Stellar customer service is worth its weight in gold. Maintaining high levels of customer service is the best way to increase your bottom line.
You probably have an idea as to why, but to reiterate…
Awesome customer service pays dividends because customers will shell out more money to receive it.
- 70% of customers report spending more to do business with a company that delivers excellent service.
And retaining satisfied customers means that you won’t have to spend as much on customer acquisition to maintain your profits.
- It’s 5-25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain and satisfy an existing customer.
The longer each customer remains with you, the higher their customer lifetime value.
- Existing customers are more likely to spend more on your products and services: repeat customers spend 31% more than first-time customers.
- It’s 16 times more expensive to bring a new customer up to the same level as a current loyal customer.
And satisfied customers are more likely to refer their friends to your business (free publicity!)
- After a positive service experience with a brand, over three-quarters of customers will recommend that brand to a friend.
Conversely, poor customer service can lead to negative consequences.
- After a bad customer service experience, 91% of customers will take some sort of action, such as posting a bad review or switching companies. And 51% of customers will not patronize a company again after they aren’t pleased with its customer service.
- On average, someone will tell 15 people about a bad customer service experience, compared to the 11 people they will tell about a good experience.
- U.S. companies lost a staggering $62 billion per year to poor customer service in 2017, and by 2019, that number rose to $75 billion lost per year.
How can you refine your customer service and reap the rewards? Let’s check out 15 of the best customer service tips.
1. Always be empathetic
Treat your customers with kindness, no matter if they’re chatting positively, asking a question, or venting about a problem.
Carefully listen to customers, so you can understand their needs and deliver personalized care to each of them (more on this in #3 below).
Use the active listening strategy: When your customers pose a question or problem on the phone, in live chat, or in person, repeat it back to them in your own words, to clarify what they’re saying and confirm you understand.
If a customer has a pressing question or problem, walk them through the steps needed to solve it. Focus on meeting their needs rather than rushing to “solve” as quickly as possible.
Frustrated customers may get angry and lash out verbally; don’t ever take this personally, and never fire back. Rather, always maintain your composure, and keep a calm demeanor.
2. Be positive
You’ll give customers a better experience if you avoid negative language and use positive “versions” of phrases instead. This approach will help steer you away from unintentional conflicts, because negative language can sound like you don’t care about your customers’ needs. It might seem very subtle, but shifting your language will make a huge difference.
For example, let’s say that you’re a water bottle company, and you’ve received a large number of online orders for a certain pink water bottle in a given timeframe. That bottle is now out of stock, and you don’t expect the next shipment to arrive for two weeks. Then, someone contacts you to ask if they can order that pink water bottle, and you won’t be able to fulfill that request promptly. You need to communicate this issue to the affected customer. But how?
You should NOT say: “The pink water bottle you’d like to order is out of stock. It isn’t available right now. We won’t be able to send you that product for another two weeks.”
Instead, say: The water bottle you’d like to order will be available in two weeks. I can place your order right now, and when the next shipment comes to our warehouse, I’ll make sure to send you the bottle right away!
3. Personalize your conversations
Yes, you should remember each customer’s first name and use it throughout any conversations you have. But when you’re having an in-depth conversation, there are far more ways to personalize.
One way to do this is through the medium of contact. For example, say you’re helping your customer solve a problem, and you need to contact them to follow up on the status. Ask them whether they would prefer a follow-up email or call. If they respond that they would prefer a call, suggest a time to make sure it would work for them, rather than just calling randomly.
Another simple but effective touch is to listen to personal details your customer provides, and then mention one of those details later in the conversation. Or if you’re interacting in person, pick up on personal details about what a customer is wearing (such as a sports jersey) and ask about that. Customers love these gestures because they show that you care!
4. Respond and resolve inquiries promptly, but put quality over speed
Valuing your customers’ time is paramount. When you receive an inquiry or ticket that presents a question or problem, respond as quickly as possible.
- If it’s a question, clarify what they’re asking if necessary, and give a clear answer (you might also point them to relevant knowledge base documents.
