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Excellent Customer Service 101: How to Make Your Customers Happy

Kat Ambrose | February 25th, 2020

Quick! Think about your current customer service strategy. How would you say things are going?

If you’re worried that your strategy isn’t up to par, you’re not alone. In fact, a report from Forrester found that 72% of businesses say that improving their customer service is their top priority.

We’ve created this guide to help you create an excellent customer service strategy so you can not only boost your bottom line but, most importantly, make your customers happy.

Let’s get started.

Why excellent customer service should be your secret weapon

You could have the coolest, highest quality product out there, but it means nothing if your customer service experience is poor. Businesses invest so much into attracting and selling to customers, so why shouldn’t the same mindset apply for customer service? 

Customers are, after all, the heart and soul of a company. Without them, stuff hits the fan. 

A study from NewVoiceMedia found that 51% of consumers would never do business with a company again after just one poor customer service experience. What’s more, the same study found that 42% of customers would post about a negative experience with a brand online for the world to see. 

Your business can’t afford not to have a stellar customer service process in place. If customer service isn’t a priority for your business, you could risk your reputation going down the drain, losing you both current and potential customers. 

With a large population of consumers doing the majority of their shopping online these days—it’s estimated that there will be 300 million online shoppers by 2023!—the standard for online businesses has never been higher. Consumers are expecting companies to accommodate their preferences, from newer areas of customer service like live chat and Facebook Messenger to tried and true channels like email and phone support.

Those standards are becoming higher for a good reason. After all, customers are making a conscious decision to invest in your product or service and anticipating a particular experience in return. Your customers are the reason you’re in business in the first place, and your job is to serve them as best as you can. Delivering on your product or service is one thing, but the way you treat your customers when they need assistance is what will make your business stand out in an ever-more crowded market.

So, where do you start?

The better you treat your customers, the better off your business

It’s amazing what treating other humans like humans can do. The simple act of genuinely caring about your customers and their needs will put you leagues ahead of your competitors. Plus, your customers will remember how you made them feel.

Of course, you’re bound to run into some problematic customers who make resolving issues more challenging. But even the difficult customers are just as important to business as your understanding, respectful customers. For many frustrated customers, they just want their concerns to be heard. Treating them with kindness can be the difference between saving that customer relationship and adding another tick to your customer churn tally.

Customers can help you identify costly problems

Your customers may help you discover issues within your business that you otherwise might not have been aware of had they not brought it to light: 

  • A faulty UX element on the checkout page?
  • Issues with your credit card payment system?
  • An influx of wrong orders?

These are all examples of concerns your customers may bring to your team’s attention, which means you can fix them faster. 

The bottom line: Take care of your customers. The ROI of doing so will far outweigh the effort that goes into building a solid customer service strategy. 

Resources:

What does excellent customer service look like?

There’s no question that technology has brought a lot of convenience and ease into the modern world. So much so that instant expectations have become the norm for pretty much anything handled online. 

However, when it comes to running a business or customer support, the ease of technology should never be an excuse to do the bare minimum. To really stand out to customers, you must go the extra mile. 

Now, that’s not to say that you have to do things the hard way (we’d never encourage you to do that), but skimping out on quality can be a fatal error. For example, if you’re going to offer live chat support, it's critical to ensure your support chat is not only functioning properly but that it’s successful and effective

What does truly exceptional customer service look like? Grab your magnifying glass, and let’s examine great customer service at work.

Going above and beyond for your customers

There are tons of ways you can show your customers that you’ll always have their back. Putting your best foot forward is always a smart idea, whether it’s rewarding them for bringing a site error to your attention or providing them with additional resources for them to further their skills or knowledge about your product.

Stan Phelps

“First, and this is a mantra I am really a believer in, that there is no such thing as just meeting the expectations of your customers. You either exceed their expectations or you fall short. You need to have a mindset of wanting to go above and beyond. Second, most companies are going to rush and start to do things for the customer, and from my research, the companies that really get this are the ones that actually start with the employees first. Because you can’t have happy enthused customers if you don’t have happy engaged employees.”

