DIY – How to Perform Your Own Customer Service Audit
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No longer is it enough to offer low prices and excellent product or work quality. While both of those things are certainly important, excellent customer service is now what modern customers value more than anything else.
If you operate an on-call service or maintenance business, you know better than most just how essential referrals and word-of-mouth are to your business’s success.
Getting new customers is often difficult and expensive. So, keeping your current customers happy is not only important, it’s more profitable as well.
According to an online CBS article, getting new customers costs 5 to 10 times more than keeping the ones you already have. Not only are your current customers cheaper to keep, they also spend more on repeat purchases and service requests.
Keeping your customers happy, though, is not always as simple as doing a good job at reasonable prices; it takes effort and a commitment to true customer service.
Customer Service: The Heart of Success
In an Inc. Magazine article, author Andrew Thomas explains it can take as many as 40 positive reviews or referrals to make up for just one negative customer experience. So, you can see that disappointing as few customers as possible is critical – if you want your business to grow.
Your Representatives Matter
More often than not, your service or maintenance business keeps you busy on the road or otherwise engaged in doing what you do; and you don’t have time to answer every incoming call personally. So, what do you do? You pass the responsibility of answering calls to someone else, of course.
Whether you use an in-house team to answer your incoming service request calls or outsource to an answering service, whoever answers the phone represents your business. If those that answer your calls fail to provide your customers with the best customer experiences possible, your business loses. It loses revenue, customers, and its reputation.
Since you’re always busy running your business, though, it’s often hard to monitor your call answering team or gauge how they’re performing. Therefore, in this post, we will cover how a DIY self-audit of your call service team and their performance can help your business become more profitable through excellent customer service.
Why Reviewing or Auditing Your Customer Service is Important
Okay, let’s say you’ve hired a team of qualified employees and experts to handle your customer service needs; you’re all set, your customers will always be happy, right? You would think so, but not so fast. Whether you’ve hired an in-house team or outsourced answering service duties, it’s important to know how they’re performing and how they’re treating your customers.
You’re busy in the field or office doing the work; so, it’s impossible for you to monitor every action taken by your answering service or team. Still, the people answering calls for your business need to know you’re on top of it and subtly “peeking over their shoulders” to ensure your customers receive the best service possible. So, how do you do that? Well, with a customer service audit, of course.
Customer Experience Basics
According to HubSpot, a renowned marketing and customer service software maker, “Customer experience is the impression your customers have of your brand as a whole throughout all aspects of the buyer’s journey. It results in their view of your brand and impacts factors related to your bottom line including revenue.”
In short, this means that, as a business owner, you need to consider all aspects of a customer’s experience with your company – from the first phone contact to after-service support to new job orders and work requests down the road.
For the most part, the two most important parts of the customer experience are your people and the actual work or service you provide. While some small business owners depend upon the quality of their work (or product) and low pricing, customers’ interactions with you and your people are probably more important. According to Forbes Magazine, people will pay a premium for great customer service. Therefore, if you want to ensure your service or maintenance business continues to grow, you need to also ensure that your company is providing the best customer experiences (customer service) possible.
What Do You Get Out of an Audit?
What can you achieve by auditing your customer service team? Well, that’s easy – happier customers, more referrals (always good), higher profits, and more repeat service or work orders. Besides the short list mentioned here, there are many intangible benefits to learning how to improve customer service. But in a nutshell, finding out the areas where you can improve your customer service will help improve almost every aspect of your business.
A thorough customer service audit will help you identify the things your team is doing right, and those that need improvement. With that information in hand, you can set out to make customers’ experience with your business even better. That sounds good, right?
How Do You Do It?
Now that you understand the benefits of doing a customer service audit, you may wonder how to actually do it. Well, it’s not too hard, but it will take some effort on your part.
There are many ways to do a customer service audit, and some of them are downright difficult and involve a lot of rather technical stuff. However, we thought we might make things a lot easier for you.
We like checklists, so we’ll use one for our customer service audit.
