Customer service is undoubtedly a key player in any company’s customer experience (CX) program. It’s the necessary companion to a great product or service—in fact, 80% of customers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services.
Given its significance, we conducted a global study to identify the latest customer service trends and best practices. Specifically, we looked at key industry trends for curating and optimizing customer feedback. This article recaps our findings.
Importance of customer service
Great customer service is vital to the success of businesses in every industry today. But before discussing why customer service is important, it’s critical to define - what is customer service, exactly?
Customer service is the support your business offers to your customers. This support doesn’t happen only after they’ve made a purchase - customer service includes tending to customer needs before and during the purchase process as well.
Customer service is a key part of the overall customer experience. The customer experience is the sum of every touchpoint and interaction customers and prospects have with your business, from the first time they hear about your brand to their initial purchase and beyond.
Your business needs to be sure that you’re meeting or exceeding customer expectations across the board, in every customer interaction. While that can seem like a high bar to clear, since customer experience is the new battleground for winning and retaining customers, it’s becoming increasingly critical to focus on improvements here.
There’s often confusion between the concepts of customer service and customer care - while both are an important part of the customer experience, they’re not identical. Customer service focuses more on customer support and solving issues efficiently while customer care is about going the extra mile.
Advantages of excellent customer service
Providing excellent customer service has many advantages for businesses. Caring for your customers and meeting - or even anticipating - their needs offers significant benefits in multiple areas.
Prevent customer churn
Customers who have a negative interaction with your business when they’re trying to solve a problem are likely to be unhappy - and unhappy customers are likely to churn. With a high churn rate, your business will struggle to retain customers and grow your profits.
But customers who are satisfied or delighted with the service you offer will stick with your business the next time they’re due for a renewal.
Increase customer loyalty
Boosting customer loyalty is the number one priority for CX organizations in 2022, according to our 2022 State of CX Report. And one of the best ways to boost loyalty levels is by providing excellent customer service.
Customers have greater levels of loyalty to businesses that treat them well and help them resolve issues and answer questions with ease. Treating customers well ensures they’ll return again and again to make purchases.
It’s no surprise that customer loyalty levels have a large impact on your profits - customers who stick around because they love your customer experience spend more. According to Bain, businesses can grow their revenues between 4% and 8% above their market when they prioritize better customer service experiences.
Since it costs much more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one, and customer service is one of the biggest factors in customer loyalty, better service leads to bigger profits - it’s really as simple as that.
Generate repeat business
Returning customers will likely spend 67% more on your company's products and services. And customers who have a positive experience with your customer service team are more likely to repeat their purchase in the future. Repeat business saves you money on acquiring new customers as well.
Gain a competitive advantage
It’s hard to stand out from the competition these days. But providing customer service that goes above and beyond what others in your industry offer can set you apart.
You can emphasize your excellent customer service in your marketing and draw in new customers who are looking for an elevated experience. And moving from a product-centric mindset to a customer-centric one helps your company stand out further.
Reduced employee turnover
Excellent customer service doesn’t only benefit your business and your customers - it benefits your employees as well. People want to work for employers who treat their customers with respect, care, and fairness.
And a focus on treating customers well tends to lead to a more pleasant work environment: one in which employees feel valued for their contributions to the customer experience, and connected to the values of the company.
When employees feel valued and engaged at work, they’re less likely to leave for a similar job. And since turnover is expensive, that reduction also benefits your bottom line.
The 5 customer service trends and best practices that caught our attention
Case Closed CSAT is the most valued metric among service teams.
Email is still a popular survey distribution channel, but text message is moving up the ranks.
Most customer service teams are surveying customers within 24 hours of their interaction.
The biggest challenge for customer service agents continues to be response rates.
Most agents filter feedback by type of issue.
But first, here’s who participated in the study
Every industry out there has had a hand in the making of this report. We’ve uncovered new insight for retail, technology, banking, healthcare, manufacturing, nonprofit, and the list goes on.
Organizations from around the world contributed, from North America to Europe, Asia to Latin America—39 countries and 280 cities, to be exact.
Hundreds of companies, including large enterprises, small businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies, shared how they collect and utilize customer service feedback to make a long-lasting impact.
Now on to our top 5 findings.
1. Case Closed CSAT is the most valued metric among service teams
Over 50% of customer service folks prioritize case closed Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) above all other metrics. According to our participants, Case Close CSAT carries the most weight in many organizations—it provides valuable customer feedback in real-time, it’s expected in most companies’ reports, and it’s used to measure agents’ performance.
Here is how the other popular metrics ranked in comparison.
2. Email is still a popular survey distribution channel, but text message is moving up the ranks
When asked about distribution channels, the majority of customer service agents reported using a link or button in an email (72%), followed by the method of one-touch email. However, the service industry recognizes the importance of needing to provide mobile-friendly surveys, given that 48% of its customers are responding via mobile devices. So, although text message surveys ranked 4th as a survey distribution channel, we foresee this trend moving upward in the following years.
Especially since mobile-friendly surveys are the 2nd most important feedback feature that customer service teams can’t live without, following CRM integration. See below.
3. Most customer service teams are surveying customers within 24 hours of their interaction
Specifically, 36% of customer service teams are surveying customers directly after an interaction. And 22% are asking for feedback within 24 hours of their customer interaction.
4. The biggest challenge for customer service agents continues to be response rates
Participants reported an average customer response rate of 42%. To tackle this challenge, the majority of customer service teams are keeping surveys short and concise (67%), as well as ensuring their surveys are mobile-friendly (33%) and ensuring their surveys are designed to align with their brand (31%).
