In today’s highly competitive and increasingly digital marketplace, the brands that succeed are the ones that go out of their way to provide exceptional customer service. Research shows that good customer service keeps clients coming back time and again.
A majority of buyers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. That’s why savvy companies make customer retention a top priority by consistently delivering service that exceeds expectations. To stand out from the competition and build an army of loyal, raving fans, focus on these 10 proven best practices.
If you’d like help implementing customer service systems and technologies, schedule a free consultation. We can assess your needs and guide you to the right resources and tools.
What is Customer Service?
Customer service is the assistance and care provided to customers before, during, and after purchase. It encompasses all interactions between a business and its customers across all touchpoints and channels.
Effective customer service involves building relationships that meet customer needs and exceed expectations. It includes several key elements:
- Active listening and effective communication
- Quick issue resolution and personalized support
- Managing requests, complaints, and feedback
- Providing product information and maintenance guidance
- Training customers on purchases
- Following up and nurturing ongoing relationships
The ultimate goals are to provide a seamless, positive experience, create engaged and loyal customers, and establish a trusted brand reputation.
Customer service professionals agree that practices like active listening and personalization create exceptional experiences. Customer service requires a customer-focused mindset across an entire organization. When done right, it creates value for both customers and businesses.
What Are the Top 10 Customer Service Best Practices?
Exceptional customer service separates the best brands from the rest. While strategies come and go, these 10 fundamental practices form the foundation for consistently delivering service excellence.
By deeply committing to each area and integrating it across your organization, you can transform customer perceptions, inspire loyalty, and drive sustainable growth.
Here are 10 best practices to deliver the best out of your customer service.
- Know your customers
- Set expectations
- Train your stuff
- Empower employee
- Offer omnichannel support
- Actively listen
- Personalize interactions
- Surprise and delight
- Seek out feedback
- Continuosly improve
Let’s get into each of these practices.
One: Know Your Customers
The first step to providing excellent customer service is to know your customers. This means understanding their demographics, preferences, and common questions. You can do this by:
- Researching your target demographics. Who are your customers? What are their ages, genders, locations, and income levels?
- Surveying your customers. What do your customers like and dislike about your products or services? What are their pain points?
- Analyzing customer feedback. What are your customers saying about your company on social media, review websites, and other online channels?
- Developing customer personas. Create a fictional representation of your ideal customer. This will help you to better understand their needs and expectations
Using business intelligence tools to analyze demographics, feedback, and other data sources gives deeper insights into customer preferences and needs. Develop richer personas through data analysis..
Once you have a good understanding of your customers, you can start to implement initiatives that meet their specific needs. For example, if your customers are primarily seniors, you may want to offer specialized support options like larger text sizes or in-person help for those less comfortable with technology. Having customer service agents trained to the needs of your customers goes a long way as well.
By taking the time to get to know your customers, you can create a customer service experience that is personalized, relevant, and satisfying. This will lead to happier customers, increased loyalty, and more sales.
Two: Set Clear Expectations
Providing the best customer experience relies on clearly setting expectations upfront. When business customers understand what level of service is standard, they are less likely to be surprised or frustrated.
Publish service standards that outline average response times, delivery estimates, or other thresholds customers can depend on. For example, state that email inquiries receive a response within 24 hours or that phone calls will be answered in under 2 minutes.
Share policies on exchanges, refunds, cancellations, subscriptions, and more so customers know the rules in advance. Make this information easy to find on your website, invoices, product packaging, and other touchpoints.
Setting clear expectations upfront prevents confusion down the road. Customers will trust you more when promises are kept. Make sure the entire organization understands service standards and can consistently meet them.
Of course, aim to delight customers by exceeding your published standards when possible. But even when that isn’t feasible due to high volumes or limited resources, customers will appreciate transparency on what to reasonably expect.
Three: Train Staff for Success
Proper training is essential for providing exceptional customer service that drives business success. Invest in preparing your staff to deliver excellent service. Make sure to equip staff with essential customer service skills like communication, problem-solving, and adaptability through ongoing training.
