Providing excellent customer service is a great way to keep your current customers loyal to your business, and it gives them plenty of great things to say when they refer their friends and family to you too. In a crowded marketing world, customer service helps your business stand out from the competition.
But providing customer service that goes beyond to delight your customers and provide an all-around excellent customer experience isn’t easy. With these 23 tips to provide great customer service, you’ll be on the way to creating a top-notch experience for your customers.
What is customer service?
Customer service is the interactions that happen between your customers and the representatives of your company. These interactions are vitally important in keeping your customers happy with your company. They help shape the impression and experience customers have with your business, even if your customer service agents are only a small portion of your employees.
Customer service tips
What makes great customer service? There’s not just one simple answer–customer service has many facets. But these top tips will help you provide better customer service that’ll benefit your business and your customers.
1. Know your product
To truly provide help and support for your customers, you first need to know everything about the products and services you sell. That way, you can help your customers with any issues or questions quickly and easily. Knowing the most common questions your customers ask and how to provide an accurate, easy-to-understand answer will go a long way to making customers happy.
2. Use your emotional intelligence
The ability to interpret and decipher what other people are feeling, and determine the best way to respond to them, is a vital skill for customer service agents. That’s because customers typically contact your customer support team when they’re having an issue or a problem, and they can get frustrated or impatient fast.
Emotional intelligence helps reps realize that customers are acting this way because they have an urgent need, not because they’re trying to be difficult. Then they can act accordingly, and with empathy.
3. Be friendly
This tip might seem basic, but it’s really important. This is especially true in today’s world, where many customer service teams operate entirely remotely and don’t come face-to-face with customers at all. When a customer uses a chatbot or email to connect with a company, starting off in a friendly way can provide a feeling of shared humanity even through a screen.
4. Use positive language
Words are powerful–they can steer a difficult conversation with a customer into calmer waters, or make things worse. Using positive language helps customer service agents keep the conversation from escalating further, and can give the customer confidence in your ability to find a solution.
5. Avoid just apologizing
Even sincere apologies don’t typically improve the customer’s experience when they’re having an issue. Customers aren’t contacting your helpdesk or sending in negative feedback on surveys because they want to hear someone say they’re sorry–they just want their issue fixed, and to avoid facing it again. You can apologize if you’d like but focus more on thanking the customer for their patience and working to find a real solution.
6. Listen actively
Hearing what the customer tells you is going on, and listening actively, are actually two different things. Active listening is about the need for the person who has contacted you to feel seen, heard, and served. That means approaching each customer conversation with the goal to learn more, asking any clarifying questions along the way, and finishing up with a quick summary so everyone is on the same page.
7. Solve for the customer’s needs
Good customer service is really about providing solutions for what your customers need, not solving problems for the business. Your customer service shouldn’t be about finding the easiest solutions to a customer’s problem or handing them off to another department to deal with. This can mean investing in long-term customer success solutions instead of just fixing things as they go along–it’s harder, but leads to a more satisfying customer experience.
8. Use the right tools
As customer service has gone increasingly online, your customers typically aren’t interacting face-to-face with business much anymore. And even phone calls are falling out of fashion. Many customer service interactions take place via chat, email, or help desk. Getting the right customer service tools, templates, and software in place can help streamline workflows and ensure customers have a good experience from start to finish.
These tools might be a way to help your agents do their job to the best of their abilities–or you might want to think about ways to add automated help to your customer service channels to deliver great customer support too. Personal support is very important, but so is a fast, scalable response plan so you can help all your customers as quickly as possible.
9. Have a social media strategy
While you might think all customer service happens in channels specifically dedicated to that, it’s not true anymore. Customers will often take their issues and complaints to social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You need to have a plan to address any customer issues that come up on social media, including a follow-up plan to ensure everything is resolved and a fast response time.
10. Define excellence in customer service
What is good customer service? If you can’t answer this for yourself or your team clearly and concisely, you should sit down to determine what great customer service looks like for your company. Good customer service looks very different for a mom-and-pop shop than for a big B2B SaaS company, so get as clear as possible when defining what success looks like.
This can be a great addition to your customer journey map as well. How do customers typically feel when they contact your customer service team? How do they feel when their conversation is done? How would you like them to feel? These are just a few questions you should ask to define what you believe to be the customer experience your customers deserve at your business.
11. Train for technical skills
With all the new tech tools you can use to provide good customer service available, it’s also easy for things to get lost in the technical details. Response times will lag and customer satisfaction will decline if it takes agents too long to open tickets and move customers through the system. Training them until they’re familiar with the tech will help them make customers happier, faster.
12. Look for shared connections
With so many customer service interactions happening online now, it’s harder to form a shared connection right off the bat. Asking customers for their name, introducing yourself, and creating that shared connection before you get down to business can help an online interaction feel much more personalized.
This can also be a great chat to fill the time while you’re waiting on information to load in the system, or doing some other task. Filling the time with simple small talk to help connect to the customer instead of waiting quietly on the other end can make even a tough call feel more connected.
13. Communicate clearly
Clear communication is one of the most important customer service skills. Being able to get your solution across to the customer quickly and concisely helps you solve problems fast. No one wants to be talking to a customer service rep longer than they need to––they want to fix an issue and get on with their day.