Below, you will find a series of 20 questions that you will need to answer with either “Yes” or “No.” Try to answer the questions as truthfully as possible, as doing so is the only way to get accurate insight into your customer service operations. Below, there is also a link to a downloadable version of the checklist; you can use it to conduct the audit.
Please CLICK HERE to download the checklist in PDF form.
1 – Do Agents Have Adequate Training?
Does your receptionist or agent(s) have the training to handle your calls properly? Or, are they kind of making things up as they go? The people who answer your calls are the “virtual face” of your business. And as such, they must be able to greet your customers properly, route or dispatch calls and inquiries, and be able to deal with challenging calls or situations. Whether you handle service calls in house, or outsource to another company, ensure your agents receive the training they need.
2 – Are Agents Available 24/7?
If your business makes service or maintenance calls (or otherwise needs to serve customers any time of day), then your answering agents need to be available 24/7 as well. If you must depend on an on-call to answer calls after hours, you are not only missing out on additional revenue; you’re probably letting down customers who count on you to be available when they need you.
3 – Is Your Phone Number Easy to Find?
Is your phone number easy to spot on the front page of your website? Do you even have a website?
If you do maintenance or service work, is your business phone number visible on the items or systems you work on? Do you give customers your business card or a refrigerator magnet before you leave a site?
Are the fonts used for your phone number printed on work orders or invoices big enough to notice? This may seem like a small thing, but if your customers can’t find your number, then they won’t call (obviously.)
4 – Do Customers Have to Wait More than One Minute to Speak to an Agent?
When your customers call for service or maintenance, are they immediately put on hold? If so, how long does it usually take for the receptionist or agent to get back to them? Many customers will just hang up if it takes more than a minute to speak to someone. If customers must wait too long, then you should consider adding more agents to answer calls.
5 – Are Calls Screened, Transferred, and Dispatched Efficiently?
When customers call, are agents able to quickly determine the reason for the call and transfer the call to someone else if needed.
If a customer calls for service, does the agent record relevant information and dispatch the call to your on-call quickly and efficiently? Just like customers don’t like to wait on hold, they don’t like to wait too long for someone to come fix their problems.
6 – Are Agent Greetings Friendly and Professional?
Are your agents answering your calls in a friendly and professional manner?
Are they mentioning your business name in their greetings (they should)?
Is there an offer of help included in the greeting? Instead of merely answering with “Joe’s Plumbing,” they should say something like “Thank you for calling Joe’s Plumbing. How may I help you?” Of course, appropriate greetings will vary, but they should always be friendly and professional.
7 – Do You Offer Multilingual Answering Services?
Do some of your agents speak Spanish? If not, you really might want to consider adding at least a couple who do. Next to Mexico, the United States now has the second largest population of native Spanish-speaking people in the world. If whoever answers your phone can’t accommodate them, you’re missing out on a lot of potential sales, as well as disappointing would-be customers.
8 – Do Agents Practice Effective Listening Strategies?
Great customer service is 100% all about your customers. Therefore, the agents representing your business must show your customers that they are fully engaged and listening.
Do your agents take notes during calls, ask relevant questions, or encourage customers to provide more information (all in a friendly manner, of course)? Perhaps, more than anything else, effective listening skills are essential to quality customer service.
9 – Are Agents Knowledgeable in Your Industry or Service Type?
You’re an expert in you’re field, and you should be proud of that. But, are the people that answer your phone also experts in your industry? Perhaps, not; but they still need to know what they’re talking about when they answer calls.
When speaking to your customers, a receptionist or agent must be able to show at least basic competency and knowledge of your business to provide wonderful customer service. This means they must know and understand basic issues with your service, as well as jargon and technology associated with your business. If they don’t have this expertise of knowledge, train them to make sure they do.
10 – Do Agents Handle Calls Quickly (While Remaining Friendly, Positive, and Professional)?
