Customers service skills are more than just good clickbait for LinkedIn “influencers.” How your business interacts with its customers often determines how—and if—you succeed.
This customer-centric approach keeps today’s customers satisfied while helping build loyalty for tomorrow. The quality of your customer service should be a top priority and serve as a barometer of your business’ success.
Why is Customer Service so Important?
Why care so much about good customer service? For any business, it matters. Big time. Data shows that 71% of consumers have ended their relationship with a business due to poor customer service. Some more eye-opening numbers?
- It is 7x more expensive to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones. Use positive customer service skills to nurture customer relationships and encourage them to continue engaging with your business.
- 61% of customers will take their business to a competitor after a poor customer service experience.
- 58% of consumers are willing to spend more on those companies that provide excellent customer service.
- By 2020—less than two years from now—customer service is expected to become more important than price or product when customers decide who gets their business.
By providing customers (and those elusive potential buyers) with a killer customer service experience, you’re setting your business up for success: better sales, repeat customers, strong relationships, a distinguished brand reputation, and those coveted five-star reviews. If you’re not regarding customer service as the greatest to-do in your business, you’re going to lose out in some pretty significant, (even make-it-or-break-it) ways—plus, you’ll be helping out your competition.
No matter your business, whether you sell furniture or fitness products, apps or air fresheners, developing strong customer service skills will help you thrive.
Three Key Customer Service Skills
What constitutes an excellent customer service experience? The how and what of customer interactions may differ across industries, but businesses with killer customer service generally have these three skills in common:
It may be tempting to respond harshly to a customer who leaves a negative review, or spar with a disgruntled consumer who unloads a heated concern. But obviously isn’t the best way to reflect your business. Take a breath (really, it helps!) and if you can, distance yourself from the negativity for a time to cool your emotions. Exercise patience and seek to see things from the customers’ view. Recognize that more often than not, those negative expressions are a plea to be heard and valued. Professionalism also means prompt, thorough replies, the utilizing of proper communication channels, appropriate body language (online and off), transparency, and the meeting of set expectations.
Like we said, customers want to be acknowledged. Ensure that your interactions with them demonstrate that you hear—and care about—their concerns. Before you respond, listen to understand. Ask clarifying questions about their inquiry or comments if necessary, and validate the customers’ viewpoints.
Nothing is more frustrating to customers than interacting with employees who know nothing about the product or service they are supposedly peddling. In fact, 78% of customers appreciate competent customer service representatives. Be informed and demonstrate experience by knowing the ins-and-outs of your business, products, and operations so that you can provide adequate help to your customers. This may require training, role-playing, and hands-on experience. Also, consider an empathy-based side of knowledge: understanding the needs and pain points of your customers. Couple customer feedback with analytic research to know your customers intimately. The better you know your business and your customers, the more success you’ll have. (Plus, you’ll have a major leg up on competitors.)
Examples of Good Customer Service
If you’ve already committed to great customer service, kudos. If not, it’s easy to improve. Start with small, simple changes that prioritize and value customer relationships, and continue working on providing excellent customer experiences. Here’s some examples of companies who are taking great care of their customers and the attributes that make them successful.
When interacting with customers—like responding to a review, question, or comment—use the person’s name. It’s a simple thing, but by identifying the person and referring to the details of their comment or question, you’re showing that you value the customer and care about their needs. Hone your people skills and connect with consumers. Adding a name helps you view them as individuals, instead of dollar signs.
Review Policies and Operations
When was the last time you updated (or even looked at) your return policy? Is it easy to find? Are there hindrances to positive shopping experiences because of outdated or incorrect information? Are your business hours serving your customers? Are you familiar enough with your business to prevent yourself from making false promises? Are shopping experiences responsive across devices? Remember, you want to create enjoyable experiences. Make your customer journey as clear, easy, and pleasant a path as possible.
Establish Channels of Communication
Does your business or website make it difficult for customers to get in touch with you? Are inquiring customers digging through your website for a contact email or stuck in an endless thread of automated phone messages? Invest in a modern customer communication platform like Webchat (below) that makes it easy and convenient to talk to customers in realtime on any device.
Okay, you don’t have to be glued to your keyboard 24/7, but you—or someone on your team—should be monitoring communication channels, and be prompt in answering questions from your customers. According to our Customer Loyalty Survey, 1 in 5 customers expects a business to respond within five minutes.
Give Actionable Solutions
“We’re sorry” usually isn’t good enough for disgruntled customers, nor is “we’ll look into it” for inquiring potential customers. If customers have questions, provide them with clear, useful answers. Looking for a product? Let them know where to access local inventory information. If customers are expressing a complaint, lead them directly to a solution (like where to get a refund or replacement), or take the conversation offline.
Customers want to know that you value their opinions about your company. They are also eager to have a hand in your business. Regularly reach out to them to get feedback about various aspects of your products and services, your business operations, and shopping experiences. Use customer surveys or net promoter scores, ask questions, and solicit reviews. Then, pay attention to that feedback and work on implementing their suggestions. After all, their satisfaction and support are crucial to your success.
Showcase Your Voice
Just because you value professionalism doesn’t mean your customer service interactions have to look like robo-responses. Avoid canned responses and instead engage online customers exactly how you would in real life. Your customer service should match the unique voice of your business and help positively distinguish your brand.
Establish Customer Touchpoints
Don’t let a sale be the end-all, be-all for consumer interactions. Follow up with customers, express your gratitude for their business, respond to their reviews, and offer additional valuable offers or information. This type of above-and-beyond outreach helps build loyalty by nurturing precious customer touchpoints.
Customer service matters for your business and your bottom line. Don’t be a customer service horror story. Bad customer service comes at a great cost—financial and otherwise. Create positive customer services experiences and consumers will do their part in helping your business flourish with increased sales, loyalty, positive word of mouth, and social sharing. Essentially, you can’t afford not to care about great customer service.