Good customer service doesn't fall from the sky onto your plate. You need the right ingredients to prepare a gourmet meal. Otherwise, you'll end up with an inferior dinner and a tummy ache. Below are recommendations for the right ingredients. Bon appetit!

Ingredient No. 1: Sensible outsourcing

If outsourcing is an option, choose a service provider that offers excellent customer service, industry expertise with high agent competency and a recognized quality record. Evaluate the service provider's strengths and weaknesses and clearly define which key performance indicators (KPIs) you want to achieve. You should never base your decision on the lowest price, but review the technology used, service offering, location and communication capabilities. This will give you a good insight into the service provider's capabilities, past work and reputation. You should also take a look at the company culture. We always recommend a site visit to get a feel for the project team and agents. Are the agents engaged and do they hold the same values. Make sure they share your vision and mission. Assessing quality may take some time, but it will be worth it.

Ingredient No. 2: Channel Integration

Customers need multiple channels to communicate with your company. A customer may be fine with one channel, but not with another. Therefore, communication channels should always be updated and enhanced with new contact options. Voice and phone are still important channels, but try to make the most of digital channels. Don't be afraid, but embrace them as an opportunity to provide exceptional voice and digital support. Evaluate what channels your target customers are using and communicate through those same channels. Interact in similar ways to show that you are in tune with your customers. Just make sure you don't build silos, but provide an omnichannel customer experience. Respond quickly across the new channels and your customers' trust and loyalty will grow.

Ingredient No. 3: Empower Agents

Agents are your face to customers. So the better they are, the happier your customers will be. It's a simple but effective formula. For your agents to exceed your customers' expectations, they need all the relevant information. A knowledge base is just as important as regular updates and coaching. To be clear: Coaching is not training. It's individualized feedback with a personalized approach to skill mastery. It will have an immediate impact because agents can put the specific feedback directly into practice. You should also empower agents with ownership so they are able to make their own decisions to solve problems and improve customer interactions. The mindset must be results-oriented. For this to work, agents need to understand your strategy. If you want to retain customers, the agent makes sure customer satisfaction is met, rather than watching the clock to meet the average turnaround time. They need to understand the big picture and how they can contribute to it. A combination of regular feedback and ownership will help your agent and customer support grow.

Ingredient No. 4: Personalize the Experience

In a digitally driven world, a personalized approach can make all the difference. That unexpected personalized email or handwritten note can set you apart from your competitors. It can also reinvigorate an old business relationship. It works great with both new and existing, loyal customers. Customers appreciate the time and effort you spend to write a heartfelt message, note or email. Add a personal touch to the customer experience. The latest marketing trend also revolves around personalization. And if you have to hand off a customer to another agent or manager, make sure the customer doesn't get the feeling of being left hanging. The agent should take the time to explain to their colleague what they've done, and always ask the customer for their current phone number or email address if the conversation is interrupted. The personal customer experience will have a big impact on your customer satisfaction.

Ingredient #5: Active Listening

What do your customers want most from your customer service? That they listen to you - really listen - especially when something has gone wrong. Whether you have an internal customer support team or an outsourced team, train them in the art of active listening - a task easier said than done. Listening well already solves half of customer problems. Ask your customer service team to listen and then reflect carefully. This is the key to effective communication. By developing this skill, you have the opportunity to gain a loyal customer.

In general, be open to your agents' suggestions as well. They get the mood and desires of the customer and can give you valuable advice to evolve your customer service from good to great.

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