5. Most agents filter feedback by type of issue
Service teams are filtering their feedback by type of issues, which is the ideal method—monitoring feedback by issue helps you identify sources of dissatisfaction before they become worse. 31% of service teams also filter feedback by agent, which is a good approach for managing and rewarding the individual success performance of each team member.
Additional best practices to consider
These trends are important to know and understand. But there are also evergreen customer service best practices that your CX organization should always be considering and implementing if they make sense for your business.
In many ways, your customer service team is the face of your company. Attracting the top talent by offering them great pay and competitive benefits will more than pay off. And empowering those employees to take action to solve customer problems will make your employees more engaged and your customers happier.
For example, when a customer calls in with an unusual problem, is the employee on the other end of that phone empowered to offer real solutions, even if they’re a bit out of the norm? Or are they required to stick to the same script?
Customer experiences where employees go above and beyond are memorable - so ensure you’re allowing employees to provide those.
It’s tempting to promise customers the best of everything - but that’s setting them up for disappointment and frustration when you can’t deliver.
Instead, manage customer expectations by being transparent. Tell customers exactly what they can expect and work hard to meet those expectations every time - and exceed them as often as you can. Customers will know what to expect, and be delighted when you’re able to go the extra mile.
Your business probably has a lot of data about your customers on hand, saved in your CRM or elsewhere. Be sure to use this data to personalize your interactions with your customers whenever possible.
Your CRM can enable you to track customer history and remember their preferences, letting your customer service team personalize the entire customer journey. That strengthens your relationship with customers and reduces their frustration at having to repeat their issues or history with the company when reaching out to your customer service team.
Make it simple to reach you
There are many industry best practices for customer service depending on what kind of business you run - a hotel can, and should, offer a different kind of customer service than a landscaping business. But one thing is true for every business: you need to make it simple for your customers to reach you when they have an issue.
Many businesses try to bury their customer service phone numbers or email addresses so that they can avoid being buried by customer service complaints. And that might work in the short-term. But over time, that just compounds the frustration your customers are facing when they have a problem - now they struggle to reach out to get it fixed as well.
And since many of your customers are probably active on social media, they will head there to air their complaints and make them public instead.
Your website should, at a minimum, offer several ways for customers to reach you when they have an issue or a question. A phone number to talk to a human is the gold standard, but an email address that is monitored closely or a chatbot works well too.
Reduce customer effort
Customers don’t want to have to jump through many hoops or spend hours resolving an issue with your company. That’s a recipe for frustration. Be sure to reduce the amount of customer effort needed wherever possible.
For example, offering self-service customer resources can help customers solve simple problems without having to call in, speak to a rep, and wait on hold. These shouldn’t be the only options for customers, of course, but allowing them to choose low-effort options when they want is a good idea.
Listen first, then speak
In customer interactions, it’s easy to focus on what customer service reps are saying to your customers. But it’s equally important to focus on training them to listen actively to what your customers are saying.
Active listening ensures reps truly hear what each customer has to say so they understand the problem they’re facing or the question they’re asking. It’s frustrating to contact a company’s customer service team and receive advice that is clearly not based on the problem, whether the rep is following a too-strict script or just rushing to end the call.
Asking reps to repeat what customers are saying, take notes, and ask appropriate questions are all ways to increase active listening on your customer service team.
Looking for even more customer service tips? GetFeedback has you covered.
How to implement a customer service action plan
Once you know where your customer service is falling short and where your strengths lie, you can put a customer service action plan into place.
A customer service action plan is simply a plan for improving your customer service. Gathering data and feedback isn’t enough to cause improvements alone - you also need to put the information into action.
These three steps will help you develop and implement your own plan.
Draft or revise customer service standards
Your customer service team won’t be able to deliver consistently excellent experiences unless you set clear customer service standards and keep them up to date.
Your customer service action plan should include the creation of these standards, a plan to communicate the standards and distribute them to reps, and a schedule for updating them regularly.
Customer service standards can include how reps should greet customers, keep the conversation moving, escalate when appropriate, and end the conversation. These standards ensure your customer service is consistent and helpful across the whole team.
Create customer touchpoints and follow-ups
Collecting customer feedback through surveys should help you determine which areas of your customer journey need improvements - these are the touchpoints you should focus on.
It could be that when customers call to reset their passwords, for instance, it leads to a long and frustrating process. This would be one of your touchpoints that requires focus. To help resolve this pain point, you should experiment with fixes - perhaps a more robust set of self-service resources - and send out follow up surveys when a customer resets their password.
These targeted follow-up surveys enable you to drill down into this specific touchpoint so you can see what’s working and what’s causing dissatisfaction. You can use CSAT surveys, transactional NPS surveys, or any other short survey option that fits your needs.
Consistently collect new data
Any survey is a picture of a single moment in time. Customer needs and expectations change, as does the competitive landscape. You must stay on top of these changes and trends to provide a consistently excellent customer service experience now and in the future.
Regularly collecting new data allows you to track your progress over time and notice issues before they become larger problems. You should build a cadence for collecting and analyzing this new information into your customer service action plan so you don’t fall behind.
Customer services trends change over the years, but the importance of providing an excellent customer service experience for your customers remains critically important.
If you want to improve customer service at your organization, GetFeedback has a suite of tools to help you listen and act on insights from your customers. Get started with a free trial today.