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Our Guide to Customer Service

In today’s fast-paced and interconnected world, the bedrock of any successful business lies in its ability to provide exceptional customer service. Whether in a bustling retail environment or an online marketplace, the landscape of customer interactions continues to evolve, presenting both challenges and opportunities for businesses aiming to thrive.

This comprehensive guide navigates the intricate realm of customer service. We delve into the principles, strategies, and innovative practices that drive exceptional customer service experiences. This article aims to equip businesses with the insights and tools necessary to not just meet but exceed customer expectations.

Table of Contents

 

Types of Customer Service

A customer service representative and customer.

Customer service is one of the most important differentiating factors that customers look at when choosing between competing companies. No matter how great your products are, customers want to know that you’re ready to help them when they have questions, problems, or just need advice. However there are many types of customer service, and individual consumers will have their own sets of preferences. 

With phone or call centre customer service, customers get in-person service without having to trek to a store location. For businesses, there are multiple advantages, including better relationship-building. And there are other advantages. Calls can be recorded, for example, helping businesses to exercise better quality control and verify what happened during interactions. Plus you can outsource, allowing you to offer 24/7 customer service, and scale service in response to demand. 

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What Exactly is Good Customer Service?

RSVP call centre agent providing good customer service

It is important to offer your customers a pleasant experience when they’re dealing with your business. Fail to do so, and you’ll not only lose a customer, but gain a detractor. Serve them even better than they expected, and you’ve gained a lifelong supporter. Reputations are built on customer service, and you’d like to make sure yours is among the best.

So, when you get right down to it, what is excellent customer service? Good customer service means being ready to help your customers so that their needs are met, and they are left feeling good about their experience with your businesses. Customer service begins with the people who provide it, and it’s a skilled job. So, the first thing you need to provide your customers with good service is skilled people. You’re looking for people who genuinely like dealing with people, listening to them, and helping them. Personalised attention is another important feature of good customer service. It can’t be faked, and it’s rarer than you might expect. 

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Why Customer Service is So Important for Your Business

Man working in customer service

Many business owners make the mistake of thinking that good customer service is an extra that’s mainly of benefit to the customers themselves. However, it’s extremely important for your business too, and it translates to money in the bank. Excellent customer service often leads to lower acquisition costs as many buyers purchase more than once based on their customer service experience. It can also lead to more referrals as well as positive customer reviews that might just be the deciding factor that converts a new customer. A business that has built a good customer service reputation is also more likely to acquire the best talent when recruiting.

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How to Improve Customer Service

Call center agents working on improving their customer service skills.

Great customer service is one of the top ways to win hearts and minds. If your service is head-and-shoulders above that of your competitors, you’ll even find that you get real customer loyalty, with customers returning for more of what you offer and referring their friends. Finding out how to improve customer service, and implementing that knowledge, could be one of the most important strategic initiatives you’ve ever undertaken. 

Customer service isn’t just about understanding people and making them feel valued. It also requires intimate knowledge of the technical side of your business. Provide regular training and refresher courses to ensure that your staff knows how to help clients with practical problems. Get feedback from line managers and staff, and show them that you think their work is important by holding customer service review sessions. Build a customer-focused team culture that recognises the customers as their reason for being.

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Customer Service Skills

Call center agent displaying his customer service skills.

What are the key skills needed for customer service? While some of them may be obvious, others are a little less so – and not all of them can be imparted through training. Great customer service agents need much more than a formula for dealing with customers in order to represent your business effectively. It’s easy enough to teach customer service workers to avoid using certain words and phrases and to use others instead. But it’s a simple matter for your customers to see the difference between a facade and a genuinely positive attitude. Ideally, positivity should come naturally, and if it’s there, positive language use becomes second nature. While positivity is one of the most important skills in customer service, it’s not something you can extract from someone who doesn’t love helping people and who doesn’t feel proud to represent your company.

Communication is an essential customer service skill. But communication is so much more than just a way to deliver messages. It begins when the customer has an idea, which they then encode into language and deliver. As a good communicator, your customer service worker knows how to decode that message, including any unspoken nuances. Communication skills can be learned, but some people master it more easily than others. Of all the skills in customer service, product knowledge is the easiest to learn. As an employer, you should ensure that onboarding and training involve a process in which your hires acquire extensive product knowledge as a basic skill required for customer service. 

