1. Product Training
It cannot be overstated how critical it is that your customer service reps, at a minimum, know your product offering. A basic understanding of the features and benefits of your major categories is essential. PlumberSurplus.com has had great success with the creation of training content that is available to customer service reps and customers via our online learning center. We’ve included How-To Guides, Buying Guides, and Videos. In addition, we record video for all internal product training sessions and post it to our company intranet.
2. Sales Training
Beyond basic telephone skills and scripts, it is important that your customer service reps are given appropriate, ongoing sales training. This includes cross-selling and upselling techniques, current and upcoming marketing and merchandising efforts, and tips for handling angry or difficult customers.
3. A Fast Internet Connection
Any e-commerce employee will tell you how frustrating it is to be faced with unnecessary internet slowing. This is especially true as more and more applications transition from desktop to web apps and more businesses utilize hosted solutions.
4. Two or More Available Phone Lines
Your reps will inevitably be faced with the need to call UPS or FedEx while the customer is on hold. Your customers will demand information in real time that requires a phone call. Your reps will too.
5. Decision-making Guidelines
If you don’t give your customer service reps at least a little bit of decision making latitude, they will not feel empowered to do their job.
Any e-commerce employee with 43 distinct login names and passwords will tell you what a pain it is to keep track of all of them. Roboform is a password manager, form filler, and password generator. This little gem is a huge time saver and comes in a few different flavors. There is a free version that allows for up to 10 passcards, or a Pro version that retails for $39.90 with two licenses.
7. Dual Monitors
This may seem like a superfluous luxury, but having the extra real estate can really make a difference. A typical e-commerce customer service rep doesn’t work with a single application. Usually they’ll have multiple web browsers, some backend or CRM application, email, and maybe instant messaging open at any give time. Give your reps another monitor. It’s cheap, it will save them time and they will love you for it. Keep in mind, though, that you will need a secondary graphics card; these are also very cheap.
8. Your Time
As a customer service manager or supervisor your time is extremely valuable. However, it is imperative that you make yourself available to your reps. Often a customer service role can be unforgiving with spurts of angry or upset customers. Your department’s morale will benefit greatly from your accessibility.
9. Collaboration Tools
Your customer service reps need to be able to share information with one another easily. Give them access to tools that make it easy for them to communicate and work together. Google Docs & Spreadsheets has helped us a great deal, and it doesn’t cost you anything.
10. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Tools
CRM is the process by which a company stores, tracks, and analyzes customer experience data. You don’t have to go out and buy a unified SAP solution to give your reps CRM tools. Even a small e-commerce business can take advantage of inexpensive, but highly useful tools like SugarCRM or LivePerson. SugarCRM is an open source CRM platform that is available for free; although there will be costs associated with development, deployment, and training. SugarCRM also offers paid solutions, depending on needs. LivePerson, widely known as a chat solution, is also a useful tool for communicating with customers via email and phone. LivePerson, at a minimum, will allow your customer service reps to chat with customers and track email history with your customers via an email ticketing system. LivePerson’s small business package is licensed per seat, but it is well worth the cost.
11. Instant Messaging (IM)
Many companies have debated internally about the implementation of IM because of privacy and productivity. In e-commerce, it is almost a necessity. Try to communicate a URL to a fellow customer service rep over the phone. Waiting for an email to come across can be frustrating. IM makes it easier and faster to communicate some things. Your reps will frequently need quick information from other reps for help, the warehouse for an update, your marketing team for promotional clarification, etc.