Designing a beautiful product, marketing it, and generating sales is just the first stage of customer experience, isn’t it?

If you have to retain the customer, you should go beyond that.

That’s where Customer Service comes to the light. If the company’s customer service is excellent, 78% of consumers will do business with them again even after a mistake

But what makes customer service excellent? The customer service essentials!

In this post, we will be walking you through the top seven customer service essentials your team needs along with real-life examples of excellent customer service by some top brands.

Let’s get into the details!

Top 7 Essential Customer Service Skills:

1) Responsiveness

Responsiveness is a measure of how promptly you respond to a customer. Whenever a customer reaches out to your customer service, either through online platforms or walks directly to your store, they want their concerns to be addressed quickly. No matter what their concern is, never miss the part of greeting them with a smile. This part is important as this will create a sense of assurance for the customers.

However, a lack of responsiveness greatly happens in online customer service and this can impact your customer retention rate. 66% of adults feel that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with a good online customer experience. 

Have a look at the following data:

customer-service-response-time-1

Image source: SuperOffice

From this data, you can understand how customers expect a fast response from your side.

Now, let’s go through some tips to increase the responsiveness of your customer service team:

  • Watch out for every online platform-If you have a multichannel presence, keep an eye on each of the platforms, and don’t miss out on any customer queries or feedback. 75% of customers desire a consistent experience regardless of how they engage with a company– let it be social media, in person, or by phone.
  • Cut the response time by using technology-Make use of bots and helpdesk software for automated calls and messages.
  • Reach out to your customer-If you miss out on any customer calls, apologize for the non-availability, and give a call back at their convenient time.
  • Provide 24/7 Customer Support – Customers will feel more close to your business if you are providing an always accessible customer support team ready to serve them.

Zappos – The Company that Ace in Responsiveness

Zappos’ history dates back to 1999 when it started e-commerce selling clothes, accessories, handbags, and many more. When it comes to customer service, they are as updated as a tech freak. They are always prompt to welcome their customer once they reach out to them. Let’s see the methods they employed:

  • Unlimited call times and duration – A customer can contact them as many times they want and that too without a time cap. Maybe, you won’t believe it, but  Zappos’ current record for the longest customer service call is 10 hours, 51 minutes!
  • Human-agent – Whenever a customer calls Zappos, customer service answers them with a human agent within 1 Minute.
  • 24/7 AvailabilityZappos customer service is ready to deal with customer concerns 24/7.
  • Never leaves any query unanswered – They always make sure that their customers’ voice is heard always. Once, a woman sent a request to Tony Hsieh, the CEO, and even though he was unavailable, his representative sent a humorous and engaging email back.

2) Attentiveness & Patience

Another essential customer service skill that needs a top priority. Once you respond to your customer, never pre-judge what he/she might tell you. Your agent should actively listen to their problem and deal with them with patience if they are frustrated. Even if the agent knows what might have gone wrong, make sure they never interrupt the customer and listen to them completely. Due to the inconvenience faced with your product or service, the customer might be venting frustration at the agent. However, the agent should acknowledge the problem, express sorry, and give out the best possible solution. At times, the customer may even be connecting with you for help in purchase decisions. In that instance also, you should be attentive to their requirements and then suggest the best option.

A lack of these qualities can totally change the face of your customer service. An arrogant and absent-minded customer service agent can make a frustrated customer double frustrated. The effect will be shown in your customer retention rate because 13% of customers tell 15 or more people if they have a negative experience. 

To avoid such situations, let us go through some tips for increasing the patience and attentiveness of your customer service team:

  • Avoid pre-judgment of the situation– As an agent deals with a large number of customer problems, he/ she must be aware of the common issues a customer faces. However, avoid pre-judgment and deal with their concern with a clear mind.
  • Ensure Active listening – If the agent is not actively listening, there is a chance of missing out on the core problem and the customer would have to repeat the problem again and again. Most customers would not tolerate this. So, make active listening a top priority skill.
  • Ask the right questions at the right timeNarrowing down the causes of the problem is something you can achieve only if you ask questions, and that too, at the right time. This can be done only if you are listening actively. The agent should be careful to ask questions without interrupting the customer.
  • Avoid a tit-for-tat policy – Let it be the 1st or 100th call of the day an agent deals; he should never shout back at a shouting customer. If they are going out of control, politely ask them if they would like to escalate the issue to the manager. If the customer is still going abusive, inform them that you are forced to disconnect the call due to their abusive language. Whatever the situation is, never lose your politeness or patience.

Have a look at the following illustration of a good and bad example of dealing with a frustrated customer:

example-of-good-customer-service-2

Image source – dashly.io

Sit N Sleep- Attentive In-store Executives

Sit N Sleep is a Southern California chain of stores that specialize in mattresses and bedding.

When customers visit their store, even before suggesting products, they pay attention to the customer needs by enquiring details regarding their sleeping habits, work profile, and day-to-day activities. After noting down all these patiently, they suggest the products suitable for their customer. Customers feel a personalized experience this way.

