5 wooden blocks, each expressing a different level of customer satisfaction, starting with a frownie face on the left and ending with a smiley face with starry eyes on the right

Creating a Customer Response Blueprint to Answer the Tough Questions, Part 2

How to handle technical outages, media and investor calls, social media comments and 10 customer service mistakes to avoid

To reiterate part 1 of this two-part customer response blueprint series, customer service is your subscription company’s primary interace to your subscribers, so how you manage customer service is critical to ensuring that your subscribers’ experiences with you are positive. Almost everything you say and do will impact how your subscribers perceive you, including the specific answers you give to their questions, the speed and accuracy of your answers, and the tone your customer service reps use with your subscribers.

To help support your customer service team, we like to prepare them for common questions, using a customized customer response blueprint that clarifies our policies and prepares our customer service reps for the issues that inevitably arise.

In the second article of our series, we’ll take a look at:

  • Technical outages
  • Media and investor calls
  • Social media comments
  • 10 customer service mistakes to avoid

Customer response blueprint

A customer response blueprint is something that you and your team can use to prepare for frequently asked questions, ranging from the simple to the complex. Developing a customer response blueprint helps you think through potential issues, questions, and situations you might face, documenting them, what your standard responses will be, and what the workflow will be when an issue needs to be escalated. A good customer response blueprint also includes links and other documentation that might be needed to address specific situations.

For example, if a customer service rep has to follow up with a subscriber via email or text, it can be helpful to develop a script in advance, so your customer service rep isn’t crafting a new message every time a situation occurs.

Creating a customer response blueprint takes time, but it is time well spent. The time you invest in creating the blueprint will save you time when dealing with customers. It will also ensure that your customer service team is prepared for specific situations, so they feel confident and so that all customers receive consistent, accurate information.

Ultimately, a customer response blueprint is a huge time saver for your team, it provides consistent, well-thought-out responses to customers, and it gives you and your team a game plan if things don’t go as expected. Continuing our discussion from last week, here are some common issues and questions that may arise.

A customer response blueprint can help prepare your customer service team for any situation.
Source: Envato Elements

Technical outages

We’ve all heard the horror stories online and maybe even dealt with one ourselves – when our favorite App Store, cloud application, or streaming service goes out down for whatever reason. It is inevitable but no less frustrating for your subscription company and for your subscribers. Think through how you might handle such a situation by asking yourself these questions:

  • When will we communicate to our subscribers and how? What’s the best channel of communication or are multiple channels of communication more effective? (Keep in mind that if you go the multichannel route, your customer service team should prepare to address questions and feedback on each channel you use. If you can only monitor one, then choose that channel.)
  • You don’t ever want to blindside your customer service team. When should your technical or product team reach out them to let them know what’s happening? For example, a minute-long outage would be very different than an outage that lasts an hour or more. My suggestion is to define levels of outages of your products and services, and determine actions based on those levels for your internal team members and externally to your subscribers.
  • If the outage is of any significant length at all, or if it has impacted a sizable, apologize. Regardless of whose fault it is, your subscribers want to know you are aware of the problem, and you are sorry for their inconvenience. Let them know when it will be fixed, or when it was fixed. For major outages, a blog post or timeline with regular updates can be helpful.
Source: Envato Elements

Media and investor calls

Having a customer response blueprint will come in handy when your customer service team receives media inquiries or calls from investors. Make sure your customer service team has a protocol. For example, your customer response blueprint should tell your customer service reps who to forward media inquiries to. Maybe it is the Chief Marketing Officer or someone else on the leadership team. Investor calls, on the other hand, might be directed to the Chief Financial Officer or perhaps go straight to the Chief Executive Officer.

You might also consider preparing a script, so they know what to say. For example, if ABC Magazine calls to ask about your company’s remote work policy, the script might recommend:

“Thank you, Ms. Reporter, for reaching out. That’s a great question, and I want to be sure I get you to the right person. May I have your name, number and email address to pass along? What’s your deadline for a response? I will be sure to share that information along with your contact details.”

View Of Staff In Busy Customer Service Department
Source: Envato Elements

Social media comments

This is something we have all witnessed on social media. Situations can get out of hand quickly for companies. A few weeks ago, a frustrated customer who had their flight canceled at the last minute during a holiday weekend tweeted at Delta for a status update. Delta’s response? “Can you calm down and allow me some time to work please?”

