Although all your employees are responsible for making and keeping your customers happy, at some point, you’ll have to set up a dedicated customer care team. As your business expands, this is the most efficient way to ensure the delivery of the best possible customer service.
This then begs the question; How do you build an excellent customer care team…from scratch?
Well, never fear, because we’re going to answer that very question here in this article. Let’s dive in!
- Define the functions and roles of your customer care team
- Attract top-notch talent
- Make good hiring decisions
- Nail your onboarding process
- Boost employee engagement
- Show employees you appreciate them
- Encourage career growth
1. Define the functions and roles of your customer care team
Before setting up a department specifically for customer service, consider its foundations and direction. Unsurprisingly, the primary purpose of your customer service team will hinge on your business model, target demographic, and niche.
This is where setting objectives for the unit come in handy. When done well, these work wonders for defining the role of the group and ensuring your recruits are on the same page from the get-go.
To help achieve that, ask yourself the following questions:
- • What exactly is your team going to do?
- • How will they connect with customers?
- • What role should the team serve?
- • Are there core issues the unit will handle? For instance, sales queries? Financial questions? Technical issues? Etc.
- • Will specific team members have roles that vary from one another? For instance, some of these roles might include — customer care agents, customer service engineers, customer service managers, etc.
- • Which of the business’s core values will drive your customer service?
Then use the answers to these questions to fuel the mission and intention of your customer care team, and also, to prepare for hiring key team members.
This process isn’t just essential for the staff in your customer service unit. It’s also vital for employees working in other departments. Everyone in your business needs to know the objectives of your soon-to-be customer service team. That way, they’re in a better position to utilize them, if and when an issue arises.
Who your customer service team are and how they work influences how the customers perceive your brand. You need to plan building your customer service department carefully to keep your customers happy.
2. Attract top-notch talent
The members of your customer care team are the ones most likely to deal with consumers directly. As such, it’s imperative you hire the best of the best, and to do that, you’ll need to attract high-quality talent.
To help you out, we’ve listed a few ways you can do that. For example:
- • Building and maintaining a strong employer brand
- • Designing a new recruitment campaign
- • Writing inclusive job descriptions
When it comes to building a robust employer brand, here are a couple pieces of advice:
First off, market everything you offer as an employer – show your employee value proposition. A lot of companies fail to do this, but it’s a crucial aspect of developing your employer brand.
For instance, do you pay for and encourage workers to further their education? Do you offer impressive benefits? What about ‘fun’ things like casual Fridays or work socials? Whatever perks you offer employees, let candidates know about it!
In addition to that, start promoting your company culture. One of the easiest ways to achieve this is to create and use a hashtag dedicated to your employer brand. Utilize this by encouraging your team to use the hashtag on their own social media profiles. For instance, are you having an office party to celebrate a birthday? If so, take some pics, publish them online, and insert the hashtag!
For example, check out how Zappos is doing it with their hashtag #zapposculture on Instagram.
3. Make good hiring decisions
It’s not enough just to attract talent, you also have to make smart hiring decisions.
There are several things you can do to up the chances of hiring high-quality applicants for your customer care team.
For instance, you can screen the candidates you invite for an interview based on their relevant characteristics, skills, and experience.
There are a few specific customer service characteristics to look out for. If several of these characteristics jump out from the prospect’s application, they’re probably worth interviewing:
- • Empathy, and patience. Your customer care team needs to appreciate that each customer is different. This requires a high degree of understanding and patience, even in frustrating situations.
- • Flexibility. The candidate needs to be ready to adapt to new situations. They’ll be faced with a variety of problems, some of which require fast thinking to achieve a successful resolution.
- • Excellent communication. It stands to reason, customer care employees need the skills to discuss complicated issues in a way that’s clear and concise. This is especially true if your customer care unit provides technical support.
- • A hard worker. Providing top-notch customer service is tough. You’ll have to face a myriad of awkward situations while staying positive at all times.
- • The ability to take things with a pinch of salt. Customer care agents need to comfortable swallowing their pride, which often is easier said than done. As cliché as it sounds, the customer is, indeed, always right… even when they’re painfully in the wrong. This means having the determination and demeanor to help disgruntled customers without belittling them.
Next, when you’re ready to interview your shortlist, it’s essential to ask the right questions.
In addition to utilizing questions to assess the aptitude of the prospect, also ask things that reveal if your shortlisted candidate’s personality aligns with the company’s values.
To help you out, we’ve listed a few of our favorite ‘must-ask’ interview questions. These are specifically designed for screening potential customer support employees:
What attracted you to customer service?
Generally, you should open the interview with a question like this. If the candidate isn’t passionate about customer service, they’re simply not the right fit.
The applicant should express a willingness and natural desire to go the extra mile to help people. Prospects that have a knack of empathizing with others as well as a ‘happy disposition,’ are typically the kinds of employees who excel in customer care.
Ideally, when answering this question, the prospect should acknowledge that customer service isn’t just about resolving one problem after another. Instead, it’s about diligently satisfying the needs of each and every customer.
What does good customer service mean to you?
Look for answers indicating that your candidate is willing to go above and beyond to exceed the customers’ expectations.
How would you handle XYZ?
Providing applicants with a real-life customer support scenario is an excellent way to test whether the candidate has what it takes to do the job justice.