Hire for Fit
When building your customer service team, prioritize candidates who not only possess the required skills but also align with your company’s values and customer-centric culture. Look for individuals who naturally exhibit empathy, strong communication skills, and a genuine passion for helping others.
During interviews, present candidates with real-life customer scenarios or challenging situations they might encounter. Evaluate their problem-solving abilities, ability to remain composed under pressure, and their approach to handling customer inquiries.
Employees who resonate with your company’s mission are more likely to authentically engage with customers, fostering a positive rapport that translates into increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Conduct Ongoing Customer Service Training
Empower your team by providing consistent and comprehensive customer service training. Cover a range of topics, including effective communication, active listening, conflict resolution, and techniques for handling difficult customers.
Utilize a variety of training methods, such as workshops, role-playing exercises, and e-learning modules. Role-playing allows employees to practice handling different customer scenarios, helping them build confidence and refine their responses.
Highlight the direct connection between exceptional customer service and business success. Share success stories and case studies within your organization that showcase how outstanding customer service has led to increased customer retention rates, positive reviews, and ultimately, business growth.
Skill Enhancement and Adaptation
Equip your team with the skills needed to adapt to changing customer expectations and emerging technologies. As communication channels evolve, provide training on how to effectively use new tools, such as live chat platforms or social media engagement.
Encourage a culture of continuous learning and improvement. Set up regular feedback sessions where employees can share insights from their interactions, discuss challenges, and collaborate on finding innovative solutions.
Foster a sense of ownership and accountability by allowing employees to take the lead in resolving customer issues. Empower them to make informed decisions and demonstrate trust in their judgment.
Your well-prepared and motivated team will create positive customer interactions that drive customer loyalty, brand advocacy, and ultimately, sustained business growth.
Four: Empower Employees
Empowering your employees to go above and beyond is a pivotal practice in providing exceptional customer service that truly focuses on going the extra mile. By allowing your staff to exercise their judgment and take initiative, you create a culture that revolves around customer satisfaction.
Here’s how you can foster this culture of empowerment:
- Encourage going above and beyond. Motivate your team to exceed customer expectations when appropriate, demonstrating your commitment to delivering the best customer experience possible.
- Trust in their judgment. Provide your employees with the autonomy to make judgment calls. Show that you trust their ability to make decisions that prioritize customer satisfaction.
- Collaborate for solutions. Foster a problem-solving mindset by encouraging collaboration among your staff. Empower them to work together to find innovative solutions to challenges that may arise.
- Celebrate empowerment. Recognize and celebrate instances where employees have taken the initiative to provide exceptional service. Highlight these success stories to inspire others to follow suit.
- Continuous learning. Empowerment also involves continuous learning. Regularly discuss customer interactions, sharing insights, and strategies that have proven effective in creating positive experiences.
- Seek employee feedback. Actively seek input from your team on customer service strategies and policies. Their on-the-ground perspective can provide valuable insights for refining practices and making empowerment more impactful.
- Lead by empowerment. Set an example from the top down. Demonstrate empowerment in your decisions and actions, showcasing how it contributes to the overall success of the business.
Remember that employee engagement leads to better customer experiences.
Five: Offer Omnichannel Support
In today’s digital world, customers expect to be able to interact with businesses on their terms, through the channels they prefer. This means offering omnichannel support, which provides customers with the ability to contact you through multiple channels, such as phone, email, chat, and self-service tools.
By offering omnichannel support, you can make it easier for customers to get the help they need, when they need it. You can also improve customer satisfaction and loyalty by providing a seamless customer experience across all channels.
Here are some specific things you can do to offer omnichannel support:
- Provide multiple channels of support. Make sure your customers have multiple ways to contact you, such as phone, email, chat, call centers, and self-service.
- Integrate your channels. Make sure your channels are integrated so that customers can easily switch between them without having to repeat themselves. You should also integrate channels like Salesforce Service Cloud to manage customer data and interactions across touchpoints.
- Personalize your interactions. Use customer data to personalize your interactions with customers across all channels.
- Focus on customers. Always put the customer first and make sure their needs are met.
- Go the extra mile. Go the extra mile to provide excellent customer service, even if it means going outside of your normal channels.
