Welcome to our conversational guide to customer service. You're about to learn all the ins and outs of excellent customer service. We'll start from the basic definitions and move towards more advanced concepts. Feel free to read the contents of this guide in order or jump straight to the section that sparks your interest. Here's a list of topics covered in this guide:
- Customer Service Definition
- Most Important Customer Service Skills & Abilities
- Differences Between Customer Service & Customer Support
- Customer Service Evaluation Criteria
- Elements of a Good Customer Service Experience
- Customer Service Difficulty
- Customer Service Improvement
- Importance of Customer Service
- Customer Service Performance Measurement
- Chatbots in Customer Service
What's Customer Service?
Customer service is about showing genuine interest and care about the experiences customers have when they interact with your brand, regardless of where these people are in their customer journey. It can be defined as the assistance and guidance you provide before, during, and after they make a purchase decision that allows them to derive maximum benefits from the products or services your business delivers.
It's important to remember that great customer service is more than just providing quick, useful, and relevant answers. It's one of the most important aspects of the promise your company makes to its customers, and it's vital to keep your promises because if you don't, you can neither expect people to stay as paying customers for very long nor they will help you to promote your business among their friends and relatives.
What are the 5 Most Important Customer Service Skills & Abilities?
There are five most important customer service skills and abilities that come into play during online or face-to-face interactions with your clients and have a major impact on the perceived quality of services your company delivers. They are:
While some of them might require years of experience the good news is that others are a result of your attitude and willingness to go the extra mile.
Why is Punctuality One of the Most Important Customer Service Skills?
No matter if you meet with your clients in the virtual or physical world punctuality demonstrates your ability to plan your day properly. It's a clear sign that you respect your customer, so making an effort to start and complete your work on time is very important. It shows professionalism and helps to establish your reputation as a reliable and trustworthy service provider which can be a major differentiator.
Why is Subject Matter Expertise One of the Most Important Customer Service Skills?
When clients purchase your products or services they trust that you have the necessary experience to perform a given task at least at a satisfactory level. Many niches are evolving rapidly so you need to follow the industry best practices, and constantly improve to keep your knowledge up-to-date. If what you deliver doesn't match industry standards you risk losing not only a customer but also credibility.
Why are Problem Solving Skills Some of the Most Important Customer Service Abilities?
Not everything goes according to plan, so sometimes you have to improvise and come up with solutions on the spot. It shows your resilience and ability to get the job done no matter the circumstances, and that's why it's a highly appreciated ability. If you fail at quick problem solving you might not be able to complete a task within a given timeframe, which will lead to losing your own and your client's time.
Why is Attention to Detail One of the Most Important Customer Service Skills?
Some customers communicate differently, so it's important to listen closely and not jump to conclusions too quickly or try to cut corners to save time because this can lead to poor results and overall customer dissatisfaction. It's vital to pay attention to details and carry every step to the highest possible standard. Your attentiveness won't go unnoticed and can go a long way in satisfying your client's needs.
Why is Patience One of the Most Important Customer Service Skills?
Patience refers to your ability to calmly, respectfully, and politely handle all customer interactions. It's worth keeping in mind that your customer doesn't have the same background as you, so what might seem straightforward from your perspective, might be difficult for them to understand. Having patience can make all the difference, and promote a positive experience for both you and your client.
What're the Differences Between Customer Service and Customer Support?
Probably because both customer support and customer service teams use the same communication channels, require similar skills and tools to help customers and increase their levels of satisfaction people often think that they're the same thing, but although they're similar there are three fundamental differences between them:
- Length of the Interaction
Let's have a look at the table to see the differences in greater detail:
|Customer Service||Customer Support|
|Goal||Customer service is an umbrella term that encompasses activities focused on enhancing customer experience and maximising the benefits they get from their purchases. It's about providing engaging and useful advice, guiding customers, and ensuring that they're making the right decisions to build long-term relationships.||Customer support on the other hand focuses only on the functional aspects of getting things done. It starts when a customer knows what needs to be done and either wants to do it or wants to learn how to do it. Customer support is like a swiss army knife that helps to resolve common needs clients have quickly and efficiently.|
|Focus||Since customers might have only a vague idea of what they're trying to achieve customer service requires both creative and logical thinking to be able to first understand the problem and customer motivations, then come up with potential solutions to finally select the best option that will deliver the desired outcomes.||Since customer support is more narrowly focused it mostly requires logical thinking as opposed to creativity. Support attention needs to be directed towards reaching one well-defined solution to a given problem, by either providing detailed instructions or performing necessary steps to fulfill the customer request.|
|Length of Interaction||Since customers might not know exactly what they need, customer service interactions tend to be much longer. They involve asking for things like unique circumstances, conflicting requirements, and personal motivations, and understanding them before being able to advise on the best options takes time.||Since consumers know exactly what they want and just want to get things done customer support focuses mostly on solving problems that have no other possible solutions. In other words, it lacks the exploration phase commonly present in customer service, which results in the support process being much shorter.|
How do People Evaluate Customer Service Experiences?
