Good customer service centres on people who are empowered by their organisations to meet customer needs and expectations, give solutions to problems and ultimately, make customers happy in their interaction with the business.
top tips on how to deliver good customer service.
- show empathy
- solve their problem
- thank them
- make the customer feel important
Some do build a successful career as customer champions, others treat it as more of a stopgap to gain professional experience. Both options are open to you – it’s a great job to cut your teeth on and can indeed be a launch pad into future professional roles. Companies that care about providing excellent customer service, invest in training employees and provide good feedback on your performance, helping you grow and giving you valuable transferable skills for your career.
You are a valuable link between the company and customer and play an important role in creating, maintaining and building that relationship. Whether you are the first face or voice the customer hears, or the last on their purchase journey, you’ll want to leave a lasting positive impression. You may be the only person they can reach who has the time to be truly receptive and ready to make their problem right.
Great customer service people stay positive and confident, unphased by challenging scenarios or customers. These ninja-level customer service skills come from practice and training, but there are a few tips and tricks to get you on the right track from day one on the job:
It’s not a gift. It’s a technique. A technique with four key elements and these four elements supply the framework to great customer service.
First, Listen. Being a good listener means encouraging people to talk about themselves. The easiest way to become a good conversationalist is to become a good listener. To be a good listener, you need to care about what people have to say. Often, people don't want an entertaining conversation partner; they just want someone who will listen to them. So find out what the problem is, “How can I help you?!” “What seems to be the problem?” Look at them, give them your full attention. Repeat back to them what they’re saying. “Let me get this right. What you’re saying is that the WiFi isn’t working on the train.” Acknowledge what they’ve said.
If there is a problem and the customer gets angry or rude – it happens - stay calm and don’t let it phase you. Remember it’s not personal. Customers are usually frustrated with their situation, or perhaps the product or company, not you, you just happen to be the one in front of them right now. Rise above it with all the best weapons in your arsenal – unfailing politeness, confidence and empathy. You might say “I really want to help you and I understand that you are frustrated. Let’s see what we can do”.
You need to demonstrate that you care and show that you really hear them. Be warm and human, not a computer. As part of this, you might say you’re sorry for the situation they’ve found themselves in with the product/service or your company and want to help. This can help build trust and let people know that you are here to help them and are not the enemy. Avoid telling people flat out that they are wrong – this can offend or humiliate if done too bluntly. Present them with respectful explanations and help them understand as far as you can. Bring them round.
solve their problem.
Third, solve the problem as best you can and be clear on how you are going to do this: “Here’s what we’re going to do to help you.” Sometimes there are problems that you don’t know how to fix or don’t have the authority to sort out. You can usually be straight forward about that and consult with or pass the query on to your manager or your supervisor: “I’m not sure how to resolve this. Let me check with my supervisor”. With tricky situations, there can also be other lifelines. You can be empowered to make amends with other tokens of the company’s commitment to happy customers – that’s right, think freebies and extras. Its rare that this doesn’t go well and change the tide of the conversation. There’s a café in New York’s Union Square, owned by renowned restaurateur, Danny Meyer who mastered this art of making sure the customer always walked away happy: “For those who had to wait too long, there was often a reward – a generous supply of dessert wines on the house. We had resuscitated an old refrigerator… in the back bar that we named the ‘Medicine Cabinet,’ the medicine being our ample collection of dessert wines, which we dispensed liberally by the glass as an apology to guests. Except for the most hostile, the medicine generally worked.” It doesn’t just work in the restaurant business – it’s a universal crowd pleaser.
Fourth, thank them. “Thank you for letting us know about this. We appreciate it.” You should aim to end on a positive friendly note.
This is known as the LAST approach – Listen, Apologise, Solve and Thank. It’s a good way to organise yourself, make a customer or client feel comfortable, and make them happy.
make the customer feel important.
On top of that, make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely. The golden rule is to treat other people how we would like to be treated. We love to feel important and so does everyone else. People will talk to us for hours if we allow them to talk about themselves. If we can make people feel important in a sincere and appreciative way, then we will win all the friends we could ever dream of.
You also need to smile. Whether you are dealing with a customer face to face, over the phone or via chat box, it can change your whole manner. Happiness does not depend on outside circumstances. It depends on attitude. As How to Win Friends And Influence People puts it, “Smiles are free to give and have an amazing ability to make others feel wonderful.” Try to begin any interaction in a friendly way – it will make people more receptive. “A drop of honey can catch more flies than a gallon of gall.” Even if you’re upset, you need to be friendly to influence customers and clients. So, smile in everything that you do.
When a customer’s wish is met before they have even expressed that wish, it conveys the message that you are paying attention; that you care about the customer as an individual. That cared-for feeling is where you generate the fiercest loyalty.
How do you know if you’re getting all this right?
You can often tell if an interaction with a customer has gone well or not – was the problem solved efficiently? Were they happier by the end? On a higher level, companies can also use data to confirm which strategies and practices are working to provide the best service for the customer. Company feedback polls are one way (giving you a chance to differentiate yourself from your peers as the five star customer champion), as well as wider channels – review sites, forums, social media all support that all-important feedback loop. Your work can help support your company in maintaining and improving its reputation and ensuring it keeps its promises to customers.
A key measure of customer service to know about is the Net Promoter Score, which measures the customer loyalty. Customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, likewise, measures whether an organisation meets or surpasses the expectations of customers. Another gold standard measure is the percentage of customers who would recommend a brand to friends. This way you play a part in growing the business – positive scores and word of mouth mean more customers in the long run.
What about AI – is my excellent customer service just going to be replaced?
It’s the elephant in the room – some customer service is now being automated to offer some level of response 24-hours a day, seven days a week. It might work for some simple queries and problems, but as yet, not the ones that need an empathetic ear and thinking brain. A lot of customers are frustrated when they can’t speak to a real person – young and old alike, and a chat-box powered by natural language processing that’s reading set answers is unlikely to fully fill this gap.
As efficient as it is for companies to use and lower operating and training costs, does a machine even know what good customer service is? Online customers are invisible to organisations (literally), so, as a customer, it's easy to feel emotionally short-changed by them. But this lack of visual or tactile presence makes it even more crucial to create a sense of personal, human-to-human connection in the online arena.
See below for tips on how to craft the perfect CV for a customer services role.