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The Manager's Ultimate Customer Service Guide

Everything a manager needs to know about the customer service industry

Table of contents

Introduction

This is your ultimate customer service guide – we’ve assembled topics we believe to be a solid overview over everything you need to know about the customer service industry. Whether you’re just starting out in the customer service industry or you’re a veteran in the arena, we hope that this guide serves to be useful to you – perhaps helping to refresh your memory, or even teaching you something new.

Customer Service Overview

What is customer service?

Customer service is the assistance that a company provides to customers before, during, and after purchasing their products or services.

Why is customer service important?

How a customer is treated by a company representative will impact the customer’s opinion of the company, and may impact not only the customer’s decision to purchase a product or remain a customer, but also other people’s opinion of the company through word-of-mouth or online reviews.

Lost Customers

78% of customers have backed out of a purchased due to a poor customer experience. (Glance)

Repeat Customers

93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies who offer excellent customer service. (HubSpot Research)

Revenue Growth

Businesses can grow revenues between 4% and 8% above their market when they prioritize better customer service experiences. (Bain & Company)

What is customer satisfaction, and how do you measure it?

Customer satisfaction is an important benchmark for every contact center. It indicates the extent to which an offered product or a service matches customer expectations. Customer satisfaction can be can be measured in different ways. We’ve provided here three of the most common measurements used to measure and collect customer feedback.

CES (customer effort score) is a metric that measures the amount of effort a customer needs to exude in order to get their request fulfilled or their problem resolved. The question asked is typically, “How much effort did you need to do to get your issue resolved?”, along with a numerical scale that a customer can select from, example being 1-7, with 7 being the highest amount of effort. Another variation of this question is: “I found it easy to have my issue resolved,” with a numerical scale of 1-7, with 7 being the highest level of agreement. The final CES score can be found by averaging out the scores of all surveys submitted. Scores indicating high effort on the part of the customer suggests roadblocks in the customers’ experience, and may detract customer satisfaction and loyalty towards the company.

CSAT (customer satisfaction) is a simple customer satisfaction metric that uses a numerical scale to measure how satisfied a customer is with a company’s product or service. The question asked is typically: “How satisfied were you with your experience?”, along with a numerical scale that a customer can select from, example being 1-10, 10 being the highest score for satisfaction. The final CSAT score is calculated by dividing the number of positive surveys by the total number of surveys submitted, and then multiplied by 100. For example, if 10 surveys were submitted, and 8 of them had a score of 6 and above, the final CSAT score would be: 8/10 x 100% = 80%. In general, companies with a CSAT score of 80% and above is considered to be doing well.

NPS (net promoter score) is a customer satisfaction metric that uses a numerical scale to measure a customer’s relationship and loyalty to a company. The question asked is typically, “How likely would you recommend this product to your friends and family?”, along with a numerical scale that a customer can select from, example being, 0-10, with 10 being the highest score for a customer’s relationship and loyalty. The way how the NPS score is calculated, however, is not by taking a simple average of all the scores, but rather, by subtracting the percentage of promoters (those who have selected 9 and 10) with the number of detractors (those who have selected 6 and below). This results in the final NPS score ranging from -100 to +100. In general, companies who have a final NPS score above 0 are considered to be doing well.

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Organizational Breakdown Overview

Customer service infographic showing three tiers: Top-Level Management, Mid-Level management, and Employee. The top-level management tier shows two sub-levels: "C-level" and "Director". The Mid-level management tier shows two sub-levels: "Manager" and "Supervisor". The Employee tier only shows one level: "Individual Contributor."

The customer service industry is expanding – existing roles are including new responsibilities and new roles are opening up in response to the changing landscape of customer service. As customer expectations grow, companies are incorporating customer experience (CX) into their overall business strategy in order to remain competitive and retain and attract customers. And coupled with digitalization, CX personnel must collaborate across departments to ensure, maintain, and even innovate the technology platform to enable customers to have a seamless end-to-end experience across all touchpoints. These needs have opened up opportunities for CX professionals in upper management positions, and for expanding out the role of those in the mid-level positions to incorporate new needs. We anticipate that these roles continue to evolve and additional new positions to open up.

All customer service jobs can be categorized into the following three subdivisions in a work hierarchy: “top-level management,” “mid-level management”, “lower-level management”, and “employee”.

