23 Strategies to Create World Class Customer Service
A single bad customer service experience can put a customer off dealing with your business forever.
But an exceptional, world class customer service experience can turn a customer into a lifelong fan and advocate of your business.
So how do you go about creating an exceptional customer service experience?
Here are 23 strategies that best-in-class companies employ to ensure that their customers love dealing with them every single time.
- Document customer service standards
- Set clear expectations
- Focus on first impressions
- Reduce their effort
- Provide self-service options
- Make it easy to contact you
- Respond quickly to customer enquiries
- Acknowledge requests immediately
- Listen first, then respond
- Resolve all questions in the first response
- Focus on quality over speed
- Use the right tools to empower your team
- Encourage creative problem solving
- Value emotional intelligence
- Treat your employees well
- Get to know your customers
- Go offline
- Make every customer feel heard, right and special
- Say thank you and sorry
- Aim to keep EVERY customer
- Follow up after interactions are finished
- Collect feedback
- Collect data & analyse it
Let’s look at each of these practices in more detail, and how you can apply them in your business to create strong customer engagement.
1. Document customer service standards
Great customer service begins with a clear definition of what that means for your business.
By documenting your customer service standards, you ensure that everyone in your business is on the same page and working towards a consistently high-quality experience for your customers.
Look at the world leaders in customer experience and draw from their practices to create a clear statement for your business of what “World Class Customer Service” means.
If you’re already dealing with customers every day, you have a great starting point to look at what you’re doing that’s working well, and what needs to be improved.
And if you involve your service team in the creating of these standards, they’ll feel more engaged with the process, which will create a better result and help create the right culture around the importance of a great customer service experience.
2. Set clear expectations
Of course, once you’ve created your standard of excellence in customer experience, you need to communicate these to everyone.
This begins internally, with your customer service team, to ensure that each team member understands what is expected of them, and what they’re aiming for. Employees thrive when they’re clear on what’s expected of them.
But the most important place to set clear expectations is with your customers.
Wherever you can, communicate your service standards to your customers, whether that’s on your website, on social media, in emails or posted on your walls.
By setting clear expectations around response times, customer satisfaction and more, you’re starting off your customer experience on the right foot.
3. Focus on first impressions
In business, as in life, you don’t get a second chance at a first impression.
So make a concerted effort to create a great impression when a customer comes into contact with you for the first time.
Regardless of how customers contact you, make sure that their service experience is smooth and professional, and empower your team to wow them from the very beginning.
And ensure that this experience is consistent across all channels, so that you get the maximum opportunity to begin your interaction with them from a great position.
4. Reduce their effort
Closely connected to creating a great impression, is the importance of reducing a customer’s effort to get their needs met or question answered.
A 2007 study found that the single most important factor for increasing customer loyalty was how much a business reduced the amount of work a customer had to get their problem solved.
When a customer approaches you, they have something they’re trying to achieve, whether that’s choose a new product or fix an issue they’re having.
The more your customer service team can reduce the effort required to achieve that goal, the happier and more engaged that customer will be with your business.
Set up your processes and empower your team to do as much as possible on behalf of your customers, so that their problems disappear with a minimum of effort and watch your business thrive.
5. Provide self-service options
One great way to reduce effort for customers is to provide self-service options.
Interacting with a real human being is not always convenient or necessary, especially for simple questions and issues.
So make it easy for them to find the answers they’re looking for without even having to get in touch with you, if they don’t want to.
Create things like a knowledge base and FAQ pages that allow the people who want to solve their own problems, to do exactly that.
And as a bonus, this approach reduces the load on your customer service team, while making your customers happier. It’s a win-win!
6. Make it easy to contact you
For those customers who want or need help with their question or issue, it’s essential that you make it easy for them to contact you.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your comprehensive knowledge base means that you’ll never have to speak to a customer again.
Sometimes their question hasn’t been answered. And sometimes they want you to do the work for them (i.e. reduce their effort).
So don’t make it hard for them to talk directly to a live human being.
Be everywhere they are, and be ready to respond to all channels, whether that’s phone, email, chat or social media.
In this day and age of super-connectedness, customers want and expect to be able to interact with you using their preferred method.
7. Respond quickly to customer enquiries
The connectedness of today’s customer means they’re used to getting quick responses from businesses when they submit an enquiry.
The businesses that provide world class service respond to their customers within an average of 3 hours, compared to the average of 12 hours overall.
