and, instead, work with the situation as it unfolds to ultimately leave the brand’s reputation, and business strategy, intact.
Online customer service is not something that can be a template and scripted to a point of automation. Rather, it requires constant review and changes in order to maintain effectiveness and avoid customer concerns. Be sure your brand is enabled to be effective in this space by preparing your team while outlining what success looks like with each effort. Doing so will help avoid problems and lead to big gains in the online customer service space.