Customer service can be a harsh profession, and giving the best customer service all the time while keeping every customer happy may sometimes feel like a mission impossible.
There’s a little know truth that “happy service givers make happy customers”. So, the golden path to perfect customer service runs through your own sense of calm and enjoyment (or that of your workers if you’re an employer).
Good customer service can make a business, the same way that bad service can push your most devoted clients into your competition’s embrace. Unfortunately, client service is just one of those areas where the way you or your employees behave affects the entire brand image. Frustrate your clients at your own peril.
Want to find out how to keep your customers happy while enjoying your work (or at least maintaining your sanity)? Read on to get our tips and techniques.
What’s in this article
No matter which niches your company falls in, providing trustworthy customer service is part of the whole customer experience. Getting to the point of reliably offering that service caliber can be tricky. At its heart, employees handling customer service need extensive understanding and empathy.
The basics of customer service
Customer service is an integral part of your mission to change something about the world. Whether that is improving a single person’s hotel stay or redefining how retail works, you can apply some universal principles.
1. Know the product
This knowledge is of paramount importance for anyone providing customer service. Without understanding the product and its quirks, you cannot understand where the customer is coming from or the potential pitfalls.
The best way to teach customer service representatives about your product is to let them work with it directly during training, rather than trusting a written description. This experience allows representatives to genuinely have a feel for the product that informs their job.
2. Courtesy makes everything better
Common courtesy is not always common, and it’s by no means universal. Assuming that courtesy is universal has created many customer service issues, so if you address it, you can soothe many problems before they happen.
For example, you hired a representative who was raised to treat elders in a certain way. However, that may not match up with the respect elders in the United States expect. You may find that this person has a higher-than-normal complaint rate because of this.
Providing education on what courtesies are expected in various situations, you can avoid this problem most of the time. Additionally, this training allows you to present a consistent image to your customers.
3. Admit mistakes & unknowns
In the United States, perfection is viewed as an essential attribute for customer service representatives. However, that’s a recipe for people telling customers wrong information and exasperating problems.
In practice, making your customer service agents comfortable with asking for help and confirmation, especially in training. By creating this healthy environment, you people will have one of the best problem-solving tools available to assist your customers.
4. Meet customers where they are
Customer service is not merely your representatives being knowledgeable. It’s also them being able to help customers from where they’re at with the product. This principle is often one of the more challenging aspects for customer service representatives.
People in customer service become experts as they work. While they do not mean to, many begin to inadvertently talk down to people with what they consider basic problems. You can prevent this by making people more aware of it.
This issue is also an excellent opportunity for continued education within the customer service department.
5. Follow the feedback
Feedback is essential for growth, whether it’s on products or the service experience. Unfortunately, it’s easy to overlook isolated feedback. These opportunities are a great place to improve customer service operations.
Positive feedback is often underrecognized in the office. This feedback can be used to positively motivate and demonstrate the right practices for your entire department. It also reinforces to your representatives that what they’re doing does matter.
Acting on negative feedback is also essential. This variety helps you solve your customer service issues and improve the training. Overall, acting on negative feedback improves your overall customer experience.
6. Be empathetic
One of the hardest things involved in customer service is maintaining the empathy necessary after handling hostile customers. The negative aspects often lead to burnout and less empathetic responses.
Teaching empathy is difficult, as is mitigating the negative customer experiences. Typical teaching methods like roleplay only work when taken seriously.
What to avoid when providing customer service
There are many ways to conduct customer service incorrectly. Unfortunately, they can occur at the corporate or individual level.
1. Taking things personally
When customers have complaints, it can be challenging to separate the complaint from the fact that a person is angry at you for the problem. This distinction can upset agents and lead to inappropriate responses as well as long term burnout.
2. Lack of training
Even the most intuitive customer service agent needs training on the product’s specifics and the solutions to various complaints. Lack of training, preparation, and mentorship can significantly affect how well someone can represent your company.
3. Scripting everything
On the opposite end of the spectrum, requiring employees to use scripts for everything can be detrimental. While it provides a consistent experience, scripts also remove the human touch from your customer service experience.
4. Not keeping promises
Customers perceive that agents are making promises on behalf of the company. Therefore, not keeping promises can negatively impact the impression you leave. If a promise cannot be supported, updating the customer promptly goes a long way.
5. Making support difficult to access
Companies must have support channels wherever their customers hang out. Otherwise, customers start their tickets feeling frustrated at how hard the channel was to find. That’s a recipe for more bad feelings.
Generally, websites are the primary support channels, followed by social media. If you branch out, keep a list of where people can get support on your website. It allows customers to skip a step in the future.
While your company may have a more casual brand feel, that does not mean professionalism should slip during customer service. Non-professionalism can make people question the value of a product or service.
