Consumers today are typically looking for more than just a well-priced or innovative product when they go shopping or prepare to make a purchase. They have lots of options for buying the things they need and want. So what can help your company stand out?
Offering the best customer service experience differentiates your business from your competitors positively. And customers value it too—89% are more likely to make another purchase after having an excellent customer service experience.
The first step in providing a good customer service experience is understanding what, exactly, this broad topic is - so let’s dive in.
What is customer service experience?
Customer service experience is how customers feel about your company's service throughout the entire customer journey. In other words, when they need help with a problem or have a question, how does your customer service make them feel?
Of course, you want your customers to feel great when they reach out. But not many companies can do this. If you can, you’ll have a significant competitive advantage.
Customer service experience is part of your overall customer experience (CX). Since customer service interactions are especially important touchpoints in the customer journey, getting your customer service experience dialed in is vital.
Why is customer service experience important?
Providing a great customer service experience provides your business with several advantages.
Build customer trust and relationships: When you give your customers support when they need it, it builds trust in your business and strengthens your connection with them.
Build loyal advocates and positive word of mouth: Customers who have a great experience with your customer service team are likely to tell their friends and colleagues about it, becoming brand advocates and giving you free and effective marketing.
Building a strong brand differentiator: Improving your customer service experience to stand out from your competitors can help you overtake your competition without resorting to steep discounts or cutting quality.
Building better products and services: Listening to your customers is a crucial part of improving your customer service experience. This listening can also help you tune into what your customers want from your products and services.
The consequences of a bad customer service experience are also powerful.
When a customer has a bad customer service experience, they’re also likely to spread the news about it to their friends and even their social media networks. You’ll not only lose the customer who had the negative experience but their friends and family as potential new customers as well.
Customers who have negative feelings about your customer service are also less likely to be loyal to your business in the future. They may seek out a competitor, or switch when one approaches them. Gaining new customers is much more expensive than retaining current ones, resulting in less profitability for your business.
What does a good customer service experience look like?
Now that you know why customer service experience is important, what does a good customer service experience look like? These examples of customer service experiences that go above and beyond illustrate what makes great customer service.
For many ecommerce retailers, offering free shipping and returns is commonplace - you’re not going above and beyond by doing that. However, it can be challenging to for customers to speak to a representative when issues arise.
Providing great customer service experiences here can look like adding contact information to your website, ensuring hold times are short, and training your phone reps to be friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable. Customers can get the human help they need fast.
SaaS companies should also provide phone and live chat support to their users. Let’s say they keep getting feedback that many want to have the information to solve their problems themselves simply. They can improve their customer service experience by creating a knowledge base on their website covering common questions and issues. To go above and beyond, they can also create videos walking users through how to solve those problems.
Or they could set up automated emails to go out when a user completes a task that often leads to a question, like adding a new team member, detailing how to complete the task optimally.
Customer service vs. customer experience
Customer service and customer experience are related, but not the same.
Customer service is how you help your customers when they have a question or problem before, during, or after the purchase process. This can mean helping them complete an online purchase, answering questions about a return, or assisting them in using your product successfully.
Customer experience, on the other hand, is all of the interactions your customers have with your business throughout their journey with you. While customer service tends to be related to only that team, customer experiences can happen with many different parts of your business.
Customer service is an essential part of the overall customer experience, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle.
How to create a great customer service experience
Here are the two most critical elements in what makes good customer service experiences.
Ask for feedback
You may assume that you know how your customers feel about your customer service, but you shouldn’t. Customers might be unhappy, but they typically won’t reach out proactively to tell you - they’ll just leave. The only way to know how you’re doing for sure is to ask them directly.
There are many different options for gathering feedback, but these are the two most effective ones for measuring your current customer service experience and tracking your improvements.
Customer satisfaction surveys (CSAT)
CSAT surveys are a simple and accurate way of finding out how satisfied your customers are with your customer service experience.
To use CSAT, set up a survey to be automatically triggered to go out right after a customer has a service interaction, such as calling your helpline. Doing this survey timely and tied to the interaction ensures the experience will be fresh and their recollections accurate.
Net Promoter Score® (NPS) surveys
NPS surveys are popular for a reason - they’re a highly effective way of measuring customer loyalty.
Transactional NPS surveys measure customer service experience. Like the CSAT surveys method above, trigger a tNPS survey to go out once a customer has completed an interaction with your customer service team or resources.
NPS and CSAT are both important. CSAT measures how an experience satisfied a customer, while NPS gauges how that experience affected the customer’s level of loyalty to your company. Using a mix of both surveys will ensure you are keeping tabs on both loyalty and satisfaction.
Say thank you
Simple solutions are often the ones that work best and the ones forgotten about the most. Beginning and ending customer interactions by saying ‘thank you’ creates a great customer service experience.
