Zappos.com weathered the dot-com bust by focusing less on attracting new customers and concentrating more on retaining old ones. Word about the service-friendly business spread quickly, and the number of repeat customers increased. It introduced free shipping long before it was a common business practice, and the company continues to go above and beyond for customers.”
And the benefits of good customer service aren’t reserved for big companies; small businesses also reap the rewards. See the top businesses providing excellent customer service!
According to customer service statistics, 78% of US consumers consider customer service when deciding whether to do business with a company over its competitors.
These data points tell us 3 things: great customer service creates loyal consumers, differentiates you from the competition, and boosts your bottom line!
But what exactly does great customer service mean and how do you actually provide it? Let’s dive in and find out.
What is Great Customer Service?
Well, let’s put it this way:
Good customer service is to friendliness as great customer service is to treating your customers like friends. It all comes down to going the extra mile, going out of your way, and going above and beyond your duties to satisfy and excite your customers.
If that seems a bit esoteric, then we can offer another definition. This one comes from a study conducted by Zendesk. They interviewed 1,000 consumers and asked them what good customer service looks like.
The #1 answer? The problem was resolved quickly.
The takeaway here is that reps should approach customers with the same attitude as Vanilla Ice, “If there’s a problem, yo, I’ll solve it!” That’s what customers ultimately want: someone who’s ready and willing to do whatever it takes to resolve their issues.
The #2 and #3 answers were also revealing. The 2nd biggest factor in good customer support was receiving help from a nice agent, and the 3rd factor was the problem being resolved by one person, instead of the customer being passed around to multiple reps.
So to recap, customers want 3 things from you:
- Quick resolution.
- Nice people.
- And a problem solved by one person.
How can you improve and deliver this level of customer service?
The best customer service doesn’t depend on one rogue agent who goes above and beyond, it depends on the entire organization committing to principles and codes of conduct.
These “customer service rules” should dictate every interaction with each patron and shopper. Below, we list 5 tips for providing excellent customer service you can implement immediately.
1. Train Great Customer Service Reps
You can’t have exceptional customer service without properly trained representatives who know how to satisfy customer demands quickly and patiently.
Essentially, you need to develop a top-down culture of respect and courtesy for every customer, especially those who are demanding, crude, and hard to satisfy. Here are some de-escalation techniques you want to train your customer service representatives to start.
Each customer service representative should have the knowledge, resources, and attitude to satisfy customer demands on their own (within the bounds of their responsibilities, security access, and so on).
Role-playing scenarios, instructor-led training, and text and video instruction should all be used to prepare your reps for easy and difficult customers alike.
2. Fulfill Your Promises
One of the key customer service guidelines you should live by is, that if you make a promise to a customer, like a friend, you should fulfill it. Unfulfilled promises are hard to forget, especially when the customer can easily take their business to one of your competitors.
Reliability is an essential part of a positive relationship. If you promised to deliver flowers before 11 am on Valentine’s Day, make sure it happens at all costs. If you can’t deliver on your promise, then don’t make it.
Breaking promises is far worse than never making one in the first place.
3. Listen, Don’t Just Talk and Sell
Being great means delivering simple customer service, which can be boiled down to one word:
Listen as if your job depends on it (and for customer service reps, it does). If you don’t understand a customer’s point of view -their entire problem and their emotional state – you’re doing them and yourself a disfavor.
Problem resolution, much like conflict resolution, depends on seeing the issue clearly and exactly. Listening is a skill just the same as writing or reading. And there are specific ways to become a better listener.
To deliver great customer service, your team will be willing to pause, understand, and reflect on what a customer is truly telling them and respond with empathy and kindness.
4. Respond Promptly
It’s no secret that customers want a response from companies at lightning speeds. They’re impatient and want their complaints heard and recognized almost instantaneously. And the research bears this out.
According to a survey of more than 1,200 consumers conducted by Toister Performance Solutions, Inc., “Businesses should target a response time standard of one hour, with 15 minutes representing world-class service.”
If you can respond to inquiries that fast, you’ll have 80% satisfied customers.
Understandably, this isn’t always feasible. Nevertheless, it should be the goal if great customer service is your mission.