Responding to enquiries promptly shows that you care about your customers and more importantly, that you value their time and don’t want to waste it.
So set processes in place that support your customer service team to respond to all enquiries as quickly and efficiently as possible.
8. Acknowledge requests immediately
An effective way to respond to customer enquiries rapidly is to set up automated responses on all channels that customer contact you via.
Not only does this give your customer the impression that you are responsive and engaged, but it also reduces the anxiety that their query has gone astray.
You can also use this auto-response to set clear expectations around your customer service so that your customer knows exactly what to expect and by when.
You can also provide links to your self-service options, so that they can potentially resolve their own enquiry in the time it takes for you to respond.
9. Listen first, then respond
When interacting directly with customers, it’s incredibly important to listen fully to their concerns, questions or issues before making any kind of response.
All too often we’re so keen to rush in and fix things straight away, that we don’t take enough time to really understand their concerns.
And when we respond with only half the information, we’re much less likely to provide a solution that satisfies them.
So make sure to take them time to listen, and ask questions, to help you extract what’s really driving them so you can provide the best possible answers.
10. Resolve all questions in the first response
One of the things that “best in class” customer service teams do well is addressing all of a customers’ questions in their first response.
The companies creating world class customer service score 100% on first contact resolution, meaning that it only takes them one response to satisfy a customer.
This is closely tied to listening well, because if we’ve done our job properly, we’ll know all of the things that a customer has on their mind.
Armed with this information, we’re perfectly placed to craft a response that covers everything they need to know or want fixed.
And by answering everything in the first attempt, not only does it reduce their effort to resolve their query, but it also means a more efficient customer service team.
11. Focus on quality over speed
When we have a lot of customer service enquiries to deal with, it’s tempting to try and power through them as quickly as possible.
This approach is amplified when staff are measured primarily on the number of emails or tickets they answer and close.
However, the research shows that customers prefer a high-quality response over a fast one.
A quality answer that takes a little longer is always better than a quick answer that isn’t as great.
Taking the time to compose your response, also increases the chances that you’ll answer all of a customer’s concerns on the first attempt.
So make sure you create a customer service culture where quality is as important, if not more so, as speed.
12. Use the right tools to empower your team
Having the right tools to do an effective job is important in every role but is especially important for customer service teams aiming to create world class service.
When juggling so many tasks coming from all directions, it’s very easy to drop the ball and provide a less than awesome customer experience.
With the right tools and processes in place, your service staff can focus their energy on nurturing and servicing customers, rather than trying to keep track of everything that’s going on.
By having tools that acknowledge, track, manage and report on all of your customer service requests for you, you’ll be able to respond effectively to more requests.
So make sure you invest in quality tools – such as scheduling software or ticketing systems – that allow your staff to focus fully on solving your customers’ problems.
13. Encourage creative problem solving
Ultimately, the best service comes from solving your customer’s problems, whatever it takes.
Not every problem will require a straightforward answer or a quick fix. Some of them are likely to be more complex and may be something that a staff member have never seen before.
Along with relevant skills and experience for business, being able to solve problems in creative ways, makes for a highly effective customer service team member.
Having the right people on your customer service team makes all the difference when it comes to creating world class customer service.
So be sure to recruit for – and encourage – all of the skills that are required for great customer service.
14. Value emotional intelligence
Another highly valuable customer service skill is that of emotional intelligence.
What is emotional intelligence? Generally, it’s defined as the ability to read other people’s emotions and respond appropriately.
Emotional intelligence is key in customer service because it builds rapport with happy customers and can also help diffuse tense emotions with unhappy customers or in difficult situations.
So value emotional intelligence when building your customer service team, and watch your customer retention soar.
15. Treat your employees well
Conventional business wisdom has always been that your customers are the most important part of your business.
And while it’s true that they’re the ones buying your products and services and keeping your business running, creating happy employees is actually the key to creating happy customers.
Although this seems a little unconventional, your employees are the face of your business and interact with your customers on a daily basis.
Their behaviors and emotions will dictate the overall culture of your business and the tone of your customer service experience, so it’s worth spending the effort to make sure that they’re happy.
When your employees feel valued and appreciated, that attitude will permeate every interaction they have with your customers.
16. Get to know your customers
All too often customers feel like a nameless, faceless object in customer service interactions, especially in the current era of digital, online communications that can completely lack any kind of personal element.
