The Freshdesk blog
Your daily dose of
peppermints, orange juice and oatmeal cookies...
Freshly squeezed droplets of customer support...
Your daily dose of
peppermints, orange juice and oatmeal cookies...
Freshly squeezed droplets of customer support...
A decade ago, ‘customer interaction’ meant very little.
The little kid with the lemonade stand just had to place his table on the right intersection, make enough lemonade and price it right to reap his riches.
Conversations with customers would, in most cases, be a muffled grunt or an excuse to tender exact change. And when the kids from across the block started competing, our lemonade kid just had to slash his prices. If he could get his lemons cheaper than everyone else there was just no stopping him. And he could always add a little bit more water. After all, who would notice?
Except his customers, of course. And our little man realized that if he wanted to stay in business, he had to start listening.
And listen he did. It was as simple as placing a fish bowl & a notepad on his stand for customers to drop their feedback. Every night, the lemonade boy spent an hour reading all the feedback and responding to them. And as he grew (and his business expanded to the parking lot), customers started flocking to him. Not because the lemonade was cheaper or even better than everybody else, but because they believed in the Lemonade Boy who Listened.
So what was that really big deal that turned the little kid with watery lemonade into the Lemonade Boy who Listened?
Lesson 1 – Make it easy for customers to talk to you
The Lemonade boy had a fishbowl and a notepad. The customers did not need to bring anything, except themselves. Ask yourself this – How easy is it for your customers to talk to you? If the answer is ‘very easy’, you are in a good place and should treat yourself to a lemonade.
But if you need your customers to bring their pens and paper, its time you got yourself a fish bowl. Now!
Lesson 2 – Listen, act and show them that you listen
At first, there were just a couple of letters, some nice and some nasty. As the days rolled by, the fishbowl had to get refreshed thrice every day. But the lemonade boy still listened – he committed himself to going through every feedback, and acting on it. And if the backlog ever piled up, he spent his nights and weekends clearing them up. Now, if you are still able to keep your fishbowl consistently clean for the next day, kudos.
But if the backlog is piling up you better put on reading glasses, because your customers know when you aren’t listening to what they say.
Lesson 3 – Be honest. Good lemonade is all about personality
The girl from the red brick house three blocks away felt the portions were too small. The lemonade boy wrote back telling her the quality and poetic elegance that goes into every cup. And, the next day, he showed her exactly what went into making that one portion of freshly squeezed lemonade. Today, the Lemonade Boy’s lemonade is no longer a drink. It is a story that every customer wants to relate to.
Your support is the brand that your customers directly relate to. Break away the monotony and drive a personality in every cup of lemonade you serve.
When Apple Genius Bar’s hiring managers evaluate candidates, they keep one guiding principle in mind: “Will this person provide a Ritz-Carlton level of service?”
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel brand is synonymous worldwide with standout customer service. So it makes sense Apple would model their support team after the luxury hotel brand. But what makes their service so special?
Recently, I sat down with Ritz-Carlton Vice President Diana Oreck to see if she could crack the code to their service success. She heads up the companies Leadership Center – an executive training center where they teach the Ritz-Carlton Legendary Service Model.
Here is what she had to say:
What sort of questions can you ask someone to find out if they’re caring and can anticipate customer wants and needs?
Well what you want to make sure you do is not ask yes or no questions. You’re not going to say, “OK Ashley, are you a caring person?” Because obviously, you’re just going to say yes, right? So what we do is we ask you in the interview, “Ashley give us a specific example of how you’ve cared for someone in the last month.” “Give me a specific example of anticipatory service that you have extended.”
Ritz-Carlton puts a lot of emphasis on successful new hire orientation. Why is this important for customer service training?
