What Is Customer Service and How to Build a Good One
In this blog post, you'll learn why any business must be able to provide excellent customer service that constantly delights customers and how to improve customer service in your own organization.
9 min read
Many business leaders and even heads of sales departments believe that it is enough to attract a client once and then it is in the bag: The client will regularly use your product or service and not even consider leaving for a competitor. This blatantly reckless line of reasoning poses serious business problems for the companies these executives work for.
The truth is, your clients are your main asset and investment, and they both merit and require ongoing attention. A huge part of this approach is delivering great customer service. In a way, customer service is like a musical instrument that takes a long time to tune to produce a wonderful sound — in business, you should fine-tune your customer relations processes in order to make a long-lasting revenue stream.
The importance of customer service and problems the bad service can pose
Poor customer service will cost your company money. It’s as simple as that. Research shows that in the U.S. alone, companies lose $75 billion in potential revenue every year due to poor customer service. This is a mind-boggling figure.
What’s more, another recent study reports that 91% of brand-dissatisfied customers will leave without complaining. This silent abandonment can puzzle business owners, who will struggle mightily trying to understand why customers are leaving and what is wrong with their brand.
What is the impact of poor customer service?
- 27% of Americans report ineffective customer service as their number one disappointment. (Statista)
- Another 12% of Americans rate their number one frustration as “lack of speed.” (Statista)
- 72% of customers say that having to explain their problems to multiple people is bad customer service. (Dimensional Research)
- 79% of consumers who used reviews to complain about poor online customer service were ignored. (Harris Interactive)
- Only 33% of consumers would recommend a brand that responds quickly but ineffectively. (Nielsen-McKinsey)
- Only 17% of consumers would recommend a brand that offers a slow but effective solution to a problem. (Nielsen-McKinsey)
Why is it important to improve customer service?
An increase in customer retention of just 5% translates into a 25% increase in profits. There are several reasons for this. First, return customers are likely to spend more money on your brand’s products or services — 67% more, to be exact. In addition, your business will have to spend less time and money acquiring new customers, which will positively affect your margins. Finally, when your customers are happy with the service they receive, they are more likely to share their positive experiences with their friends, family, and colleagues.
Today, good customer service is also critical to effective competition. In the past, people were more likely to choose a product or service provider based mainly on price comparison, but today’s experience shows that the overall quality of servicing is often the primary deciding factor. The majority of companies now expect to be able to successfully compete primarily by improving customer experience.
5 ways how to provide good customer service
Here are the five examples of good customer service that you can borrow for your business to serve your clients better:
- Provide solutions quickly, whether through a customer service agent, self-service, or a chatbot.
- Help customers 24/7/365 by providing multiple customer service channels that work together.
- Ensure all agents that customers interact with are friendly and understanding.
- Build support for customers into all your activities, not just the issue resolution process.
- Honestly admit your mistakes and try to improve as you go.
Now let’s take a closer look at these steps.
1. Provide solutions quickly.
One of the most important factors in good customer service is the speed of your response. Many surveys come to this simple, common-sense conclusion: Customers don’t like to wait. Waiting too long, especially when the issue is urgent, annoys and disappoints people.
Good practice here is not only to reduce the overall time customers must wait before getting a solution to their problem, but also to provide customers some benefit during the waiting period. For example, if a customer requests that you repair a laptop she purchased from you, do not leave her unable to work for the month it’ll take until it’s finally fixed; give her a loaner laptop to use during the repair period.
2. Ensure customers can get the support they need by offering multiple channels that work together.
Today, customers have distinct preferences about how they want to interact with your organization. Depending on the issue they’re having, their personal situation, or the time of day, they might want to use your website, reach you via social media, call you on the phone, send you an email, or even visit one of your physical offices in person. If you force clients who are having a problem to stick to only one particular interaction lane, or send them back to the beginning every time they try to request your help through a different channel than you’ve allocated, that will have a very negative impact on the clients’ experience. They might even refuse to continue to do business with your organization.
