Customer service is the collection of all activities that a business must perform for its customers, such as product selection, ordering, billing, shipping, handling returns and exchanges, troubleshooting problems, payment processing, providing information regarding warranties and guarantees, and the list goes on and on…
The world of customer service is complex, tackles a plethora of different issues, and requires a diverse set of skills so that one can have truly high-quality customer service.
Customer service is a key part of making a customer happy and staying with your brand
Customer service is your first line of defense or attack – depending on how you look at it, for pleasing and retaining your customer.
After you have acquired a customer, the real work begins! One of the most important factors in customer loyalty is how well you handle customer service issues.
The subtle and complex handling of the customer must be done by well-managed customer service teams. Your customer service representative sharpens their skills through real-life interactions with the customer, the products, the management, other colleagues, etc.
They tackle the daily challenges that must be solved to make the customer happy, and if the customer is happy, he will have no reason to leave and flee to your competitors. This is how you build customer loyalty.
Questions you need to ask before building your customer service from scratch
Before you start forming your customer service department, there are a few questions that need to be addressed. For example, what is your product? Does the product have a finished user manual that you can use? How can you learn every detail about the product and build a product knowledge base?
What about the tools you will use? To build the knowledge base, to handle tickets, requests, billing, payments, etc.
Then, what is the profile of your typical customer? For what must you prepare and how can you adjust yourself to your standard customer?
Think about what your customer will expect, and build your customer journey around their problems. Your customer service strategy can be better defined with this type of reverse engineering.
These are just the very basics – and even these questions are not simple! But it is nothing that cannot be solved with good management and a devoted customer support team.
How to best connect with your existing customers
Once you know the profile of your customers you can devise the best ways to reach them easily and vice versa. This can be many different things – email, newsletters, social media posts, videos, ads, a contact form on your website, live chat, etc.
In the digital age our options are endless, be sure to use them all to connect with your customers. This is so very important so that the customer feels like you are at the reach of their fingertips, not only to solve problems but to offer new deals and insights into new features.
Your goal is to always be close to their minds (or phones) and be ready to help them with anything new. This is one of the best ways to offer a great customer experience
Be Trained and Knowledgeable
The foundation stone of customer service is knowledge and training. Your customer will reach out to your agents to solve challenges quickly – and if you cannot deliver this service you have failed at your mission to provide good customer service.
Knowledge and training are something that you must work on every day in your customer service department. You are responsible for collecting the knowledge acquired and training methods.
Once you have consolidated this knowledge into some shared resources, and you have customer service reps that have learned and trained together, only then can you begin with excellent customer service.
It is their task to then continue expanding their knowledge, and their customer service skills. It is a never-ending circle, because with new products and features come new challenges that you must get ahead of quickly.
A trained and knowledgeable team is clearly one of the keys to good response times.
Be real and genuine
The secret ingredient of good customer service, the kind that leaves the customer not only happy but potentially delighted, is not only fast problem-solving.
It is also the little human moments that happen between the agents and the customers. These are so precious because they remind the customer that the business consists of flesh and blood people who do their best.
With this in mind, they will be more accepting when mistakes do happen because if they can put a face or a kind voice to an agent’s name. Instead of leaving a negative review, they will have sympathy and patience while you solve the problem.
They might also be more open to thoughtfully sharing some feedback, which is a gold mine for every customer service department. This feedback can be used to greatly enhance the quality of your product.
When you have a good relationship with the customers, the possibilities are endless!
Speak their language
Listen actively to the customer, and do not use too much technical language when speaking to them.
It might be tempting – after all it comes so naturally to customer service agents if they know every detail about the product and service inside out. It is then easy to use precisely this professional, technical, and cold language.
Your customers might feel more at ease and more in the loop if you put yourself in their shoes, which is a real skill!
Try to understand what they do not understand and why they do not understand it, what frustrates them, how they use and misuse the product, and where they lose unnecessary time when using your product…
There are many bits of important information if you can put yourself in their position to define the problem and use their language when talking to them.
Surprise and delight
Think of ways to exceed customers' expectations.
