Are you getting the most from your customer service? Each interaction is a chance to build brand and customer loyalty using proactive customer service skills. But without a plan, you’ll waste these opportunities every day.
Interaction Metrics’ customized plans give you the tools to succeed. We handle projects of all sizes, from optimizing a few interactions to creating protocols for every persona and touchpoint.
Drop us a line to learn about our customer metrics and methods for building great customer service. Start with a free Customer Service Mini-Rating to see if you could improve — or, see examples of how our plans create actionable blueprints for concrete improvement.
While we offer full customization for any scale of project, our plans are based on a 5-step model:
The 5 Steps
- Step 1 | Identify Opportunities: We discuss your needs and objectives. We then perform a partial audit of your interactions using customer service evaluations or mystery shops. This allows us to hone in on specific areas of focus, and the customer metrics from our audit pinpoint opportunities to develop more proactive customer service skills, strengthen customer loyalty, and build branded content.
- Step 2 | Take Inventory: Different customers and situations call for different approaches. Great customer service is proactive, meaning it adapting to the needs of each type of customer and situation.
- Step 3 | Define Precise Criteria & Measure: We write objective scoring rules to evaluate the quality of your customer service, while accounting for the needs of each type of persona, situation, and touchpoint. We also consult with you to ensure that the criteria is customized to reflect the needs of your brand, industry and other constraints. Using the criteria, we then evaluate a statistically-valid sample of your interactions to measure your current performance.
- Step 4 | Provide Model Answers: Proactive customer service skills don’t happen by chance, and your associates seldom have the time or inclination to figure it out for you. That’s why we hold coaching webinars for your trainers, quality assurance staff, and frontline associates to introduce the Customer Service Plan. Our clear examples give your staff the motivation and guidance to deliver great customer service.
- Step 5 | Report Results Frequently: You can’t manage what you don’t measure. That’s why ongoing feedback is the key to consistent, concrete improvement over time.
Step 1 | Identify Opportunities
First, we discuss your objectives and where you could add more value to your customer service. While many executives think of customer service in terms of satisfaction, this sets the bar too low. Research from Gallup and others consistently proves that satisfaction is not enough to increase sales. To do that, you need to build an emotional connection with customers.
To create a positive emotional connection, first address the customer’s immediate concerns. Then, do a little bit more. Without that extra touch, you’re only providing a generic, monotonous customer experience that leaves nothing to be remembered.
During this step, we typically also perform an audit of your interactions using customer service evaluations or mystery shops. The customer metrics from our audit pinpoint where you could have more proactive customer service, strengthen customer loyalty, and build branded content.
From there, we develop a strategic approach. There are many ways to build value into your customer service:
- Branded Content: Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has popularized the idea of adding value with customer service that builds brand. We draft customer service protocols that bring your brand to life and show customers that it’s a set of values, not just a logo.
- Education: Do you sell complex products or services? Demonstrate your expertise and authority with recommendations and great explanations.
- Increase Customer Loyalty: Do you aim for high re-purchase rates? The best experiences are memorable and keep customers engaged and buying more.
- Spread Happiness: Is “doing good” key to your whole approach? Happiness is viral. Use customer service to make the world a better place, one interaction at a time.
Step 2 | Take Inventory
To improve, you need a clear picture of why customers contact you, and who they are. Don’t assume that different customers who ask the same question all need the same answer. That’s why we take inventory of your customer interactions the way they actually occur. The end product is a mapped-out schema of your main customer types, concerns, emotional states, and touchpoints.
First, we take a statistically valid sample of actual customer service interactions. Next, we identify each type of concern that customers contact you about, from their perspective. CRM software can spit out reasons why customers contact you, but they’re usually always from the company’s perspective, and don’t reflect how customers experience your company.
We then identify your main types of customers, situations, emotional states, and touchpoints (if we’re looking at more than one). Market research can be a good starting point for cataloguing broad customer groups, but only direct observation of customer interactions can uncover who your customers are and how they feel during specific interactions.
Finally, we ask: could every type of customer occur with every type of concern, situation, emotional state, and touchpoint? Probably not. For example, rushed customers on the phone probably don’t want extra information beyond their main concern. We map out a schema of all combinations of your main customer types, emotional states, concerns, and touchpoints. Depending on your products and services, you could have hundreds of unique scenarios.
Step 3 | Define Precise Criteria & Measure
Next, we write precise criteria on what goes into the most effective, proactive customer service. This is key to improvement, because precise standards are necessary for objective measurement that reliably produces the same results, even when used by different parties. If you want to accurately track changes over time, reliable measurement is paramount. Of course, the most accurate criteria fully accounts for different customer scenarios, industry constraints, your brand, and more. While greater customization produces greater accuracy, strategically useful measurement can still be accomplished with criteria of varying degrees of customization, depending on the project and goals.
