Customer service standards are more important now than ever before. With the rise of social media and review sites, consumers have a louder voice than in years past. And they can easily share their buying experiences — good or bad — with the rest of the world.
As a business owner, it's essential to make sure that your customer service standards are up to par. But which standards should you prioritize?
In this article, we'll discuss what the industry standards are when it comes to customer service along with the customer service standards that consumers value the most (from the consumers, themselves).
More specifically, here's what you'll find below:
Customer Service Standards
What are customer service standards? These standards represent a level of quality that your business follows to provide customer service. They are the guidelines that drive customer interactions. This includes everything from how you greet customers and handle customer complaints to what type of customer service training your employees receive.
Each company creates its own set of customer service standards, but the foundation is developed based on key principles of customer service — like speed, transparency, and empathy.
As a result, there are certain standards of customer service that are commonly adopted across businesses. We'll discuss these next.
10 Common Customer Service Standards
Here's a list of 10 customer service standards that every business should aim to follow.
Be responsive to customer inquiries, and act with a sense of urgency.
Be transparent about your policies and procedures, and consistent in the way you implement them.
Take responsibility for your mistakes, and hold your team accountable.
Show empathy for each customer's situation, and personalize the experience to their specific needs.
Go above and beyond to solve the customer's problem, and always strive for customer delight.
Be available when customers need you, and clearly communicate when and how customers can reach you.
Stay positive and friendly during customer conversations, no matter how difficult the interaction may seem.
Be reachable on multiple channels, especially the channels your customers value the most.
Use automated technology efficiently, and properly train your reps on how to use it.
Let's talk about why it's important for businesses to set customer service standards like these.
Why are customer service standards important?
Customer service standards give customers a clear idea of what to expect from your organization. They also give agents a set of guidelines to follow when interacting with customers. Setting standards around key principles of customer service, like responsiveness and accountability, show customers that their satisfaction is your main priority.
But most importantly, customer service standards really do matter to consumers. I conducted a survey of 100 consumers across the United States and asked them whether they think it's important for businesses to have high customer service standards.
The results are shown in the image below.
That's right, a whopping 99% of consumers answered a hard 'yes' to that question. But let's go a step further and discuss some of the specific reasons why customer service standards are important in more detail.
They ensure your customers have a positive experience.
When you establish concrete standards of customer service, you're helping to ensure positive experiences for your customers.
For instance, let's say an agent is speaking with a customer who is upset because they can't figure out how to activate your product. The upset customer in question needs empathy around how they're feeling about the product at this stage, as well as efficiency in terms of solving their issue.
The customer service standards that you set as a business are what help keep customers happy (and less likely to churn) in situations like these.
They differentiate you from the competition.
Customer service standards can also help you set your business apart from the competition.
Take this example – A customer is trying to decide between two CRM software companies for their new tech start-up.
They reach out to Company A's support team with a question. The reps are immediately responsive, friendly, and can be easily reached over the phone or via email.
They reach out to Company B's support team with a question, and they haven't heard a response in days. When they reach out again, they receive an automated response with little to no details about next steps.
Who are you more likely to move forward with in this scenario?
They give you measurable milestones toward customer satisfaction.
Another reason why customer service standards are important is because they help you evaluate your business' progress toward important customer service goals like satisfaction and delight.
From an internal perspective, you can quantify your standards to set goals for your agents. These goals can then serve as the basis for performance reviews.
You can also survey your customers to see how well your business is meeting their expectations, and you can use that information to get better.
Now that we've discussed why customer service standards are important, let's take a look at the top five customer service standards that consumers value the most.
Top 5 Customer Service Standards, According to Consumers
Using the 10 common customer service standards as a baseline, I used the same survey mentioned above to see which standards are most important to consumers across the U.S.
As shown in the image above, here are the top five customer service standards ranked in order of importance.
1. Be responsive to customer inquiries.
This surfaced to the top as the number one customer service standard that 61% of consumers value the most.
Being responsive means more than just responding to every customer inquiry. While this is certainly important, speed and efficiency matter. A quick response is great, but you'll want to follow that up with a speedy and thorough resolution to their request.
Pro tip: Most consumers expect a response from customer service in 5 minutes or less. Make sure you have a good first-touch customer response strategy in place — whether it's through automation or live agent — to let your customers know that you received their inquiry, and you're working on it.
2. Take responsibility for your mistakes.
Next in line is the standard of accountability, with 60% of consumers ranking this as an important standard for businesses to uphold.
The first step toward fixing a mistake is acknowledging it exists. And taking responsibility shows the customer that you care more about the resolution than getting caught up in assigning blame.
Pro tip: Mistakes happen, so consider developing a set of canned responses your reps can use when things don't go as planned. Something as simple as 'We recognize that we made a mistake, and we want to make it right' can go a long way.
3. Go above and beyond to solve the customer's problem.
In third place, 59% of consumers say it's important for you to go above and beyond to solve their problems.
When a customer raises an issue, they want to feel like you're doing everything you can to resolve it. And if you can't resolve it, you're escalating it to someone who may be able to help. This makes customers believe that you're invested in their business.
Pro tip: The only thing better than meeting customer expectations is exceeding them. Each customer is different, so give your support reps the flexibility to determine what this means for each customer interaction.
4. Be available when customers need you.
Fourth up, with 55% of consumers in agreement, is simply being there when customers need your help.
It's important that customers know what your hours of operation are and when your customer service team is online. And it's even more important to be as responsive as possible during that window of time.
Pro tip: Use automation to ensure you're giving your customers a response even if your reps are offline. Automated email replies, chat responses, and phone messages are a great way to remind people when they can expect to hear back from you.
5. Stay positive and friendly during customer interactions.
And last but not least, 54% of consumers expect to have positive customer service interactions with friendly agents.
Kindness wins every time. And no matter how difficult the conversation may seem, try not to take it too personally if a customer is upset. Because behind the frustration, it's usually just a customer who is just trying to find success with your product or service.
Pro tip: Keep this in mind during your customer service hiring process. Do some role play during your interviews to try and dissect how prospective agents tackle tough customer conversations.
Setting the Standard for Customer Service
The baseline that customer service standards create help guarantee that all customers receive the same level of quality service — no matter who they speak to and no matter where they are in the world. By setting standards for exceptional service, you can make sure your company stays top of mind for your target consumers.