​​12 tips for better customer service

Morgan Sliff

Morgan Sliff,

Editor at eForms

28 May 20200 min read

You want your customers to remember the experience you gave them. So every conversation counts.

"Wow that was easy."

"That was so much faster than I thought it would be."

"You have a great day, too!"

These are all responses we love to hear as customer service professionals. We want to get back to customers faster, give them a quick laugh, and surprise them with how pleasant the experience was. We want to make a lasting impression so that customers keep coming back for more.

While a lot of companies neglect customer feedback, lose their personal touch, and let customers’ needs take a back seat in their strategy, the companies that are going to thrive for the future are those who prioritize every conversation. They make an impact on their customers that lasts.

Use these customer service tips to make sure that every human you speak with gets ​​a better customer experience from your team.

Customer service tips

1. Cut response times so your customers don’t have to wait

So, it’s no secret: cut response times, and you’ll watch your customer satisfaction rates soar. When your customer has an issue, they’ve already spent valuable time being perturbed. The longer they wait, the more their annoyance festers. But the faster problems get fixed — with little to no effort on your customer’s part — the faster they can get back to a problem-free day.

A study from Toister found that a third of customers now expect a response in one hour or less — almost double their 2018 numbers for the same survey. This is why companies with lightning-fast response times are known for having the best customer service. Many companies, however, aren’t even hitting a 24-hour benchmark. Take note: if you leave customers hanging, they’ll take their business elsewhere.

2. Take the time to write the answers out

Knowledge bases and FAQs exist for a reason: they let you find information on your own. While they’re great self-service tools, customer service representatives also love to use them to get the right answers. Some customers will prefer to head straight to your support reps to ask a question, rather than look it up themselves in a knowledge base. Those are the kind of customers who prefer that you explain it to them in your email — rather than tossing them a link and asking them to parse through an article. Taking the time to write out an answer, even if you do link to a knowledge base in your response, shows you’re willing to go the extra mile.

3. Give a personal touch

When you speak with someone about their dog’s weird habits or the brand of cereal they had for breakfast, you build a connection with them. Personalization makes loyal customers. Tiny but meaningful tweaks go a long way in fostering humanity. Using the customer’s name when speaking to them adds emotional investment to a matter that’s being transacted often hundreds or even thousands of miles apart. Use active listening and allow them to feel like a person, not just another account or ticket number floating in your customer support team’s help desk.

4. Say sorry and mean it

Empathy is one of the most important customer service skills. Save a few lone wolves, your customer usually has a real concern that needs to be addressed. Instead of pawning off responsibility on another department or communicating that it isn’t your company’s fault, a simple “I’m really sorry this happened” coupled with “I’m going to do my absolute best to fix this for you right now” not only validates the customer’s problem, but it also shows ownership, empathy, and that the person at the other end of the line or screen actually cares. Apologizing to your customers shows that you’re human too. Here are some example apology emails for customers you can use to make it right again.

5. Play with words

Turning the frown of an unfortunate event upside down takes some practice, it’s actually pretty easy. Take this situation and two very different approaches:

Sally purchases a beautiful armchair on backorder and calls customer service to see when the item will arrive. She’s hopeful that it’ll land in her living room really soon.

The Negative Nancys of the support world say:

“It looks like the chair you ordered won’t be in for another three weeks. And after that, it takes another week for shipping. So, you actually won’t receive it for a month.”

But the Positive Pollys opt for the glass half full:

"Good news! Your armchair should be finished in three weeks. After that, it takes a week to get to your house."

After speaking with Negative Nancy, Sally might want to throw in the towel, cancel the order, and look for an armchair elsewhere. But after a conversation with Positive Polly, she knows what to expect and won’t be demanding a full refund to her credit card.

6. Follow psychology and use positive language

Customer service is its own language, and you have to know what to say — and not say — to a customer. Certain words are the f-bombs of customer service and should never be allowed to enter a customer’s ears. Here’s a small list of what to never utter:

  • Can’t

  • Won’t

  • Calm Down

  • No

Instead of “we can’t do that,” try more positive language: “our company is still exploring those possibilities, but here’s what we can do for you right this moment.” You can improve your customer conversations with the tips in this article: How to talk to customers in 7 easy steps.