To understand what shapes customer perception it's vital to think in moments because the peak-end rule states that people don't assess their experiences by just averaging them minute-by-minute. Instead, people tend to forget what was aligned with their basic expectations and remember moments that caused extreme emotional responses both good and bad. There are three important types of moments:
How do Moments of Joy Impact Customer Service Evaluation?
Every moment of convenience, comfort, or delight has the power to quickly transform a mostly forgettable experience into a truly memorable one. To achieve this you should aim for evoking feelings of belonging and appreciation by offering rewards or discounts after reaching a certain milestone, seamlessly adapting to personal tastes and preferences, or making time-consuming processes effortless.
How do Unexpected Problems Impact Customer Service Evaluation?
Moments of confusion or frustration have an immense negative charge and people tend to remember these experiences more vividly than the positive ones. Examples of this might include situations where clients have to wait on hold for a long time before being served, have to repeat themselves to yet another business representative, or arrive at an appointment to find out that no one awaits them.
How do Final Impressions Impact Customer Service Evaluation?
The final impressions are feelings that last so it's extremely important to end every interaction on a high note. Even a slight improvement towards the end of the experience can shift consumers' perceptions, and this is excellent news since even if there were some problems along the way you still have chances to turn the situation around and leave customers with positive feelings about your company.
What Makes a Good Customer Service Experience?
Good customer service is a subjective opinion every person has about how they're being treated when they engage with your business. Every interaction counts and contributes to a collective perception of the quality of service your business provides. To leave every client with a positive impression that's going to last you need to focus on four main areas:
How does Experience Before the Purchase Impact Good Customer Service Experience?
Presale customer service should be focused on educating potential buyers not only about your brand but also about potential solutions to their problems. It's vital to keep their best interest in mind even if it means having to send them away. While it won't lead to customer acquisition, at least not immediately, it'll establish trust and make them want to come back in the future or refer your business to someone else.
How does Experience During the Purchase Impact Good Customer Service Experience?
To provide good customer service at this stage you need to first listen to specific needs, personal tastes, or relevant circumstances to get into customers' shoes and gain a better understanding of their perspective because what's important for them might be different than what you think. Doing this will enable you to better adapt to their needs and guide them towards a purchase decision that will yield the most value.
How does Experience After the Purchase Impact Good Customer Service Experience?
Although some people see closing a deal as the final step of the process, the truth is that when you convert prospects to become your clients, customer service doesn't stop. After acquiring a new customer you need to make sure that your company delivers what was agreed, the customer knows how to make the most out of their purchase, and if possible how they can prevent similar problems from reoccurring.
How do Seamless Transitions Impact Good Customer Service Experience?
Providing the same familiar, conversational experience at every stage of the customer journey is an important step to preserve the perceived quality of services your business delivers. Not only does it allow for a smoother transition between them, because clients can continue to use their channel of choice but also contributes to a better overall experience your customers get when interacting with your business.
Is Customer Service Difficult?
Customer demands are constantly rising and gravitate towards the best experiences they're familiar with from interacting with big brands. This means that raising the standards for what's expected by the consumers makes it increasingly more challenging to delight them, because the former moments of joy, when they happen often enough become the new norm, and lack of them becomes unacceptable.
Customer service requires a variety of skills, and service professionals are expending a lot of physical and mental energy with every customer interaction, and can quickly become overwhelmed with an influx of incoming customer requests and difficulty in prioritising them. This makes it hard for companies that don't leverage technology advancements to augment and complement their customer service team to reduce their workloads.
How to Improve Customer Service?
Improving customer service is a cumulative result of careful planning, processes, and tools that systematically support people in making great experiences happen. Four major areas are going to help you to improve the quality of customer service:
- Understand Customer Needs
- Consistently Meet & Occasionally Exceed Customer Expectations
- Streamline Supporting Activities
- Collect & Act Upon Customer Feedback
How Understanding Customer Needs Helps to Improve Customer Service?
Positive customer service starts with a better understanding of customer needs because first, you need to know how can you serve them better. You might have the best ship, but if you don't know where to go chances of arriving at the desired destination are slim to none. But knowing is just half the battle because you also have to prioritise these needs to create an action plan for sustainable improvement.
