5 Ways to Revamp Your Customer Service Team for 2021

With the new year in full swing, many businesses are deep into planning how they’ll take their organization to the next level. From budgets to strategy to process changes and more, 2021 is projected to be a year of major innovation across industries and businesses.

Whether you’re an early planner or just now realizing the new year is finally upon us, we’ve got you covered. We’re sharing 5 ways you can revamp and revitalize your customer service team for 2021 to set them up for a great year, no matter where they’re working from.

5 Ways to Revamp Your Customer Service Team for 2021

Lean Into Remote Work

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – remote work is here to stay.

New Forrester research predicts that by 2021, remote work will rise to 300% of what it was during pre-COVID 19 times, meaning that more people than ever before are working from the comfort of their homes. 

For many traditional call centers, this shift from in-person, communal workspaces to siloed agents at home may still feel like a challenge. But working remotely isn’t going anywhere.

Instead, team leaders, managers, and agents alike need to lean into the idea of remote customer service, and enable their team to be just as successful at home as they were on-site.

For team leaders and managers, focus on what you can do to enable, empower, and engage your customer service agents. Ramp up your customer service coaching program to show your team you’re invested in their individual success, and continue to recognize the hard work every agent puts in to delight your customers.

But, let’s be honest: it’s not just about work.

You don’t want to sacrifice your team’s relationships and culture just because you’re no longer working from the same space.

Keep your team’s culture alive even when you can’t see each other face-to-face with team happy hours, channels on your messaging platform for anything but work-related chatter, and encouraging collaboration where possible.

Invest In Your CX Tech Stack

Ever heard the phrase, “New year, new me”? That’s your tech stack talking.

The beginning of the year is a great opportunity for organization leaders to take a step back and take stock of the tools and software their teams utilize every day. But it’s not a decision to take lightly.

When it comes to your CX tech stack, here are some best practices for evaluating whether to keep a tool you already have or nix it for something new.

  • Usability – First and foremost, is this a tool your team actively uses? Do your agents sing the praises of certain technologies, and curse the day others were ever implemented? Maybe you’re utilizing a Frankenstein stack of tools for support tickets, live chat inquiries, call monitoring, and collecting customer feedback. If so, this year is the perfect time to explore solutions that will make your agent’s lives – and your reporting on progress – easier.
  • Flexibility – In most businesses today, change is inevitable. Whether your team grows or becomes more lean, your processes change, or you reorganize your internal structure, you need technology that’s going to change with you. Ensure that the tools you’re bringing into your CX tech stack are flexible to your needs and can scale with you.
  • Visibility – One of the key benefits of any software is the ability to extract, analyze, and gain insights from your data. This is not only important for communicating to business leaders and various stakeholders or executives about the success of your team, but critical for keeping a pulse on agent performance. If your current tools and technologies make it difficult to have visibility into all parts of your CX organization, it might be time to look for a new solution.
  • Cost – Last, but certainly not least, is factoring in how much certain tools are impacting your overall budget. Are you overspending, for example, on a tool with features you don’t utilize? Take this time to really evaluate where your dollars are going. That being said, don’t cut corners on cost for technology that will throw a wrench in your team’s workflow just to save a few bucks. Invest in the right solutions for your business and the tools that will set your agents up to be the most successful in their roles.

Customer service teams of all shapes and sizes, from the teams at ESPN to the agents at Harry’s, trust in their tech stack to improve service operations, enhance visibility for organization leaders, and keep their agents on track for their goals.

Focus on Soft Skills

More so than other roles, customer service and support requires a steady balance between hard and soft skills.

Your agents need to understand each tool in your tech stack, but they also need to have empathy to understand the customer’s situation, professionalism to interact with them in the appropriate tone, and effective communication to clearly explain company policies and protocols.

According to data from Indeed, there are 17 top customer service skills that are pivotal for success in a customer-facing role. Those skills are:

  • Active listening
  • Adaptability
  • Attentiveness
  • Conflict resolution
  • Creativity
  • Decision-making
  • Dependability
  • Effective communication
  • Empathy
  • Friendliness
  • Knowledge of your product or service
  • Open-mindedness
  • Patience
  • Quick thinking
  • Reading physical and emotional cues
  • Responsiveness
  • Timeliness

Now, you may be thinking, this is a great list! But because all of these are soft skills, they become much harder to track, quantify, and measure success against.