Tips for customer service in every setting
Hotel customer service tips
Hotels have a unique dilemma since every individual on staff can be a customer service agent if that’s who the guest finds. Therefore, delivering basic education to all staff is paramount to success.
In general, the hotel staff must be friendly, detail orientated, and professional at all times.
- Personalize where possible (such as emails and websites)
- Actively seek feedback
- Maintain brand cohesion
- Fill customers in on what’s happening
- Answer the phone quickly
- Use a messaging system so guests can handle their own requests if they want
Face to face
- Notice the details (such as asking if a family wants a crib)
- Follow up on how stays are going
- Fulfill requests quickly
- Go above and beyond where possible
Retail customer service tips
Retail is one of the most competitive sectors and therefore requires exceptional customer service. In many cases, people think of teenagers working at stores in a mall when they think of retail. It’s important to demonstrate professionalism to overcome that image.
It’s vital to personalize the experience and celebrate the customer in all interactions, especially for repeat business.
- Make the return policy and process easy to find
- Offer live chat features
- Don’t shy away from images (such as in emails)
- Avoid sounding like getting off the phone is a priority
- Provide easy to understand answers
Face to face
- Find a unique greeting
- Have a plan for stock outages
- Make encounters memorable with personalization
Call center coaching ideas
Call centers are ubiquitous across business niches, and many business owners are not as hands-on in the training process for these agents. However, there is an immense benefit to coaching agents to reach their full
Generally, coaches should use self-assessment where possible. Coaches may also want to make feedback more palatable using a positive-negative-positive structure.
- Use specific examples
- Offer messaging for questions
- Use hard data
- Provide positive examples
Face to face
- Make a periodic schedule
- Keep things confidential
- Collaborate to fix problems
Hospitality customer service tips
Hospitality is interaction-based, and as such, dependable customer service skills are essential. There are many situations any staff member must be prepared for. Training and mentorship are crucial for maintaining composure throughout them.
Hospitality covers a wide variety of niches, from coffee shops to 5-star events. This broad spectrum means you will need to prepare your training to your specific situation, or the customer service will not come out correctly.
- Personalize where possible
- Offer digital options for service
- Provide concise information
- Limit background noise
Face to Face
- Handle each complaint like it’s the most important one
- Be helpful and listen well
- Support teammates
Stress management tips for customer service professionals
1. Leave work at work
One of the things people tend to do with work, especially in the United States, is keeping it with them even after they clock out. This tendency is not a healthy habit for customer service representatives. While a little to a spouse about their workday is normal, letting it influence more than that is not.
Companies like yours can encourage employees to practice a healthy work-life balance through policy. Items like not being able to access systems outside of scheduled shifts or policies around when people can be called for work help them immensely.
There are proven benefits for both short and long breathing exercises. Short exercises like breathing in a specific pattern or a few deep breaths can help you attain calm after complicated customer interactions and prevent transference of those feelings to the next customer.
Longer practices, like meditation, also help agents process their reactions to calls and restore their own balance mentally. Additionally, meditation has shown long term benefits like improved resilience that customer service professionals may find useful.
3. Talk to someone
Talking to someone is highly beneficial for many people, especially about difficult calls. Suppose you establish a mentoring program within your customer service department. In that case, people have a safe person to talk to until they form their own network in the office.
The other option for people to talk that does not rely on a family member is a trained therapist or counselor. This option provides a safe place for employees to learn alternative coping mechanisms and generally improve their mental resilience.
4. Move during breaks
Movement is one of the primary functions of humans, and being tied to a chair for eight hours straight has some unfortunate physiological side effects. Moving during breaks, even if it’s a flight of stairs or a couple of laps down the hall, can reduce overall stress.
Larger movements, like walking during lunch or hitting the gym after work, release more stress relief hormones. These are great for helping people balance the stress of quotas and customers. If you own a company, consider a health program or partnership with a local gym to help.
5. Take care of yourself
Customer service professionals need the same things every human need, and a lack anywhere can affect performance. Sleeping, eating, and drinking enough water are all vital. You can encourage this overall wellness through a physical health program and allowing a little flexibility in the office.
6. Find a positive hobby
Your customer service agents should also be encouraged to find a positive hobby to balance everything. Something as simple as a laugh journal can help them balance the angry customers with the positives in life.
Additionally, hobbies help immensely. Customer representatives should be encouraged to find new hobbies, enjoy old ones, and make time for themselves. This focus will make achieving work-life balance easier for many.
Customer service and presentation can break companies if performed incorrectly. Just like not using a professional email signature can leave the impression of sloppiness, improper customer service can drive customers away.
In the interest of keeping companies going, it’s best to nail customer service for every encounter with every representative. Proper training and support can turn your customer service into a company feature.