And yet every customer craves that kind of connection with the businesses they interact with.
Customers want to feel that businesses care and one simple, yet highly effective way to create this is by personalising your interactions with them.
In its simplest form, this could mean using their name in emails and messages, but with today’s tools, much more advanced personalisation is possible.
Make the effort to capture relevant information from your customers and be sure to use it in your interactions with them to make them feel that you actually know and understand them, at a one-to-one level.
This also reduces their effort, because the next time you deal with them, you’ll have a full history of your interactions with them, saving them having to repeat themselves!
And take it a step further and touch base with them “just because” to remind them that you’re still there and you’re genuinely interested in them.
17. Go offline
The digital era means that we’re all very accustomed to sending texts, emails and messages via social media.
But don’t neglect the offline world in your quest to create world class customer service.
A simple handwritten note or gift can go a long way in building strong customer relationships and creating an awesome customer experience, especially these days when such things are relatively rare.
So the next time you want to reach out to your customers, whether for a special occasion or just because, consider taking it into the real world and make a memorable moment for your customer.
18. Make every customer feel heard, right and special
At the heart of every great customer experience, along with solving the customers’ problem, is a customer who feels like they’re at the centre of your universe.
Customers mostly care about themselves and their problems – and rightly so – and want to feel that you see things the same way, even if deep down they know it’s not possible.
No matter the situation, it’s your job to make them feel they’re right (even if they’re wrong), that you’ve listened to them and heard what they’re saying, and they truly are important to you.
So never try to win an argument with a customer (you’ll always lose), don’t point out their mistakes, and don’t assume you know what’s best for them.
Use this understanding to your advantage by being that company that makes their customers feel special every single time they interact with you, even if it’s actually your 50th job for the day.
19. Say thank you and sorry
The little details can have a massive impact in your customer communications.
Along with using your customer’s name correctly, the simple phrases “sorry” and “thank you” can be very powerful.
You don’t need a reason to use them, and they don’t cost you a cent. They also serve to make your customers feel heard and special.
Take any opportunity to express appreciation and apologize appropriately and watch your relationships with your customers grow stronger.
20. Aim to keep EVERY customer
Starting with the aim of keeping every single customer you ever get is the ideal way to create a culture and approach that maximises customer happiness and retention.
In reality you probably won’t be able to keep every customer, but you should at least start with that attitude, because it means that you’ll do whatever you can to keep your customers happy.
You might also need to call on the assistance of other team members, to help you solve the issues and fix the situation.
And when you do lose a customer, at least you’ll know that you did everything within your power to keep them.
21. Follow up after interactions are finished
Don’t underestimate the power of a simple follow up.
Too often after the interaction – a sale, a support request – is finished, that’s the last our customers hear from us.
But a quick follow up to check in with a customer to see how satisfied they are can work wonders, because it makes them feel that you care about them beyond just the interaction.
Research shows that following up is a powerful way to create customer loyalty.
So take the opportunity to touch base with your customers after your interactions, and thank them for their business or for getting in touch with you.
22. Collect feedback
Creating a feedback mechanism gives you access to valuable customer insights, along with providing customers with an opportunity to let you know what you could do better.
You can use these insights to identify gaps in your services, to create solutions for your customer base that address their individual needs and to uncover new business opportunities.
You can include these as part of your follow up process after an interaction, or reach out to customers at particular points in time for their input.
Set up tools that allow you to survey or interview customers about their needs and watch your customer satisfaction soar.
23. Collect data & analyse it
In your quest to create world class customer service, you need a way to know how you’re doing.
Collecting data about your customer service levels allows you to identify where you need to improve, and shows you what you’re doing well.
But without these kinds of metrics, you’re working blind, just “hoping” that things are getting better.
Get processes and tools in place to measure your performance, so that you can regularly report on and analyse your progress.
And be sure to celebrate your successes!
Ready to create world class customer service?
Creating a best in class customer service experience is not going to happen overnight.
It’s going to take hard work and a systematic, strategic approach that is 100% embedded across your entire business, from top to bottom.
But when you apply even just some of these practices to your business, you’ll see a significant improvement in your customer engagement, leading to strong customer loyalty and a more resilient, successful business.
If you’d like to discover how NextService – our built for NetSuite, cloud-based software for managing field service operations – can help you provide world class customer service, please download our product brochure below.
Or contact us to book in a one-on-one demonstration today.