Stan Phelps
Purple Goldfish

Some examples of this in the real world:

  • A credit card company that alerts its customers of potentially fraudulent charges
  • A website hosting service that provides additional resources for customers to review after they end a chat with live support.

Being timely, respectful, and empathetic

Your customer service team is the direct line between your business and your customers. Your team is interacting and helping real people solve their problems and concerns. Therefore, treating all customers (yes, even the snarky or difficult ones) with respect and empathy is absolutely vital. 

But it’s not enough just to be kind and understanding—you must be timely, too. According to a report from American Express, 40% of customers wish their issues were taken care of faster. Having a streamlined customer service platform can help solve this issue and reduce the time between support tickets and responses. Plus, you won’t duplicate efforts, which is a waste of both your team’s time and your customer’s time.

Making customers feel supported, heard, and important

Excellent customer service means treating customers well and addressing their issues promptly. It also means making them feel like they are seen by your company.

Each ticket is an opportunity to make a customer feel important. Using language like, “We’re sorry that this happened to you. We want to make things right.” and, “We want to ensure you have the best experience with us. Let’s come up with a solution together.” Phrases like this show customers that you hear them and genuinely want to make the situation better.

Adam Toporek

"Adopt and champion a customer-centric mindset throughout the organization. Products will come and go, technologies will shift, and industries will be disrupted, but a customer-centric culture is the thread that can and should weave through all change. Organizations can place the customer at the center of decisions by asking one simple question: how will this affect the customer? It’s not the only question organizations need to ask, but it is the single question that can help organizations keep the customer front and center during the decision-making process."

Adam Toporek
Customers That Stick

Make the decision today to treat all your customers well, because we know that great customer service is the cheapest and best marketing tool available. Of course really great customer service delivers over and above expectations, and that’s when your business will be rewarded. Providing great customer service is easy to do: just be aware, and make it your focus. 

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Why excellent customer service should be a priority

Providing outstanding customer service should be one of the biggest priorities for your business. 

Here are a few of the biggest reasons why:

It’s what your customers remember

Your customers are going to remember how you made them feel. However, not only will they remember how you made them feel, but you can bet that they’ll also be telling others about the experience as well. 

Your customer service team is a representation of your company as a whole, and those team members are interacting with your customers. If your company is not being represented in the best way due to a poor customer service experience, you better believe that customers will associate that experience with your brand—until (and if) they’re proven otherwise.

Mike Wittenstein

"Sweat the details. Because they're what customers notice. Providing great service means doing lots of things right. So, shop your own business in every channel (web, phone, fax, email, chat, in-store, etc.) to see what your customers see. Stop doing what doesn’t work. Improve what needs improving. Do more FOR your customers than TO them and you’ll be well on your way to a better customer service culture—and a better bottom line."

Mike Wittenstein
mikewittenstein.com

Even if your customers don’t stand on a social media soapbox and proclaim how terrible their experience was, it’s safe to assume their poor experience will leak into other forms of conversation.

Customers will share their experience no matter what, so why not give them something positive to say?

It reflects heavily on your entire business

Every customer touchpoint reflects on your business as a whole—from your social media posts and newsletters to how you talk to your customers on the phone.

By that logic, it’s safe to say that good customer service is associated with a higher quality of products and that bad customer service is associated with products that are subpar—even if that isn’t true. 

In reality, it doesn’t matter if that’s true or not—customers will still run for the hills if your reputation has tanked. In fact, US consumers will pay 17% more for a product from a company with great customer service.

The moral of the story: how your business is perceived by customers will make or break your bottom line.

It shows customers you care

Your customers are human. You’re human. Humans want to know that their best interests are cared for by other humans and that their best interests are looked after. 

When you treat your customers well, especially in a situation where they’re feeling vulnerable, they feel safe doing business with you. And not only are they more likely to do business with you again but will tell their family and friends about their great experience, too.

It’s a great marketing angle

Practicing excellent customer service is something you should be proud of! And what better way to showcase this pride than within your marketing?

Take Squarespace, for example. They’re leaders in customer service for their industry, and they aren’t afraid to show it.

