Your customers today have high expectations -- and if your business can't meet them, they're going to leave you for your competitors.
If that sounds harsh, well, it is. In addition to getting a product or service that works for them, they want to buy from companies that make it easy to get help when they need it, that go above and beyond for them, and that make them proud to support their corporate culture and philosophy.
You already know that the customer experience doesn't end with a sale -- it's an ongoing work in progress that companies should be constantly seeking to improve and iterate on. To get you started, here are our suggestions for building best customer service practices that will make your customers love interacting with your business.
How to Make Every Interaction with Customers the Best it Can Be: 7 Tips
1. Show empathy and gratitude.
Are you familiar with the golden rule? "Treat others as you want to be treated."
The customer service golden rule should be "Treat customers as you want to be treated as a customer." (I know it's not as catchy, but I'm making a point here.)
We've written about the importance of empathy in a customer-facing role a few times before, and it deserves to be underscored again here.
It might sound simple, but making sure each and every one of your customer interactions demonstrates your empathy for your customers' struggles, and your gratitude for their loyalty, goes a long way. Here are some ways to do that:
Thank your customers -- for everything. Thank them for their patience if your company experiences an outage or disruption in service. Thank them for understanding if you or your company makes an error. Thank them for their loyalty when they renew or buy again. Thank them for taking the time to share their feedback, whether it's good or bad.
Be empathic in your responses to customer complaints and issues. Say "I'm sorry" for whatever the issue is impacting in their day-to-day. The issue could be losing them time or money, or just causing a tremendous headache. You don't always know what's going on in your customers' daily lives, so err on the side of apologetic if they come to you with an issue -- great or small.
Customers are more likely to spend more and be loyal, longer, if they have a history of positive experiences with your company. Do your part to make each sign-off positive and gracious to make your customers feel good about working with you.
2. Be conscientious.
This is a lesson you may have learned when you were a student, or in your first job, and it's important in your customer-facing job, too.
It's of utmost importance to be conscientious, and to responsibly follow-up to every customer communication you engage in with a solution, a forum for feedback, or helpful educational resources they can benefit from.
Whether you're connecting with customers on the phones, via email, or by commenting on social media, your customers might think that reaching out won't solve their problem (because -- let's face it -- it can feel like that's often the case when it comes to contacting customer service). Here are a few ways you can prove them wrong:
If you can't solve a customer's problem with them in the first interaction, provide them with an exact and reasonable timeframe within which they can expect a resolution. Set a clear time and date, and put the responsibility on your plate to follow up.
If your customer runs into an issue that you resolve, follow up with them a week or two later to make sure they aren't still running into the same issue.
Better yet, do research to investigate when your customers typically encounter issues with your product, and reach out proactively with educational communications to try to prevent that friction in the first place.
If you're in an ongoing relationship with a group of customers, take the time to learn more about them and their business, and reach out from time to time with information about their industry, or congratulations about a milestone.
3. Be transparent and communicative.
It's extremely important to be transparent when you communicate with your customers -- especially if it's about a mistake or error caused by you or your product.
Using your empathy and gratitude muscles, don't hesitate to explain the situation, apologize for the issue, and communicate how it happened -- and how it won't happen again. If it could happen again, be clear on that so your customer can prepare for the future.
Particularly if your product or service concerns customers' personal data or information, or if your product serves as a system of record for a customer's own business, you need to take your responsibility to your customers seriously. In today's era of data breaches and credit card hacking, customers want to understand what you're doing to fix problems and prevent them from happening again. Make sure you're prepared with transparent customer communications during times like these -- and if you're not, ask your team manager or director for better guidance.
4. Ask for and act on customer feedback.
You can't just give the term "valued customer" lip service -- you need to walk the walk by regularly asking for and acting on customer feedback.
Regularly asking customers for feedback via surveys is an effective way to identify potential problems before they cause your customers to churn. Surveys also provide customers with an avenue to voice their thoughts on your product or your customer service in a way that makes them truly feel valued, and their specific feedback on 1:1 interactions with employees gives you the opportunity to better hone your processes -- or to shout out employees going above and beyond.
Your company may already have a process in place for regularly soliciting feedback, in which case you don't want to inundate your customers with even more communications that could lead to survey fatigue.
If your company already has asking for feedback down pat, make sure you're soliciting feedback in your 1:1 conversations with customers. Even if it's not official or on the record, qualitative feedback will help you improve your service, and customers will appreciate the opportunity to be honest and share their views. And if your team isn't already deploying post-call Net Promoter Score® surveys, it can be a helpful way to develop your skills and share learnings with the greater team.
Make sure to take time periodically to surprise your customers. You don't necessarily need to surprise them with a gift or a discount (although those can definitely be nice). Sometimes, something as simple as a thank you letter, company swag, or a shoutout on social media can go a long way towards building goodwill and an emotional connection with your customers. And an emotional connection can sometimes be a bigger predictor of loyalty than responses to customer satisfaction surveys.
6. Go where your customers are.
As a customer, nothing annoys me more than when I send a Twitter DM to a company to complain about something, and they reply back with a number I can call to voice my concerns. I'm already experiencing friction dealing with an issue with the product -- I shouldn't have to wait on hold to hear from a customer support rep, too.
It's your job to make it as easy and painless as possible for your customers to get the answers they need to use your product or service. To do that, you should have a plan in place for providing service across a variety of channels where your customers typically reach out to you.
Strive to always respond to customer requests and issues on the same platform where they originally reached out. There are always exceptions to this -- sometimes, you just have to talk out an issue or hop on a video call -- but you should make every effort to keep communications on the same platform where your customer originally asked you for help. This helps you engage with customers faster to get them the answer they need.
7. Talk like a human.
Our final suggestion to make your customers love reaching out to you -- even in cases of problems -- is to talk like a human.
Your customers aren't looking for scripted corporate-speak when they call or write to you in need of assistance. Particularly if you're communicating with customers on social media, scripted, formal language can ring hollow and insincere.
If you're in the middle of solving a customer issue, feel free to keep language professional. But once you've solved a customer's problem, or if a customer is reaching out to share positive feedback, feel free to be less scripted, and more yourself.
Use good judgment to communicate with customers authentically in your own voice. For example, if customers are reaching out to you on Twitter, don't be shy about responding back to them with a GIF or a hashtag. If you're leaving them a comment on Instagram, try to work in an emoji. Little personal touches can endear you to your customers and make them more excited to connect with you.