Delivering the best in customer service takes a lot to perfect. Some companies will say it takes years and a lot of exposure to customers and direct communication with them. In essence, coming up with a list of your own customer service best practice only takes a keen eye for detail, ears that are always open to listen, and a desire to make customers genuinely happy.
Best practice customer service standards aren’t as clear-cut these days because what makes people happy is subjective. What pleases someone might not work for you so there’s no real generic template to follow.
What is great customer service?
Great customer service is using customer service best practices in resolving a customer’s concerns or answering their queries. Customer service best practice includes valuing your customers’ time, listening to what they have to say, giving them viable options, and making sure they’re satisfied before letting them go.
It’s important to always provide great customer service because doing so can take your business to greater heights in terms of growth, revenue and longevity. If you have happy customers, you won’t have to worry about success or keeping your business afloat. Customers will flock to you because they know from word of mouth and their own experiences that your company puts customers first. With all that said, here are the 7 best practices to deliver excellent customer service.
1. Hire the right people
Like it or not, customer service best practice begins with the people who work for you. If they do not have the heart or passion for great customer service, they won’t be able to deliver. This is something that you can’t teach. Being able to serve customers and make them happy is something innate in a person and you need to hire people who have this value in them.
You can hire those with experience in the field but you can hire newbies too. Just be sure to pay attention to how they feel about customer service, what it means to them, how they will deliver the great kind and how putting the customer first makes them feel.
2. Train your staff
No matter how much you want or enjoy giving great customer service, there are some things that are best taught rather than learned on the job. This is part of being proactive in making sure every customer service best practice is carried out from the first contact. It’s your job to train your team to allow them to succeed in this. Your training should cover some, if not all, of the following:
Problem-solving on their own, being creative and innovative
Product knowledge, including website and tools navigation
How to have thick skin and not take criticisms from customers personally
Empathy vs. apology
Clear and concise communication
Make sure your team is ready before sending them away to man your phone, email ticketing, or live chat channels to support your customers. If they’re content with their training, they will be confident on the job and happy to do it, and a happy team produces happy customers.
3. Focus on the customer
It’s easy to get so caught up in your company and your products or services. You want to tweak everything as much as you can to make them the best there is. While this is not in itself bad, it takes the focus away from your bread and butter, which is your customer. While you’re busy creating the best products and coming up with an awesome service for your customers, make sure your team is focused on giving them the best service by following customer service best practices.
Ensure that your CRM is always updated with the latest data along with customers’ contact information and other tidbits. Conduct regular checks on your contact center as well to make sure that your channels are working properly whether you’re using emails, telephony, or live chat. Keep your knowledge base up to date with the latest changes to make sure your team has a reliable reference point. If you know your queue will not be manned 24/7 but expect customers to get in touch even during odd hours, use bots and AI to assist them. Set up a helpdesk that they can navigate as well. Keep your customer service ship running smoothly by making certain that everything is clean, working properly and smoothly, and reliable to use.
4. Know your products and/or services
Simply put, you can’t expect your team to have the best practice customer service principles down pat if they are not familiar with your products and/or services. Think of a car salesman or an insurance agent. They won’t be able to sell cars or create great portfolios for clients if they don’t know what they can offer and how to go about creating them.
Make sure that your customer service team knows how each product operates, how to troubleshoot, and what other options to offer to customers if they run into a wall when looking for resolutions. Verify that every agent knows your services well and can explain them to your customers in great detail. If they encounter problems, give them the training to help them look for workarounds.
5. Listen to feedback
Customer service is a continuous learning process and customer service best practice includes listening to feedback both from your customers and your staff. Think about it: how can you learn and improve if you don’t know which areas you need to work on? You need to hear from others, open your ears to what they have to say, and separate the useful information from general ramblings to make things better for everyone.
For your customers, you can employ customer satisfaction surveys after each contact to find out what you’re doing right and what you need to work on as part of your activities to improve customer service. Tap into your social media channels to get up close and personal to find out how to improve customer service. For your employees, you can use coaching sessions, huddles, and meetings to get their feedback and listen to what they have to say. If you galvanize your staff to speak up for their needs and those of the company, you create a stronger and more satisfied workforce.
6. Be genuine
Believe it or not, your customers know when you’re being real or when you’re trying to patronize them or being condescending and sarcastic. The best thing that you can do is to just be genuine when you’re in touch with them. Be present in the moment, listen to them, and be ingenious in coming up with resolutions to offer them. So be real and sincere whenever you’re in contact with a customer.
The best way to do this is and one of the best practice customer service principles is to imagine someone you value and respect on the other end instead of a stranger or a random customer to improve customer service. How would you assist your mum or dad? If it were your grandma or granddad, how would you like someone to look after them? It’s a good way to put things into perspective if you want to make sure you’re always giving them the best customer service you can.
7. Create an escalation system
There are times when certain customer concerns are out of an agent’s hands or scope of support. For example, you have a customer who’s very irate and demands a refund right away, but your protocol is to wait until the product is returned to your warehouse, which can take a week. A supervisor or manager can step in and authorize a refund right away or even issue it themselves.
Some customers prefer speaking to a supervisor just because they can. This is not because they have something against your team, but they just prefer the white glove treatment. You can strategize an escalation system as part of your customer service best practice where emails, phone calls, or chats can be forwarded to a supervisor first and then a manager if the concern is not resolved there. This way, your customer feels and knows for sure that you and your team did absolutely everything to assist them.
The ultimate in excellence
When it comes to customer service best practices, you can’t just stop at one or two, and you can’t (and should not!) relax once you have your customer service best practice models in place for your business. Why? As we mentioned before in this article, customer service is a continuous process.
If you really want to be known as the company with the ultimate in excellence when it comes to customer service best practices, you need to be tweaking things here and there, making improvements from time to time. If your focus is happy customers, you should have faith in yourself and your team. Whatever change it may be, big or small, you will end up with happy, loyal and satisfied customers.