Start by thanking customers for choosing your business because they had other options, and selected you.
Finishing by thanking customers even if the transaction doesn’t end in a purchase ends the conversation on a positive and well-mannered note. And with a good ending, the customer might come back to make a future purchase.
How to improve the customer service experience
If you’ve conducted surveys and found that your customer service experience is lacking, you may be wondering what you can do to improve it. Here are the most effective steps to take.
Customers expect to interact with your business in a wide variety of ways so they can pick the one they prefer. Offering omnichannel customer support helps your customers to get assistance and answers in their preferred method and on their time.
This doesn’t mean you need to go from one service option to 10 right away - you can introduce what your customers desire most and then expand options over time. Demand for omnichannel support isn’t going away. If anything, it’s increasing.
Proactive customer service
While customers will have questions when issues come up, you can identify specific parts of the customer journey where many tend to need the same kind of assistance. Anticipating these needs and proactively providing support and service can delight your customers.
One way to spot these proactive service opportunities? By creating a customer journey map. For example, if customers typically ask the same question on your live chat when onboarding your product, send customers an onboarding guide or video via email.
Finding these small moments can make a big difference in the customer service experience. And it can free up the time of your customer service reps, who will need to respond to fewer basic questions and focus on providing exceptional service instead.
Customers want to have a good experience with your customer service team consistently. If their experience varies widely depending on the employee they speak to or the channel they use to contact you, that doesn’t inspire trust or loyalty. It’s better to have consistently good service rather than occasionally delightful.
Measuring the customer service experience via a closed-loop feedback system can help you identify which reps, teams, or channels are not performing so you can make corrections. They can also show you which ones are working well to learn from those experiences and train your teams.
Manage customer expectations
Often, customer dissatisfaction comes from unmet expectations. Is your marketing or sales promising something that your product or services can’t deliver?
For example, does your latest ad campaign promote your fast, free shipping - but your shipping department cannot fulfill that promise? That’s a quick way to create lots of poor customer service experiences.
Instead, align with your marketing and sales departments to ensure you’re educating customers on what you can genuinely provide. And customer journey mapping can help to ensure your messaging matches the actual journey.
Customers don’t like to wait long for a response when they have an issue, especially if it’s a timely one. You must respond to all customers quickly - waiting a day can be too long in some businesses. Quickly responding ensures that customers know that they’re your top priority and value their time.
Even if your team cannot fix an issue immediately, which is typical with more complex problems, they should send a quick note acknowledging the complaint has been received and add an estimated time for the response. This is one of the best ways to improve your customer service.
If your team is regularly behind responding to customers, you may need to hire more staff, train your existing employees better, or do both.
Mistakes to avoid when creating a customer service experience
Companies make several common mistakes when creating a successful customer service experience. Here’s what you need to know so you can avoid making the same ones.
Going overboard with rewards programs
Showering your new customers with rewards and discounts while ignoring your existing buyers is an all-too-common mistake. While gaining new customers is vital for any business, retaining existing ones is too. Don’t prioritize one over the other in a rewards program.
Investing instead in a loyalty or referral program for your existing, long-term customers keeps them happy and is a wiser use of your marketing and retention budget. Even small rewards and gestures can delight your loyal customers and ensure they feel valued.
Overcomplicating brand adoption
When the path for your customers to adopt your brand is challenging, it creates a poor customer experience. The plan for customers to adopt your brand needs to be very clear with point-to-point steps, not only ideas or talking points.
Knowing precisely the steps that customers need to take to adopt your brand is critical. And those steps should form a plan that guides your customers and their service reps through to a smooth adoption process.
Not investing in employees
Your employees are the face of your business, particularly your customer service reps. You should be investing heavily in this vital resource, so they have everything they need to do their job successfully.
This includes providing thorough training and mental health resources so employees can continue to offer creative solutions and friendly service and avoid burnout and high turnover rates.
Companies often fail to provide their employees with the tools they need to complete their tasks. If your reps tell you (in employee feedback surveys) that systems contribute to a poor customer service experience, take that feedback seriously and consider investing in new technology.
Making things complicated
No matter how much a customer loves your products or brands, they won’t want to continue doing business with you if it’s too complicated. Keep things simple, even if that means giving up on the idea of the perfect customer service experience.
Your customers are busy and want to solve their problems and get on with their day. Enabling that with your customer service experience doesn’t need to be complicated - make sure it’s friendly, knowledgeable, and fast is enough to delight and retain most customers.
Delivering an excellent customer service experience can look complicated, but it doesn’t need to be. You must invest in training and resources for your employees to do their jobs well, treat customers with respect and friendliness, and regularly ask them for their feedback to know you’re making the right improvements.
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