That tweet from Delta received 5,705 retweets, 4,901 quote tweets and 35.8K likes. I’m pretty sure Delta was not expecting that response from their customer service rep, and they had to handle the fallout, and unwanted media attention.

How could they have handled it differently? By better preparing their customer service staff with appropriate responses, relief if they were stressed and overworked, extra support, etc.

  • Think through standard responses.
  • At what point do you flag comments that are beginning to escalate?
  • What should your customer service reps do who on the leadership team needs to be involved when a situation is escalating?

These are BIG ITEMS for you to think through that will help you build a solid foundation for your customer service blueprint.

Young woman wearing white top and black jewelry types on smartphone, signifying customers who post frustration to social media.
Source: Envato Elements

Bonus – 10 Customer Service Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Making it difficult to find help.Some subscription businesses offer free trials, with automatic billing at the end of the trial. But when a subscriber tries to unsubscribe, they find it nearly impossible to complete the process. Links and phone numbers are nowhere to be found, online processes are cumbersome and confusing, and they sometimes even require a faxed or mailed request for discontinuance – all for an online subscription! Subscribers may cancel for a variety of reasons, but only rarely do they cancel because of disgust with your company or product. Don’t give them a reason to feel this way.
  2. Not empowering the team. A customer service team that must continuously request an approval to resolve issues causes poor internal morale as well as provides poor customer service. It also creates a sense of unease with the customer. If a company’s leadership doesn’t trust the person answering the phone to put through a small billing credit, for example, why is that person working in customer service?
  3. Assuming you know what customers define as “good service.” Customers have different ideas of what “good service” means. Some like being able to call, while others vastly prefer online chat. Some don’t mind paying for priority helpdesk services, and others do. While you can’t establish policies and practices for every individual customer, listen to your subscriber base as a whole and tailor your methods to their preferences. Performing point-of-service surveys is a good way to gather this information.
  4. Over-surveying/aggressive surveying. On the other hand, popping in a survey every time your subscribers visit your FAQ page, or worse, badgering them for a high mark, will backfire. Asking for input is a delicate balance between caring and harassment.
  5. Secrecy. Not communicating changes and why to your customers will result in a bad impression. A better way to handle a lack of communication is flipping the script through TRANSPARENCY. In November 2015, Microsoft announced that, as a result of a few customers vastly overusing its free and unlimited OneDrive service, it would be setting a cap on most accounts and offering paid options for larger storage limits. While these changes took something away from existing customers, the announcement provided reasons for the change, a schedule for the changeover, and several other subscription options. The transparency of the decision is admirable.
  6. Ignoring “buy” signals. What if a customer isn’t calling to complain, but wants to purchase? Many customer service reps choose their career path because they enjoy helping customers but hate to sell and can miss sales opportunities by sending customers off to a salesperson’s voicemail instead of just closing the deal. Be sure to train agents to listen for buying signals and give them the tools to close a sale when appropriate.
  7. Sending them back to the website or creating an endless LOOP. Customers call because they want to speak to a person, or they email a rep because they want a personal response. They may not have exhausted all the online help options, or even tried them, but help is something you offer on your subscriber’s terms.
  8. Not apologizing. You don’t have to agree with a customer’s position to sincerely apologize, nor does an apology imply that you are at fault. Taking responsibility for resolving the customer’s problem begins with empathy, and empathy begins with “I’m sorry.”
  9. Arguing with customers. Even if you’re addressing extreme rudeness with real facts, arguing with a customer will end only one way: you may win the argument, but you will lose the customer. If allowed to have their say, most loud or rude customers will lose steam after a few minutes of extreme behavior. It can also be helpful to remember that the extreme point of view the customer has may be the result of fear or disappointment. Perhaps they couldn’t access an article needed for an important presentation, or the gift subscription bought for a loved one wasn’t what was expected. In any case, answering rude behavior with equally rude behavior is not an option.
  10. Rudeness. This seems incredibly self-evident, but 42% of customers leave buying relationships because they are put off by rude or unhelpful staff. Particularly in person and on the phone, rudeness and sarcasm are very easy to detect. Patience and good humor are as important as any skill in a customer service rep.
Side view of diverse customer service executive trainer assisting her team at desk in office
Source: Envato Elements

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