A lot of companies have a notion that employee orientation really needs to be a data dump of the company, and statistics and who’s doing what. It really isn’t. What we are looking for at orientation is passion. We want to make sure that that new person feels they made the right decision in joining us. It’s all about them and it’s all about culture. We feel that orientation needs to be significant emotional experience. Because think about it – you are making a very big decision in your life to either start a job or change a job. So our two days of orientation, they are solely revolving around our culture, which we call the gold standards. And the reason we do that is we know that the culture creates passion advocates of our employees. Raving advocates of our brand and we don’t think that it’s realistic to ask that your customer be passionate, raving fans if your employees aren’t first.
Is this also something that helps with customer service employee satisfaction and retention?
Yes, it’s about engagement. I will give you an example. The lodging industry as a whole tends to run a 60-70 percent turnover in a year. Here at Ritz Carlton we run in the low 20s. It’s a huge difference.
What metrics or qualitative data does Ritz-Carlton use to measure customer service training success (How do you know it’s working)? How do you collect this data?
Oh yes, we poll our guests once a month. The Gallup organization sends out 38 percent of guests that stayed the month before. It’s done randomly with the hope we will get 8-10 percent return. We live and die by that guest engagement number. This is the sum of responses to about 30 questions, including How likely is that guest to recommend Ritz Carlton? Were they delighted and satisfied with their stay? If there was a problem, did we take care of their problem? We know that if that guest engagement number goes up, we know that our training programs have been successful.
What are the biggest mistakes companies make when training customer service staff?
There not being specific enough. They’ll say things like “Give great service.” Well that’s nice, but people need a road map. Never assume anything, make sure you have your service standards written down and allow people to observe you in action. Don’t assume that their mother or father, or previous employer taught them what really great service looks like. Have a written service strategy.
What other successful customer service strategies have companies adopted by studying Ritz-Carlton?
It’s all about empowerment. The thing that our guests are most wowed about is that every single employee has $2,000 a day per guest to delight, or make it right. But we never use the money because that money is just symbolic. We are saying to our employees we trust you. We select the best talent. Just help the guest. We do a lot of training around empowerment. So I would say this – you need to empower employees. You also need to make sure that you are inspiring employees to bring their passion to work everyday and to volunteer their best. And you do that by reinforcing their purpose, not their function. Not the how to do your work, but the why of the work you do.
Ashley Furness is a CRM analyst for research firm Software Advice.
This post kicks off our new series ‘Freshdesk Secrets’, specially for the Freshdesk Legion, the worldwide community of support agents who use Freshdesk.
We are highlighting a few awesome hacks that they can use to get the maximum out of Freshdesk.
Agent Email Forwarding to Ticket
Got customers directly emailing your agents? Forward and ticket it right!
Sometimes, when customers become your good buddies, they start directly shooting support queries directly to you, bypassing your support email. While the “buddy” part sounds great, the conversation eventually gets lost your mailbox, without getting organized in your mailbox.
Email Piping in Freshdesk lets you directly forward customer emails to your helpdesk and have them converted into tickets automatically. Freshdesk identifies that the email came from an agent, adds the customer as the original requestor and creates a shiny new ticket, subject lines, content et al.
A few situations when Email Piping can save your life:
When you are on the road
Email Piping becomes mighty useful when you are stuck between the road, airports and packed lunches. If you know your team has your back, just forward the email to your help desk, get it ticketed and rest assured that your support team gets working on it.
When you know you are going to need the records
One of the greatest benefits of having a good help desk in place is that all your important support conversations are available for the rest of your team to learn from. But sometimes you want to add that personal flavor by talking to the customer from your direct email. Email piping lets you keep the personal touch, and still have a record of the entire conversation in your help desk by forwarding the email to your support portal.
According to the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer released this May, 40% of consumers in Australia are dissatisfied with the customer service they receive from brands they do business with.
Take a moment and absorb that statistic – for every 5 customers that an Australian business today has, 2 do not even consider the service passable. In fact, only the French are more dissatisfied than consumers down under.
We sat and racked our brains as to why that could be.
