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The key to a good office? Good tech.
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Technology is the second most important factor in providing great customer service. The most important is, of course, employees—people who have been hired appropriately for customer service, trained for customer service and aligned with your company’s purpose and values.
Yet without the right technology to support these employees, nobody’s going to be happy. Here are my top technology recommendations, the ones I find myself making most often as a customer service consultant.
A Great Headset: The Logitech H570e
One of my more homespun pieces of customer service advice is “Answer your phone!”—and do it in no more than three rings. Making a caller wait longer than that adds to their stress, according to studies relied on by the hospitality industry. Of course, employees will be more eager to grab those calls if you’ve equipped them with a headset that provides a clear connection and the physical comfort needed to face a long day on the phone.
My top headset recommendation is an old-school wired set, because the sound quality and connective reliability can’t be beat. Logitech offers some great wired options; my favorite is the Logitech H570e.
However, I do have trouble persuading some clients to go wired. For them, I recommend the gorgeous Jabra Engage 65. It sounds excellent, feels great and has the unmistakable stylishness of Danish design.
A Business Telephone System (VoIP) That Can Grow With You: Nextiva
No matter the size of your business, don’t hobble yourself by trying to run everything off your cellphone. What you need is an affordable VoIP (“voice over IP”) telephone system that provides clear audio, integrates with your other systems and delivers the functionality that will allow you to build and maintain a relationship with your customers.
Not all VoIP systems are right for all business situations, which is where review site getvoip.com comes to the rescue, allowing you to consider all the VoIP players and options in one place. For me, the phone system that I recommend most often is on my own desk and comes from Nextiva. Their systems work for even the smallest operation and will grow with you all the way to becoming an enterprise business.
“The more complex the situation, the more a Nextiva phone system shines,” says Anita Campbell, whose SmallBizTrends online publishing operation, with 2 million monthly visitors, is staffed by an internationally distributed workforce. “It allows each employee in disparate locations to have their own pro-level phone system, but integrated into one system shared by the rest of us.”
A POS (point of sale) system for retail operations: Lightspeed or MICROS
If you have a brick-and-mortar operation, the happiness of your customers depends in part on your POS (point of sale) technology, which is the modern and much-improved replacement for the traditional cash register.
For small and midsize businesses, a friendly option I recommend is the Lightspeed POS (see). For larger operations, a popular POS choice is one of the products in the lineup from MICROS, now a division of Oracle.
Buying a POS is best done through an integrator company like Accumula, which will install, configure and integrate it for you. This approach can help you build a paperless, no-queue setup, almost like an Apple Store in miniature.
A Videocam: the Logitech C920S HD Pro Webcam
To get closer to your customers than even your voice and digital connections allow, try connecting with them visually. You can offer customer support via live videochat, as Google has started deploying for its high-value customers. Video is also great for training and for customer support via social media as well: Sometimes the best response to a customer inquiry is to fire up your video camera and record a quick visual response, and then send a link to the recording back to your customer in a tweet. The Logitech C920S HD Pro Webcam is a great choice here, offering excellent video and decent audio.
A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System: Zoho CRM
A CRM is where you keep and manage your customer and prospect records up to the minute. CRM systems range from the completely dumbed-down (not necessarily a bad thing) to the extravagantly full-featured; these latter options are often, unfortunately, accompanied by an equally extravagant learning curve. One CRM option that strikes a balance is Zoho CRM, which is both feature-rich and relatively intuitive to use. (For a look at additional players and options in the CRM space, visit the insightful CRM.org website.)
A Social Media Customer Service Assistant: Sprout Social
This is cloudware that allows you to keep track of interactions with customers across all social media channels in one inbox (or multiple inboxes, if you want to distribute them to team members). One of the best options here is Sprout Social, about which Barry Moltz, a small business expert and serial entrepreneur, says, “I would hate to go to work each day without the type of perspective it provides.”
After all this tech talk, I want to pair these selections with the following advice: The most important customer service technology you have are your own two ears. Listening to customers and learning to speak to them in a way that engages them is more important than any hardware or software out there. One of the hardest times to listen to a customer is when they’re upset or disappointed. The AWARE method for customer service recovery is a free resource that you can print out for your office here.