Customer service is more important today than ever before.
I believe this is true for a number of reasons. For starters, customers have more purchasing options than ever before, both locally and online. Competition between brands is fierce. And the internet empowers customers to seek out and share information with mere taps of their keyboards or smartphones, which means negative customer experiences can quickly taint a brand's entire reputation.
As such, customer service can be the attribute that sets brands apart.
Effective customer service can help improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, help increase positive word-of-mouth marketing about your brand and consequently can help lead to a boost in customers and conversions. No matter the form your customer service takes, you can take it to the next level (and hopefully retain more customers) with the following strategies.
1. Extend empathy.
The goal of customer service isn't simply to fix a problem. It is also to provide a positive experience that will elevate the perception of your brand in customers' eyes. Empathy helps you do just that by connecting with customers on a personal level. In doing so, you establish a human touch that no marketing or advertising campaign could ever match. Here are a few simple ways to practice empathy:
Ask customers for their names.
This is a quick and simple way to connect with people on a more personal level.
Practice active listening.
In any customer service interaction, make sure you're doing more listening than talking. Pay attention to both the facts and the emotions behind what customers are saying. Every so often, repeat back what the customer is saying (in your own words) to ensure you're understanding them correctly and to demonstrate you're paying attention.
Express that you care.
Even if it's tough, try to put yourself in the customer's shoes to understand why they might be feeling frustrated or upset. Then, express your understanding for those feelings and articulate that you are invested in finding an effective solution. When customers feel like you care about their issues and needs, they can be much more likely to respond positively.
2. Practice patience.
It's important for everyone on your team to understand that customer service is sometimes a difficult job. We're all human, so it's easy for simple errors to be made or miscommunications to turn into bigger issues. But throwing up your hands and giving up on the customer interaction is one of the worst things you can do. Instead, commit to being patient. Just as when you're developing a strength-training routine, patience is key. You might not see results immediately, but if you keep putting in the effort, they will come. Commit to working through every problem with every customer, no matter how long it takes. (And don't be afraid to reach out for help from your team if you're struggling to come up with a solution on your own.)
One of the most effective ways to boost your team's capacity for patience is to train them to separate their personal feelings from the situation. As a customer service rep, it's easy to feel like an angry customer is upset with you personally—but this can put you on the slippery slope toward lashing out. Team members should work to remember that the customer's feeling don't actually have anything to do with them as individuals. Doing so will provide the space necessary to remain levelheaded no matter what.
3. Communicate clearly.
Crystal-clear communication is critical for any customer service interaction, but it becomes even more pressing if the customer service experience isn't happening face-to-face. Here are a few ways for your team to improve their communication skills:
Don't assume you understand what the client is asking.
Instead, articulate your understanding of their problem and desired solution so you can make sure you're both on the same page before moving onto resolving the issue.
Remember that the customer isn't an expert on the topic like you are.
They aren't inside your head, and they don't know what you know. That means you need to walk them through what you know step by step.
Try to distill your ideas down to the simplest form.
For example, if you're responding to a customer via email, turn paragraphs into bullet points or numbered lists. If you're talking to a customer over the phone, deliver information in the simplest terms possible—and if that's not proving effective, make it even simpler. Avoid using jargon or big words, and imagine that you're explaining the concept to an elementary schooler to help you choose simple language and ideas.
Before moving on from one step to another, check in with the customer.
You want to confirm that you're both still on the same page. Don't move on until you both understand where things stand.
4. Follow up effectively.
It's easy to feel like solving a customer's issue marks the end of the interaction. But it's important to follow up with customers afterward to see how they're faring and to confirm that they aren't experiencing any residual issues. Doing so conveys to your customers that the investment you expressed during your interaction was heartfelt, and that your company remains committed to their experience. Even if nothing needs to be fixed, following up provides you with an opportunity to ask for feedback about how your customer service could be further improved. Here are a few strategies for following up effectively:
Let customers know you'll be following up at the end of your initial interaction.
This helps to establish clear expectations and speaks well of your brand when you follow through on this promise.
Be sincere and focus on relationship-building.
Customers can tell when you're hastily following up out of a sense of obligation or simply in an effort to get them to buy something. An insincere follow-up is potentially worse than no follow-up at all.
If customers reply to your follow-up or initiate their own follow-up, respond promptly and professionally.
Empathy, patience, clear communication and effective follow-ups can all be tremendously effective ways to help elevate your customer service. Provide your team with regular opportunities to brush up on these skills so they can continue to offer service that satisfies customers time after time.