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3) Empathy

After successfully understanding the pain point of your customer, you must empathize with the customer. Treat customers as someone you personally know, and put yourself in their shoes. When you feel with the customer, they will also explain their problem without any hesitation.

Empathizing also helps in making the customers feel that they are understood and the company will do its maximum to solve their issues

When you are at a brick-and-mortar store, the customer can feel this through the agent’s gestures, body language, and eye contact. But, how would you express empathy in an online medium? There comes the importance of certain expressions. 

Have a look at the following illustration showing certain expressions of empathy:

empathy-phrases-in-customer-service

Now, let’s go through certain tips that can help your team in empathizing with the customer.

  • Avoid Sympathy – There is only a fine line between sympathy and empathy. Certain customers may feel uncomfortable if you express sympathy for them. So, switch to communicating through more personalized statements.
  • Making customers a part of the solution – When customers share their concerns with the agent, they may or may not have a well-defined solution for the customers. In certain cases, all your agent can provide will be a bunch of alternatives. While choosing from the alternatives, give customers the option to choose what they think is the right solution for them.

Have a look at the following illustration of a customer who had to return this product, and how the customer service agent dealt with him:

example-of-good-customer-support

Image source – Freshdesk

  • Be mindful about the tone – Always choose a tone that matches the customer. The tone should neither be too formal nor be too informal.

Trader Joe’s – Delivery During A Snowstorm

Trader Joe’s is an American chain of grocery stores. An 89-year-old man was stuck in his apartment during a snowstorm. His daughter contacted a lot of stores nearby, for delivering groceries for him, but no one agreed to deliver. Finally, it was Trader Joe’s who accepted the order and delivered it within 30 minutes, and that too, free delivery. When they found that the man was an aged person, they suggested certain items ideal for his low-sodium diet and even wished him a ‘Merry Christmas’.

This is an ideal example of showing empathy to customers. Trader Joe’s understood the situation of the customer correctly and acted accordingly. 

4) Taking Ownership

When a customer reaches out to you, they are not talking to an agent serving the company. A customer service agent is often valued as the face of the company by the customer. So, whenever something goes wrong, you are supposed to take ownership of the problem. A customer should feel that your company takes responsibility for the issue. Your agent might not have a solution for every problem, the customer says. On such occasions, they can pass the issue to another team or escalate the issue. However, make sure these processes happen smoothly and the customer doesn’t feel abandoned or ignored. 

The words and tone are the key factors for convincing the customer that you take ownership of the problem. Let’s go through certain tips that you can follow to master this skill:

  • Admit MistakesThe first and the best way to take responsibility is by accepting the mistake. Your agent should express sorry for the inconvenience the customer faced and then move on to the solution.
  • Escalate/Transfer only if necessary – If the issue is not manageable, your customer service representative can transfer the call to another department. But, the agent should only do so if it is necessary. Nearly 70% of customers are irritated when their call is transferred from one department to another. One way to avoid this frustration is to transfer the call internally, and it would be better if the teams communicate in between regarding the cause of customer contact. The advantage is, that the customer won’t have to repeat himself again.  Because 33% of customers are frustrated by having to repeat themselves to multiple support reps.

taking-ownership-in-customer-service

Image source – dashly.io

  • Go the extra mile – If you take responsibility for the issue and find out it is a mistake from your company’s side, your agent can go the extra mile by offering gift cards, cash back, or discounts on the next purchases. This way, customer satisfaction can also be improved. When your company delivers values rather than focusing on policies, customer loyalty increases.

Ritz-Carlton – The Company That Focuses On Customer Happiness

Ritz-Carlton is an American luxury chain of hotels. They are the best example of taking ownership of their customers’ issues. Each employee may spend up to $2,000 per guest/per day to solve problems and meet their customers’ needs. So, when a customer reaches out to them with an issue, the employees do not have to talk to higher authorities or escalate the issue to another team for a speedy solution. Due to this customer-friendly policy, Ritz – Carlton always goes the extra mile to gain its customers’ trust and satisfaction.

5) Personalization

Personalized customer service refers to providing customer service by understanding your customer’s individual needs and shopping patterns. This technique is a way of humanizing the whole concept of customer care. Businesses nowadays add the feature of customization from product browsing, product designing, and many more. So, why not with customer service?

Personalization helps in building customer trust and also enhances customer engagement

Let’s dive into certain tips to personalize your customer service experience.

  • Greet by the first name – This is the easiest way to add the beauty of personalization to your customer service experience. Whether it is through phone, email, or chat, try to communicate on a personal level.  68% of eCommerce companies and 49% of telcos greet a person by their first names in customer service emails.
  • Have in-hand customer data – Having the customer data not only enhances personalization but also helps in cutting the time lag in figuring out the issue. 72% of consumers say that when contacting customer service they expect the agent to know who they are, what they have purchased, and have insights into their previous engagements. Certain automation can help you with this. Say, for example, If your company has the default icon of “Issue with the Order” adjacent to the order details, and if the customer contacts you by redirecting through the icon, the issue can be addressed before the customer has to say it.