It isn’t the economy…
With most countries on the list, the level of customer support seems to be highly correlated with hits on the economy. But though the Australian economy seems to just be settling down after 2 decades of skyrocketing, the economic impact on customer satisfaction still does not seem to make sense.
Is Down Under down?
If you had a bad day, you are likely to vent your frustration at the hot dog vendor for putting in too little mustard. It seems natural to assume customer satisfaction would be correlated with the general happiness index.
We turned to the OECD Better Life Index to figure out how happy our Australian buddies are. What do you know, mate? Australians are ranked as the happiest people in the world!
As it turns out, they rank pretty high on their sense of community, civic engagement and their sense of environment. And things start making a bit more sense.
The ‘social’ media gap in Sydney
There is no place that builds the community like social media. As early as 2010, social media penetration in Australia was at a whopping 90%. Interestingly, fewer than 18% of businesses in the country actively use social media to reach out to customers. And less than half of them actually engage their customers and support them there. That means roughly for every 10 customers screaming in social media, less than 1 business shows that it actually cares.
Because they care!
The Better Life Index also sheds light on another important aspect about Australian consumers – they care. For example, the consistently high voter turnout is an excellent indicator that consumers in Australia want to be heard. The support process is not over with the customer flagging an issue and the business eventually resolving it. For Australians, that is just the beginning.
To really give customers a refreshing experience, Australian businesses need to involve them through the support process and educate them with the what, how and why. And at the end of the day, the business needs to give every customer the platform to share what she thinks about that support experience.
Great support is great business, too
Going back to the Global Customer Service Barometer, it isn’t surprising that Australian consumers are willing to pay 12% more for the goods they already buy, just so they get a better service experience.
That’s not just a lot of dollars lying around for business down under to pick up – that’s happy customers too.
Now that’s a point worth thinking about – 12% extra just for better customer service. And that is just on average. Point is, there’s a consumer segment in the demographics that is prepared to shell out a lot more, just to be treated better.
This is a big deal.
Australian businesses have a huge opportunity on their hands. Time will tell which ones recognize this one and step up their game.
When you login to your support portal in the morning (or, if you are like us, right from your phone when you roll out of bed), you need to be able to see how many tickets are open, which ones are pending a response from your customers, how many have been resolved and closed, and, God forbid, which ones are already overdue.
That maps out pretty nicely to the status of your tickets. By default your tickets in Freshdesk are either Open, Pending, Resolved or Closed. But then again, we know every help desk in every business is different. That’s why, starting this week, you can create your own custom statuses in Freshdesk!
Custom Statuses : Get your help desk workflow into Freshdesk
In your support process, you might want need to further pinpoint ticket statuses as “waiting for customer response”, or “waiting for vendor”. That way you get to streamline your support workflows and know exactly where a ticket is lying and what’s stopping you from resolving the issue.
You could have as many custom statuses as you may need. For example, a software company may have statuses like “In QA” and “In Development”, and an ecommerce store can have statuses like “with Inventory team” or “checking returns”.
Choose what the customer sees
It’s great that agents can now set the status of a ticket to “Waiting on customer” when they need additional information from the customer. But wouldn’t it be a lot more personal if the customer saw a message that reads “Awaiting your Response” instead?
With Custom Statuses, you now get to also choose what should be displayed to the customer when they check their ticket status in your support portal. For example, you may have statuses like “assigned to agent”, and “awaiting verification from Order Management team”. Of course, you don’t want customers to see these statuses. Instead you might just want to tell them that you are “working on the ticket”. You now get to do all that with Freshdesk.
Choose when the timers go off
Till now, the clock would start running when a new ticket came in, and would continue running until the ticket got resolved. But it isn’t fair to your team to have SLA timers running (and risk getting violated) when they are waiting for the customer to give them some additional information. Now you get to choose when the SLA timers should keep running, and when they should pause. By default, the timers will now be on-hold when a ticket status is pending, and will fire up again when the customer responds or reopens the ticket.