Here are some benefits of offering omnichannel support:
- Improved customer satisfaction. Customers appreciate being able to contact businesses on their terms, through the channels they prefer. By offering omnichannel support, you can improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.
- Increased sales. Customers who have a positive customer experience are more likely to do business with you again and to recommend you to their friends and family. This can lead to increased sales and market share.
- Reduced costs. By offering omnichannel support, you can reduce the cost of customer service by providing customers with the ability to self-service their needs.
- Improved brand reputation. A positive customer experience can help to improve your brand reputation and attract new customers.
Six: Actively Listen to Customers
Active listening strengthens customer loyalty by making each caller feel truly valued. Train your customer service team in the art of undivided attention.
Here are some specific things you can do to actively listen to customer stories:
- Eliminate all distractions and give customers your complete focus.
- Don’t interrupt or multitask. Let customers share feedback without cutting them off.
- Pay attention to tone and emotion. Validate what the customer feels and acknowledge their perspective.
- Ask probing questions to fully understand the context. Don’t make assumptions.
- Paraphrase key points to confirm you comprehend the customer’s perspective.
- Provide solutions tailored to the customer’s unique needs after summarizing the full situation.
- Follow up to ensure the customer was satisfied with the interaction and solution.
Active listening demonstrates genuine care, resolves issues faster, and strengthens customer relationships. When customers feel truly heard and understood, it fosters trust and loyalty. Make active, undivided listening a priority for service excellence.
Seven: Personalize Interactions
Making your customers feel valued and appreciated is at the heart of exceptional customer service. By incorporating personalized touches into your interactions, you not only keep customers happy but also foster stronger relationships that lead to delighted and satisfied customers.
Here’s how you can effectively personalize your customer interactions:
Address Customers by Name
Using a customer’s name during interactions creates an immediate connection and shows that you value their individuality. Whether in written communication or during phone conversations, addressing customers by name adds a personalized and human touch.
Strive to use their names naturally and appropriately, avoiding overuse or forced insertion. This subtlety reflects genuine consideration and enhances the overall experience.
Reference Past Interactions
Demonstrate your commitment to understanding your customers by referencing past conversations or interactions. When addressing inquiries or resolving their issues, mention specific details from previous interactions to show continuity and attentiveness.
For instance, if a customer previously inquired about a product, follow up with information related to that inquiry. This demonstrates your dedication to providing tailored solutions.
Tailor Recommendations and Solutions
Leverage insights from previous interactions to provide personalized recommendations. If a customer has shown interest in specific products or services, offer related suggestions that align with their preferences.
When addressing concerns, refer to steps taken in previous interactions to provide a seamless and informed resolution process. This personalized approach showcases your commitment to addressing their unique needs.
Cultivate a Sense of Familiarity
Encourage your customer service team to engage customers in friendly and warm conversations. Establishing a sense of familiarity through personalized communication contributes to a positive and welcoming experience.
Strive to strike a balance between a personalized approach and maintaining professionalism. While creating a warm rapport, ensure your interactions remain respectful and considerate, particularly in formal or business contexts.
Leverage Customer Data
Harness the power of customer relationship management (CRM) systems to centralize customer information. This data-driven approach enables quick access to relevant details, facilitating consistent and accurate personalization.
Regularly update customer profiles with new insights gained from interactions. For instance, if a customer shares recent achievements, incorporate this information into future interactions for a thoughtful and personalized touch.
Eight: Surprise and Delight
Surprise and delight creates wow moments that turn customers into loyal fans. Use these customer service practices to sprinkle in unexpected delights.
- Send handwritten thank you notes when a customer refers to friends or gives valuable feedback.
- Include a small free gift like a coupon or sample with an order apology.
- Track customer birthdays and send birthday discounts or other promotions.
- Follow up after a difficult issue is resolved to check in on satisfaction.
- Empower staff to surprise grumpy customers with a free item to turn their day around.
- For high-value clients, upgrade their order with rush processing or free shipping.
- Offer an occasional and unexpected perk like a free month of service.
Surprising and delighting customers leads to positive word-of-mouth, loyalty, and brand love. A little extra effort at the right moments pays off.