Top-level management positions generally involve overall business strategy and collaborating with upper management across other departments. Mid-level management positions generally involve more work in creating and overseeing specific strategies in meeting the more overarching goals of top-level management. Operational/employee positions generally involve actual implementation of the strategies created by top and mid-level management, without much input into any strategy. Ideally, those at the front-lines would capture information as to what’s actually happening with customers, and pass that up to their managers at the mid-level level, who would then synthesize that information, and present it to the top-level management, who would then decide how well the strategies defined are going. In this way, commands and directions flow down, and the information from implementation flow back up the business hierarchy.

The following descriptions are pulled from real job postings on LinkedIn, and aggregated and summarized together in order to give a general sample of responsibilities in each hierarchical level in the CX department.

There are a few things that you could do with the following information:

  • Job postings : Advertise a specific job role. Redefine a job position.
  • Industry landscape knowledge : Learn how the CX industry is moving, and the needs that it’s seeking to fill. Learn what your peers are doing at other companies.
  • Personal ambition : Identify gaps between your current responsibilities and the responsibilities of the next job you’re targeting, in order to prepare your resume for the next level.

Job Description Samples

Top-Level Management

Chief experience officer (CXO)
Responsible for

Leads and strategizes to deliver excellent service to customers, from all customer touch points with the company, and all company delivery channels towards the customers, e.g., branding, marketing, community-facing messages, resources, etc. Aware of internal company resources and organization make-up and changing external consumer expectations, and finds an intersection between the two in order to design, create, and implement business strategies and goals to meet or even exceed customer expectations in order to beat competition and maximize member acquisition, retention, and relationship depth. Shapes company culture and performance through workforce policies, procedures, and practices to create an environment where direct reports and employees can perform at the top of their professional competency to meet company objectives. Sets and creates standard metrics (KPIs) by which membership experience and success can be measured and tracked. Prioritizes and plans out projects, allocates and manages resources, delegates responsibilities/authority, and works cross-teams and departments, in order to complete strategic initiatives.

Minimum experience

Graduate degree, preferably an MBA. 10-15 years of experience in a similar role. Relevant expertise in products, services, and deliver channels used

Middle-Management

Head of Customer Experience
Responsible for

Leads the strategy and implementation of end-to-end seamless customer experience that reflects company values, mission, and branding across all customer touch points in order to build a long-term competitive advantage and to maximize customer lifetime value (LTV) and customer retention. Works collaborative with cross-functional teams to bring about this goal. Acts as subject matter expert (SME) in all things customer experience, and continues to learn and stay on top of customer trends, expectations, innovative technologies, and industry best practices. Defines what customers value, measures and collects customer feedback through established measurement tools, and analyzes customer data to constantly improve customer experience. Identifies different customer segments, and selects the highest-value customer segments to invest in, the strategy to do it, while considering company revenue and profit. Evaluates all external tools and vendors to build a cost-effective support system for customers. Establishes KPIs and metrics to track successes and failures, and acts as the sole responsible party for end results. This position may also include some content generation tasks and overseeing the entire customer support system.

Develops the measurement criteria, program success criteria, and coordinates efforts across a cross-functional team to reach actionable and measurable outcomes. Develops the vision and the minimum expectations for customer experience. Develops the customer experience journey mapping, surveys, feedback loops, and gaining customer insights. Communicates results, wins, and opportunities across the organization, and create trust across the teams. Leads and manages customer experience employees.

Creates and leads a customer-centric culture, creates the policies and protocols to shape the team into an engine of customer understanding. Sets a vision and creates a concrete plan that includes scalability. Uses customer insights and feedback to inform critical decisions, establish processes, and channel feedback to the relevant teams and stakeholders. Establishes training protocols for agents, and constantly focuses on what we can do better for our customers. Manages costs and possesses financial acumen for scaling up.

Minimum experience

Graduate education, minimum BA/BS degree, MBA preferred, with a minimum of 10-15 years of experience in customer experience, along with a proven track record in managing large teams and delivering measurable results

Head of Digital Customer Experience
Responsible for

Creates a vision and strategy for the ideal digital customer experience across all channels and platforms, and a roadmap with clear goals, objectives, and milestones. Aligns efforts across departments, and is able to influence key cross-functional stakeholders to support innovative business solutions with the customer’s experience as a guiding point. Expert on emerging customer and marketplace trends, competitive offerings, new products and technologies, and industry best practices, strategies, and processes, to identify opportunities to enhance customer experience. May need to create or update research processes to collect and analyze user engagement behavior and customer feedback to generate recommendations to enhance customer experience. Supervises and manages multiple teams.

