When was the last time you enjoyed elevator music while waiting on hold? How about having to wait more than an hour because no matter when you call, you get a recorded message saying that they are experiencing a higher call volume than usual?
The reality is that there’s no excuse. We live in an age where the options for customer service tools are many, and dropping the ball is akin to telling customers you really don’t care about them.
So what can you do to avoid sending that message? What are some customer service best practices you should follow? And what are the most common mistakes you need to avoid?
Why You Need Best Practices in Customer Service
Customer service matters because at the end of the day, people want to purchase products and services from entities they like. Creating a good customer experience breeds brand loyalty — and in turn, referrals. In fact, word of mouth marketing is significantly more effective than any other form of marketing.
Also, we live in a world of instant gratification. You can get food, a freelance gig, a date, right now if you use the right channels. And that’s for things people want. Imagine how much people are willing to wait when it comes to troubleshooting an issue or trying to figure out how to use a product.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things within your control to make customers happy. And the first step to do so is to become well acquainted with best practices — then implement them.
The 5 Most Common Customer Service Mistakes You Need to Avoid
While every company is different, there are several customer service issues that are prone to pop up. The most frustrating ones include:
1. Providing Just One Method to Contact You
Listen. This isn’t 1982. Maybe your grandma didn’t mind calling customer service, but today, email and live chat are the fastest ways to resolve most customer service issues.
You should still provide the option to call, of course, but strive to appeal to all of your customers. Otherwise, you risk annoying them before they even call you.
How To Avoid It
- Ensure your team has a defined workflow for all possible customer service channels.
- Establish basic standards teams can refer back to in all customer service interactions.
- Monitor service metrics according to channel and make tailored process improvements.
2. Making Customers Wait Unreasonable Amounts of Time
We get it. You’re busy. So is everyone else. It’s unreasonable to simply include a recording saying that the call queue is heavy, then expect customers to wait an hour or two until someone finally answers.
This is irritating, especially when you realize that the average American will spend 43 days of their life on hold. Putting customers on long hold lines will simply send people searching for your competitors. Honestly, nobody has time for that.
How To Avoid It
- Provide multiple channels of communication. If someone can email you and wait for a response, their day won’t be shot by holding up their phone to their ear while trying to do work or take care of their kids.
- Offer a call back service so that one of your agents can reach out to them when they’re ready to help them.
- Assess team capacity. If they’re really that overworked, it’s time to hire more people.
3. Undervaluing Customer Service Staff
Turnover in customer service staff can have a serious impact on quality. You want people who are knowledgeable, experienced, and motivated to manage frontline customer contact.
Sadly, this isn’t a priority in all organizations. By providing customer service teams with the support and resources they need, you’ll have greater continuity and higher satisfaction scores.
How To Avoid It
- Provide solid onboarding that will help reps achieve confidence and productivity fast.
- Have clear job titles, career planning, and talent development at all levels of the team.
- Combine competitive compensation and one-on-one recognition to reward successes.
4. Failing to Personalize the Customer Experience
Forget about having customer service reps memorize a script. Even common issues should be taken in context.
Is the caller a repeat customer going through a difficult time? Is it someone who’s frustrated because they’ve had to repeat their story several times as they get transferred between departments?
Personalizing the experience makes customers feel valued and heard. This can make the difference between an angry customer and turning someone’s mood around.
How To Avoid It
- Institute a customer relationship management (CRM) suite that centralizes customer touchpoint data.
- Educate customer service pros on the right time to deploy all cross-sell and upsell tactics.
- Make sure reps know when to escalate issues and how different solutions may add value.
5. Relying on Tiered Customer Service
Train your staff. Don’t do this thing of having the newbies with no experience answer phone calls, then pass the buck gradually to higher levels until the caller goes all Karen and loses all sense of decorum.
How To Avoid It
- Provide every member of the team with knowledge and resources to handle most issues.
- Enable collaborative decision making between reps with communication apps like Slack.
- Give all reps full access to an internal knowledge base they can consult on hard questions.
10 Customer Service Best Practices That Help Prevent Costly Mistakes
Ok. So now that you know what to avoid, it’s good to also be aware of what you should be doing to make your customer service department as efficient as possible.
1. Train Your Team on Soft Skills.
Product knowledge and being a pro at troubleshooting are definitely required skills. But so are traits such as active listening, critical thinking, empathy, and conflict resolution.
A well-rounded customer service training program will help your team develop these characteristics within the context of the customer service experience.
2. Know Your Products/Services Like the Back of Your Hand.
When someone contacts a customer service department, they’re hoping that whoever answers their query knows what they’re doing. This includes knowing all relevant details of what they purchased.
So as you structure employee training, incorporate a Products 101 class for them to attend. Also, make things easier for your reps by providing them with resources they can quickly reference as they assist customers.
3. Speak With Customers Through Their Preferred Channels.
Remember the example about your grandma calling that toll free number to get her issues resolved?
Since it’s not always feasible for every business to offer every channel imaginable, conduct some market research to find out what your buyer persona would prefer. You can ask customers directly — send surveys, ask them on social media, or track the popularity of the methods you’re already offering.
4. Offer Self-Help Options.
Following the multiple channels train of thought, think about those customers who would prefer to figure things out on their own.
Make things easy for them by creating a good knowledge base, offering product guides, infographics, or video tutorials on your website and social media channels, and providing a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs).
5. Provide Prompt Responses.
Even if you offer customer service via email, text, or social media messaging, don’t take your sweet time getting to it. Look into getting customer service tools that can prioritize time sensitive messages and answer those first.
But then make it a point to get through every single message in that inbox in a reasonable time.
6. Empower Your Team To Resolve Issues.
If there’s too much red tape in your processes, your customer service representatives will often find themselves with their hands tied. This adds frustration to both your team and customers.
Trust your team and allow them to get creative in their attempts to increase customer satisfaction. Whether it’s processing a refund, throwing in a freebie, or extending a warranty, a happy customer will keep coming back.
7. Manage Customers’ Expectations.
Be upfront about what the customer can expect. If you can offer three options, let them know in advance what they are. If they ordered something that will take a month to ship due to shortages or manufacturing issues, tell them.
If necessary, underpromise and overdeliver if it’s possible. But under no circumstances should it ever be the other way around.
8. Be Consistent Throughout the Entire Customer Experience.
One of the worst customer service experiences is to have one agent at one department say something, only to be contradicted by someone else when the call is transferred to another department.
The right hand must always know what the left hand is doing and vice versa. This is part of adequate training. If your entire team knows well what they can or cannot do, there’s a much lower risk of miscommunications.
9. Use Customer Feedback to Improve Their Experience.
There are multiple methods of asking customers to provide feedback. They can rate their experience through net promoter scores (NPS), customer satisfaction scores (CSAT), answer survey questions, or fill out forms.
This information is a goldmine. But for it to provide true value, you have to use it. If you notice a trend (e.g. several people complaining about the same thing or making similar suggestions), appease them and do what they’re asking you to do.
10. Review The Customer Journey.
Take a good look at all of your customer touchpoints — social media comments, online reviews, phone calls, customer service experience, etc.
To cover all your bases, make a list of all possible interactions between them and your business. Then evaluate each of them to determine whether issues keep arising at any of them. If you notice a trend, look for ways to iron everything out.
Developing a great customer service experience requires well thought out strategies and dedication. But once you nail it, you’ll experience the joy that it is to inspire true brand loyalty.