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Active Listening Skills for Customer Service

Customer service agent with good active listening skills.

Active listening is an excellent skill that will help you in interpersonal relationships of every kind. When it comes to your customer service, it’s an absolute must. Mastering active listening techniques will make you a better communicator. You’ll understand people better and be quicker to help them get the answers they’re looking for. If there’s any form of tension, listening actively will help to defuse the situation. When you’re making an effort to fully understand your clients and are demonstrating interest in their welfare through active listening, you will come across as being likeable, understanding, and efficient. 

There are various active listening exercises that you can do alone or with a group of other people. For example, a group of people can each answer the same question from their perspective. As a member of the group, the challenge is to focus on what’s being said rather than on what your answer to the question will be. However, building good habits takes practice, and you probably won’t be on an active listening course or in group activities every single day. Evaluate your progress with active listening by giving yourself a little assessment after each interaction with customers.

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How to Deal With Angry Customers

Angry customer talking on the phone.

No matter how good your business is and how hard you try to keep them all happy, there will be times when your customers get angry. Angry customers can be terribly intimidating. Your fight or flight response kicks in. Neither of these adrenaline-fuelled responses is going to help the situation. Begin by recognising that the customer isn’t targeting you as a person. Whether or not their anger is justified, they represent an opportunity rather than a threat. But to realise the opportunity for improvement that they represent, you first need to know how to deal with angry customers. 

Angry customers are very likely to make their feelings felt in the most public way possible: that damaging review on Google; what they say to their friends, family, and colleagues; those scathing social media posts – it can become a PR nightmare. So, your first concern may be damage control. Calm the customer. Make them less likely to share their fury for decades to come. But if that’s where it ends, you still missed the real opportunity. The important thing to remember is that most people don’t get angry for no reason at all. So, if your customer is angry, your business must have done something wrong. Finding out what that might be allows you to solve the issue and improve your business. 

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Customer Communication

Arrows in the sky with the word communication on one of them.

The benefits of good communication with customers are easy to see. Nevertheless, let’s run through the big ones. Done well, your communications strategy gains new customers, helps you retain existing customers, improves perceptions of your brand, reinforces the image you want your brand to convey, and deepens customer engagement and loyalty. Customers are free to say what they like, but everything your business communicates to its customers must be aligned with your policy, strategy, and brand. That means having an in-depth understanding of all communications – from web pages and ads to billing communications and customer support interactions. 

Your communications methodology requires specific skill-sets depending on where it’s applied. For example, some people have great writing skills, while others have the verbal dexterity to handle communications on the fly. Some folks are experts at visual messaging, but may not do as well when asked to write or speak. The right communication skills in customer service depend on where they’re to be deployed. In implementing your customer communications strategy, knowing your people is just as important as knowing your customers. 

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Customer Centricity

Wood figure standing on documents containing the strategy of a customer-centric approach.

Customer centricity means placing your customers at the core of your business. While this might sound sensible, few businesses really do it. In practice, they often see their special expertise as being “core” with customers at the periphery and customer service as a “support function” rather than a core process. The idea behind customer-centricity is that your business focuses on customer satisfaction, building customer loyalty, and creating strong relationships between your business and its customers.

The first basic principle of a customer-centric strategy is that customers are core. They’re part of your business rather than outliers. You express this through a focus on understanding your customers, anticipating their needs, and making interactions with your business both easy and pleasant. In short, you design your business around your customers and you cater to their perspectives on what your business ought to be. So, instead of trying to shape your customers to fit your business, you shape your business to fit your customers. Simple as that may sound, it’s rarer than you might have expected. 

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Increasing Sales Through Customer Service

Customer service agent doing sales through customer service.

Sales through service means providing customer service that results in bigger sales, but it’s not just a trick to make customers dig deeper. Instead, it’s a process that helps your clients experience greater satisfaction. Getting those extra sales through customer service requires a sensitive approach. Without it, you’re at risk of earning an awkward reputation as being “pushy.” To avoid this, your customer service agents should have a clear understanding of situations in which there are opportunities for upselling or offering extras. Motivate them to act on this by showing them that in doing so, they’re actually providing better service rather than simply pushing for bigger sales. 

Of course, a well-trained and skilful team is needed to implement sales through service techniques effectively. They shouldn’t just be good at delivering a sales pitch. They need to listen carefully to their customers and have the ability to match products to individual needs. Understanding these means paying attention to feelings as well as facts – customers don’t always know the terms they should use to describe their requirements.