As they walk you through how they would handle the situation, pay careful attention to the following:
- • Is the candidate empathetic?
- • Are they asking appropriate questions?
- • Are they showing a willingness to be proactive?
- • Would their solution have successfully solved the issue?
- • What tone of voice are they using?
To improve your customer experience, you also need to hire high-performing customer care employees. Optimizing your selection process will help you get the best talent in.
4. Nail your onboarding process
If you haven’t already, it’s time you refined and improved your onboarding process.
Here’s a quick blueprint for you:
- Start with pre-boarding
- Create a memorable ‘Day 1’ experience
- Create a training schedule
- Set new hires’ job expectations
- Set your KPIs
Your onboarding process can start before the first day with pre-boarding. Provide your new hires with basic information about your company and its culture to ease the stress they feel before starting their new role.
And once they start, make sure your new hires remember their first day. For example, John Deere, a leading machinery and heavy equipment manufacturer, has designed a special “John Deere’s First Day Experience” to create a special moment for their newbies and to kickstart employee engagement. Have workstations ready for your new customer care team members, welcome them with a small gift and prepare a training schedule for them to follow.
However, your new hires also need to understand right from the start what you expect of them and how they can achieve that. That’s why setting KPIs in the onboarding process is of crucial importance.
This means setting clear objectives for both the team and individuals to attain. When you set goals for employees from the very beginning, they’re more likely to perform better — which stands to reason, right?
But, don’t just set any old objective, these targets have to be measurable. As you’re compiling a list of potential goals, identify which metrics are the most important for evaluating the success of your customer service strategy. This will not only help you improve your customer service in the long run but also help set expectations and goals for your customer care team.
And did you know that employees whose managers help them set performance goals are 158% more likely to be engaged?
5. Boost employee engagement
Engaged teams perform better. Studies show that disengaged employees cost businesses an average of $450 to 500 billion each year!
So, if you’re not already, start actively looking for ways to better engage your employees.
Here are a few suggestions:
Provide regular, helpful, and positive feedback. It stands to reason you have to reaffirm your employees when they do something right. After all, you want to encourage good work, and frankly, providing positive feedback is one of the easiest and cheapest ways of achieving that.
Promote continuous learning. Not only does this encourage employees to better engage with their work, but it’s also an opportunity to develop the skills of your customer care team (more specifically, the ones we listed earlier) and provide even better service to your customers.
Again, this is just another win-win scenario!
In terms of training, you’ll want to take a two-pronged approach:
- Providing further education about your business’ product or services
- Presenting materials and instructions on how to develop soft skills. For instance, how to convey empathy through the careful choice of our words.
A quick Google search populates tons of self-development tools you can use to help train your customer care team. This just goes to show, you don’t have to shell out loads of money to further the education of your employees.
Take the opinions of workers seriously. We all want to feel like we have a voice, so extend the same courtesy to your employees. Go ahead and ask for suggestions. You can’t go wrong with the tried and test ‘ideas box.’ Again, this is an effortless yet cheap way to engage with your team.
Who knows, maybe these suggestions will also improve your company culture and/or the standard of the team’s customer service? Either way, it’s worth trying!
Engaged employees will not only stay with your company longer, they will also boost your business.
6. Show employees you appreciate them
Your staff is far more likely to provide their best work when you give them recognition. We all respond to praise because we want to know we’re doing a good job — it’s universal human nature.
There are tons of ways to show employees appreciation, but here are a couple of suggestions:
Praise individual talents. Take this a step further by brainstorming with the team how best to utilize the gifts of each individual. This is a surefire way of communicating that you appreciate each and every one of the members of your customer care department.
Secondly, and it almost goes without saying, celebrate team achievements. Again, there are hundreds of ways to mark the success of your team. This could be as extravagant as a party or as simple as a handwritten thank-you note. You know your employees and your employer brand best, so do what feels appropriate for your organization.
7. Encourage career growth
It doesn’t matter whether it’s vertical or horizontal growth, try to promote the internal mobility and career development of your employees. There’s nothing more disheartening than feeling you’re stuck in a dead-end job.
This is where the enticement of job progression comes into its own. It’s essential for inspiring and motivating your customer care agents to deliver their best work.
A great example is loaning customer care employees to other departments. That way, not only does the customer care employee get to develop their skills, but you’ll simultaneously add value to other areas of your company.
With all that being said, don’t forget to be realistic about what you can really offer. Setting nonsensical job expectations only cause disappointment and disillusion in the long run — which neither you nor your staff want!
Businesses constantly implement new technologies to improve their customer experience, which means that customer care employees also need to learn to work with new tools and gain new skills. This can provide horizontal career growth opportunities for your team members.
Ready to start building a fabulous customer care team?
Having read this article, you now have a better idea of how to create a top-notch customer care team. It all starts with finding and hiring the right people for the job. But once you’ve made those hires, you’ll need to work hard to keep employees engaged and satisfied as they progress through their customer service careers.
Of course, maintaining an outstanding team doesn’t end there. You also need to equip employees with the right tools and empower them to perform to the very best of their abilities.
Make sure you don’t only hire the best people but that you also make it worthwhile for them to stay. In the long term, this works out best for everyone concerned!