5. Answer Phone Lines with a Live Person (and Don’t Leave Customers Waiting on Hold)
There are many factors contributing to this loss of revenue but one of the major reasons is poor issue resolution over the phone. Here’s the situation:
- 70% of customers choose to call a business for a quick answer.
- 58% of customers prefer calling over other forms of communication.
But customers call businesses…
- 55% of them say not being able to speak to a real person right away is the top reason they dislike calling companies.
- 49% of them hate repeating the same info to multiple reps.
- And 41% of them hate being put on hold.
In fact, consumers will wait only 11 minutes on hold before hanging up. And if customers have a single terrible experience, 51% of them will never use that company again. What’s the biggest reason for switching from one business to another?
Of course, if a customer has a positive experience, 65% of them will tell others about that company.
The bottom line is this: provide superior customer service using real, live reps over the phone and listen, listen, listen.
6. Keep It Personal Through Tech
Customer service is all about relationships, and many customer service tools can help you establish the trust that’s needed for a good relationship.
Start with your website and its ability to capture details when someone visits. You can capture cookies, tracking pixels, and login details automatically to help you understand a little bit of demographic data and start to narrow the initial support you provide. If you’re also tracking phone numbers and emails, then you will know who is contacting you and can pull up their file or past concerns more quickly.
Customers who interact with you are willing to give some information for a better service, so consider this when you make the ask. This messaging doesn’t have to be dour.
Please tell us your name, so we get it right, because no one likes to be treated like a coffee cup.
When your team transitions to providing the actual support, they’ll want to tailor the solution as much as possible. Often, that means answering the same questions as always but getting the person’s name right. However, sometimes you’re addressing novel problems.
When something new or complicated comes up, screen record your thoughts and actions that occur as you provide support using a webcam recorder or free screen recorder. This gives you a chance to share it with other agents for assistance or to share it with the customer to prevent an issue from happening a second time.
Remember, more than 80% of customers have churned because they experienced poor customer service. Respond quickly and be amiable, using all the trust-building tips you know – like getting the customer’s name right every time! See how to use good customer service to prevent customer churn!
7. Use Photos and Video to Keep Things Clear
Show don’t tell is a leading piece of advice that all your favorite books, TV shows, movies, and online communications. It’s what makes us jump right into the action of a film, where we see what’s happening and the new world, instead of trying to read about it in a dark room.
Bring this philosophy to your customer service department too. Want to know why you need to use videos (esp) in customer support?
Visuals and video sharing make it easy for people to follow along, which is why many support systems online are now adding Zoom and other meetings. People get to see the steps that are required right now, instead of reading a help ticket or FAQ that could be out of date. Seeing makes it easy to repeat these steps.
8. Highlight Product Reviews and Case Studies
Customers – B2B and B2C – all want to know what your other customers think. They want to see experiences and hear the results, so they have an idea of what to expect. Think of the last time you used Yelp to check out a restaurant or left a review of a hotel on a travel site. Many people like writing reviews or participating in case studies, but many, many more read those reviews.
BrightLocal, which does an annual survey on the topic, found that 86% of all consumers read reviews, and this jumps up to 95% for people aged 18 to 34 looking at local businesses. The average buyer will read 10 online reviews before they feel like they can trust you.
Numbers are just as high in the B2B space, with estimates ranging from 85% to 92% of customers looking for reviews, testimonials, and case studies.
Many customer service teams realize this, but what can be buried in the data is that nearly 90% of people will read your responses to reviews. So, when a customer writes something on your site, respond. Share these.
If someone contacts your customer service team about an issue, share when customers had similar experiences, good or bad.
It’s hard to share a bad experience or review, but it’s necessary. Your customers will find them, with or without you. But through proactive customer support, you can control the conversation. Show when someone didn’t get what they expected and how you responded. Customer service is often about solving problems, to demonstrate how you do just that. Here are more tips on providing proactive customer service!
Your most powerful review or case study may end up being one where a customer had an issue, you responded with a solution, and the customer then turned a 1-star problem into a 5-star customer service response.
Give people what they want without making them look hard for it. We’d bet it’s what you want the next time you call for some help.
9. Make Follow-Up Your Priority
Customer support doesn’t end with a trouble ticket or a quick conversation. And, sometimes a customer won’t come back a second time even if a problem persists — they may blame you or themselves for the issue, but either way, it’ll hurt your bottom line if they stop being a customer.
