Support Leaders Talk: How To Define Customer Service Quality

Customer Service6 MIN READFeb 24, 2020

Support Leaders Talk: How To Define Customer Service Quality

Customer service quality is the focal point for all ambitious companies in 2020. Every third customer will abandon the brand they love after a single negative support interaction, leaving little room for mistakes and lousy support.

Companies that take customer service seriously also know that quality support interactions come with impeccable rewards - improved customer retention, increased upsells and boosted business results in general. Sounds good, right?

However, before starting to work on your support performance, you must understand what you want to achieve. Take a step back to reflect on what ‘support quality’ means for your company: Is it a timely answer, a friendly chat, a resourceful monologue, or perhaps a combination of them?

To give you a better perspective of what’s happening in the field of support quality these days, we talked to some of the most knowledgeable industry leaders from companies like Adobe, HubSpot, Vimeo, Ericsson, and Workable.

Here’s what support leaders believe constitutes high-quality customer service. Notice how all five companies define support quality through different perspectives.

However, bear in mind that there is no right or wrong in internal quality standards. Your team’s criteria depend on your company and your customer support goals.

Ease of Use

Defining support quality by how easy it is for customers to find answers to their questions either from self-help or support agents, is quite a common practice.

“Quality customer-facing interactions provide an easy, efficient way for customers to find what they need while feeling engaged and understood.”\ Akshobhya Mann, Sr. Director Global Customer Care and Support at Ericsson

Many support teams measure their ‘ease of use’ with Customer Effort Score (CES). It’s a customer survey focusing specifically on the question of how difficult it was for customers to find the help they needed. Customers rate their experience on the scale of “very difficult” to “very easy” and teams get an average score of customer effort.

Defining support quality through the ease of use makes the most sense for companies aiming to improve their customer loyalty, as CES often correlates with customer loyalty. The easier you can make the experience for your customers, the more likely they are to stick around.

Quick Responses

Most customer support teams measure their performance in different time-related metrics. Depending on the company and its customer service goals, giving quick responses to customers’ inquiries can be the most important quality issue to nail.

“My definition for quality CS interaction is, first and foremost, a quick response.”\ Nir Ben-Ari, Head of Customer Support at Vimeo Israel

First Response Time (FRT) and Average Handle Time (AHT) are the most popular metrics to track when keeping an eye on the minutes and hours your customers have to wait for help when contacting your support team. A timely first response that reassures customers that you are working on their question and a quick resolution to their problem are the keys to success in this category.

Getting a fast answer might not drive customer satisfaction on its own, but it sure has the power to kill your CSAT if you fail to deliver speedy responses. Acceptable response times are usually seen as an enabler of high customer satisfaction scores.

Driving Product Engagement

More and more companies are starting to look beyond simply giving answers to customers’ questions and instead, use support interactions as guidance to increase product engagement. This will have a positive impact on your customer loyalty and retention.

“I would define a quality interaction as one where I don’t just troubleshoot their problem or answer their question in a binary fashion, but one where I know they’ll be able to solve a similar question for themselves in the future and to think more strategically about our product so that their own organization can grow better - with HubSpot.”

Davis Mastin, Senior Customer Success Manager at HubSpot

There are certain techniques that help support teams drive product engagement in their customer interactions. Following the “Yes, and…” principle is the easiest way agents can introduce relevant underused features and product updates to drive further product adoption.

Enhanced product engagement will not just do wonders to your existing customers’ retention rates but also pay off with your trial users. For example, Help Scout’s support-driven growth initiative resulted in a 42% trial-to-paying conversion rate among the highly engaged users.

Driving Business Results

Great customer service isn’t always measured with direct customer service metrics. There are numerous companies who define their support quality through the success of their customers’ business results.

“I define the quality of interactions as 'in what measurable way did the time/activity/conversation/etc. we had as part of that interaction directly impact the customer's business goal and/or KPI that's driving a particular business objective.’ In other words, did the interaction(s) directly drive their business forward?”\ \ Sirous Wadia, Director of Customer Success at Adobe

Though it might be difficult to track your customers’ success in numbers, you can use qualitative approaches to understand how they’re doing. Customer feedback and internal conversation reviews will give insight into how your support team is helping your customers succeed.

Luckily, your efforts to boost customers’ business results will reward your company too. 84% of companies that focus on providing excellent customer experience say that improved CX increases their revenue.

Combination of Aspects

Not all companies’ quality definitions can be boiled down to a single criterion. Many businesses see support quality as a combination of multiple rules and standards.

“I would define quality in the following points: technical accuracy, appropriate style and tone of voice, customer education, and correct workflow.”\ Anastasia Tatarinoff, Customer Support Team Lead at Workable

A study conducted by Klaus in 2019 revealed that 62% of the customer service teams that conduct internal quality reviews check their support interactions against 3 quality criteria. So, defining the company’s support quality as a combination of aspects is something we can see in many different companies.

Based on the study, the most popular rating categories on support teams’ scorecards are the correctness of the solution, empathy and tone, and product knowledge are. These align quite well with what Anastasia Tatarinova from Workable pointed out.

Customer-centricity

We also see more and more companies using a customer-centric approach as an umbrella strategy. This reflects all different quality criteria, based on what matters most to the customer.

“It may sound obvious, but if you truly are customer-centric, all the actions that you will put in place to serve your customers will have a strong impact on your communications.”\ Marion Lemoine, Customer Success Manager at HubSpot

A customer-centric approach allows you to define what support quality means in a specific customer’s context. That’s especially useful for companies whose users come with very different needs and expectations.

For example, quick solutions could be paramount for time-sensitive services, while some customers need more dedicated time and resources to fulfill their expectations. Narrowing your support down to specific communication patterns could harm the quality of your customer service.

All support leaders agree that customer service quality is an essential part of successful businesses. However, depending on the company and its customer service goals, the definitions of what support quality means varies from company to company.

There’s no “one size fits all” solution in customer service quality. There are companies who see the most value in investing in easy-to-use self-help while others focus on driving product engagement and business results through support interactions. It’s important to know what works best for your business and focus your efforts there.

Conversation reviews can provide you an excellent insight into how well your team is progressing towards your goals. Regular internal evaluations and measuring your Internal Quality Score help you to analyze your team’s performance against your company’s defined quality criteria.

If you’re looking for ways to roll out conversation reviews in your support team, give Klaus a go. It’s the quickest way to gain control over your support quality and improve the service - trusted by companies like WordPress.com, Wistia, Geckoboard, and others.

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