Customer service is crucial for business success, strengthening your company’s reputation and ensuring customer retention to earn repeat business and generous referrals.
Businesses today can’t afford poor or even mediocre customer service. According to the recent Achieving Customer Amazement (ACA) Survey report, 83% of customers will abandon your company because of bad customer service, and 67% will share their negative experiences with others.
Consistently providing excellent customer service is the best way to retain customers, boost satisfaction and grow your business. We’ll outline seven critical elements of excellent customer service and how you can implement these best practices into your sales process, support channels and overall operations.
7 key elements of excellent customer service
It’s not enough for a business owner to understand the importance of customer service. The entire team must strive to delight the customer. Consider the following seven tactics and take the time to inform and support your team to create a common goal of excellent customer service.
1. Prioritize each customer to ensure excellent customer service.
Every customer deserves to be treated as a vital business asset. Set this standard from the beginning to ensure your team knows that customer satisfaction is the No.1 priority. Retaining your customers is critical. The future of your business depends on your customers, so your team must treat everyone well at every touchpoint.
Prioritizing your customers includes:
- Treating them well: Talk is cheap. You must treat each of them like royalty at every given opportunity. Your customers are the reason you’re in business; it’s your job to ensure they’re happy and want to return for more.
- Staying professional: Everyone gets overwhelmed and frustrated at times. However, taking out your negative emotions on customers is never OK. The ACA report found that 61% of customers are willing to switch brands or companies after just one very bad experience, so you can’t afford to be unprofessional.
Your customers want to know you value them. Provide the best service possible whenever possible, and hold on to your customers for dear life.
Did you know? Customer loyalty is crucial to your business’s long-term success, ensuring repeat business, positive word-of-mouth referrals and loyalty to your overall brand.
2. Excellent customer service gives you a great reputation.
No one wants to do business with a company that everyone is complaining about. If your business offers poor customer service and low-quality products, word will travel quickly, and your customers will take their business elsewhere.
Ensure everyone in your company strives to do their best to give your customers an unforgettable experience to protect your brand reputation. Your customers should have such excellent experiences with your business that they want to share them.
Customer service is where the magic happens. Each interaction gives you a chance to prove to your customers how much you care. Focus on ways to create relationships that matter by training empathetic service reps who don’t just offer generic responses. Your team must embrace the philosophy that your brand’s reputation is of the utmost importance.
Did you know? A strong company culture creates a cohesive, engaged team more likely to prioritize excellent customer service.
3. Apologizing can be part of excellent customer service.
It’s OK to make a mistake; after all, we’re all human. However, when your business messes up, your frustrated customers will likely expect some exceptional customer service to resolve the issue. It’s essential to know when and how to apologize for a mishap.
Tips for customer apologies include:
- Taking responsibility: First, take responsibility for the mistake and own it. Make a sincere apology for the mistake or error, and fix it.
- Fixing the problem: Sometimes an apology isn’t enough. Some situations call for a hefty discount or free a product or service. According to Ruby Newell-Legner’s book Understanding Customers, it takes approximately 12 positive experiences to make up for a single poor one. This means offering an apology and making a sincere attempt to fix the problem as quickly as possible are crucial to reverse the damage.
Always own up to your mistakes instead of placing blame elsewhere, and take the necessary actions to ensure you and your team never make the same mistake twice.
Did you know? Customers coming away from a poor service experience are more likely to post a negative online review after a bad experience than happy customers are to post a good customer review.
4. Excellent customer service means being reachable.
Ensure your customers can reach you when they need a problem resolved or just a listening ear.
Being reachable means:
- Being accessible: Your customer support team must be as accessible as possible. Some customers prefer to communicate by email or phone, while others (especially younger customers) like live chat, social media and texting for customer service. Ensure you have a team available to respond to customers on all platforms.