So, gather post-service customer feedback to ensure the problem is solved and that they’re satisfied (our tips on gathering customer feedback)!
This doesn’t have to be an email asking how you did, and your first follow-up probably shouldn’t be. Do you really want someone to feel like they need to rate your service when they’re still dissatisfied from last time?
Instead, try a quick email follow-up that is very brief and just asks if things are okay. Use basic personal information you collected like their name and the specific product they had issues with to help build a personal connection. If your customer support software allows for notes, add one of those.
Pro Tip: Many people like to talk about the weather when they feel nervous, so a short sentence saying you hope the rain missed them or that they’re enjoying the sunshine can go a long way to keeping things light and personable. Here’s more on personalized customer service!
Don’t make any requests for them to take additional steps beyond a yes/no if the problem is addressed. That way, you continue to be a supportive partner, not someone giving them tasks.
We, of course, like a follow-up that gives people a proactive reminder of how to solve their issues when possible. If you believe the problem was solved and you captured a little bit of chat or a demonstration video that reminds them how to address things, add that under your greeting. You get to be a little more proactive about recurring issues and you might cut down on the number of calls or chats your agents must field.
10. Review the Entire Customer Support Process
How easy is it to get in touch with your support team?
Do you have long wait times?
Is the first round of questions so routine that your reps don’t get useful information?
It’s time to run the gauntlet of your customer support process and see how it works. You’ll likely discover plenty of places where things can be improved, removed, or refined. Testing through the lens of a real customer can make a more significant impact than just reviewing call logs. Look for ways to reduce customer concerns and needs while also improving the solutions you offer.
There’s no magic formula to a good support call, beyond flexibility. As a customer service manager, teach and train your team to be responsive and helpful (fast response times, too), while also learning as much about your products and services as possible. Helping them identify issues and helpful responses will go a long way to delivering quality service to your customers.
As you run through the process and identify gaps, pair rep training with improvements to your knowledge base. Standardize responses and assets – think of case studies, reviews, videos, white papers, etc. — so your agents have the most relevant information at their fingertips and know how to find it.
11. Prioritize the Customer’s Viewpoint
Yes, you guarantee customer satisfaction when you listen to your customers, but it’s also imperative that you meet customer expectations after listening.
A bad customer experience at any point in the customer lifecycle can ruin your relationship. A customer who leaves today and never comes back has a lifetime value that only diminishes over time. You’ll have to spend more to acquire new leads and customers, leading to more calls and emails as you push to get conversions high enough to stay afloat.
A service review should always keep the offering and your customer in mind, looking for things that improve how you interact.
This might mean adding a chatbot to quickly answer questions or putting your phone number on your website so that people don’t have to hunt to contact you.
It’s now easy to make your search function and results more intuitive, as well as organize your navigation buttons, so they make sense to the customer. Walk through every element to see if you would be satisfied as a customer.
If you’re looking for a low-impact, high-value way to get this started, jump to your FAQ page right now. Does it answer questions that you, the business owner or manager, would ask? Does it tackle questions the customer would ask? Are you using their language or yours?
Rebuild your FAQ from the customer’s perspective and the answers you give will become more valuable and useful, even if the concepts don’t change.
Bonus Tip: Communicate Visually with Zight
Visual communication is more important today than ever, and the data on this is overwhelming.
NeoMam Studios created a gorgeous infographic detailing 13 fascinating statistics about visual communication, such as:
- The use of visualized information has increased by 400% in literature (since 1990) and 9900% on the internet (since 2007).
- Almost 50% of your brain is involved in visual processing.
- 70% of all your sensory receptors are in your eyes.
- And we can get a sense of a visual scene in less than 1/10 of a second.
In short, we’re visually wired.
If you want to make sure customers understand your solution, can easily grasp complex information, and not have to worry about potential language barriers, you need a way to visually communicate with them.
That’s why we created Zight.
We help customer support teams:
- Easily create support materials and tutorials. You can create explainers, how-to, training, onboarding tutorials, product demos, YouTube, and more types of videos that you can use at each stage of customer support
- Optimize customer support workflows
- Provide customers with detailed answers and close Zendesk tickets faster
- Improve your team’s CSAT scores
- Track bugs and document problems
- Improve customer support initiatives
Learn more about Zight for Customer Support here!