Minimum experience

15+ years in digital product development/management, Minimum BA degree, Master’s degree preferred. Strong leadership skills with the ability to market solutions to key stakeholders along with a record of operational business impact and having led large-scale transformation programs. Skilled in multiple product development and management methods, Experience hiring, training, and mentoring a highly skilled team. Acute financial skills. Experience communicating with C-Levels, Technical competency and willingness to learn new technologies. Preferably has knowledge of data privacy regulations.

Lower-Level Management

Customer Service Supervisor
Responsible for

Hires, manages, and coaches employees, evaluates performance based on company objectives and KPIs, and identifies opportunities for workflow and performance improvement. Coordinates all complaints, and ensures that they’re resolved and responded to in a manner that reflects company policies and standards. Develops, implements, and maintains materials and processes to meet production and quality standards, and regulations. Audits and uses phone log reports to identify areas of improvement, and creates recommendations to better improve customer experience and employee workflow.

Minimum requirements

2+ years in customer service. Minimum BA degree.

Team Leaders
Responsible for

Manages and leads a team, responsible for daily operations, and ensures that standards and team objectives are met. Provides assistance to management to hire and train new employees. Tracks deliverables and team performance, and communicates objectives, deadlines, concerns, and policies to both management and team members. May assist with staff planning and scheduling. Identifies new areas for new training or skill checks. Provides quality customer service, by interacting with customers, answering inquiries, and handling complaints. Maintains knowledge about company work processes and procedures.

Minimum requirements

1+ year in relevant field. Minimum BA degree or equivalent work experience. Interpersonal skills and an effective communicator. Computer proficiency.

Employee

Customer Service Representative
Responsible for

Answers to customer inquiries and resolve challenges via multiple channels, and possibly in-person, using standard scripting, established procedures and policies, and escalating issues when needed. Has high resiliency, and can address, resolve, and defuse customer inquiries and complaints in a professional and timely manner that is reflective of company values and branding. Able to converse with customers while searching for relevant information within the company knowledge base, and entering relevant data and information into company software or database. Works efficiently and quickly, and can communicate complex information into simple steps. Assists in discovering customer patterns and trends and report building by tracking customer issues and tagging cases. Alerts team leads potential areas of improvement for workflow processes.

Minimum requirements

Good communication skills. Empathy and deescalation skills. High stress tolerance. Basic computer skills. Multi-tasking.

For further job descriptions in each area, click here to access a more in-depth article!

General Terminology

Contact Center

Workforce Management

Technology Solutions

Technology Acronyms

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KPI / Performance Metrics

Customer satisfaction

Contact Center / Call Center

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Common Challenges in Customer Service

Agent churn

Agent churn is the percentage of agents who leave their job over a specified period of time. High attrition rate is one of the challenges that contact centers face, as it interferes with overall contact center productivity, HR, and workforce management. Contact centers can examine the causes of agent churn and help reduce it, while also investing into customer self-service tools to help assist with employee workload in the face of fluctuating agent numbers.

Call overflow

Call overflow is when a contact center is unable to handle the number of inbound calls arriving into the center, i.e., allocate agents to inbound calls, usually because there are too many calls. The reasons behind this may be internal, e.g., due to not enough staffing, workload inefficiency, etc, or the reasons may be external, e.g., right before a holiday, industrial reasons, etc. For suggestions on handling call overflow, please refer to our article on what happens when you have too many calls arriving into your center: https://virtualq.io/en/too-many-calls/

Fluctuating call load / Fluctuating call volume

A fluctuating call load or call volume refers to a period of highly uneven call volume – usually referring to huge spikes of call volume which makes it difficult for call centers and contact centers to handle the large volume of calls coming in (i.e., call overflow). The reasons behind fluctuating call loads are usually external, right before a holiday, industrial reasons, etc., but are also impacted by internal reasons, e.g., high agent turnover, workload inefficiency, etc. Our article touching upon the issue can be reached via the following link:  https://virtualq.io/en/too-many-calls/