If your organization provides any kind of online e-service and also has physical points of sale, you should not tackle these two channels in isolation. Today’s consumers do not view the various branches and directions of a brand as separate entities. They are used to receiving real-time responses, predominately via instant messages. They want to be able to instantly interact with the brand online, via their mobile devices, or in a physical store, and they need to feel that your organization maintains the context with each interaction so that the interaction experience is consistent.
Accordingly, take a multi-channel approach to customer service. Accept the concept of customer centricity and use modern technologies such as quality CRM systems, telephony systems, and machine learning to provide customer support no matter how someone interacts with your company. Maintain a unified database of requests and try to operate with context so that when a client contacts any channel, you can quickly solve their problem.
3. Ensure the agents that customers interact with are friendly and understanding.
Artificial intelligence helps to automate a lot of mundane tasks, but when it comes to delivering truly quality service to customers, a live operator is still the preferred option most of the time. Only a person can show empathy and sympathy, joke with clients and help calm them down, and show cultural understanding.
To provide great customer service, invest in top-notch support staff. Make sure they are professionals in their field (psychologists in some way) and have a sound understanding of your processes and your product. Remember to motivate these employees, as their work is often repetitive and stressful. Reward your professionals when they show a genuine interest in solving client problems in a friendly manner.
Good service cannot happen against a background of formalism or apathy — good service is always characterized by such things as friendliness, empathy, and deep knowledge of the issue. Clients are very sensitive to any hints of pass-through support, which makes them feel like just a small cog in a huge machine. You have to create the opposite impression: that the client is special to the organization and the organization genuinely wants to help them.
4. Build support for customers into all your activities, not just the issue resolution process.
Customer service is often viewed as a very narrow area — handling problems that arise with customers. But actually, customer service is a team sport that involves many processes and groups across your organization, not just the support team itself.
You must understand that brand attitude is not shaped by one thing. Companies with excellent customer service demonstrate that quality of servicing matters to the entire organization, and they work to build quality into every stage of the customer journey. This includes:
- Honesty in your marketing campaigns
- Transparency of your pricing
- Ease of the sales cycle
- The overall quality of your products or services
Instill in your organization a culture of quality at all levels, and create an environment in which each employee strives to meet high standards of customer service. Don’t forget that the human touch ties together all your efforts to build a good company image. A well-trained staff who can effectively and graciously resolve customer problems and build a positive image for your brand is a key ingredient in providing first-class customer service. But they are only one part of the total customer experience, which is what really matters and determines whether you can attract and retain clients.
5. Honestly admit your mistakes and try to improve as you go.
People are very sensitive to the smallest signs of insincerity or attempts to deceive them or get rid of them. Don’t let your customer service staff lie to a client or evade their concerns when their problem is more complex than usual and can’t be solved right away. Instead, maintain an open dialogue and inform your customers when you do not know the answer to their question and need more time to solve it. Then, let the customer know the agent will contact the right person and come back when they have an answer. This is how you earn customer trust and commitment to your business.
Over time, your support team will see certain problems over and over. There is always a set of common issues, which can arise because your product or service has some kind of hidden defect or inconvenience that is obvious to customers but not obvious to you. Take advantage of what you learn from these interactions — don’t solve the same problem over and over again, starting from the very beginning. Instead, document both the problem and the solution to your knowledge base, so the next customer with the same issue can be handled efficiently. Also, be sure to notify those responsible for collecting customer feedback on the product; perhaps the underlying issue will be included in the next scope of fixes released.
You can also describe the solutions to common problems in a troubleshooting or Q&A section on your website. By taking the time to help clients help themselves, you can reduce support team workload and increase customer satisfaction.
It is a well-known fact that clients have a long memory. This has always been the case, but with the fierce competition among an abundance of products and services available today, this aspect of client relations is especially important. Absolutely everyone in your organization should be focused on ensuring great customer experience and a positive client attitude towards your organization.
Customer service skills will help you maintain a high level of customer focus. One way to improve these skills is internal training: Share your knowledge of the customer experience, give your teams clear guidance about what to do when complex situations arise, and regularly provide examples of what great customer service looks like in the best companies. Celebrate small wins when you see that customers are happy with your service, product, or company.
A well-trained and positive customer service team can make your company the best version of itself. Their ability to communicate directly with customers on a positive and professional note can completely transform your company and expand your customer base.