How does a professional customer service company work?
How do you build a great customer support from scratch?
I was asking myself how to outsource the customer support. And to find out I got in touch with a professional phone service company and made an interview.
Average age: 39 år
Members of ”Kontakta”. A society for quality phone services.
What they do
Telemarketing, sales B2B, booking meetings, surveys, etc.
Incoming, customer service, overflow, switchboard, etc.
Gives support, technical support, phone service, switchboard services.
- Winner of Sundsvall Business Awards 2016. Best company.
Your employee turnover is relatively low. How come?
Sonja: The most important part of our job is to handle troublesome calls, without being personally affected. We have to act professional, even if the calls are tough. If we get complaints, they are not our fault, but we still have to take care of it. You have to handle stress, be calm, and understanding. All our employees have those skills.
The employees are all trained in handling all types of calls. We also practice immediate follow-up in if a tough call was made. Because such calls can ruin the rest of the day, it’s important to take instant action.
Why do you think you have grown so fast?
Sonja: All of our staff is educated and have a solid foundation with good data for providing a good service. We give a lot of feedback to our customers. We bring repetitive questions to the table and ask customers to put answers on their webpage, to minimize incoming questions. The customers usually ask us why we want to have less calls (less work, less paid). We reply what we believe will be good in the long term. Our customers know we care and they stay with us.
To smile while talking. Is that a cliché or does it work?
Haha, it’s working. I always smile when I’m on the phone! If I see a colleague who’s not smiling, then I just want to tickle or cheer that person up 🙂
How do you work with peaks and dips in your daily staffing?
We have no gaps in our calendars. We always work, and if nobody is on the phone we add stats and reports to make progress for ourselves and our customers.
A new, potential, customer probably don’t want to outsource such an important role. What do you do when you get a new customer, to make everything as good as possible?
We always start with a solid walkthrough and straighten out the vision and values and what the customer wants to achieve in the end. Then we check everything, in order, like how they want us to welcome the customers, what type of questions are the most common,what they want us to do when we face a complaint. And we start building an internal FAQ with all these answers. We continue asking questions and we make up a few tricky questions, that the customer has to solve to make the FAQ better. Some customers already have an old FAQ, but some we have to build from scratch. Finally, the FAQ is double-checked and signed off by the customer before we start.
Is that all a company needs to outsource the customer service function?
No, then we start educating our staff. We have a walkthrough to learn exactly how this customer want to act, and how we should act with their customers and even their customers’ customers. During this education we create cases where we build different scenarios and check what could possibly happen. And yes, we also have 10 years experience from other customers, this pre-existing knowledge makes it comfortable in the new customer’s on-boarding process.
What boundaries do you have? What can’t you do?
You may never guess. If you don’t know the answer, then don’t risk anything. It’s not allowed to make guesses. Tell them you will get back later.
What do you do if you can’t find the answer?
If the problem isn’t solved, and if it’s not possible to solve on the first contact (one-touch), we call the customer and ask them how they want to continue. If it’s not urgent then we write down the contact information and get back. Then we update the FAQ of the customer and make sure we can give a one-touch-answer next time. The target is to always be able to solve the question on a first contact basis.
What’s your target with each call?
To satisfy the customer. The customer should feel helped. The target is to be able to help immediately and give an instant answer. If that isn’t possible, we will have to get back with a reply later. The customer should feel that we take responsibility and that we are coming back. When the customer feels a connection and feels understood we have made a good progress.
Do you use checklists?
Yes. Every customer has their own checklist. It includes the questions we are supposed to ask, and which information we need to retrieve.
KPI (Key Performance Indicator) – what to measure?
That’s individual. What we measure ourselves is the length of calls, occurrences, timestamps. Then we try to figure out why the call was so long, and how we can make it shorter. We always want to suggest ways to optimize. We ask ourselves if this is the best way to handle the question, or if we can give better help online for example.
What’s your opinion about IT equipment?
All equipment is brand new. Computers are fast. The working conditions such as sound and lights are taken care of. We consider the full working environment and make sure that all conditions are top notch. Another thing to consider is the IT support where you can have automated workflows and checklists that can pop-up in different windows depending on who’s calling. When you have good software you don’t have to alt-tab as much, which is also part of ergonomics.
Do you ever use multiple support lines?
We also act as a first line IT support. We follow the same principles here: Never guess! Here it’s very important not to cross your boundaries and start suggesting solutions. We use checklists and pre-defined questions, and if we can’t help then we book a technician (secondline). When we do, we also select a priority (2 hrs, 8 hrs, asap). We always ask the customers what they need.
How do you train your employees?
All newly employed receives a basic training with our own material. We have a walkthrough and show how we work, the systems we work with, and you can try yourself and together with others. We show what clients the employee will serve, and read their FAQ lists. Then you co-listen until you are ready.
In the beginning, we follow up more often and double check existing competence while we also build new competence with internal training. Most of the training is internal but sometimes we find an interesting external training where we can send a group.
We also have the yearly employee dialogue where we can find other competence gap areas that we need to fill.
My key take-aways are:
- Never guess
- Make the customer feel understood
- Follow up immediately
- Update the information and minimize redundant questions
Food for thoughts: It sounds like the staff can handle stress, while being calm and understanding. What else do you need in life? Maybe that’s the secret for the low employee turnover.
Magnus Vigren is the Ticketnerd. I love details, especially within customer support and ticketing management.