Any good — dare I say, great — customer service professional is guided by a set of customer service principles.
Think of it this way: Some people may view 'self-care' as a guiding principle in their lives. Others may consider 'acting with integrity' an important principle to live by. Personally, I'm a 'do what you love' kind of person.
Either way, this concept applies to the service industry, too. Customer service principles guide what you believe in and, ultimately, influence your daily decisions as a support rep.
Ahead, we'll discuss what customer service principles are and why they're important. We'll also take a look at the top ten core principles of customer service.
What are customer service principles?
Customer service principles serve as the foundation for the customer service industry. Core principles — like speed, accuracy, and transparency — guide how customer service managers, support reps, and other service professionals interact with people on a daily basis.
Why are customer service principles important?
It's important for support teams to abide by a set of core values. Why? Because honoring customer service principles like quality and respect help you get that much closer to customer satisfaction.
As a manager or business owner, customer service principles are a great way to:
- Define what customer service means to your team or organization
- Increase loyalty and brand advocacy among customers
- Set measurable performance expectations for your support reps
As a customer service rep, principles of customer service can help you:
- Better understand how to make (and keep) customers happy
- Ensure your daily behaviors and actions are customer-centric
- Create a customer experience that makes the competition jealous
It all boils down to delighting the customer. And that's customer service 101.
Now that you know why these principles are important, let's review the ten core principles of customer service.
10 Core Principles of Customer Service
- Speed: Act with urgency and efficiency.
- Accuracy: Know your products and services.
- Transparency: Be open and honest.
- Empathy: Show customers you care.
- Accessibility: Make yourself available and easy to find.
- Empowerment: Encourage customer autonomy.
- Quality: Provide excellent service.
- Respect: Be kind and human.
- Consistency: Maintain process stability.
- Accountability: Listen and continuously improve.
The ten core principles of customer service are outlined in the image below.
Let's discuss each principle in more detail.
1. Speed: Act with urgency and efficiency.
The waiting days are over. Customers don't want to spend a ton of time on hold or endless hours searching online when they have a question. They want answers fast, so they can get to the good stuff: actually using (and enjoying) your products.
Speed is a critical principle for customer service teams to live by. And it's important that every customer service rep has the proper training and resources, so they're able to address customer issues effectively.
Pro tip: Track key speed-related metrics like average handle time to assess how much time your customer service team takes to resolve customer requests. And make it a point to reach out to your support team to identify how you can smooth out the customer service process for both your reps and your buyers.
2. Accuracy: Know your products and services.
Are you familiar with the phrase 'quality over quantity'? Speed is definitely important when it comes to customer service, but not at the expense of getting things right.
Support reps should value being knowledgeable and well-versed in the company's products, business policies, and resources. And customers should be able to trust that the information they're getting from your customer service team is authentic and error free. After all, who wants to keep calling back with the same exact question for the same exact issue?
Pro tip: As a customer service professional, don't feel like you have to memorize every little detail about your company. Keep key resources handy when interacting with customers (hint: product information web pages and knowledge bases aren't just there for the customer).
3. Transparency: Be open and honest.
We all know that customer service professionals are superheroes, but you're human too. Let customers see that.
Good customer service reps believe in transparency. For example: If you're on the phone with a customer and you don't know the answer to their question, be honest. Don't be afraid to tell a customer, "hey, I actually don't know the answer to that". As long as you follow up with, "but I know how to help you find it".
Pro tip: Make sure your service reps know where to go for assistance if they ever get stuck on a customer call. You could try creating a tiered-based system where reps can escalate issues based on degree of difficulty or complexity. Or, simply encourage collaboration across your service team at every level.
4. Empathy: Show customers you care.
Customers are often reaching out for support because they need help with something. They may be anxious because they just can't get your product to work or upset because their product is functioning as expected.
Empathy is a great principle to uphold both at work and in life. Put yourself in your customers' shoes and show them that you're invested in seeing them succeed.
Pro tip: Try to put your emotions aside, and listen closely to get to the root of the customer issue. Chances are the customer will respond positively if you help them solve their problem with sensitivity and understanding.
5. Accessibility: Make yourself available and easy to find.
Along with slow and inconsiderate service, nothing is more frustrating to a customer than needing help and not being able to find it. If you have resources available to customers like FAQs and live chat customer support, make it known.
Be thoughtful in how you showcase your customer support options. Put them in multiple, highly-visible places — like the homepage of your website or right inside of your in-app navigation menu.
Pro tip: Make sure your website and app create a good user experience for your customers. Also, try implementing automation for things like chat or email responses, so customers can still reach you outside of your traditional office hours.
6. Empowerment: Encourage customer autonomy.
As a customer, I love to feel like I can reach out to a support team if I have an issue. But I also love to find answers on my own.
Helping customers help themselves should be a core value for any customer service team. Think about it: If a customer can resolve their problem quickly and easily on their own, that's one more happy customer — and one less incoming call to your support team.
Pro tip: Self-service options like knowledge bases, chatbots, and FAQs give customers the power to help themselves. This can release some of the burden on your reps and give them more time to focus on higher-priority customer issues.
7. Quality: Provide excellent service.
This one's a no brainer, so it had to make our top ten list. As someone who works in customer service, you should strive to provide the very best service for your customers.
Remember 'quality over quantity'? Most customers will remember a support rep who went above and beyond for them. I know I still think about the cell phone support rep who flagged that I was accidentally overcharged for the prior month when I really just called to see if I was eligible for an upgrade.
Pro tip: Here are six ways to provide excellent customer service for your customers along with a few example companies that truly embody great service. You can use them as model sources of inspiration.
8. Respect: Be kind and human.
Along with empathy, this is another principle that doesn't just apply to customer service. And it kind of speaks for itself.
It all comes down to treating customers the way you want to be treated. Be respectful of your customers' time, emotions, and their problems — no matter how small or obvious they may seem.
Pro tip: Don't underestimate the power of pleasantries. For starters, you can always introduce yourself, refer to your customers by name, and say 'hi' and 'bye' during every interaction.
9. Consistency: Maintain process stability.
A well-oiled customer service team is built on a solid foundation. In this case, the foundation is made up of processes, procedures, and expectations.
It's important to have a process in place for reps to follow. This creates a training framework so it's easier to onboard new reps. Plus, it ensures that customers are getting the same general experience regardless of the rep they're speaking to.
Pro tip: If you don't have one already, design a customer experience strategy. Know your audience and customer profiles, goals, and policies. And make sure your entire customer service team knows this information, too.
10. Accountability: Listen and continuously improve.
Last but not least, hold yourself accountable when it comes to providing quality support for your customers. A good way to do this is by asking your customers for feedback.
Many customers would be happy to let you know what you're doing well and how you can do better. Plus, you can always leverage customer feedback to improve your customer service strategy and as part of your marketing efforts.
Pro tip: There are many ways to collect customer feedback. Try using a Net Promoter Score or NPS survey and other customer satisfaction surveys to gauge how your customers feel about doing business with you and why.
Putting Customer Service Principles into Practice
Just like in life, it's not enough to believe in your values — you have to act on them, too. As someone who is invested in customer success, make sure these customer service principles are baked into your company culture. And don't just talk about it. Fully practice what you preach and encourage your teammates and colleagues to do the same.
The bottom line is: It's up to all customer service professionals to uphold the core principles of customer service and create the best experience possible for customers.