Interaction Metrics’ research has found four central factors common to all great customer service, which comprise the main sections of our criteria:
- Timing: Treating the customer’s time as valuable.
- Information: Providing complete, relevant and clear answers.
- Connection: Showing interest in the customer and their situation.
- Differentiation: Using branded language and articulating key differences.
We then break each factor into specific elements (greeting, tone, branding statements, etc.) weighted in relation to your industry, brand, objectives, etc. For instance, when a customer asks where their delivery is, information and connection are most important. But when a customer asks about a product they haven’t bought yet, differentiating the brand and information matter most.
Next, we develop additive and subtractive rules for how to score each element. This is time-consuming process because, to be accurate, scoring rules must be highly precise and provide clear examples. This way, no matter who scores, you’ll get nearly the same results.
Finally, using the criteria, our analysts score a statistically valid sample of your customer interactions, providing you with an exact measurement of your current performance, summarized as a single Quality of Customer Interaction™ Score that reflects all factors and elements of the customer experience.
Need help building your criteria? We’d love to build your customer service evaluation standards for you.
We identify the best response to each main customer scenario. We then design weighted criteria based on your industry, objectives, brand, etc., and score a statistically valid sample of your customer interactions to provide you with a QCI™ Score reflecting your overall performance. For highly complex industries, this can take hundreds of hours, but it will ensure the most accurate and valuable customer data.
Step 4 | Provide Model Answers
Improvising how to connect with customers while keeping brand goals in mind, providing information, and proactively thinking ahead is a lot for anyone to handle — so without clear criteria for what your associates should cover, you’ll end up with huge variation in the quality of your customer service.
Instead of leaving things to chance, we give associates concrete examples of how to engage customers, build brand, and think ahead proactively. It’s not about reading from a script — it’s about knowing what to address, how, and when. Without clear guidance, some associates may make great choices, but the fact is that many will unknowingly tarnish your brand.
Depending on your needs, we can write model answers in the form of conversation outlines, branded email templates, talking points, or checklists. Regardless of the format, concrete examples are essential.
Of course, this is not to say that improvisation is out. In fact, improvisation is key to great customer service; customers don’t want a scripted, robotic conversation. But improvisation only works well when clear guidelines are learned in advance.
Does an example-based customer service training program take time to assemble? You bet it does. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
Step 5 | Report Results Frequently
Regular customer service evaluations with clear reports are the key to sustained, concrete improvement. As the success of NPS (Net Promoter Score®) has demonstrated, publishing one easy number is a great way for executives to know where they stand. However, for managers and associates who need to know what to do differently, more detailed reports are necessary. That’s why we provide ongoing audits of varying degrees that provide you with objective, independent measurement based on advanced research methods that use emotional intelligence.
- Objective scoring is based on precise criteria and scoring a large number of interactions. How many interactions we evaluate depends on your goals, but always recommend a statistically valid sample that covers all important touchpoints, so that you have the most accurate and representative results.
- Independent scoring gives an outside perspective. This keeps assumptions you have about your company from throwing off scores. (Of course, we’re a great choice for your customer experience auditors!)
- Emotionally intelligent scoring requires that human beings monitor many of your interactions. While software can have powerful analytical intelligence, it doesn’t have emotional intelligence. This means it’s unable to capture the essence of customer interactions.
Recap | 5 Steps | Take Action!
- Step 1 | Identify Opportunities
ACTION: We discuss with you and your team to decide where to focus on adding value to your customer interactions build brand and customer loyalty.
- Step 2 | Take Inventory
ACTION: We map out your main customer types, concerns, emotional states, situations and touchpoints.
- Step 3 | Define Precise Criteria & Measure
ACTION: We identify the best response to each main customer scenario. We then design weighted criteria based on your industry, objectives, brand, etc. For highly complex industries, this can take hundreds of hours, but it will ensure the most accurate and valuable customer data.
- Step 4 | Provide Model Answers
ACTION: We write clear examples and guidelines for every customer scenario. With these in hand, your associates will have proactive customer service skills that build brand and customer loyalty.
- Step 5 | Report Results Frequently
ACTION: We provide regular audit services and schedules, with scores published regularly, including: Competitive Edge, Customer Effort, Quality of Customer Interaction™ and other nuanced customer metrics.
The easiest way to improve your customer service is with us. Get a free MetricsLAB™, and learn about how to develop great customer service.
With our customer service plans and audits, you will have Competitive Edge, Customer Effort, and Quality of Customer Interaction™ Scores.
What we call Customer Service Plans you might call: branded content, great customer service, customer service improvement, customer service templates, customer service training, interaction planning, call scripts, interaction optimization.