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10 ways to improve customer service

What is excellent customer service? And how can you improve your team’s customer service skills?

Most companies understand the importance of good customer service and many recognise the impact it can have on their bottom line. In fact, UK businesses lose £12 billion every year as a result of poor customer service. That’s huge. But when you get down to it, what does excellent customer service look like? Let’s consider this together. We’ll also look at how to improve these customer service skills.

Excellent customer service is:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Empathetic
  3. Clear
  4. Consistent
  5. Human
  6. Engaging
  7. Patient
  8. Flexible
  9. Receptive
  10. Improving
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1. Knowledgeable

When someone reaches out to customer service, it’s generally because they have an issue or a query. So one of the most important methods to improve customer service is making sure that your team is solving these problems and answering these questions.

To do this, they need to know your product or service inside and out. Make sure you provide regular training sessions so they can stay up to date. They also need to be thorough, seeing a problem through to its resolution. Regular feedback, team workshops and mentoring programmes can help develop skills in that area. Or why not run troubleshooting workshops where staff work together to come up with different solutions to a range of problems? This way, staff learn from each other and come up with creative ideas.

2. Empathetic

Empathy is vital for getting to the bottom of an issue and for creating strong customer relationships. Customers want to talk to someone they feel understands their problems. Encourage your staff to identify common ground with each customer. Train them to use active listening so they demonstrate that they’re listening and offering solutions relevant to each situation.

3. Clear

When someone contacts customer service, they don’t want to hear sales-speak. They want clear information, advice or answers. But is your team communicating clearly? Make sure you include a question about communication clarity in your customer satisfaction survey, so you can measure and track this. If needed, you can then introduce new guidelines or training.

4. Consistent

These days, companies have multiple touchpoints. From the traditional bricks and mortar shop, to e-commerce sites, online chat, phone helplines, to various social media channels. And customer service across each of these channels should be consistent. In fact, research from smallbusiness.co.uk shows that “68 per cent of millennials demand an integrated, seamless experience, regardless of channel”. You need to ensure your messaging and speed of responses are consistent across all touchpoints.

5. Human

Some companies hide their contact details down a rabbit warren of FAQ pages, help articles and contact us forms. Some use chat bots. While all of these serve a purpose, sometimes they just don’t cut it. After all, people relate to people. Give your customers the option of talking to a real person—whether that’s in person, over the phone, via email or even on social media. And allow your staff to communicate with personality—while staying on brand of course. Make sure you’re contactable at appropriate times for your customers. Publish pictures of your staff so that your customers understand your company isn’t just a faceless entity, or even worse, a dodgy company trying to take them for a ride.

One of the 6 keys to improving customer service is building an engaged support team. Sometimes that involves huddling up and saying some motivating words before putting in a day's worth of work.

6. Engaging

Humans are perceptive creatures. If your staff members are uninterested or unhappy in their work, it shows. They’re unlikely to be providing top-notch customer service. So make sure you ask how happy and engaged your team is and do it regularly. Our employee engagement template is a great place to start. You can even benchmark engagement data to help you understand how your employees’ engagement compares to other companies.

7. Patient

Customer service is tough. Customers can be demanding, angry and downright rude. Your team needs to stay calm and patient throughout, and still provide excellent customer service. They can’t take customer anger or frustration personally. All this requires both patience and a thick skin. We recommend you lead by example. Show your team what patience looks like. To develop patience and stay calm, it can also help to identify triggers and use breathing techniques.

8. Flexible

Whether it’s on a helpline, or on the shop floor, customer service teams are bound to receive quirky and unusual queries and issues. This means another key customer service skill is showing flexibility and the ability to adapt to each situation. Those who need a step-by-step instruction for every possible scenario will struggle with this unpredictability, and likely get flustered. Instead, your team needs to be level-headed and unflappable. Mentoring programmes or team troubleshooting workshops can provide the opportunity to learn from more experienced staff members and help put things in perspective.

9. Receptive

Customers want to be listened to. Show them that their opinion matters. Make it easy for them to provide feedback, either at the time of their customer service query, or after the fact, with a customer feedback survey.

 10. Improving

You won’t get it right every time. And most customers get that. Provided you acknowledge when you make a mistake and show that you’ll learn from it. Make sure that customer feedback doesn’t go into a black hole. Put processes in place to review feedback, raise issues, spot trends, and crucially, come up with ways of improving in those areas. Demonstrate you’ve acted on an issue that customers raised. Or even go as far as contacting them to detail the steps you’ve taken. If you do that, you’ll show you value them, and you value their input. You’ll turn negative feedback into a positive customer experience. What better way to build customer loyalty?

Methods to improve customer service

We’ve looked at what makes excellent customer service and we’ve touched on options for developing each area. But let’s recap and consider ways to improve customer service overall.

  1. Gather feedback from your customers, asking about the areas you want to focus on. For instance, you could find out how clear, consistent and empathetic your service is. The 15 questions you need to ask your customers is a great place to start for inspiration.
  2. Collate staff feedback. Ask your team whether they think their product knowledge is sufficient, or if they need training in this or another area. Conduct a staff engagement survey to find out how happy and satisfied they are.
  3. Act. Once you’ve identified room for improvement, you need to figure out how you can progress. Do you need to provide more staff training sessions? Mentoring programmes? Maybe you need to reconsider your social media strategy and responsibilities to bring it in line with company messaging. Perhaps you need to provide more development opportunities for a happier staff. Or maybe you need more staff on the ground to improve the in-store experience.

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