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How to Build Better Customer Relationships

Elements of customer relationship on a tablet.

Building customer relationships can be easy when you’re serving a relatively small customer base. You may know your clients by name, and remember their preferences instantly. But as your business grows and you start serving a larger pool of clients, things become more complicated.

A great customer experience might leave your customer feeling good, but it isn’t a relationship yet. By ensuring that your customers enjoyed early interactions with your business, you’ve built a foundation of trust, but you have to keep up the good work. 

That includes things like showing you care, following up to check whether they’re satisfied, listening to their feedback and acting on it, and giving them service that’s even better than anything they expected. Reward their trust with consistency, and you have a relationship that might stand the test of time – as long as you keep doing your bit.

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Customer Satisfaction

A person completing a customer satisfaction survey.

Customer satisfaction, sometimes abbreviated as CSAT, is a far deeper concept than it may seem on the surface. The definition is simple enough. Customer satisfaction relates to how satisfied your customers are with the goods or services you offer, the way they experienced customer service and the general efficiency of your company. The importance of customer satisfaction can’t be overstated. It’s the basis of your company’s reputation within its market, and it will have a direct impact on how profitable your business is. Gaining new customers requires financial investment, and having used your resources to get them, you’d like to keep them.

There’s a good chance that satisfied customers will give you repeat purchases, raising the lifetime value of each customer acquired. And, if they think you’re worth supporting, they’ll mention you to friends and associates who have similar needs. A recommendation from someone they know carries weight since it’s motivated by a spirit of helpfulness rather than the promise of profit. A person who makes a recommendation has experienced the business from a customer’s perspective – and that makes it seem more trustworthy than anything you might say about your business yourself.

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Call Handling Skills for Excellent Customer Service

Man demonstrating effective call handling skills

Call handling skills are essential for good customer service, but they don’t always enjoy the recognition they deserve. Effective call handling requires more than just technical knowledge. It requires superb communication skills and the ability to make each caller feel like a VIP. When you’re answering the phone all day long, it can be hard to sound energetic and ready to help, but that’s just what you need to do. The first impression your customer has is of your tone of voice and initial greeting.

Effective call handling requires a range of skills that are not always valued as they should be. And although sincerity goes a long way, there’ll be times when you will even need to be something of an actor. After all, you may have to deal with recurrent, routine queries, and the last thing you should do is sound as bored as you might feel. You may also find yourself in the uncomfortable position of having to deal with irate clients, not all of whom will express themselves with due moderation. Even if you’re furious, you need to sound calm, in control, and absolutely professional.

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Customer service outsourcing

Man highlighting the words Customer Service written on glass.

You respect your clients, and you do everything you can to provide them with products that will satisfy their needs, but you and your teams have full schedules. You know that attending to customer needs is a must, but you’re caught between a rock and a hard place. You might divert resources you need elsewhere to customer service to cover peak demand, leaving other tasks and projects on hold. Or you have dedicated customer service agents who face sudden spikes in customer needs that they can barely cope with alternating with times when they’re just waiting around in case someone needs them.

Could customer service outsourcing be the solution? If you choose the right service provider, it can. They do the work, your customers are thrilled with the service they’re getting, and you get all the credit. You deserve to! After all, it’s your business that attracted those customers in the first place. But can you outsource customer service with confidence, and how does that benefit you and your customers?

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Considering the Outsourcing Question? Here’s Why You Should Talk to RSVP

We understand your reluctance to entrust your customer service – after all, without your customers, your business wouldn’t exist. That’s why we offer in-house-equivalence, doing as well as your own team can, as a starting point. After that, our next goal is to exceed anything you could have done without us – and our ever-growing portfolio of high-level clients is evidence of our success on that score. 

We’re so much more than “just another call centre” and we’re ready to prove our claims. Our London-based call centre employs, trains, and nurtures articulate, creative operatives. Our software keeps you informed on customer service analytics and helps us to join the dots in omnichannel communications. We represent you to the best of our ability – and we have evidence that our best is a cut above the rest. 

Let’s work together! We don’t just “answer the phone.” Instead, we’re invested in helping you to achieve your goals and our task is to ensure that you gain a reputation for superb customer service. Opportunity knocks. Will you open the door to customer service excellence? Contact us today!

Read our guide to customer experience (CX).

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