Keeping your words clear, explain without getting bogged down in the details, and using a natural tone of voice will all help everyone communicate effectively. Your responses to customer questions also need to be clear enough that even beginner users of your product can make sense of it and take action. Your customers just don’t have the level of technical knowledge that agents do, even if they’ve been with you for a long time. So focus on telling them what they truly need to know right now, in a concise and clear way.
14. Show respect
In customer service, sometimes things can get heated. If a customer is dealing with a stressful situation and trying to resolve it as fast as possible, they may get frustrated and emotional quickly. Responding to them with your own heightened emotions just escalates the situation further. Instead, treating everyone involved with maximal respect can help steer the conversation back to a more courteous space.
15. Express gratitude
A simple thank-you is a powerful thing. Your loyal customers will be even more loyal if you thank them for staying with your company, especially if they’ve just had an issue or a problem. After all, they chose to call your company instead of just heading off to another competitor, and their time in the day isn’t unlimited. Their patience and willingness to seek help should inspire gratitude, and expressing that makes every interaction more pleasant for both sides.
16. Be responsive
This is especially critical with online customer service interactions. It can take time to solve a customer’s problems, and you should communicate that clearly to them. Telling a customer who has reached out to your company that you have gotten their message, are working on a solution, and keeping them updated until you find one will help them feel like someone is taking a solution for them seriously. Don’t let chats idle or emails go unacknowledged for too long.
17. Acknowledge issues
While this might seem like it conflicts with not apologizing too much, they actually go hand-in-hand. If customers feel that you’re skipping over the real cost of a problem, they’ll feel frustrated. After all, they’re probably calling you because something caused an issue in their life or work, and that’s frustrating even if the problem isn’t your fault.
Acknowledging the frustration or irritation a customer is feeling helps them feel heard and understood. If they tell you they’re frustrated with something that’s happening, it can be very effective to acknowledge that frustration so they’re not also feeling frustrated because they feel misunderstood. They will know that you understand what’s happening to them and why it’s a problem, and that helps them trust you enough to fix it with confidence instead of blowing up.
18. Let the customer respond
It’s typical for customer service agents to have a certain number of calls or problems to handle in a given day, so sometimes it’s hard to linger when a customer is talking. But giving the customer a chance to respond can help them feel heard, and gives them time to address any confusion or issues they may still have. Even just confirming that they understand what you’ve just told them can help the lines of communication flow more smoothly both ways.
19. End the conversation clearly
This doesn’t just apply to calls–it’s true for live chats, emails, and social media interactions as well. At the end of a call, your customer should know what’s been done, why it happened, and what is going to happen next. This is even more important if you weren’t able to resolve their issue during the initial conversation, so they know what they need to do next or what they can expect from you moving forward.
20. Reward agents that go for the extra mile
Creating an environment where customer service agents are rewarded for going the extra mile for customers can encourage others on the team to do the same. This doesn’t need to be an extravagant and expensive rewards system, but just a simple shout-out or gift card for a cup of coffee to celebrate a job well done.
On teams where most customer service agents are remote, or where most or all customer service interactions happen online, this is even more important. It increases visibility for actions you want to promote and shows the whole team that good work is recognized and rewarded when it happens.
21. Survey customers after interactions
Want to know how satisfied–or annoyed–your customers are after they have an interaction with your service team? Just ask them! Customer feedback surveys play a critical role in ensuring your customer service is providing satisfaction.
You can use a survey type like the Customer Effort Score (CES) to gauge how easy you made it for your customer to resolve their problem, and it also helps measure customer loyalty. Or use a transactional Net Promoter Score® (NPS) survey to determine if the interaction left your customer more and less likely to recommend your company to their friends and family.
Remember to leave an open-ended feedback option in the survey so customers can give you a full view of what went wrong in the conversation, which is vital to keep it from happening again. If you’ve gotten negative feedback in a customer survey be to respond to them. Thank them for their honesty and tell them about the changes you’ve made so it won’t happen again or explain why the circumstances are as they are. You can actually turn an unhappy customer into a truly loyal one by reaching out personally.
22. Train your team
Training on how to improve customer service shouldn’t be a one-time event. You want to train your team frequently to make sure they’re up to date on any changes in products or services, stay on top of new features so they can offer knowledgeable help, and in case of any shifts in how you do business (like if your whole team suddenly moves to remote work).
You can also use your incoming customer feedback from your surveys to provide thoughtful training as needed. This will help you stay on top of any new issues and let you address them with the team directly as they come up. Continual training leads to a better experience for both your customers, who will be more satisfied, and your agents, who will feel like they’re always equipped to handle the toughest conversations.
23. Stay open to learning
Customer service isn’t an easy job by any measure. Life on the frontline dealing with annoyed or even angry people can take its toll, and it’s easy to start getting defensive. But staying open to listening to customers and hearing their honest feedback can yield valuable insights that can improve the entire customer experience. This will help you use the feedback you receive to make changes that delight your customers and keep them loyal for many years to come.
Providing great customer service is a top goal of many companies–and for good reason. Happy customers are loyal and likely to return again and again to make a purchase, even if they’ve experienced an issue in the past.
These 23 customer service tips will help you provide a best-in-class experience for your customers whenever they get in touch with your customer service team. Your support team can always be working to improve the customer experience––and now they have the information they need to keep it up.
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