How Consistently Meeting & Occasionally Exceeding Customer Expectations Helps to Improve Customer Service?
Now it's time to put newly acquired knowledge into action and implement repeatable and scalable processes that will enable your business to consistently meet and occasionally exceed customer expectations. This can be a total game-changer that can help you deliver amazing customer service experiences, propel your company to previously unreachable heights and long-term prosperity.
How Streamlining Supporting Activities Helps to Improve Customer Service?
Customer service professionals may sometimes have to provide support to clients and having to switch between these activities comes at a cost of draining them out of the energy that can be invested to better serve customer needs and build lasting relationships with them. By anticipating and streamlining common supporting activities you can free up their time and help them achieve better results.
How Does Collecting Customer Feedback Help to Improve Customer Service?
Unfortunately, many businesses avoid asking customers for feedback, because they're afraid of their opinion. While it might not be a big problem when everything went well, it's when things didn't go according to plan where it brings the most benefits. Collecting customer feedback enables you to improve poor customer service experience not only in this case but also in future customer interactions.
Why is Customer Service Important in Business?
Great customer service has always been an important part of any successful business, but in today's highly competitive market it's become more essential than ever. Three main benefits make customer service extremely important in business:
Why is Competitive Advantage Important in Business?
In a world where there are many alternatives available, it's increasingly more difficult to differentiate based on products or services alone, and most customers rely on the overall quality of services a company provides to make their choice. Many studies lead to a conclusion that a customer experience is becoming a key differentiator, which means that this is what sets your business apart from the competition.
Why is Customer Retention Important in Business?
Great customer service increases the number of satisfied customers that are not only willing to pay more for your products or services but also are less likely to switch providers due to poor customer service experience. Any improvement in this area enables you to retain more happy customers, improve customer lifetime value and grow your business faster by decreasing the cost of customer acquisition.
Why is Continuous Improvement Important in Business?
No matter how good your customer service team is, you can always start where you are and improve your results over time. Delivering high-quality customer service is an ongoing process that relies on your ability to collect, monitor, and understand customer service data that enables you to learn from past mistakes, introduce new actions and improve processes to deliver excellent customer service, and continuously improve your business.
How to Measure Customer Service Performance?
To measure how good your customer service is, you need to not only understand how to evaluate customer service success from a quantitative operational standpoint but also how to measure both qualitative and quantitative customer experience data. In other words, it's critical to track the efficiency and effectiveness of your workflows and software solutions to assess the time advantages, cost-effectiveness, and other important benefits to your business.
In addition to processing conversation metrics, it's equally important to collect qualitative feedback from customer satisfaction surveys. This will enable you to have a broader picture of your customer service team's overall performance. You can achieve the best results by combining several of the following key metrics into a more holistic, complete, and well-rounded perspective that will help to gauge the quality of customer service.
Will Customer Service be Replaced by Robots?
Customer service is becoming increasingly automated. Chatbots are a prime example of this, as they can answer simple questions quickly and efficiently without the need for human attention. However, this doesn't mean customer service reps are going anywhere. Sometimes there's no substitute for the empathy a customer service professional can deliver or the kind of intelligence that needs creativity or judgement to resolve a query.
In these situations, providing great customer service relies on the uniquely human ability to draw parallels with similar experiences that allow for problems in complex or unusual circumstances to be resolved. It’s then essential for a chatbot to be able to seamlessly hand over to a live agent when the need arises, ensuring that all the information already gleaned during the conversation is transferred too, so the customer doesn’t have to start from the beginning again.
Chatbots and customer service teams can work together in harmony, where chatbots rather than replacing them, empower them by undertaking standard queries and performing repeatable and mundane activities saving their human counterparts from boredom and overheads, which lets them focus on more creative parts of their jobs, improves their well-being and overall job satisfaction.
Building a successful business relies heavily on providing excellent customer service at every step of the way to everyone you interact with from the first-time visitors to loyal customers and everyone in-between. When your customers have questions or concerns, you should recognise and treat them with the utmost level of respect, value every opportunity to engage with them to learn more about their experience, and help them achieve the best results from their purchases.
Excellent customer service is what contributes the most to customer satisfaction that's expressed in the form of reviews or other forms of passing this information from one person to another. To achieve results like that you need a thorough understanding of customer needs, and the ability to consistently meet and occasionally exceed expectations.
Achieving these goals may sound challenging, but it can be much easier when you leverage technology advancements to anticipate and streamline common supporting activities and offload your customer service professionals letting them focus on things that matter most. By analysing the key customer service performance metrics, and customer feedback you can ensure delivering excellent quality of service to every customer.