If you are in steady contact with your long-term customers, do not start to take them for granted. Rather, think of something that will warm their heart. It can be some nice gesture, some promo code for a new product – maybe in their birthday month, a free replacement for a broken product, etc.
As an example, during the check-in process, DoubleTree by Hilton delights and surprises your guests with a big cookie. Imagine yourself after a long trip by train or plane, tired and in a hurry to get to your hotel room. Even if there is a queue at the Check-In Desk, this little cookie will take the pressure off, and will give you a positive first experience.
These are the little customer interactions that will make the customers appreciate you, and it works very well so that the customer doesn’t think of your business or product as something ‘stale’ or ‘has-been’.
With these little surprises that delight them, they always feel like something new is happening. Because of this, spreading word of mouth, avoiding customer churn, and leaving a positive experience are just a few of the benefits of this small surprise
Be solution-oriented, not problem driven
In your interactions with the customers and your rich knowledge of the product, you will think of many ways to improve your product and service.
This is the most valuable insight a customer service team can offer. A solution-oriented mindset gives the business an opportunity to get in front of the problem before it even occurred or rise to some new need or trend that you think will pop up in the industry.
Offering solutions, instead of just problem solving when it is too late is the distinction between mediocre and great business with great customer service teams. With solution-oriented leaders, you could even become a pioneer, a unicorn company with some revolutionary solution that the industry has never seen before.
In any case, the process of trying to be solution-oriented will greatly impact your work environment and customer satisfaction.
It’s a marathon, not a race
Sometimes you will have to act quickly in order to solve a problem on time. Occasionally, this is not enough, and you will have to cop up to mistakes that were avoidable.
While this is never pleasant, it is of crucial importance that you do it – without beating around the bush or making excuses.
You must be very wise and business savvy to remember daily that short-term profit is not your main goal. Your main goal is long-term success, and long-term success cannot be achieved without faithful customers.
This is why you make sure that, at the end of the day, your customer service team fixes the mistakes made in the customer’s favor and for the customer’s benefit.
Yes, this might mean losing some money today. But it also means reaping the rewards tomorrow, because a customer that was handled fairly will not forget how conscionable and principled your business is. So, in the long game everyone wins, both the business and the customer.
Take responsibility for mistakes.
You cannot achieve a strong customer relationship and trust between the agents and the long-term customers without honesty.
As we discussed before, being honest and owning up to your mistakes gives you the chance to show your worth, your judgment, and your decision-making abilities, as well as your high regard for your loyal customer and their happiness.
No one likes those shady businesses that everyone knows about – those companies that try to make a dime even in the toughest of situations and the worst of mistakes.
These companies bring up bad emotions in their customers, and the customer’s stay at those companies is not a pleasant one. It is so unpleasant, that many of them, in fact, wish to leave.
This can be avoided with capable and principled customer service where the agents take responsibility for the company’s mistakes.
Tell the truth and keep your word.
It is absolutely essential that your customer service agents speak truthfully. When it comes to building a positive customer relationship, you must keep this in mind.
In high-stress situations, when faced with difficult customer questions, it is very human to want to blurt out some answer that is not 100 percent truthful. Your team must be trained precisely for these situations so that they do not break under pressure and make up some falsehood to escape an uneasy moment. They must be able to convey correct information, and if they do not know it – admit their lack of knowledge about the problem at hand.
So, the agents must be able, to tell the truth, whatever that is, and keep their promises of researching the answer and then getting back to the customer.
EmailTree for example is able to instantly access your internal knowledge base and provide the best possible answer based on a question. Using artificial intelligence, you can transform your agents into augmented super-agents who can respond to your customers faster and more consistently.
To conclude, the customers are your business’ reason for existing.
Without them, you just have an idea and no product/service that can actually be sold to anyone. Make sure that everyone in your business understands that making the customer happy is not a one-time thing, it is rather a full-time commitment.
This is why investing in a highly capable customer service department is a must. Because they take on this responsibility on themselves, and they become your first line of attack in this adventure of retaining customers for your business and bringing in new customers to shock and amaze.