- Empowering agents to solve problems: Accessibility extends beyond an initial interaction. According to Salesforce’s State of Service report, 83% of customers expect to have their problems resolved by one person, but 66% report being bounced around and repeating themselves multiple times. If you’re speaking with a customer on the phone, avoid transferring them multiple times if possible. Empower your employees to make decisions so that your first-call resolution – and customer satisfaction – increases.
5. Responsiveness is crucial to excellent customer service.
Responsiveness is a critical element of customer service. To develop a responsive customer relations team, train your employees to return every email, phone call and other form of communication within 48 hours. Even if your team responds to complaints or demanding customers, every return phone call or email should be a priority.
6. Teach proper communication skills for excellent customer service.
Customer service requires excellent communication skills. Even if you consistently teach your team customer service best practices – such as responding promptly and apologizing when needed – these lessons may fail to translate to happy customers if your agents don’t know how to listen to, interpret and address customer complaints.
Excellent communication is unquestionably among the most important elements of customer service, but it’s easy to overlook, so don’t make that mistake.
Tip: The best CRM software gives customer service reps quick and easy access to customer information, making it easier to research issues and resolve problems.
7. Deliver a consistent experience to provide excellent customer service.
Today’s consumers want a zero-friction experience in their customer journey. Each customer interaction with your brand must feel consistent, and customer service is no exception.
Prioritize providing a consistent experience in the following ways:
- Across locations: Whether a customer is speaking to a representative on the phone, coming into your brick-and-mortar store, or using a self-service channel on your website, it’s vital to ensure your brand aligns in terms of policy and procedure.
- Across communication channels: Additionally, customers expect to communicate across channels without re-explaining their issues. So if a complaint originated on social media, your customer service phone rep should be able to access those interaction notes to continue the resolution process seamlessly.
- Throughout your brand: Your business’s tone and voice should feel familiar across your team and craft a consistent experience for your customers. Deliver consistency through your persona, branding and web design. Consistency throughout the customer journey increases customer satisfaction, boosts loyalty and builds trust. Ensure your team knows the overall message you want to send.
FYI: Customers expect a seamless experience when buying from your online store or interacting with your business website. The best website builders and design services can create smooth online shopping and intuitive website navigation.
Why is excellent customer service important?
Good customer service is crucial for many reasons. These are some of the most significant:
- It’s easier to retain customers than find new ones. According to Invesp, it costs five times as much to gain a new customer as it does to keep a current one. You should do everything possible to provide a great experience to even your most demanding customers. Great service means greater long-term profits, no matter the customer.
- First impressions count. Your customer service team is often your customers’ first interaction with your company. You can’t drive customer retention if their first experience is unhelpful and negative. The adage “the customer is always right” exists for a reason; addressing your customers’ needs directly correlates to customer retention.
- A happy customer might refer other people. Strong customer relationships can be just as powerful as an aggressive sales force for drawing in new customers. Happy customers might refer friends and family, and positive customer feedback online can reel in total strangers.
- You can charge more. After you develop a strong customer relationship with someone, you might notice that they stick with you even as your prices go up. That’s because most customers will gladly pay for great customer service. Similarly, someone with whom you have a strong customer relationship may be more likely to buy other items from your company.
- You have a competitive advantage. To see this principle in action, look at how Amazon operates. Sure, people love Amazon’s low prices, but the brand is just as renowned for its excellent customer service and constant prioritizing of customer needs. Amazon is one of the most successful companies in the world, and its company culture of prioritizing positive customer feedback is a large part of this success.
Your customer service philosophy should align with your vision
Excellent customer service depends on employees who can adjust themselves to customer personalities. How you care for your customers will shape how they perceive your business. Place a strong emphasis on making your customers happy, from their first contact with your business throughout their journey.
Your business’s philosophy toward its customers should align with your overall company vision. When every team member is on board, it’s much easier to work toward a common goal. Ensure your team strives to perform its very best, and place equal importance on each component of your customer service philosophy to ensure everyone lives up to it.
Jennifer Dublino contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.