While customer service is all about being attentive and meeting the needs of your customers, that doesn’t mean they want to waste time engaging in idle chit-chat (well, maybe some do.) Your receptionist or agents need to achieve a balance between being friendly and helpful and handling calls quickly and efficiently. If your agents are spending too much time with customers (on average), chances are good that other customers must wait or look elsewhere for service.
More Questions for Your Customer Service Audit
Here are 10 more questions you should include in your customer service audit.
11 – Do Agents Comply with Any Relevant Rules or Regulations?
Are there any laws or government regulations that apply to your business? If there are, be sure that your agents are aware of them and how they need to be addressed or discussed when speaking with customers. Following applicable laws and regulations is not only about avoiding fines and legal troubles, it’s about being ethical and respecting your customers.
Always remember that the words of your answering team are “your” words. And if your agents don’t have the proper training in relevant rules, laws, and regulations, it could be you who pays the price.
12 – Do Agents Clearly Advocate for Your Business or Brand?
Your representatives need to communicate with customers in a way that aligns with the values, mission, and principles of your business. Therefore, ensure that your answering team knows everything they should about what makes your business special, and then make sure that your agents are conveying that message to your customers.
13 – Do Agents Personalize the Customer Experience?
Wonderful customer service isn’t really just about pleasant interactions; it’s about creating great customer experiences. And the best way to deliver exceptional service is to build trust with your customers.
When customers view you as a valued resource or friend (versus just another service), they become loyal customers who not only spend more with your business but also refer your service to new customers.
Some sure-fire ways to start building trust with your customers are:
- Make sure that your agents use customers’ names when talking to them on the phone (or in person);
- Be proactive in anticipating and following up when customers may need scheduled maintenance or service;
- If appropriate, keep track of important customer life events (i.e., birthdays, anniversaries, etc.);
- Ensure that you tailor your service to best meet the needs of your individual customers.
14 – Do Agents Often Use the Phrase “I Don’t Know”?
When customers call, they want to feel like they’re talking to someone who understands their problems or needs and how to address them. If agents don’t have adequate training or lack essential knowledge of your business, they may say “I don’t know” or something similar. This does not inspire customer confidence at all and presents a negative image for your business.
Train your agents to use phrases such as, “let me check with a colleague” or “let me find out for you.” Almost anything is better than “I don’t know.”
15 – Do Agents Have Authority to Solve Customer Problems on Their Own?
When your customers call your business, are your agents empowered with the authority to provide exceptional customer service by “going the extra mile?” Can your agents offer discounts or incentives to make angry customers happy?
If you give your agents the tools they need to keep your customers happy, it will amaze you just how effective they can be.
16 – How is the Work Culture? Are Your Agents Happy and Motivated?
A simple truth is: if your agents aren’t happy and motivated, they won’t be able to make your customers happy. There are countless studies that show a direct connection between happy employees and happy customers.
The culture in a workplace and employee engagement go hand in hand to make a business successful. If the culture in a business is diverse and inclusive, productivity and performance increase. On the other hand, if a positive culture is not present, all sorts of negative and unproductive things can happen.
Whether you’re handling calls in house or outsourcing, it’s important to ensure that agents representing your business thrive in an inclusive and positive environment.
17 – Do You Continuously Monitor Customer Service Metrics?
To audit your customer service efforts effectively, you must first know what your goals are and how to monitor or track them.
Do you monitor important metrics, such as response time, call resolution time, average hold times, etc.?
Do you keep track of how many customers stop using your services (known as “churn rate”)? Or, do you monitor how many of your customers continue to do business with your company during a specified period?
Do you have systems in place to help you measure these types of metrics? If not, this is one of the best places to start if you want to improve service to your customers.
If you’re not sure how to start monitoring important customer service metrics, outsourcing your call services to a professional answering service can save you both time and effort (and money.)
18 – Do You Keep Track of Interactions with Customers?
Perhaps the only thing customers hate more than long hold times is being passed from one agent to another or having to repeat themselves over and over.
When a customer calls, they shouldn’t have to start from scratch at every interaction with your business. Do you have a database with customer information? Does your receptionist or answering team have access to that database?