You can customize your ticket statuses, what should be displayed to the customer, and when the SLA timers must be on-hold just like you customize any other Ticket Field in Freshdesk.
Just dive into “Ticket Field” under the Admin tab, and select the “Status” field to customize and bring your workflow into Freshdesk.
Jump right in to check on what’s On-Hold
Getting back to the part where you check your help desk right out of bed, now you get even more visibility into which ticket is where, the moment you login to Freshdesk. The Dashboard will now show you five options in the Ticket Summary. The older ones are still there – Overdue, Open, Due Today and Unassigned. The fifth tab is the new ‘On-Hold’ tab under which are stored all the tickets whose SLAs have been put on hold in such cases where the customer hasn’t replied yet or because a third party response is awaited.
Neat huh? So, what’s your status today?
This post is the first part of a blog series from Freshdesk, in which we will try to answer that ever elusive question – ‘How to deliver the best customer service possible.’ Covering all the aspects of customer service that a business should know, understand and care about, this is an attempt at brand journalism, and an insight into how Freshdesk, as a company, looks at Customer Service.
Let’s begin then, shall we?
So, what is Service?
Well, it’s about beaming a smile to your customers. Or just putting up a bunch of “Customer is Right” posters right next to your billing counter. Right? Well, definitely not wrong… If Schrodinger were in customer support, he would have said, “The meaning of service is at once subjective and generic, both elusive and in your face”. Unfortunately, he would still be waiting for someone to take his call off ‘hold’, and record his wise words for the world to read…
But that’s why the meaning of “service” itself is so important. Because of the fact that it can be defined in a million ways by a million different people. And they are all right.
When you stay at Ritz Carlton, you are not just paying for the room to spend a night in. Or when you walk into your favorite mom and pop retailer a couple of miles down, you are not just looking to do your groceries. And when you grab your daily paper from the corner newsstand, there’s something more to it than subjective media BS.
These are three different customer service “touchpoints”, when we interact directly with the people who are selling us stuff or providing us a service. Clearly, at each touchpoint, we are looking for something that doesn’t exist in the store shelf. So what are we looking for?
As a traveller, you would be delighted to see a taxi waiting to take you to the hotel. The mom and pop wins over the local WalMart because the guy at the checkout counter knows your brand of cereal. And most often, the news in the papers seem less interesting than the juice in the small talk that the guy at the counter makes. And these are kind of what makes customer service take a step beyond and give customers more of the “intangibles”.
So, the Answer is…
Customers just do not want to be sold a product or a service. They want to be treated well, they want to be assured that they’ve taken the right decision and they have to believe that they are important. If you’ve done that, you’ve just provided your customers some ‘great service’.
There really isn’t a lot more rocket science to it. Service is that simple.
But then, why do businesses struggle when it comes to this aspect of their operations, when it has been repeatedly been proven to be the most important, sometimes even more significant than the product or service itself?
But if we know what to do, why do we falter?
It’s easy to shrug bad service off as something hardwired into the way we think about business. It is even easier to sideline customer service as a growth problem, organization-wide culture, lack of top-down initiative and bottom-up motivation. But really, promising and delivering a refreshing experience at every customer touchpoint is not all that hard.
So how do we provide refreshing customer service? How can we align our business processes to actually make sure customers are happy with us?
We will be looking into these questions and more, in Part 2 of the series.
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It’s the Leap Day. If Pope Gregory were supporting customers, instead of making calendars, we’d have one hell of an SLA policy to take care of. What with an unaccounted for 6 hour violations every year and a weird leap once every 4 years…In hindsight, if Gregory really did want to support customers, I guess he would have put in better business hours and mapped the leap year to an official holiday in Freshdesk’s SLA policy!The good part is- every body loves the pesky little day that creeps up on us. In fact, we love it enough to give you a pretty awesome deal today: a FLAT 29% Off on every new Freshdesk plan you buy today