Customer service and experience have taken on a growing urgency for businesses large and small. Offering customers out-of-this-world customer experience is one of the most effective ways today’s businesses can set themselves apart and inspire loyalty and brand love from their customers.
Teams that deliver that kind of customer service have one thing in common: they’re constantly working to improve. Great customer service isn’t static—it changes and evolves with things like technology and customer expectations.
No matter how stellar your customer support metrics are today, there’s always something you can do to drive them even higher. To that end, we pulled together 7 of the most effective ways to get better at customer service.
1. Set the Right Expectations
Giving your customers service and support that exceeds their expectations and inspires their loyalty starts at the very beginning: setting the right expectations.
Small and busy customer support teams can’t always provide the same things large companies can. As a small business, you have other strengths that make up for it—but that may not always be obvious to customers. It’s your job to set the right expectations, so customers get the service they need without expecting the impossible from your team.
The first step to setting customer expectations is to be transparent and communicative about your team’s availability, including when and where customers can find support and how quickly they can expect a response.
Publish this information in your website footer, on your support page, and any other areas where customers find your team (like in your Twitter bio). If that information changes, be proactive about letting customers know and updating your availability and average wait times across your web properties.
2. Train and Empower Your Reps
There’s a lot you can do to get better at customer service. But at the end of the day, if your support reps are unhappy, unengaged, and micromanaged, the quality of your customer service will suffer.
Salesforce notes that as employee engagement rises, businesses see as much as 100% higher customer loyalty. That’s because a happy, engaged support team creates better customer experiences, period.
Building an engaged and empathetic support team comes down to 3 main steps:
- Hire the right reps
- Train them on more than just product—teach them how to make customers happy
- Empower them with the tools and autonomy to solve customer problems, without time-consuming and frustration-building escalation tiers
When you hire the right people, they want to create great experiences for customers. From there, it’s your job to give them the knowledge, tools, and authority to do that.
3. Aim for Customer Happiness Over Other Success Metrics
When it comes to measuring the performance of your customer service team, there’s no shortage of metrics and numbers you can track. You can gauge first response times, average handle times, customer feedback scores… the sky’s the limit.
But what do all those numbers actually mean? At the end of every day, there’s only one question that really matters: did we leave our customers happy? That’s the guiding light of customer service and support—but it often gets lost among all the other things we can measure.
The best way to combat KPI creep is to infuse an emphasis on customer happiness throughout your team, its leadership, and the company as a whole. Let customer satisfaction be the North Star of all your day-to-day activities and tasks. If other metrics (like call handle time) slip, ask if the dip was in service of creating a better experience for customers.
4. Meet Customers Where They Are
In today’s technology-immersed world, customers have some expectations about where and when they can get support from your team. They expect omni- and multichannel customer service that’s infused with the same high quality and personal brand touch across every channel.
When someone reaches out for support on Twitter and your social manager shuffles them off to email, that adds unnecessary steps and frustration for the customer. But when companies engage with customer service requests on social media, those customers go on to spend 20-40% more with the company.
That’s why today’s customer service champs meet customers where they already are. Don’t shuttle customers off—provide support in the channel they choose. Part of that comes down to breaking your support team out of their silo. Support reps should work with your social, community, and sales teams to provide support how and when customers need it.
5. Infuse Customer Interactions with Your Brand’s Voice
Speaking of providing a consistent experience across support channels, customers measure your business by the sum of every interaction they have with you. That means every touchpoint is an opportunity to convey your brand and your priorities—regardless of where or when it takes place.
Branding isn’t just for marketers, and it doesn’t go away as soon as a lead becomes a customer. Customer support interactions are one of the most powerful, yet underutilized, opportunities to set your brand apart from impersonal and generic competitors.
Follow these 3 steps to humanize your customer support and infuse every customer interaction with your brand’s unique voice:
- Write scripts in your brand’s style
- Train your support team on how to speak in your brand’s voice
- Encourage customer service reps to connect on a personal level
6. Offer Support Proactively
We know what you’re thinking. My team works hard enough to tackle incoming support requests. The last thing they need is to reach out to customers who aren’t asking for help yet.
But here’s the thing: proactive customer service can actually ease the burden on small, overworked support teams. By reaching out to customers proactively, you can solve problems before they become problems. That’s a better customer experience, right? That’s why a whopping 87% of customers want brands to reach out proactively about customer service issues.
By cultivating robust self-service support and reaching out before problems arise, you can stop customer support cases before they become customer support cases—lightening the burden on your team. Proactive customer support is about 2 main things:
- Engaging with the right audience
- Giving customers the information they’re looking for
7. Gather Customer Feedback and Actually Act on It
At the end of the day, the best ways to improve your customer service depend mostly on your customers and their unique needs and preferences. That’s why there’s absolutely no substitute for real customer feedback.
Here are the two keys to customer feedback:
- You have to give customers a compelling reason to share their thoughts
- You have to actually use their feedback
All the customer insights in the world aren’t worth much unless you put them into action—unless you use that information to actually change and improve the way you and your team interact with customers and provide support. There’s no faster way to alienate customers than by asking for their input and promptly ignoring it.
Listen to your customers, act on their experiences, and you’ll be well on your way to providing the best customer service.
Give Your Customers Better Service
Today’s customers come to brands with a lot of pre-formed and strongly held convictions about the customer service and support they want. That’s a huge opportunity for brands who make it a priority to provide the best possible customer experience.
With the 7 steps above and a resolution to continuously improve your customer service, you can take advantage of that opportunity—and leave your competitors in the dust.