The 10 Essential Elements of Great Customer Service

Great customer service isn’t all that hard to deliver, but it is probably different from what you’re used to providing. Below are the top 10 elements of great customer service:

1. Well-Designed Website

First and foremost, your company needs to have a good website. Your website is usually the first place customers look for information about a shipment, your return policy, or even how to contact you, and a well-thought-out FAQ section can save your employees the hassle of answering routine questions all day.  (For more information on how to design a good business website, see this article.)

2. Accessibility

If your customers can’t contact you easily, then your customer service isn’t as good as it should be. As was mentioned above, having a good website is crucial. Your contact information should be clearly displayed on your website, alongside your hours of operation. If a customer has to search for too long for information on how to contact you, when they finally do get you on the line, they’re already going to be disgruntled.

3. Quick Response Time

Customers hate waiting. Especially in today’s instant-gratification-oriented society, if a customer has to wait for too long for a response, they’re going to become unhappy. A quick response time to emails and phone calls (and a sincere apology on the rare occasion when you’re unable to be prompt) keeps customers satisfied.

4. Empowered Employees

This one’s huge. If your employees don’t have the ability or the permission to solve a customer’s problem, you’re creating a recipe for awful customer service. If you lock your employees into rigid rules and scripts instead of letting them handle some issues at their discretion, you’re going to produce a lot of unhappy customers. “I’ll have to check with my supervisor,” “I don’t have permission to do that,” “That’s not my department,” and similar phrases are not going to solve your customers’ problems. In fact, in many cases, they’ll only serve to frustrate the customer and make the problem worse.

So give your employees some freedom of judgment. Think of it this way: If you don’t feel comfortable allowing your customer service representatives to make small decisions without having to answer to a supervisor for every choice they make, then you don’t trust them. And if you don’t trust them, then they probably shouldn’t be employed by your company.

5. Thick Skin

In order to deliver great customer service, you’re going to have to change the way you look at mistakes and criticisms. Instead of getting offended or defensive, try to view these inevitabilities as opportunities. Every mistake or bad review is another opportunity to fix something that was previously broken in your company. Take advantage of it.

6. Surprise

Surprising your customers is a great way to make a good impression. There are many ways to surprise your customers with something meaningful to them. For example, if you recently solved a complaint with a customer, consider following up with a gift card or credit on their account without giving them any notice beforehand. This is a small step, but because it’s so unexpected, it will make a big impression and will show the customer that you care about their needs.

7. Trust

To give great customer service, you’re going to have to put a little trust in your customers. Too many companies in today’s business world operate under immense paranoia. They assume that every customer is trying to game the system and that if they let their guard down even momentarily, they’ll find themselves out of business and out of money.

This simply isn’t true. Most customers who need your help have legitimate complaints and just want their issues addressed with as little hassle as possible. If you trust them, then you can give them what they want and save both of you time and stress. If you assume they’re trying to cheat you, though, then your customer service is going to reflect that mindset. (Read: It’ll be terrible.)

8. Responsibility

You can’t give great customer service if you constantly shirk responsibility. Everyone knows that they need to stand behind their products and services, but there are other aspects of your business that you probably overlooked the need for which to take responsibility.

For example, understand that as far as your customer is concerned, every customer service representative they speak to in your company might as well be the same person. They don’t care that they’ve spoken to a Sally, a George, a Ben, and a Mary; all they know is that they’ve spoken to people at Company X. Because of this, they expect some continuity, and failing to provide them with that continuity will make them dissatisfied. If Mary told the customer that they could have a refund, then they expect Ben the supervisor to say the same thing. If he shirks responsibility for his employees, though, the customer is going to be unhappy.

In a similar vein, in the customer’s eyes, your company and your partner/ manufacturer/ distributor are one and the same. But customers gave you their money, so they expect you to take responsibility for their service, not place blame on some third party that they don’t know anything about.

9. Recognition

One of the most important aspects of customer service is making sure that your customers feel appreciated. And what better way to do this than to simply tell them? No, this doesn’t mean holding a Customer Appreciation Day Sale; rather, it means taking small steps that can make a big impact. The key here is sincerity.

For example, let’s say a customer brings to your attention a flaw in your website that could have cost you business. Or let’s say a customer makes a suggestion that actually improves company operations. To thank them, recognize their efforts in a sincere way. Post a message at the bottom of your website for a day, send them a handwritten thank-you card, or send them a small gift card – anything that will show them that you appreciate their help.

10. Patience

Finally, it’s important to recognize that you can’t win every battle. Some customers, as much as you’ll hate to admit it, simply aren’t worth the business they provide. It’s true: Some customers are bad people. Despite your best efforts, they’ll whine, complain, curse, write bad reviews, demand free products or services, make unreasonable requests, and generally make your life a living nightmare. Recognizing this and learning how to drop the lost causes while still putting forth full effort on those customers who actually deserve your time will save you a lot of stress.  (Read more about dealing with bad customers here.)

Great customer service doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it’s usually the smallest gestures that make the biggest and best impressions on your customers and clients. So try the tips above, and see how much happier people become with your company’s customer service.

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