How can you report on improvements in patience, for example, or monitor how empathetic your agents are being during their customer interactions?

With Stella Connect, you can do just that.

Stella Connect captures customer feedback on agent performance after every service interaction, and enables businesses to customize their follow-up to measure against the metrics and results that matter the most to their team.

You can easily measure agent performance based on soft skills like professionalism, empathy, and clarity, then take those learnings and bring them into 1:1 meetings for more productive, impactful conversations.

Reevaluate How You Onboard New Agents

Onboarding in 2021 (and beyond) is going to look a lot different than it has in years past.

For many organizations, onboarding used to mean days of on-site sessions to train new team members on company tools, processes, structure, culture, benefits, and more. New hires would learn the ropes together, with their manager only a few desks away to answer any questions and get them started in their role.

The future of onboarding remote agents looks a bit different.

In that future, documentation reigns supreme.

If your processes, protocols, and policies are not clearly documented and made available to new hires, you set them up at a disadvantage from more senior members of the team.

Ensuring your team has documentation, like Frequently Asked Questions and recurring customer issues or objections, gives new agents a leg up from day zero. In times like this, an internal knowledge base or wiki is pivotal for their success.

It’s also pivotal for the success of your team that you onboard them with empathy.

Starting a new job, especially one where you’re flying solo, is tough. And with all of the processes to learn, technology to get a grasp of, and company information to digest, it can be easy for new agents to feel overwhelmed.

Make sure you’re regularly checking in with new team members as they get acclimated to your company and your team. Encourage them to ask questions, take the time they need to get up to speed, and hit the brakes when they need to.

Bring Customer Feedback Front and Center

In recent research, Boston Consulting Group has found that call center volume has increased by 14% for certain industries since March of 2019.

Customer service teams are in higher demand than ever before. At the same time, customer expectations are higher than they have ever been, while customer loyalty is dwindling. 

According to data from McKinsey, nearly 75% of consumers in the United States reported switching brands during COVID-19. The increased flexibility of purchasing online gives your customers a breadth of options that was unimaginable just a few years ago. 

As a result, it also means that if a customer is unhappy with your company, their purchase, or your team, they can just as easily switch to one of your competitors. 

With that in mind, it’s more important than ever for businesses to really invest in understanding how their customers feel about their brand by collecting customer feedback.

Customer feedback, particularly for customer service teams, is an invaluable asset.

It gives you direct insight into what your customers are thinking, how satisfied they are with your products or services, and how likely they are to recommend you to their peers.

And because your support team is the customer-facing branch of your organization, it is even more beneficial to collect agent-level feedback after each interaction.

Agent-level feedback is a game changer in a number of ways. 

On one hand, you gain more information about your customer’s experience with your brand right down to the individual at your company that they spoke to.

On the other, you unlock a treasure trove of first-hand customer feedback that you can use to coach, motivate, and recognize your agents based on their performance.

At the heart of Stella Connect are beautifully designed feedback requests sent to customers after every service interaction, giving you incredible, real-time visibility into customer satisfaction and the performance of your service team.

The constant flow of positive feedback shared through real-time streams will motivate your agents throughout their day, while negative customer feedback will empower your agents to course-correct after negative interactions.

We enable businesses to take the guesswork out of how their front-line service team is performing and determine exactly what’s working, and what areas need improvement. With up to 50% response rates, team leaders will have the performance insights they need to deliver real-time coaching.

When Williams-Sonoma partnered with Stella Connect to measure NPS—and drive improvements through real-time customer feedback and coaching for CX team members available through Stella Connect’s technology, the company managed to boost its NPS rating by 50%.

Bringing customer feedback to the forefront of your organization in 2021 is a win for your agents, a win for your team, and a win for your company.

Investing in Your Customer Service Strategy in 2021

While implementing better tools, processes, and practices are always great ways to kick off the new year, but these things shouldn’t be done without a concrete strategy behind them.

Get even more insight on how to create a killer customer service strategy and approach for your team in 2021 with our Customer Service Trends for 2021 report, full of actionable insights from CX leaders and consumers around the world.