7. Be available on many channels

Thanks to technology, there are many different ways for customers to contact you now. Be available on these touchpoints so they can reach you in the method that feels best. Email is a no-brainer, but phone, SMS text, live chat, and social media are all ways you want to be able to have customer interactions. The world is multi-channel now, and customer support teams need to be experts on all of them. If you want to dig deeper on multichannel communication, I’d recommend this webinar on customer service in a multi-channel world.

8. Go the extra mile to solve problems

Customers don’t typically call or email to tell you about sunshine and rainbows. They’re calling because they either want something or have a problem, and they want it fixed. Their issue is a tough pill to swallow, because they’ve likely already put their trust in your company by spending money.

Your job should be sweetening the discontent from a bitter black coffee to a delicious mocha. Instead of leaving them with the problem, they need to depart with not only a solution, but something else — positive language is the minimum they’ll need, and the max a free gift, overnight shipping for the part they’re missing, or something else that puts a little pep in their step. It’s those types of efforts that will give your brand that word of mouth recommendation you’re looking for as a brand that cares about customer experience.

9. Follow up to customer complaints

We all know the drill: you wait on hold for an hour, get a horrible elevator tune stuck in your head for the rest of the day, and then the support rep finally answers — only to not have the right answer. It’s frustrating, and these situations tend to bring out the best in no one. A few moments later, you get a low Net Promoter Score (NPS) or a poor review on social media. Ignoring negative customer feedback often feels like the right move, especially if it’s public and could lead to a frightening conversation for the internet world to see and chime in on — but the companies that go the extra mile and are the ones that are brave enough to reply.

They apologize for the bad experience, ask for feedback, and here’s the kicker: take their customer feedback into account for next time. They tell the rest of the team what happened and why it backfired. Then everyone is armed to not make that mistake again and deliver a better customer experience.

10. Don’t forget to smile

Pardon my cheesiness: but a smile can pretty much travel across airwaves. We love it. Customers love it. Customer retention scores love it too. Smiling while communicating — even on the phone — actually changes your vocal tone, giving off a positive, upbeat demeanor. Even more compelling, positive attitudes are proven to be infectious, so if smiling makes you more positive, that means that it’ll rub off on your customers. At the end of the day, you’re there to make sure your customer’s experience is a great one, and you can’t do that without making them smile. You could even try getting it across with a well-placed emoji.

11. End conversations with care

Knowing how to end conversations artfully is a key piece of good customer service. If “is there anything else I can help you with?” gets stuck in randomly or at the wrong time, your customer may feel like they’re being pushed away. Know when you’ve solved a problem and when you haven’t — and close out on a positive note accordingly. And if you haven’t solved the problem, don’t act like it’s a positive thing. Let them know when you’re planning to get back to them.

12. Keep your team well-informed

The last thing you want to hear when you’re on the phone with a support rep is, "I don’t know." Even if you don’t actually know, you can’t leave it at that. Let them know you’re figuring it out

If someone calls or emails and a query doesn’t fall into capable hands, your company trust meter plummets. But even worse — if the customer feels like they’re having to tell your support reps how to do their jobs, enter: a company’s nightmare scenario of compounding frustration and an almost certain negative review on social media.

Anyone directly interacting with customers needs to know the ins and outs of company policies and the latest product updates. It’s up to your leadership team to provide customer-facing staff with continual resources and training so that customer service representatives are experts on every issue they may come across. Not only will this improve customer satisfaction, but if everyone knows what to do, it’ll make you more efficient and cut down on time needed to find solutions.

Better customer service starts with leaders who invest in it

Ultimately, who you hire on your customer service team will make all the difference for customer satisfaction. It’s up to leadership to hire and train customer service representatives with exceptional people skills as well as make the customer support team want to go to bat for the company and feel committed to your mission.

Written by Morgan Sliff

Originally Published: 28 May 2020

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