Squarespace CX

This paragraph is on their homepage for all to see. It evokes feelings of security—you know you can rely on them for whatever tech issue is thrown your way. Oh, and personalized, round-the-clock support? It’s no wonder they’ve won awards for their customer service. 

Another example of this in action is from the pet supplies company, Chewy. This lucky customer received an unexpected gift from Chewy in the mail, and this customer took to Twitter to share it. 

This “surprise and delight” tactic is impactful for several reasons:

  • It’s a great way to make customers feel cared about
  • It boosts your relationship with your customers
  • It results in a great marketing angle you can leverage 

Plus, potential customers may see posts like this and be more inclined to purchase from you because of how wonderfully you treat your customers. 

It can reduce your churn rate

As a business owner or member of an agile team, you know how hard it can be to acquire customers. But the fact of the matter is, if your customer support isn’t so hot, those customers will be packing their bags before you can say “churn.”

Did you know that $137 billion is lost each year due to avoidable consumer switching? That’s no typo. On the flip side, a study from Bain & Company found that a 5% increase in customer retention can lead to a 25% increase in profits.

It boosts employee morale

Happy customers often result in happy employees. In fact, a study from the Aberdeen Group found that companies with happy employees have customer loyalty rates 233% higher than those who don’t.

Robert Richman

"My advice would be to create a culture of service, by taking out the word "customer" and include service in every aspect of the business."

Robert Richman
Corporate Culture Consultant

Excellent customer service must become a natural part of your company’s personality. It will be really difficult—if not nearly impossible—to provide excellent customer service unless your entire company is on board.

No matter your product or service, if you deal with your customers in a terrible way, there may come a day where you won’t have any customers at all.

Resources:

The 9 pillars of excellent customer service

Now that we know why customer service is essential and how it impacts your business, let’s take a look at the 9 pillars of excellent customer service and how you can implement them into your strategy.

1. Be accessible

These days, customers expect you to be available on various channels, like email, live chat, phone, and more. Your customers are busy, so having several options for contacting you can make a huge difference in their day (alleviating stress right off the bat!).

But here’s the catch: if you don’t have an efficient way of managing these channels, things could get out of control quickly. Before you introduce a new support channel, make sure you have a reliable process in place or an effective way of monitoring that channel. Your future self will thank you.

2. Respond in a timely manner

A good practice for calls and emails is to respond within 24 hours. If you don’t feel like you can deliver on that, maybe it’s time to reevaluate what channels make the most sense for your business.

Also, it’s important to communicate your typical response timeframe to customers. If you provide this information, though, it’s expected that you reply within that period.

3. Listen to what your customers have to say

One of the foundational components of excellent customer service is to listen. Let your customers explain themselves fully, uninterrupted.

Not only does this allow the customer to tell you about their situation in their own words, but it requires you to give your full, undivided attention, which will set you up to find the best solution.

4. Treat your customers with respect

No matter if you’re dealing with the most irate, irrational, rude customer on the face of the Earth, you still have to treat them with the utmost respect.

The truth is, you never know what’s going on in their life, and they may see you, a stranger, as an opportunity to unload stress and frustration. Or they could just be a terrible person who is mean to customer service representatives.

Either way, take the high road. Every time.

5. Never argue with your customers

Arguing with your customers is a surefire way to lose them—and simultaneously soil your reputation. In most customer service situations, defending yourself makes the problem worse. The customer doesn’t want to hear about how they’re wrong, they want to hear about how the problem is going to be fixed. 

If you need to take a moment, put your customer on a brief hold, and collect yourself. You, too, are human, but you can’t take these things personally. 

6. Honor your commitments

Do what you say you’ll do. If you told a customer you’d follow up with them the next day about an issue, prioritize that task. If your company holds a guarantee for a product, make sure you honor that guarantee.

Set yourself up for success. If you know an issue will take a while to look into, overpromise on the timeline, and then deliver well before that date. It’s better to give yourself a cushion than to be stressing about meeting a deadline.

7. Focus on building relationships—not making sales

Putting the customer at the center of everything you do will pave the way for a wonderful relationship. As we’ve said, without satisfied customers and their purchases, you’re out of business.

