5 best practices for offering excellent customer service

Great customer service is a key part of any successful business. Poor customer service has the opposite effect.

According to the NewVoiceMedia’s 2018 “Serial Switchers” report, poor customer service costs businesses around $75 billion a year. Part of the reason why is that the damage is not limited only to the person who had the negative experience. Zendesk found that 76% of people communicated bad experiences in person and 49% through social media. Only 5% did not share a negative customer service experience.

And don’t think customer service is something that only your customer service department does. Every part of your organization is responsible for providing excellent customer service and creating a great customer experience, including your sales team.

Poor service at the different touch points in the sales process, from the first cold call to your first attempt to upsell, can quickly cause the loss of customers and affect your company’s profits.

In short, poor customer service affects both customer acquisition and, even more importantly, customer retention, which is the bread-and-butter of many B2B businesses.

The definition of excellent customer service

Good customer service means more than keeping your existing customers happy. It can also be your most powerful growth strategy. Delight your customers again and again, and they will promote you to their family, their friends, and their colleagues—and you’ll reap the benefits.

But before diving into practices to help your sales team offer better customer support, let’s first answer the question: what is the best excellent customer service definition?

Excellent customer service means going above and beyond to add distinct value to the customer experience.

“Distinct value” here means that you are providing the customer with special, unexpected extras in addition to your great product/service. You anticipate customer needs and respond immediately.

There are many stories of companies who understand the importance of this concept.

For example, as a special thank you to a positive email from a customer, a team member of the Spotify music streaming service created a personalized playlist with a message hidden in the song titles, much to the delight of the customer. Luxury hotel company Ritz-Carlton (known for its high level of customer service) had a customer forget his laptop charger at one of their hotels — his charger arrived the very next day with a personal note from Loss Prevention before he even had time to notify the company.

The extra services and care of great customer service are often behind the scenes touches, but felt strongly by the customer. Your own extras can be things like a reward for a customer who has been with your company for a year or even simple personalized emails rather than automated ones.

Quite simply, think of it as VIP treatment for your customer where customer satisfaction is your top priority. With the instant services and technology available today, customers already have high expectations. Your sales team’s service should try every day to EXCEED customers’ expectations. And providing excellent customer service does not have to be difficult.

Below are five simple practices to implement and take your customer service strategy to the next level for an amazing customer experience.

1. Hire the right people

Offering great customer service has its foundation on an internal level. According to David Apple, VP of customer success at Typeform, “Delivering excellent customer support starts by hiring the right people and having a great team culture. People say you can hear someone’s smile over the phone; I think it is also true via email, social media, and chat support.”

Make sure that possible hires align with your company’s mission and values. Communicate these things early on in the hiring process. Determine if there is an alignment with the skills, experience, and personality of the possible hire. And remember, some skills can be taught — while authenticity, genuine enthusiasm, and a drive to succeed cannot.

There are other things also to take into consideration after hiring. You need to properly equip your team to offer excellent customer service. Here are several ways:

  • Train your team to put the customer first
  • Emphasize the importance of communicating value to the customer
  • Make the right tools available for your team to succeed

Having the right people and order on the inside will ultimately translate how your team handles customers on the outside.

2. Know your customer

You can’t have a personal relationship with the customer without first knowing exactly who they are. Sure, you most likely have buyer personas, but you need to go deeper. Here are key questions to answer about your individual customers:

  • Why are they using our product/service?
  • What has been their past purchasing behavior?
  • What data is already available to analyze their behavior?
  • What is the next step in their customer journey?

If you don’t know the answer, chances are you can directly ask the customer. Ask through an email or survey how you can make their experience better. This also lets the customer know that you value their opinion.

Based on this information, you can create a personalized experience for the customer. You provide options that matter to them on an individual level. Your goal is to make their lives easier and let them know that you understand their needs and are listening to their questions and concerns.

3. Implement the right tools

There are solutions available to help your sales team easily communicate with the customer, other departments, and focus more on the relationship rather than time-draining, administrative tasks. These can include mobile support tools, self-service software, live chat, and collaboration tools.

An essential tool, however, is a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Everything is all in one place to manage the customer relationship, including customer conversations. You can increase productivity and improve processes and pipeline management. Other benefits include:

  • Access to a 360-degree view of the customer
  • Data can be analyzed to understand your customers better
  • Longer customer wait times can be eliminated

The right software can not only automate administrative tasks but also help your team identify opportunities such as a new lead based on a customer conversation or where you can upsell.

4. Utilize multiple channels of communication

An omni-channel approach is the best way to meet your customer where they are. Different customers prefer different channels. Use their preferred method of communication if you can. In the same report by Zendesk, 28% said that having multiple channels to communicate made for a better experience.

There are many channels available for communication today such as:

  • Live chat
  • Social media
  • Email
  • Phone
  • SMS/text

You’ll first need to create a strategy based off of your overall company goals. Determine from there what channels your customers are using and which ones will be effective for your team. The goal is to create a seamless experience for the customer – no matter which channel they choose to use. Alignment is key. All of these channels, therefore, need to be integrated — not just in sales but across departments.

5. Avoid silos with the customer service department

If you remember from our post about getting sales and customer service teams to work together, these departments traditionally have different goals. Sales is focused on increasing the number of conversations while customer service tries to reduce. These conflicting incentives can lead to silo’d departments (departments working separately).

Silos create a variety of problems such as missed opportunities, unclear communication, and disillusioned customers. There needs to be a connection between them to offer proper customer experience.

We go more in-depth in the post, but there are ways to effectively bridge the gap between sales and customer service silos:

  • Create an organization plan
  • Establish a change in metrics
  • Understand and trade skills
  • Implement clear lines of communication

Connecting silos helps ensure that you have one conversation with your customer across departments, creating a seamless, positive experience.

Let’s now summarize our best practices for improving customer service:

  1. Hire the right people
  2. Know your customer
  3. Implement the right tools
  4. Utilize multiple channels of communication
  5. Avoid silos with the customer service department

On a management level, all of these practices can be boiled down to one thing: Value every relationship. Whether it’s the customer service department, marketing, your own sales team or the customer, have a genuine interest and concern for the people connected with your company.

This type of mindset will manifest itself in the way your sales team treats the customer. Valuing customer interactions and providing the customer with an all-around amazing experience will not only attract new customers but also convince the ones you have to continue the relationship.

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