Be creative, personalize surprises, and focus on points of pain in the customer journey. Delight creates memories that keep customers coming back.
Nine: Seek Out Feedback
Customer feedback provides insights to improve experiences and build brand loyalty. Proactively gather input using these practices.
Here’s how you can effectively incorporate feedback-seeking practices into your customer service efforts:
After each customer interaction, invite them to participate in a post-interaction survey. Keep the survey concise and focused on key aspects of their experience, such as the resolution process, the helpfulness of the support provided, and their overall satisfaction.
Utilize a combination of open-ended questions and rating scales to capture both quantitative and qualitative feedback. This comprehensive approach provides a holistic view of the customer’s perception.
Monitoring Reviews and Social Media
Regularly monitor online reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, or industry-specific websites. Pay close attention to both positive and negative reviews, as they offer insights into what customers appreciate and areas that may require improvement.
Stay engaged on social media platforms by responding promptly to customer mentions, comments, and direct messages. Address concerns and express gratitude for positive feedback to show that you value customer input.
Acting on Feedback
Customer feedback holds immense potential for improvement. Analyze survey results, reviews, and social media conversations to identify trends, pain points, and opportunities for enhancement.
Implement changes based on customer feedback to demonstrate your commitment to their satisfaction. Whether it’s refining processes, addressing common issues, or introducing new features, transparently communicating these improvements showcases your responsiveness and dedication.
Closing the Feedback Loop
Let customers know that their feedback has been heard and acted upon. When customers see their suggestions or concerns result in tangible improvements, they’re more likely to develop a sense of ownership and loyalty toward your brand.
Communicate changes through various channels, such as email updates, social media posts, or your website. Highlight how customer feedback contributes to your ongoing efforts to enhance their experience.
Engaging Customers in the Feedback Process
Encourage customers to share their opinions and suggestions beyond surveys and reviews. Consider establishing customer advisory panels, focus groups, or beta testing opportunities for upcoming products or services.
By involving customers in shaping your offerings, you reinforce their importance as stakeholders and build a community of brand advocates.
Ten: Continuously Improve
The best customer service practices are always evolving. What works today may not work tomorrow, and you need to be constantly looking for ways to improve your customer service. This can be done by analyzing metrics like CSAT (customer satisfaction score), churn (customer turnover), and NPS (net promoter score). You can also use knowledge base software to track customer inquiries and identify trends.
By analyzing these metrics, you can identify areas where your customer service can be improved. Once you have identified weak points, you can implement changes to address them. This could involve training your staff, updating your processes, or improving your technology.
By continuously improving your customer service, you can create a customer experience that is second to none. This will lead to increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and word-of-mouth marketing.
Here are some specific things you can do to continuously improve your customer service:
- Analyze metrics. Track metrics like CSAT, churn, and NPS to identify areas where your customer service can be improved.
- Use knowledge base software. Track customer inquiries and identify trends to see what customers are asking about and how they are interacting with your company.
- Train your staff. Train your staff on the latest customer service best practices and how to use your knowledge base software.
- Update your processes. Review your customer service processes and make sure they are efficient and effective.
- Improve your technology. Invest in technology that can help you improve your customer service, such as a knowledge base software or a CRM system.
Providing exceptional service requires ongoing focus across many fronts—from deeply understanding your customers to continuously improving based on feedback. While each practice is essential on its own, combining training, empowerment, personalization, and active listening creates a culture focused on exceeding expectations.
With investment in these core areas, any company can transform customer interactions and build genuine loyalty. Deliver service with care, and your customers will return the favor.
If all these tools seem overwhelming, we can help you make sense of things. Set up a call and let’s talk about your needs and goals.
What Are the Worst Practices in Customer Service?
No customer is a bad customer. Every customer has the potential to be a valuable asset to your business, even if they are currently experiencing a problem. That’s why it’s important to avoid the worst practices in customer service, which can only alienate customers and drive them away.