Have a look at the following personalized email from Yesware:

personalization-in-customer-service

Image source – Yesware

  • Provide Omni Channel customer serviceOmnichannel customer service gives you the complete data of a customer’s previous purchases, experiences, reviews, and even past interactions with customer service. By analyzing this data, the customer service agent will get an idea about the customer, and he can deal with the customer accordingly.

Bungie – The story of a personalized Gift

Bungie’s personalized customer service went viral with the story of a boy who had to undergo liver transplant surgery around the holidays. It was the time of releasing Halo, one of Bungie’s games. The son was so sad he missed the day of the release of his favorite game, and seeing this the dad wrote a letter to Bungie. The way Bungie responded was amazing!

The entire Bungie team signed and sent a card with get-well wishes, the team built him a custom helmet based on the main character and sent it — along with shirts, toys, and custom art from the game’s designers. Later, Bungie visited his son in the hospital bringing additional gifts for the boy.

6) Ensure Satisfaction

Customer service is not just providing the solution to your customers’ issues; it is also about making sure how satisfied they are with the solution. So, it is essential to ensure the customer is satisfied with your service. By doing so, you can scale the customer retention rate also. As per data, 72% of customers will tell at least six people if they have a satisfying experience. This means if you are gaining trust and satisfaction from one customer, you are literally buying at least 6 more customers from them. 

Let’s have a look at the various methods you can use to ensure customer satisfaction:

  • Don’t forget to add final questions and statementsBefore ending the call or chat, or before the customer leaves your store, always remember to ask questions like,Is there anything else I can do for you?, Are there any other issues you want to share?, I hope you are happy with our services. Thank you for reaching out to us. Please visit again!. This leaves a positive remark on the customer.
  • Encourage the customer to give feedback – Most successful companies automatically send feedback forms after the customer interacts with the customer service. It would be nice if you encourage the customer to share their feedback and reviews. Politely ask them to rate your service or please give feedback.

  • Work on weak points- There is no such thing as perfect customer service. Customer service is about collecting feedback from the customers and using it to your advantage by improving your weak points. For example, if customers are constantly complaining about late deliveries, you should consider it, understand the reason behind it, and then work on improving it.

Glossier – The Company That Developed A New Product From Customer Feedback

Glossier, the famous beauty brand, developed some of its famous products from customer feedback. Once, they invited 100 of its top customers to join a Slack channel.  More than 1,000 messages were exchanged each week on the Slack channel and the feedback provided was utilized for the development of new products. Glossier’s owner Emily Weiss believes that listening to her customers is one of the keys to the success of the brand.

7) Follow up

The best and easiest method to maintain a positive relationship with your customers is through a follow-up. When you provide a solution to the customer, there are times when it won’t work out. So, always keep a check on the update regarding the solution to know if customers are happy with you. Customers get the feeling that you care for them when you show an effort to reach out to them. This is also a wonderful technique for customer engagement and satisfaction. The follow-up can be either through call or email.

Have a look at the following illustration of a customer calling customer service for the late delivery of a product:

follow-up-in-customer-service

Let’s go through certain tips to ace this skill:

  • Book an appointment– Respecting the customers’ privacy is very important; otherwise, they will find you annoying. Therefore, it is better during the interaction with the customer your agent asks them if they are comfortable with a follow-up call on said date and time.
  • Be timely– When your agent confirms a follow-up date and time with the customer, make sure they call the customer at the exact time. So, it is advisable to set a reminder to avoid missing out on such appointments.

Sheraton Boston Hotel – Follow up taken to another level

There is a viral story spinning around the famous Sheraton Boston hotel. A firm booked the hotel for a two-day conference. They have already pre-booked a premium soda brand to serve their guests. Unfortunately, due to some internal issues, that brand was not served. The official from the firm reported it to the manager of the hotel, and the issue was resolved. 

Over the weekend,  they received a generic customer satisfaction survey from the hotel and a call to action from the General Manager asking for any specific concerns to be emailed to her. The official from the company sent a brief email to the GM sharing the issues they had faced. To their surprise, they received a  voice mail from the GM the next day. Not only did she apologize, but she also wanted to hear about the success of the conference. After the call, she followed up with a brief email. This is one of the excellent examples of a great follow-up technique.

Final Words:

Customer Service is always a field that needs constant development since customer behavior always evolves over time. It is also an area that doesn’t work according to rules. So, customer service agents have to undergo regular training, and should also be open to changes according to the new situations. The seven skills we have provided are essential for any customer service regardless of what you sell. Excel in your customer service and attract more customers.

But, as a small company, you can feel overwhelmed building a professional customer service team. Nevertheless, you can delegate your customer service to a good outsourcing agency like Helplama starting from just $399/month.

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