- If it’s a problem, let them know you’re working on resolving the issue.
Then, volunteer that you’ll follow up with them on the status of resolving the problem — within the next day, if possible. Offer to schedule a call at a convenient time for them, or to send an email (based on the customer’s preference).
Also, consider developing templates or workflows to promptly answer the most common questions you receive.
Although quickly resolving problems is important, properly resolving these problems, so customers are satisfied with the solutions you give, is even more vital. After all, if customers aren’t satisfied, they’ll likely open up another ticket (or even leave your brand).
5. Resolve problems and complaints graciously
Graciously dealing with complaints and problems is one of the most important customer service strategies you can use. This includes quickly and kindly responding to negative reviews, as well as to direct complaints.
Working to promptly satisfy these customers often turns a customer’s negative outlook into a positive! But ignoring an irate customer could lead to you losing them forever, as they leave for one of your competitors (and as they share the negative experience with even more people).
Often, these complaining customers are on edge, so you’ll need to act in a way that defuses the situation and shows your consistent care. Use the CARP method: Control, Acknowledge, Refocus, and Problem-Solve.
First, subtly assert Control. Your words, tone, and body language must project calm and show the customer that you won’t be rattled. Don’t get angry or defensive.
Then, Acknowledge. Use empathy and active listening to show that you understand the customer’s problem and care about finding a solution.
Next, Refocus: move the focus away from the customer’s emotions and back to the problem you need to solve.
Finally, Problem-solve, graciously and promptly. Gather information on the problem, suggest and talk through solutions, and maintain a helpful demeanor. If possible, solve the problem during the conversation. And if you can’t solve it right away, make sure you follow up the next day, to tell the customer that you’re working towards a solution!
6. Set and work towards measurable goals
Make sure you’ve set measurable customer service and support goals, and focus on meeting those goals.
- Keeping customer retention rate high (and thus, keeping churn rate low) is most important, as it shows how successful your customer service efforts have been overall. So, set and strive for a target customer retention rate.
- Also, consider measuring Net Promoter Score (NPS), which shows how likely customers are to recommend you, then setting a goal to improve your NPS. Aim for an NPS above 50, which shows that you’ve made customer service a priority.
7. Keep a kind, conversational tone
Make sure that your tone sounds gracious, not dismissive or passive-aggressive. Pay attention to the words you use when you write or speak, as well as the way you sound (or the way your written phrasing sounds when you read it out loud, before you send a message).
Also, be conversational. Don’t use stuffy, robotic-sounding language or confusing jargon. Instead, talk as your customers talk—casually and in layman’s terms.
And if you aren’t talking to a customer in person, make doubly sure that your messages feel kind, conversational, and personal. For example, what if a customer named Jack has a question about their recent order?
Do NOT write: “We have received your inquiry and will address it promptly. Your support ticket number is 000123.”
Instead, try something like this: Hi Jack, thanks for your order! Just wanted to let you know that we got your message. We’re working on an answer, and I’ll get back to you soon. Thanks again, [your name]
8. Be proactive
Rather than waiting for questions or complaints from your customers, reach out to them regularly throughout the year to see if they have questions or concerns. Take that initiative!
And if you do experience a software issue, or find another problem that affects a large number of customers, don’t ignore the issue. Instead, take initiative. Clearly acknowledge the problem, and communicate that you’re working to solve it as soon as possible. Then, graciously thank customers for their understanding. And whether the solution involves fixing a bug, pushing a patch, producing and sending a replacement part, changing a policy, or outright pulling a defective product and offering refunds, act quickly, to deliver on your promise!
9. Have a solid self-service system
If you primarily operate online, make sure you’ve set up tools to help customers help themselves. If you’re a software company, this will usually take the form of a knowledge base or help center, where customers can search for articles that answer their questions. Make sure this knowledge base is easy to navigate.
For other business types, a FAQ can serve a similar purpose to a knowledge base.
An online community centered around your brand, such as a forum or social media group, is also a great option. You can answer questions that customers post in the forum. However, the real power of the forum is that it empowers customers to help each other answer questions and solve problems.