Avoid these 8 behaviors like the plague:
- Ignoring feedback
- Overpromising and under delivering
- Scripted and robotic interactions
- Poor resolution handling
- Focusing on transactional interactions
- Inconsistent service
- Lack of empowerment
- Indifferent handling of bad customers
Let’s explore these common pitfalls individually and shed light on how to navigate the treacherous waters of poor customer service.
#1 Ignoring Customer Feedback
Disregarding customer feedback is a surefire way to undermine the quality of your service. Being dismissive of customer complaints leads to a bad customer experience that harms your brand. Prioritizing swift issue resolution defuses tension.
Neglecting their insights and concerns creates an impression of indifference, potentially driving valuable patrons away.
Embrace feedback as a treasure trove of insights, leveraging it to fine-tune your offerings and demonstrate that you genuinely care about their experiences.
#2 Overpromising and Under Delivering
Making grand promises about your offerings or service levels only to consistently fall short erodes customer trust. It’s better to underpromise and overdeliver than to do the opposite.
For example, touting “lightning fast delivery” but frequently experiencing shipping delays leaves customers disappointed. Or guaranteeing 24/7 support when you’re unable to staff evenings and weekends damages credibility.
Set realistic expectations that you can meet or exceed. And be upfront with customers when the unexpected occurs. Honesty and reliability build confidence in your brand.
#3 Scripted and Robotic Interactions
Treating customers like just another scripted interaction rather than unique individuals is a quick way to alienate them. Repeating robotic phrases and sticking to rigid workflows strips away the humanity of engagement.
For example, mechanically reciting legal jargon when a customer is frustrated or refusing to deviate from a troubleshooting flowchart when it’s clearly not addressing the root issue.
Strive for authentic connections by meeting customers where they are. Show genuine interest in their needs through active listening and empathy. Ditch the robotic responses and create human moments that resonate.
#4 Poor Resolution Handling
Mishandling customer issues can quickly escalate minor concerns into major problems. Approaching issues with indifference, unclear communication, or refusing to take responsibility can sour customer relationships.
For example, being dismissive of a customer complaint or providing vague, boilerplate responses instead of investigating their specific case. Or denying accountability when an error has clearly occurred on your end.
Prioritize resolving customer issues swiftly and proactively. Listen with empathy, communicate transparently, and take ownership of mistakes. This defuses tension and restores trust. Aim to turn dissatisfied customers into raving fans.
#5 Focusing Solely on Transactional Interactions
Viewing customer interactions through a purely transactional lens diminishes their worth and hampers building relationships. Engage with customers beyond one-off purchases.
For example, ignoring a loyal customer’s feedback because they aren’t making a purchase that day. Or putting resources solely into landing new sales rather than nurturing existing customers.
Understand your customers’ needs, challenges, and aspirations. Building authentic connections earns trust and loyalty that extends far beyond a single transaction. The most valuable customers become partners invested in your brand.
#6. Inconsistent Service Across Channels
Customers expect a seamless, consistent experience whenever they engage with your company, regardless of channel. But discrepancies between channels in areas like:
- Service quality and resolution times
- Information provided
- Process workflows
- Brand personality and tone
can lead to a disjointed, confusing journey that diminishes satisfaction.
For example, a customer may receive a quick, personalized response over live chat but then a delayed, templated auto-reply by email. Or they may be greeted warmly on the phone but feel dismissed when engaging on social media.
Work to align service delivery across every channel and touchpoint. Harmonize response times, information, workflows, and branding so interactions feel cohesive and on-brand. This consistency enhances the customer experience.
#7 Lack of Empowerment
When frontline employees lack authority to make decisions, customers can get stuck in limbo seeking solutions or clarification. This delays resolution and amplifies frustration.
Empower your team to make informed judgment calls in the moment. This reduces wait times, speeds up issue resolution, and showcases your commitment to customer satisfaction. Trust is key.
#8 Indifferent Handling of Bad Customers
It’s natural to focus more attention on good customers, but neglecting those who complain or express dissatisfaction is a mistake. A bad experience can turn them into vocal critics.
For example, being dismissive or disrespectful when a customer voices frustration over an issue. Or avoiding interacting with customers who seem overly demanding.