Digital transformation

Digital transformation is the process of integrating digital technology into existing business processes. Forbes reports that these efforts picked up considerably in the 1990s due to the advent of the Web, and continue today, impacting both how businesses operate and in turn, public perceptions of businesses. As more companies mature in the digital sphere, consumer baseline expectations update against the business operations of digital giants, FAANG, i.e., Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google. With products available quicker – from information to product shipments, consumer expectations have increased and extended towards other company services as well. A large part of digital transformation efforts are created to address these new demands, and particularly in the area of implementing an end-to-end seamless, quality customer experience across multiple channels and across all customer touch points. Successful efforts result in building a competitive advantage and maximizes customer loyalty, customer retention and customer lifetime value.

Note: Some companies with old technical systems may find it challenging to update their customer service offerings, and may be interested in quick, add-on solutions.

Repeated Calls

Some contact centers have a high rate of repeated calls – whether inbound callers are calling about the same issue they presented in previous calls. Contact centers who experience this may wish to analyze the cause of these repeated calls. We found this useful article on analyzing the causes of repeated calls, as well as potential strategies to decrease these calls – one of which include creating a valuable knowledge base.

For more information on repeat calls, feel free to check out the following article here.

Reputation management

Reputation management is the act of managing one’s reputation, which usually includes influencing public opinion or perception of the individual or organization. Companies with poor customer service may see a rise of negative publicity about them on social media, whereas companies with great customer service may see a rise of positive publicity about them. The advent of social media has included social media as an important channel of communication between the customer and the company, in order to track and respond to comments from customers to/about the company.

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Future of Customer Service

The customer service industry is undoubtedly one of the fastest developing  industries, especially in the digital space. Here we outline the top megatrends we’ve identified in the customer service industry, and how the industry is moving to address these trends.

Individualization

The first trend for customer service is tailoring the customer’s experience, such that they feel special and unique. Whether it’s a personable, empathetic approach towards the customer, or a product that’s completely personalized to the customer’s needs, companies are trying to address their customers’ need. And with the advent of big data and artificial intelligence, companies have been able to find what their customers want, and tailor a personalized experience to the individual. Technologies involved in the process of individual service:

  • CRM: Data that is entered directly into the CRM or comes from an internal database
  • Customer service: Data generated by conversations via your telephone hotline or other support channels such as Twitter
  • Social media: Data generated during communication in social networks
  • Evaluation platforms: Experiences that your customers post in relevant platforms
  • e-commerce solutions: Data on orders, needs, search behaviour or purchase cancellations provided by your online shop
  • Internet of Things: Data on customer interaction with devices or machines to identify service issues

Location-based services

This trend is related to the previous trend of individualization, but is large enough to stand on its own. The location of customers (along with potential customers!) can now be tracked and used for a multitude of actions, e.g., personalized advertising, customer movement in a store, and more. Companies with a complete understanding of their customers and can make both strategic and operational decisions more effectively and sustainably improve their customer’s experience, ultimately the company’s results.

  • 83 percent of consumers are fully willing to share their data if it gives them a more relevant, personalized shopping experience. (Accenture 2018)
  • 91 percent of consumers prefer brands that they remember, know their interests and offer recommendations that are personally relevant to them. (Accenture 2018)

Connectivity

People are connected now, more than ever, which makes connectivity quite possibly the most powerful megatrend today. The ability for people to connect via technology, ranging from devices like smart phones and IoT devices to more singular applications like social media websites and apps, gives companies the massive outreach opportunity. Just a little over a decade ago, it was the rare company that cared about customer outreach via LinkedIn or Facebook, but now, discussions on building an omnichannel platform and giving customers a seamless customer experience across all devices is critical, to the point of even opening new job positions in the customer care industry.  The ability for people to connect with each other online has completely changed the way how we interact with each other today. This megatrend requires a completely new approach for maximixing customer outreach as well as a holistic, systemic understanding of digital change – both for companies and individuals.

We see that current sales in this market – worldwide – amounts to 17.6 million euros, with a forecast market value of 26.9 million euros in 2023 (Source: Statista, Mai 2020). Considering that this corresponds to an annual sales growth of 15.2%, the scope and impact of this megatrend on customer service is extremely clear.

