Whether you’re running a small business or a global corporation, providing good customer service can mean the difference between success and failure. And while customer expectations continue to rise, the good news is that support leaders seeking to meet those demands can take advantage of a wealth of customer service tips from the experts.
The best of those customer service tips stem not from guesswork but from carefully-crafted studies that define what good support looks like, as told by customers themselves. And what do they have to tell business owners? If their issues are resolved quickly—in a single interaction—and the customer service agent showed kindness and empathy, those customers will repay companies with loyalty and the holy grail: positive word-of-mouth recommendations to friends, family, and even strangers on social media. In short, the customer experience matters. A lot.
Here are some customer service tips that can help your support team improve its interactions with its most valuable assets: customers.
Build a customer-centric culture
A customer service team dedicated to making customers happy doesn’t operate in a vacuum—it needs an environment that features a customer service strategy that’s understood by every department, whether that’s sales, product design, or marketing. Whether it’s a tier one agent working on the simplest of questions or the CEO guiding the direction of the business, every employee needs to keep this question in the back of his or her mind: will my actions serve customers well?
With that company mindset in place, support leaders must focus on building teams consisting of customer service stars who have the social skills, empathy, and demeanor required to ensure unhappy customers don’t stay that way. That starts by developing a solid hiring process, one that will identify which candidates will embrace your customer-centric culture. Are they calm, able to stay focused, and understand the importance of listening during interactions? Do they use positive language in customer-facing situations as well as with coworkers? Asking the right questions during the interview process can go a long way in weeding out the must haves and the definitely nots.
Give agents tools for success
Of all the tips that experts offer, this one plays perhaps the biggest role in enabling customer service agents to be the problem-solving gurus that customers expect: if you give those employees you spent such care hiring the right tools for the job, they’ll be in a much better position to advance your company’s values.
So what does that entail? First, you’ll want to start with creating efficient workflows that keep employees on task, which means drawing on the power of triggers and automations that funnel tickets to the right agents while reducing repetitive work that can impede productivity. Combined with robust internal self-service that treats employees like customers, your support organization can remove roadblocks that lead to service delays, and worse: burned out workers who will struggle to deliver excellent customer service.
If you really want a well-oiled customer service machine, think about setting up a dedicated operations team that will maximize your customer service platform—and consider drafting a change management process that will keep everybody in the loop.
Meet your customers in their preferred channels
So far, so good: you’ve created (and constantly reinforced) a culture focused on customer satisfaction, and you’ve followed up by hiring a crack team of friendly, motivated employees who have the right tools in place to succeed. The bad news is that you’re not done yet—it’s time to focus on channels, which refers to how customers interact with your support team. That can be email, phone, chat, self-service, and even social media. Depending on your customers’ preferences, you’ll want to staff teams accordingly.
Regardless of which channels those customers prefer, you’ll need an omnichannel platform that provides agents with invaluable context: for example, past interactions with a specific customer or information about how another support employee solved the problem previously. And think for a moment about the following scenario: a customer reaches out earlier in the day via email, and then follows up later that day over the phone. Will your agents have the proper context so the interaction feels seamless to the customer? Being able to move from channel to channel without a hitch is a key element of a good customer experience.
Data makes for better customer service decisions
It’s one thing to think that your business is providing excellent customer service—but unless you ask, you’ll never really know (except when it goes bad and customers are leaving in droves). To put it simply, you’ll need to define what success looks like, measure it, and act on that data.
One of the easiest tips that a business can implement is sending out customer satisfaction surveys. These simple, one-question surveys require little effort on the part of customers and can give you a valuable overview of your customer service team’s effectiveness. Meanwhile, a NetPromoter survey can be a great way to gauge customer loyalty to your brand—if your customers are happy with your support, chances are they’ll be willing to recommend your services to friends, family, and others.
That said, no matter how good your customer service is, you’ll sometimes lose customers. Don’t pass up this opportunity to learn what went wrong—be sure to set up churn surveys. And the deeper you go into the data, you’ll be able to understand the complexity of your customers’ requests, when they tend to reach out, how effective your agents are, and more. Don't be afraid of customer feedback: seek it out.
Embrace artificial intelligence
Finally, as artificial intelligence improves, it will play a greater role in how businesses provide customer service. From AI chatbots to AI ticketing, this technology can free your support team from many of the menial tasks that eat up hours of their day—and that means more time to offer the kind of white-glove customer service that customers remember. For example, some of the most common requests a business receives—requests to change passwords, update credit card information, and cancel services—can be resolved by an AI that directs customers to FAQs that deliver step-by-step instructions and other helpful tips.
Beyond automating lower-tier customer service tasks, AI can ensure the kind of proactive support that separates the winners from the losers in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Because AI customer service tools learn as they go, they can direct customers to channels more suited to resolving their issues. Shorter resolution times and more personalized service—what's not to like?
Don't reinvent the wheel
Want to know how other companies successfully handle customer service? Thankfully thousands of businesses have put the hard work in to improve how they deliver customer service—be sure to check out the tips those companies have shared in the Zendesk Benchmark report.