Customer service is an absolutely crucial, often under-appreciated pillar of a successful business. It's central to customer retention and can facilitate customer acquisition when done right. In fact, a study from Microsoft found that an estimated 96% of consumers believe that customer service is an important component of their brand choice and loyalty.
Nowadays, adequate customer service is a necessity. Solid customer service is a big help, and excellent customer service can lead to positive word of mouth. But there's a tier of service quality that extends even further.
There are a select few companies that provide world-class service — the kind of support that can bolster a business's reputation and put distance between a company and its competition, in itself.
It's a difficult — but not impossible — standard to reach for any business.
Here, we'll dive into the concept a little deeper and learn some of the keys to providing it.
What is world-class customer service?
World-class customer service is a catch-all term that covers customer service that vastly exceeds customer expectations. It's a mainstay of businesses that invest in comprehensive training and provide significant resources for their service reps to both foster customer loyalty and facilitate customer acquisition.
According to Zendesk, 84% of consumers say that customer service is one of the key factors they consider when deciding whether to buy from a company. That figure speaks to the necessity of at-least adequate customer support and the tremendous value of world-class service.
It shows that the quality of your customer service can have substantial implications on your bottom line. The soundest sales and marketing efforts can only do so much for you if they're not reinforced by high customer service standards. And world-class service's utility and influence aren't exclusively internal. They can extend beyond your existing customer base, making the practice an asset for customer acquisition on its own.
If your commitment to world-class service is consistent and ever-improving, your company can establish a reputation as a dedicated organization with a commitment to putting its customers above all else. Prospects will always value a company that they know will value them back.
Here are the keys to delivering that kind of service.
How to Deliver World-Class Service to Customers
Take a personal approach to each problem — no matter its scale or urgency.
Remain calm, professional, and empathetic — regardless of how you're being treated.
Respond to inquiries as quickly as possible.
Preemptively address other questions your customers might have.
Ask for feedback, and legitimately do something with it.
1. Take a personal approach to each problem — no matter its scale or urgency.
World-class customer service focuses on people, not problems. If you have multiple customers with the same problem, don't take a one-size-fits-all, robotic approach to your interactions with them. Instead, solve for the individual behind the inquiry.
Try to feel out factors like the tone that will best suit your customer, the attention to detail they'll need to get to the other side of their issue, and their concern's level of urgency. All of those aspects will dictate how you approach solving their problem.
As I alluded to, you're bound to run into the same problem with different customers from time to time, but those calls won't and shouldn't be identical. That dilemma begs the question, "How do you gauge your customers' needs, interests, and personalities?"
The answer? Active listening.
The best way to tease out your customers' preferences and sensitivities is to listen closely and actively engage with their responses. Build a rapport by legitimately hearing them and conveying that you understand where they're coming from.
From there, you can get a read on things like their agitation level, the kind of patience they'll offer, and — perhaps most importantly — their degree of product knowledge. Once you've accounted for those kinds of components, you can tailor an approach that will work best for them.
2. Remain calm, professional, and empathetic — regardless of how you're being treated.
Do your best to separate emotion from your exchanges with customers. It's almost a given that you'll interact with customers that might vent their frustrations with your company out on you personally. Remain thick-skinned and on an even keel. Understand they're not mad at you — they're mad at the problem at hand.
The best way to remedy that kind of situation is to lead with empathy. Always bear in mind that you're there to solve for them, above all else. Be patient, polite, and compassionate. Don't get hot-headed or confrontational. Calmly work through their troubles and concerns and solve them with them.
Your goal is to help the customer in question — not to get rid of them — so you need to act accordingly. Your commitment to world-class customer service can often be measured by your willingness and ability to consistently take the high road. No matter what a customer says to you or the tone they say it with, be the bigger person and help them arrive at the solution.
3. Respond to inquiries as quickly as possible.
One of the best ways to let customers know you value their business is to show that you value their time. Don't leave customers hanging. If they're contacting you, it's typically because they've just run into a problem. You'd be hard-pressed to find customers who reach out to customer service about an issue that they encountered a week ago.
Be prompt in getting back to customers. Ideally, you'll be able to connect with them immediately, but that won't always be the case. In those instances, it helps to have resources like chatbots that can direct customers to relevant documentation after work hours and ticketing systems to automatically route inquiries to qualified reps who can address them the next day.
And if customers connect with you over the phone, don't keep them waiting too long. No one likes having a prerecorded voice assure them that their call matters for an hour and a half between five-minute spells of elevator music before finally speaking to a real person. Answer the phone quickly, and this is where having an appropriately sized service infrastructure in place for the scale of your business comes in handy.
4. Preemptively address other questions your customers might have.
As you get your bearings as a customer service rep, you'll become more accustomed to answering certain inquiries and solving specific problems. With that kind of knowledge and experience at hand, you'll develop a feel for potential questions that might arise.
If you can leverage that "sixth sense" to preemptively address issues that haven't arisen yet, you can impress the customers you're assisting and help guide them through situations they might run into down the line.
A big part of providing world-class service is setting customers up for future success. Do what you can to address as many issues as possible during your interactions with customers — that should include ones they might not have considered yet.
5. Ask for feedback, and actually do something with it.
A customer service department is one of the most streamlined, valuable sources a company has for identifying areas for improvement. It functions as a forum for customers to directly address what your business could do better.
So, as a rep, it's important to ask and listen for feedback. Hear customers out, and if you can identify problems customers are consistently touching on, let management know. But the burden of making good on this specific point is less on reps and more on the company as a whole.
In most cases, reps can't do much beyond reporting feedback. Acting on that information takes place on an organizational level. Management needs to consider and apply the specific suggestions that their customer service department reports.
World-class service is a process based on valuing your customers. There's no better way to convey that than showing that you're hearing their voices and applying their feedback.
If there's anything to take away from this article, it's this: Appreciate how much your customers mean to your business, and do everything in your power to show them that you do.
World-class is about taking any testiness out of the equation and approaching every interaction with patience, compassion, persistence, comprehensive product knowledge, and thoughtfulness. It's not easy to get there, but it's by no means out of reach.
Originally published Aug 7, 2020 8:00:00 AM, updated August 07 2020