Good customer service does its best to meet customer expectations. Great customer service makes sure it goes above and beyond, every time. How can you give your customers consistently great service?
By implementing policies and procedures. The terms may carry an air of strictness, but in reality, they are the foundation for successful, extraordinary customer support. Policies and procedures are meant to give your e-commerce business a clear path to great customer service – what are you waiting for?
First let’s define the terms:
Policies are written codes of conduct that give employees guidelines to follow in various scenarios. For example, you may have a policy for answering customer questions or dealing with upset customers in a specific manner. Policies are put in place to inform your employees of company expectations and the appropriate steps to take in certain situations.
Procedures are ways of doing a routine practice, such as finding the quickest way to resolve issues or the most efficient way to answer frequently asked questions. Procedures are meant to constantly improve your customer service team and keep business as efficient and competitive as possible.
If you don’t know where to start, start with the basics. The following ten policies and procedures are general guidelines every business should have in place. Start with these, and go from there:
The following ten policies and procedures are general guidelines every business should have in place. Start with these, and go from there:
1. Professionalism is required.
This may sound obvious, but customer service representatives must provide professional service and appropriate presentation at all times. The support team is, in a sense, the face of your business (ecommerce or other); they are who your customers interact with if they have questions, concerns, or other comments. All personal business should be left out of customer interactions, and each interaction should be representative of a successful, knowledgeable, professional business.
2. Patience is key.
No matter how difficult a customer may be, they should always be treated courteously and with as much patience as is necessary. We’ve all dealt with the rude, abrupt support rep – expect only the best from your customer service team.
3. Train and retrain.
Whenever a new policy or procedure is put in place (or when a new member joins your team), it is a good idea to hold a meeting to outline the plan. This will ensure everyone is aware and on the same page. To refresh the memory and keep policies and procedures reinforced, regular meetings may be held to retrain your staff. Roleplaying different customer scenarios is one of the best ways to keep your employees ready for anything (and always aware of the current policies).
4. Know your customers’ needs.
Your customer service policies should be tailored to the specific needs of your customers. Set up a system to record customer complaints, issues, and comments so you can better understand what they expect from your business, or what issues keep arising that you can improve upon and avoid in the future. You can gather information from customers through online surveys, from employees through focus groups, and from vendors or service providers through shipping information or call-center feedback.
5. Create a mission statement.
A mission statement is a reminder and guiding force for your customer service team. It is a goal that states how your business wants to interact with customers, and is a great way to keep your team united, driven, and on the same page.
6. Give employees guidelines for problem solving.
The hardest issues to deal with are the negative customer interactions – the unhappy customers. Create a set of guidelines that can be referred to help quick, easy problem solving, such as:
- Understanding the problem – letting the customer speak, taking important notes, and repeating what you understand to be the issue.
- Understanding the cause of the problem – what should have happened that didn’t? Remember, it is best to admit the company made a mistake rather than blame it on customer error.
- Offering solutions – suggest a way to fix the problem, and see if the customer agrees or has a resolution of their own. Work together to come up with an answer.
- Solving the problem – take action and fix the issue. Make sure the customer is happy with the solution and apologize for the mistake.
7. Create a refund/reimbursement policy.
This is a necessary policy to have in place, as it will save your business money and avoid exploitation. It is important to have cut-off dates for how long an issue can remain open and eligible for a refund or reimbursement.
8. Conduct policies and procedures are important.
As stated above (re: Professionalism), customer service reps should be expected to conduct themselves in a way that is respectable, professional, and appropriate for the workplace, focusing more on issue resolution and less on relationship building. While it is important to have fast resolution times, it is also important to build trust; find a balance that makes customers feel like they are talking to a real person while also getting their concern dealt with quickly.
9. Go above and beyond expectations.
The main goal is to make the customer happy. Do everything you can to do so, while politely letting customers know of any policies related to their concern. Many customers expect a quick dismissal (“We’re sorry, but company policy won’t allow us to…”) – prove to them that your customer service is different and focused on them, rather than the policies.
10. Ask customers what they think of your customer service.
The best feedback you will get is directly from the customers. Find out what they think your customer service strengths and weaknesses are, and come up with a plan to improve where you can.
Although the ultimate goal is a smoothly operating business, there is one downfall. If policies and procedures are being set by someone who doesn’t have knowledge of or experience with customer service, they can actually work against the customer support system. A balance must be found between the policy writer’s necessary enforcements (refund cut-off dates, protection against fraud and exploitation, professional conduct, etc.) and the customer service team’s need for flexibility to best serve their customers.
Customer service affects the overall satisfaction of your customers and the long-term success of your business. Enforcing and constantly looking for new ways to improve policies and procedures will give your customer service team the opportunity to serve customers in the best way possible.
What are some policies and procedures you think would benefit a customer service team? Share your thoughts with us!