10. Collect and act on feedback
Collect feedback on how your brand is doing (from both product and customer service standpoints) by asking for reviews, and by running NPS and other customer satisfaction surveys. Also, collect feedback through regular “check-ins” if possible; be sure to ask customers what you’re doing well and how they think you could improve.
You could also ask for private comments on each customer’s experience through feedback forms, sent shortly after each purchase. Just make sure those feedback forms are short, and that you offer an incentive for completing them (it’s all about reciprocity).
But don’t just collect feedback—act on it. Acting on feedback includes responding to reviews and social media comments about your brand. And yes, you should respond to every review and every relevant comment, whether it’s positive or negative. This shows a human touch, lets people know that you care about their insights, and shows you acknowledge that there’s always room to improve.
11. Take a bird’s eye view
Take a look at the entire customer experience. Are there any cracks that need to be filled by customer service, to improve customer retention and reduce churn?
- For example, based on reviews, feedback forms, and voiced concerns, do you notice that people are frustrated with a confusing return process?
- Or are you not responding to support request messages quickly enough to retain customers?
Conversely, what aspects are your customers especially pleased with? Then, you’ll know which methods and customer service strategies to keep using!
12. Send offline “thank-yous”
We live in a digital world, but that makes it even more important to show your company’s human side, especially if you aren’t interacting with your customers in person. Sending handwritten, personalized thank you notes is an awesome way to make customers’ days and remind them of the people behind your brand. When customers are reminded how important their support is, they’ll be more likely to buy again, because they feel appreciated.
13. Go above and beyond with surprises
Surprising your loyal customers with perks and gestures is another effective way to show your appreciation and deliver stellar service.
Here are some examples of surprises you could use:
- If you’re in ecommerce, occasionally upgrade loyal customers’ shipping to faster rates, just because.
- Service industries can offer upgrades, too, like when a hotel upgrades someone’s room for free or a restaurant serves a free appetizer or dessert.
- If you have a brick-and-mortar location, offer free refreshments to customers who visit your store, or offer VIP treatment to your best customers.
- Either way, consider surprising your customers with free gifts, such as branded items or gift cards. You could even send them home-baked goods!
- Or, send them coupons or gifts on their birthdays, or on the anniversary of their first purchase. You could also send coupons “just because!”
- These options work well for B2C businesses, but what surprises work for B2B? Social media shoutouts or company spotlights work well for making these customers feel appreciated.
14. Balance automation and human interaction
Customer experience software and help desk software can help you collect valuable data on how your customer support team is performing, such as average response and resolution times, net promoter score, and the all-important customer retention rate.
Also, it can assist you in identifying the most satisfied customers (whom you should encourage to share your business) and those whom you’re in the most danger of losing (whose issues you should especially focus on resolving).
And customer support software can help you streamline simple and repeated tasks, track and collaborate on each ticket, and lighten your support team’s manual load. Some software even has chatbots that can give answers to common questions (usually by directing customers to knowledge base articles).
Your customer service process can’t live on automation alone, though. Even with all the advances in automation, you just can’t replace human understanding and empathy. Direct customer support inquiries, especially the most detailed ones, require support from a real person.
15. Start or refine a loyalty program to keep customers satisfied!
Customer loyalty programs might not fit the traditional definition of “customer service,” but they can be a crucial part of enhancing the customer experience, just like stellar customer service is. Loyalty programs reward existing customers for sticking with your brand over a long period of time. Usually, these programs reward customers for repeatedly and frequently making purchases, but they can reward any brand-building action your brand wants to promote (such as leaving positive reviews or engaging with your social media).
Thinking about starting or refining a loyalty program? Be sure to offer value through your program, by choosing rewards that your customers want to earn, and by personalizing each customer’s experience wherever possible. And choose the type of rewards that your customers actually want to earn!
However, remember that loyalty programs are not the best fit for every business. Loyalty programs work best if your brand sells relatively inexpensive products that customers purchase frequently.
Now that you know the top customer service tips, you’re ready to implement them and reap the rewards of high customer satisfaction!