August 18, 2020
min read

How to Create a Customer-Centric Business: Open Up Your Hours

Olaf Jacobson
Founder & Business Development, Soon

The one crucial step you should take to make your business customer-centric.

Let's start with what is actually customer-centric?

Client-centric, also known as customer-centric, is an approach to doing business that focuses on creating a positive experience for the customer by maximizing service and/or product offerings and building relationships. Investopedia

We see many customer support teams have opening hours of traditional office hours. Regularly Monday to Friday from 9 am till 6 pm. Sometimes with slightly longer hours till 10 pm or a few hours on Saturday as well.

Think outside the box, open up your business hours.

Yes, it makes sense that most companies have these hours, as these are the times that most people usually work. So it is also easier to find and retain qualified employees. However, there a couple of questions every service center should ask here:

  1. Does it make sense for our customers to contact us when we work?
  2. Or should we work when our customers want to contact us?

Most companies operate by the first statement. Yours probably does it as well. At Soon, we like to think outside the box, and we believe that the second approach is much more effective. So how do you become more customer-centric?

Be present when your customers are there

For each company, there are different times when their customers need you. If you run a B2B, it is probably during office hours, except if your customers are based in a different location and timezone. If your customers are mostly consumers, it is likely to be the exact opposite, maybe with a lunch break as the only exception.

Think about it, when do you really have time to:

  • Buy groceries online - after breakfast during the weekend
  • Look for a car, boat, bike - while binging Netflix
  • Search for a house and mortgage - before going to work
  • Compare insurance, mobile plans, energy contracts - while you are in the restroom
  • Make wedding arrangements - as the date comes closer
  • Sign up for a beer, wine or whiskey club - while drinking
  • Order diapers for your newborn - in the middle of the night

Exactly NOT during office hours! Therefore, in most of these companies, you'll find that customer support is unavailable precisely when you have the time to reach out to them. That doesn't look good, right?

How to know when your customers need you

This is the million euro question, and luckily there are very practical and simple first steps to take.

1. Analytics

If you've set up analytics on your website or app, you'll likely be able to see Users by the time of day or something similar. Take a look at the following image. You will see when people are active and need your assistance to help them make a decision about buying your product or service.

What you can see here is that in this example, evenings and weekends are clearly the best time to be online for this business, with Friday and Saturday evening being the absolute prime time for the service desk.

2. Email timestamps

Another quick way to learn when your buyers are active is to look at the times when they email you. This could be a bit skewed because they might only mail if you're not available on chat or phone. However, it does provide you the insights you need to understand when people are trying to reach you. You don't necessarily need to set up these new channels right away. You can also begin with small changes e.g., responding to emails at a time that you normally wouldn't. Nobody ever complained they got a reply too fast. ;)

3. Social posts

The timings when your customers mention you on social media can also reveal when they have time to interact with you. This is the best time to engage them, both through direct messages and public comments. Here you could also look at the analytics of the respective platform to get a high-level overview of the best times to be online.

*Additional benefit

You might discover times of low traffic, which can shift the way you schedule your CS team to match the demand for support. During these slow moments, your team can take care of other activities. You could also scale down the number of agents working and save them for peak moments.

Next steps

Ok, you've identified the times your customer base is most active, well done! Now you can create a new schedule that suits the behavior of your users. Then all that remains is adapting the way you operate to these new opening hours. Here are the top 3 actionable items to consider:

1. Ask around for the preferred working hours in your team

You might discover that some people would actually like to start work later during the day and don't mind taking a night shift. Allowing your team to pick and choose the working hours they prefer is a great way to increase employee productivity and happiness. It's simple yet effective. Actually, this is always good to ask from time to time as your employees' personal lives will also change. Better yet, have a process that allows your team to communicate their preferences to the planner. You might even consider implementing a self-scheduling system. Whichever you choose, doing so creates a continuous feedback loop in place to prevent frustrations around working hours in the first place. Doing so helps reduce employee turnover significantly.

2. Hire personalities that fit your shifts

Working early mornings or late at night isn't for everyone, so it really keeps this in mind when hiring new employees. If your business requires shifts that start early, you should get people that are naturally early risers. They will be energetic, on time, and, most importantly, not grumpy. The same goes for late-night shifts, and you want to get the night owls on your team to take care of those. Everyone has their circadian rhythm, which means you feel different throughout the day. Especially in customer service, it is important to be energetic and positive when in line. Your agents are the only human interaction between your customers will have with your company.

3. Diversify your team

Tying the previous two points together, you will want to have a diverse workforce in your customer support department. This probably holds for all kinds of aspects, for now, we'll focus on diversification in age. Throughout life, the earlier mentioned Circadian rhythm in humans changes.

Not only the biological aspect but also the social activities we engage in will change with different phases of our lives. You can imagine the different lifestyles between students, young adults, employees with young kids, older kids, and those who're heading towards retirement. Each group will have its own desired working hours that will benefit your CS department's operating hours.

We hope these points will benefit your customer service team. Do you take a different approach we did not consider? Let us know what works for you.

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