A good answering service plan includes a CRM (customer relationship management) application that lets you keep track of all customer information, as well as calls and other interactions with customers. If your answering team is not using a CRM, make sure that they start.
19 – Do You Regularly Collect Feedback from Your Customers?
Does someone on your team contact your customers and ask for their feedback?
Do you follow up with customers ask them how they were treated when they called your business?
Do you ask them how you can better serve them?
This is perhaps the easiest, and most important, part of any customer service audit. If you really want to know how good (or bad) your customer service team is performing, what better way than to ask your customers, right?
Collecting feedback from customers should not be a onetime thing, though. For this approach to be effective, you need to reach out and collect customer feedback regularly.
20 – Do You Incorporate Customer Feedback into Your Customer Service Operations?
If you request feedback from customers, do you listen? More importantly, do you implement customer feedback to change how you approach and conduct customer service?
If you’re not listening and implementing reasonable changes requested by your customers, then the whole point of conducting a customer service audit is lost.
Remember, your customers know what they want. And if you want to keep them coming back, giving them the level of customer service they want (and deserve) is the only way to do that. After all, if your customer service team doesn’t serve your customers, then nothing else really matters.
Please CLICK HERE to download the checklist in PDF form.
Tips for Getting the Data You Need for Your Customer Service Audit
Okay, now you know all the questions you need to ask for your audit. But, how do you get the answers? Well, start with checking your call logs if you use them (and you should.)
Check for call duration and dispatch times. This information will give you an idea of how long it takes for your receptionist or agent to handle and dispatch calls to you or your on-call. If you’re using a professional answering service to handle your calls, they should have detailed logs for all incoming calls to your business.
If your business (or your outside answering service) records calls, select a random sample and listen to them. Listening in on how your agents interact with customers can help answer most of the questions in your audit checklist. Again, if you’re outsourcing your answering services, the company should be able to provide you with recordings or transcripts.
Call your answering team and pretend to be a customer calling for service. Or use a “secret shopper” approach and have someone else call.
More Data Tips for Your Customer Service Audit
Try not to overload your answering team with a lot of fake calls. But, a few strategically time secret shopper calls can help you gain valuable insight into how your agents are doing. Don’t make it easy on your agents, though. Have your secret shoppers put agents through their paces and do a bit of complaining when they call. Nothing will give you a better idea of how well your agents perform than how they deal with unhappy customers.
Finally, sit down with your team and ask them how they’re handling calls and if they have ideas on how to improve customer service. If these discussions are handled openly and honestly (and in a caring and friendly manner), you will be surprised at just how much valuable feedback your customer service team can provide.
Your Customer Service Audit: How Did You Do?
If you were able to answer “yes” (honestly) to all the questions above, you’re good – your customers love your business and how it serves them. If you had to answer “no” to a couple, then you’re probably on the right track; and with a little improvement, can make your customer service truly great.
On the other hand, if you had more than a few “no” answers, your business may be in the danger zone and need help immediately.
In a Zendesk survey, 95% of respondents said they usually tell at least one other person about bad customer experiences. To make matters worse, over 50% indicated that they would tell at least five other people about negative experiences.
If your customer service audit reveals problems, fix them without delay – before it’s too late.
Want To Improve? We Can Help
At Insta Answer, we’re all about auditing customer service performance for our partners – we do it all the time. We understand the need to constantly monitor and improve our services, so that we can deliver the best possible experiences to our partner clients’ customers. And we’ve been doing it this way for more than 50 years.
When you partner with Insta Answer, you don’t have to worry if customer calls are being handled professionally and efficiently – we have you covered. After all, our business is only successful if yours thrives and benefits from great customer service. And, great customer service is something we do very well.
If you would like to find out how partnering with Insta Answer can help your service or maintenance business grow through improved customer service, please click here to contact us for a no-obligation, no-cost consultation. Alternatively, you can all us toll free at 877-631-9711. You’ll be glad you did.