Approach difficult interactions with empathy, patience and professionalism. The goal should be transforming negatives into positives by actively listening and aiming to resolve their pain points. Flip bad experiences into good ones.
Customer Service FAQ
What are the 3 most important things in customer service?
The three pillars of great service are listening actively to understand issues, taking ownership of problems rather than passing the buck, and following up to ensure the resolution sticks. Together these demonstrate care, reliability and commitment to the customer.
What are the 4 types of consumer services?
Here are the 4 main types of customer services:
- Technical support : providing assistance with technical issues and helping customers use products properly. This includes troubleshooting, installation, repairs, and user training.
- Customer service: handling general inquiries, orders, billing questions, complaints, and other frontline interactions. This is done via channels like phone, email, chat, and social media.
- Self-service: enabling customers to find information and resolve issues through FAQs, knowledge bases, user forums, and other self-help options. Empowers customers to help themselves.
- Special services: offering VIP, high-touch services for premium clients. This includes account management, concierge services, special ordering, and customized solutions.
What are the 4 P’s of great customer service?
The four P’s that define outstanding customer service are:
- Promptness: timely and efficient responses show respect for customers’ time.
- Politeness: courtesy and respect in communication contribute to a positive experience.
- Professionalism: displaying expertise and professionalism instills confidence and trust.
- Personalization: tailoring interactions to individual needs makes customers feel valued.
What are the 5 common principles of customer service?
The 5 common principles of customer service are:
- Put the customer first. Always put the customer’s needs and wants first.
- Be responsive. Respond to customer inquiries and concerns quickly and efficiently.
- Be helpful. Go the extra mile to help customers solve their problems.
- Be polite and respectful. Treat customers with respect, regardless of the situation.
- Be honest and transparent. Be honest with customers about your products and services, and about any potential problems.
What are the 7 skills of good customer service?
Seven essential skills for providing excellent customer service are:
- Active listening. Attentively hearing and understanding customers’ needs.
- Empathy. Putting yourself in the customer’s shoes to comprehend their perspective.
- Communication. Effectively conveying information and addressing concerns.
- Problem solving. Finding efficient solutions to issues and conflicts.
- Patience. Remaining calm and composed, even in challenging situations.
- Adaptability. Flexibly adjusting your approach based on customer preferences.
- Positive attitude. Maintaining a friendly and optimistic demeanor to uplift interactions.
What are the 3 A’s in customer service?
The 3 A’s in customer service are:
- Attention. Pay attention to customers and their needs.
- Apologies. Apologize for any mistakes or inconveniences that customers experience.
- Acknowledgement. Acknowledge customers’ concerns and let them know that you are taking them seriously.
How can employee engagement improve customer service?
Engaged employees who feel positively about their work are more likely to provide exceptional customer service. Support employee engagement through training, incentives, and culture initiatives. When staff feel invested, it translates to customers feeling cared for.
What’s the best way to handle an angry customer?
When faced with an angry customer, customer service agents should listen calmly, express empathy, apologize for any issues, and focus on finding a resolution. Handled well, angry customers can become loyal advocates. Patience and problem-solving skills turn frustration into satisfaction.
What are some top customer service tips?
Expert customer service representatives recommend tips like:
- Personalizing interactions
- Actively listening
- Resolving issues swiftly
- Empowering staff
- Offering omnichannel support
- Continuously improving based on customer satisfaction surveys and feedback.
Mastering both soft skills and processes creates great experiences.
How are journey analytics used in customer service?
Journey analytics leverages data from sources like web traffic, transactions, and satisfaction surveys to map the customer experience. Customer experience managers can identify pain points and optimization opportunities to improve service delivery across channels and touchpoints using journey analytics tools.
Why are educational resources important for customer service?
Providing ongoing educational resources helps customer service representatives stay updated on the latest best practices for delivering service. It also ensures customers can self-educate to find answers through resources like online knowledge bases. Investing in education empowers both clients and staff.
What metrics help gauge customer satisfaction?
Key metrics for measuring customer satisfaction include satisfaction surveys, Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score (CES), and customer feedback analysis. Combining quantifiable metrics with qualitative feedback provides a comprehensive view of the customer experience.