Doug Sandler

"Make your business about people and not about products. Put your customers FIRST and not focus on the money. If you help your customers get what they want, you will get what you want."

Doug Sandler
dougsandler.com

Sacrificing long-term relationships with short-term sales will no doubt come back to haunt you. Instead, keep your eyes on the prize: making your customers happy.

8. Admit when you’ve made a mistake

It takes a big person to admit when they’ve made a mistake. And if you’ve been dealing with an especially tough customer, telling them you’re wrong can be even more painful.

But here’s the thing: it’s all part of providing that excellent customer service we’ve been preaching about. 

If you’ve made a mistake, don’t try to hide it or cover it up. That will definitely make things worse. Instead, admit your mistake, apologize, and do what you can to make the situation right.

9. Train your staff and encourage continuous learning

There’s no bigger trainwreck than a customer service team that isn’t in sync, say except for an actual trainwreck.

(Pro tip: If you know that you need some assistance, Keeping is a great option for streamlining your customer service process)

Investing time into training your team is just as important as them implementing it. How are they supposed to know what to do if they aren’t prepared? 

Marylin Suttle

"It’s not enough to reach a point where you excel at customer service. Once you’ve reached it, then what? What’s working well today, may not be the best approach tomorrow. Instead, think long-term and commit to the practice of continuous improvement. Marilyn Suttle, author of the bestselling book, Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer Into Your Biggest Fan."

Marylin Suttle
Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer Into Your Biggest Fan.

When the training is over, encourage them to do some learning on their own. Your team is made up of humans, not robots, so they’ll each bring a unique flair to the team with their own ideas and thoughts.

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5 examples of excellent customer service

The customer service spectrum is quite broad, but these companies know how to get it just right. Take a page from their customer service playbooks and try implementing some of these excellent customer service examples into your own process.

Adobe

Adobe’s dedicated customer support Twitter account says a lot about how much they value providing support to their customers. Depending on your product or service, a unique approach to typical customer service channels might be necessary—as is the case with Adobe, who has tons of different software available.

Not only does a dedicated social media channel help customers figure out how to best contact you, but it makes keeping track of requests much more manageable. Bonus points to Adobe for being polite, timely, and respectful!

Slack

Slack, like any software company, experiences its fair share of glitches and hiccups. It can be difficult to diagnose those issues, especially over a channel like social media.

By asking probing questions like the ones above, Slack team members can learn about the specifics of a customer issue, which helps them narrow down the solution. 

This example also speaks volumes to the knowledge base of Slack’s support team. Being able to troubleshoot technical issues via Twitter means their team knows their product inside and out.

Squarespace

Customer service goes beyond interacting directly with customers. Any additional resources you can provide that add value to their experience is a bonus—and Squarespace delivers self-service in spades in their support knowledge base.

Squarespace Help

For the customers who’d rather not take the time to explain their problem to a support rep and opt for a DIY approach, a hub that’s packed with information and tutorials is a valuable resource. Squarespace’s guides are in-depth, use clear language, and provide tons of additional resources for customers.

Delta Airlines

With a recent health scare making travelers nervous (and already-nervous travelers even more nervous), Delta is on top of addressing this issue and controlling the message.

Delta Help

A customer with an upcoming flight expressed concern about flying with Delta due to the health scare. Delta replied in a professional, yet genuine tone and included a link to an official memo released from the company itself. The customer was put at ease, and a potentially tricky situation was diffused.

HubSpot

Not only does HubSpot have several guides customers can refer to, but they also offer several ways customers can contact them based on their preference. 

Hubspot Help

From submitting a ticket to calling their customer support line, there’s a method for every customer, no matter their preference or schedule—even for international customers, too! Talk about being accessible. 

Hungry for even more customer service tips? We’ve got you covered. Check out the top 7 essential customer service skills every support team should master, as well as tips on how you can make them part of your own customer experience.

And If you’re curious to learn more about Keeping and how our platform can streamline your customer service process, contact us today, and a member of our team will gladly help you.

Kat Ambrose loves to string words together, especially in a content marketing setting. After a few years of cutting her teeth in the agency world, she left to pursue her writing career and hasn’t looked back since. You can find Kat at https://www.katambrose.com.