Did you know that kind words are worth much and cost little. This creates opportunity: when you can’t out-spend the competition, the solution is to out-support them. When customer service is given the credence it deserves, only then do companies get to see what “word of mouth” is all about.
Well we would say, here are tips for outstanding customer service we think you should know.
1. Be aware that your customer service team needs the right tools
There is just no substitute for knowing your customers. The right support tools make it easy. You’d be surprised at the number of meaningful conversations you can have when you no longer have to stumble around in the dark.
It’s frustrating to be on the receiving end of support when the team isn’t outfitted correctly.
2. Try to practice clear communication with customers
Excellence in anything increases your potential in everything. There are few positions for which this applies more than support—clarity in communication is paramount because it affects everything you do.
Styling affects communication. Tone affects communication. Common mistakes to be made are using passive-aggressive language (“Actually…”) or confusing customers with slang, colloquialisms, or technical jargon.
Here’s another: which one of the following statements do you think is more appropriate?
You are being transferred. Your call is very important to us.
Hey Jane, I’m going to introduce you to our customer success specialist who will be better able to answer your question!
Easy. One is a trite platitude that people are sick of hearing. The other explains to customers why the transfer is to their benefit. Wording makes all the difference.
3. Learn to speak as your customers do
The basic truth is, your customers want conversations, not “correspondence.” You’re not talking with the Queen of England.
Consider the following disappointing example (names have been removed from this real email): The customer is literally treated like a number. The overly formal tone creates the feeling that a letter is being written to a 16th century nobleman—is this an “inquiry” or a conversation with a real person?
Be friendly, personable, and casual. A follow-up email could also work better.
4. Then always use positive language
Positive language is a great way to avoid accidental conflicts sprung from miscommunication. While the change is subtle, the effects are drastic.
Say one of your products is backordered for a month and you need to relay this information to a customer immediately. Consider the following responses:
Negative language: “I can’t get you that product until next month. It is back-ordered and unavailable at this time.”
Positive language: “That product will be available next month. I can place the order for you right now and make sure that it is sent to you as soon as it reaches our warehouse!”
Redirecting the conversation from negative to positive places focus on the proposed solution. When the outcome takes center stage, it reduces the odds that customers will be upset.
5. Remember to give credence to customer complaints
Harsh words are not always indicative of insight, and complaining customers are not always a sign that something is wrong. Be that as it may, sometimes great feedback is buried within the vitriol—give credence to every message.
To stay consistent in tone and process, use the CARP method:
Control the situation.
Acknowledge the dilemma.
Refocus the conversation.
Problem-solve so the customer leaves happy.
Receiving the same complaint repeatedly is the beginning of a narrative. This shouldn’t dictate what to do next, but it will begin to reveal what requires your attention.
6. Know how to close a conversation
The ability to close improves every single interaction. This is not closing a sale, it’s closing the conversation with a customer.
Leaving an issue unresolved creates unnecessary problems. Data suggests as little as ~4% of dissatisfied customers will ever speak up. Not everyone will communicate what is bothering them—often because you haven’t communicated that you care. Your willingness to correctly close a conversation shows the customer three important things:
You care about getting it right. You’re willing to keep going until you get it right.
The customer is the one who determines what “right” is.
7. Help customers help themselves
Great customer service should always be available, even when you aren’t.
When done right, self-service is personal at scale. View your help content as a top-tier reply from your support team made public for all to see and benefit from. Screenshots, videos, styling and more ensure your frequently asked questions will get frequently loved answers.
9. Do you know you should be data-informed, not data-delusional
Why rely on “It feels like we spend a lot of time on this issue…” when reporting can easily eliminate the guesswork?
This is actually an important, often-overlooked issue in support. Too much focus is given to the frequency of issues over the average handle time for each.
Rather, that is your world before support metrics. Your world after is clicking the “Time Tracking” tag and gaining immediate access to data that tells you how many emails you receive about the feature, as well as how long it takes your team to handle the conversations.
Although great data cannot guarantee good decision-making, it’s better than flying blind. The right data will help you keep your team in the loop. “Here’s how we did this week” becomes easy and valuable. Satisfaction Ratings top it off by allowing you to see where support interactions went really well (or very wrong). Both are learning opportunities.
Better learning results in meaningful improvements. Being able to see through the haze of a thousand of emails is illuminating, and an important step in getting there is not relying solely on your gut.#
10. Finally remember to give thanks in the real world
We’ve entered a world where retention matters in business more than ever, but web businesses seem happy to avoid interacting with customers.
They aren’t pageviews—they’re people. How would you feel if a deli owner asked you to join their message board just to talk about how the cold cuts tasted?
Time to bring the personal touch back to the real world.
Consider this handwritten note that Jawbone sent to a new UP customer:
A single picture that was retweeted 150+ times—that’s an immense amount of goodwill “paid for” with a simple thank you.
What other 5-minute task creates as much ROI as that? You won’t have time to hand-write every customer, but if there is one activity that should never get lost in the shuffle of building a business, it’s thanking your customers.