Want to Improve Customer Contact? With these 7 steps, you can get started today!

Recognize This? You want to improve your customer contact team. The plans are there, but in the meantime, the phone needs answering, and it’s incredibly busy. Team leaders are overwhelmed, and no one has the bandwidth to implement and execute the plans. As a result, little or nothing comes from those improvement plans. A shame, really!

In this article, I’ll give you 7 concrete tips you can start with today, busy or not, with or without team leaders. Here we go!

1 – Start with Senior Management and Executives

It’s crucial that senior management and executives understand the potential win-win-win-win situation when you improve your customer contact operation. You should start by saying that customer service is a critical factor for your organization. This requires a mindset shift from the leadership: from seeing it as a necessary evil to recognizing it as an indispensable differentiator – including the necessary investments. But believe me – and you know this better than anyone – a lot can go wrong if your customer service isn’t set up properly, such as during extended absences, promotions, or turnover. You lose knowledge, staffing becomes insufficient, or the team experiences high work pressure, which can ultimately cause it to collapse. You want to prevent that. Properly organized customer service is a win for the customer, a win for the employee, a win for costs, and thus a win for management. Win-win-win-win!

Tip: Are you on your way to the boardroom? Don’t forget to bring a business case! Map out the costs you’re currently incurring because your customer contact department isn’t functioning optimally, the investment you need, and what you expect it to yield.
2 – Expertise is Key

Internal growth is good for the employee, but is it always good for the team? This might sound familiar: Anne excels in her customer service role. Naturally, the next step is a team leader position. But being good at customer contact doesn’t mean she can effectively manage people. What can you expect from Anne without proper guidance? Exactly.

Junior leadership in customer contact teams is problematic. The knowledge, skills, and guidance are lacking. The knowledge, skills, and guidance are lacking. This can overwhelm Anne, impacting the team. You don’t want this situation.

Bring in the right expertise through external knowledge or partnerships. We can’t expect everyone to excel at everything. Moreover, if Anne falls ill or advances, you face continuity issues in your service and team. Worried about the cost? Reality check: if Anne falls ill and needs replacement, it costs even more. The business case here is quickly made.

Tip: To place the right experts in the right positions, it’s important to identify the competencies you currently have and what you’re missing. Based on that, create profiles of the missing competencies, plus an estimate of the personnel costs associated with these profiles. Then decide: will you hire people, or is it better to occasionally bring in expertise?
3 – Invest in Good Management

A customer contact department, depending on its size, needs managers, supervisors, and team leaders. The type of manager you appoint makes a big difference. Dare to invest in this. Allocate a budget for good guidance and facilitate the leaders maximally so they can create a safe space for employees. Avoid the pitfall of asking a random manager from another department to “handle it” if the customer service manager is long-term absent or has left the company.

4 – Implement Technology and Stay Empathetic to Employees

This has been mentioned before, but it’s so important. Technology is fantastic, but stay empathetic towards your employees and customers when implementing it. Is it truly helpful, or if your FOMO kicking in and are you just afraid of missing out on a trend? Will the customer benefit, and does the technology actually make the employees’ lives easier and more enjoyable? Engage in conversations, be empathetic, and understand their perspectives. Better yet: spend a couple of hours working on customer service yourself to experience firsthand the impact of the changes you want to implement.

Tip: This is a typical area where it’s beneficial to bring in external expertise. Keeping up with all new trends and understanding their applications can be an impossible task. Want to make a big impact? Get guidance from a professional!
5 – Implement Sustainable Changes

Often, decisions made within customer services follow the principle: cheap = expensive. This is a pity, as it builds an unstable house of cards that will eventually collapse, always at the most inconvenient time. Be smarter: invest more in quality, as it always pays off in the long run.

6 – Data, Data, and… Data!

Time, money, people, and resources are valuable. You want to use them well. Improving customer contact shouldn’t be based on gut feelings or Anne’s pretty blue eyes. It must be supported by data. By correctly setting up processes and systems, you collect data that you can (have) processed. This is your input for sustainable improvement.

Tip: Again, consider who can bring this expertise to you. Do you need a permanent employee for this, or someone who sets up a system and framework that a team member can then continue with?
7 – Connect the Facets: Technology, Processes, and Employees

You want your customer contact department to provide the right answer to the customer in one go. If someone contacts you multiple times or through different channels, you want to connect these interactions – the so-called 360-degree customer view. This requires the right technology and tools, a process-oriented mindset, and your employees. This is precisely why you need someone at the helm of your customer service who can connect all these facets. That’s how you achieve the ideal customer contact operation.

Sounds Good, But How Do I Do This?

These 7 tips will help you take the first steps in sustainably improving your customer contact team. Need some expertise? I’m just a phone call away.

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