For more information, you can refer to the following article here.

Globalization

Globalization is perceived more as an overall threat than as a gift to society, thanks to trade wars, international crises, pandemics, etc.; however, at the same time, some clear wins are emerging from globalization. We find that these wins ultimately makes this megatrend a net positive for everyone. Here we discuss further on the results of this megatrend, and its impact on customer service.

Generation Global.  People today – and especially the youth – are now aware than the challenges that face us globally, e.g., environmental issues, need to be solved with a more global perspective. Advocators for global change use technology to their advantage – connect with like-minded people, find solutions, tackle global problems at their roots. This generation not only brings a fresh perspective to the economy and to society, but also to the way how they make purchases, which frequently results in this generation choosing to purchase from companies which they perceive to be more socially aware and beneficial to the world. Marketing and customer service departments must be prepared to incorporate such values into their company culture, e.g., sustainability, in order to stay relevant towards this generation.

Global migration. Cultural diversity is increasing with the advent of greater globalization. The world is increasingly becoming a smaller place with the internet bringing everyone together. Companies must find a way to reach out to customers in a creative and constructive way that acknowledges and/or transcends languages, culture, religions, etc.

Global supply chain. According to German Ifo Institute for Economic Research Center, the negative impact on the supply chain from the pandemic is likely to continue well into the second half of 2021. Companies can expect for the supply chain to continue in stagnation, or possibly even decline a bit, and so, must examine themselves, e.g., business model, etc. to remain competitive.

Silver society

Not exactly breaking news here, but the population is getting older, resulting in a higher number of older people. Take for example, Germany – in the last 60 years, the average age of Germans  has risen by about 10 years, namely due to a higher level of life quality, nutrition, medical care, and more. This trend creates a completely new phase of life for individuals who are past the retirement age of 65.

Graph showing an upward trend of increased life expectancy in Germany from 1955 until 2020

As individuals experience both better health and a longer period of retirement, older age is no longer as limiting a factor on people’s experiences. Those who can afford it (finally!) can take a trip around the world, learn to play golf or become a YouTube star. And digital connectivity allows older users to match the activities of younger users via Whatsapp, Netflix, and so on.

Customer service, which has traditionally focused on younger generations, must also account for the experience of an older population. Perhaps “golden mentors”, i.e., representatives from the age group of 55-79, should be hired in companies to ensure that companies are considering the needs of the elderly as well. Many individuals from this group are still working, and are actively involved in the economy and society. Such individuals would add tremendous value to a company, and help move customer service in a positive direction.

Mobility

The megatrend of mobility really began with the popularity of the smartphone, which gave people a massive freedom of movement, just allowing them complete tasks from wherever they are, e.g., calling a ride via Uber, making or canceling an online order, answering e-mails, listening to podcasts, etc. The accessibility of performing multiple and varied tasks on-the-go prompts us to point out that offering your customers an omnichannel experience isn’t just some fancy new technology, but rather an established strategy of customer communication within customer service. Anyone posting a complaint on a company’s Facebook page expects an answer within hours…and not a letter via mail one week later.

Having to wait to receive an answer can impact customer satisfaction positively…or negatively. If your customers dialing into your contact center are having to wait on hold before speaking with someone, that’s an opportunity for you to help increase customer satisfaction by eliminating waiting on hold.

Computer monitor showing a news icon in the middle of the screen

Additional Resources

As we find useful articles on topics we think you’d be interested in, we will post them here:

Setting up a call center

The following article goes in-depth about setting up a contact center from scratch – showing the aspiring individual questions he or she should ask, and considerations they should think about before setting one up.

Additional Useful Customer Service Statistics

This article by Hubspot provides 40 interesting statistics for the customer service industry. We found it insightful, and would like to share their findings with you.

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Picture of an elderly man with sunglasses looking at his phone with the text "The Ultimate Customer Service Guide" overlaid on top of it. There is a "Read More" button at the bottom, and a "virtualQ" business logo at the top.

The Manager's Ultimate Customer Service Guide

This is your ultimate customer service guide for managers – we’ve assembled topics we believe to be a solid overview over everything you need to know about the customer service industry.

Copyright Notice: #1139469249 Alessandro Biascioli on istockphoto.com

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