We are living in customer-centric times. Creating a positive experience for the customer from the moment they get interested in our offer is now almost a necessity.
But there’s one place where the said “customer experience” often turns out to be far from pleasant – and that is, you guessed it, customer service.
You might have a fantastic product or top-notch services, but if your customer support is unhelpful or unreliable, then there’s little chance your customers will stay with you for much longer. In fact, even 50% of customers might consider switching to a new brand after a single bad support experience – ouch.
So, upping your customer support game is a matter of staying ahead or not getting behind your competitors. But what does it even mean to provide “excellent customer support,” and how can you give each of your customers exactly the help they need exactly when they need it?
Providing good customer support sounds simple in theory. Your new and existing customers reach out to you whenever they have a question or problem, and it’s your support staff’s job to help the customers to the best of their abilities.
Now that so many companies are fighting for each customer’s attention (and money), “good” customer support is no longer cutting it. Customers now expect that whenever they reach out to your support agents, the support staff will provide the following (at a minimum!):
Why should it matter? Giving your new and current customers an exceptional customer support experience is one of the best ways to build brand loyalty. Simply, customers who are happy with your product/service and with your customer support as well, will often see you as their “brand of the first choice” and come to you first whenever they need something.
Loyal customers are also bigger spenders – they are 50% more likely to try new products and spend 31% more than new clients. And as the icing on the cake, many of your loyal customers would also be happy to tell others a few good words about your product or service and promote it for you.
The benefits speak for themselves, so why do so many businesses still struggle with customer support? The reasons can be varied. Some might not have enough people, time, or motivation to focus on their customer support service properly. Others might think that as long as they will be able to bring new customers into their businesses, customer support shouldn’t matter much.
That’s sadly pretty far from the truth, though. It’s easier than ever today to make your customers upset or angry, and leave your brand for a competitor. What’s more, now that we all have access to the internet virtually everywhere we are, it takes only a few minutes for someone to write a negative review or complain about you on social media – and that might reach millions of people in a blink of an eye. So what can you do about it?
We talked about what you can gain from improving your customer support efforts – and what you can lose for leaving it as it is. But how exactly can you show that your company’s customer support is like no other? Here are our eight tips on what you and your staff do to enhance your support to exceptional levels.
The first thing you and your staff should do when aiming to provide excellence is to learn everything about the product or service you are selling until you are sure you know it inside out. As the support team spends the whole day answering questions and solving issues related to the product or service, they need to be experts in any topic that may arise in conversations with your customers.. Plus, the more they know, the easier it will be for them to give the customers the help they need.
Of course, that doesn’t mean your staff should remember every single detail – creating a FAQ database with everything related to your company’s offer will be just as helpful. An FAQ or knowledge base would also come with the extra benefit of helping your customers find the answer they need themselves – without having to reach your support at all.
Knowing your product is one thing but in providing exceptional customer support, you should also know who your customers are and what they want. A good starting point here is to either use a short survey or social media, to find out what they like and dislike about your brand, and what they would like you to change/offer in the future.
Once you know what your customers are looking for, it will be much easier for you to upgrade or amend the product or service to be as useful and convenient for your customers as possible.
Very early on in a call, customers can feel what mood the customer support agent is in – and that influences how they will be talking with the agent. They can’t see the agent or their facial expression so they can only guess from their tone of voice the mood of the agent. The situation is even worse if the customer is already anxious or upset – unless the agent shows a lot of empathy, positivity, and patience to the caller, it might be difficult to help them with their problem.
During face-to-face contact, a warm greeting and a smile might be what the customer needs to calm down a bit, but how can your agents do the same while on a phone call? A good trick here is to smile whilst on the phone – that naturally changes the agent’s tone of voice; more upbeat and relaxed, and the callers can sense it.
Having to wait in a line for several minutes or not getting a reply to their mail or social media message is very often mentioned by the customers as the biggest sign that the brand’s customer support is severely lacking. Customers now have way less time (and patience) than they had a few years ago, so they will appreciate a speedy response to their message, especially if it’s an urgent issue. If you can’t offer 24/7 customer support, then it’s a good practice to let your customers know when exactly your support staff is working and how long it should take them to answer the customer’s call or mail.
For phone calls, an IVR might be a great help here – after your customers reach the support line, you can play a pre-recorded message informing them of your support hours, or that your support team is currently busy solving other queries. The caller then has the choice either to stay on the line and wait for an agent or leave their phone number for the agent to call them back later.
Customers want to feel like they are important to the company, rather than just being a number in a database. That’s why they love personalized customer service – for example when a shop assistant greets them by name and asks them about the products they bought last week. And with the amount of data you currently have at your disposal, this is the place where you can really shine.
A fantastic example of personalizing support is allowing the customer to pick whether they want to get help via live chat, email, or talk to a live person on the phone. That way, you are letting the customer reach out to you through the most comfortable method for them – and encouraging them to reach out to you more often.
Listening to what your customers have to say is actually one of the easiest ways to show your customers matter to you. By doing this, you increase the chance of finding out what their main issue is and giving them the best solution for it.
For example, some customers will tell you the things they have already done to try and solve their problems themselves – that might clue you in that the problem lies in a different place than the customer first suspected, and allow you to pinpoint the underlying issue faster.
The very worst thing you can do in customer support is to overpromise and under-deliver. Keeping your word and being honest to your customer shows that you respect them and that you can be trusted. Can’t fix their issue straight away? Don’t know the answer to their question? There’s a sudden problem that needs to be taken care of first? In all those situations,
it’s a much better idea to tell the customer about it honestly rather than lie or make promises you know you won’t keep.
What sets apart “Good” from “Amazing” customer support is that in the latter, you have “ticked” all boxes, but you still want to do something more for the customer. I recently bought my regular set of muesli on a website offering a personalized muesli mix. But this time, I got a pack of 5 muesli bars as a gift – because those were “matching” my order and the staff thought I might want to try those out.
However, proactive support isn’t only about sending gifts to your customers (though getting those is definitely nice!). Offering proactive support means that you can predict customers’ questions or issues and respond to them in advance – for example, by creating instructional videos for your new products or a FAQ page.
Customer support doesn’t end after resolving the inquiry. For truly great customer support, you should also ensure that the customer’s problem or issue is resolved and they’re happy with their support experience. The follow-up might be something as simple as calling the customer to ask them about the issue they called with a few days ago and whether there is anything else they need. A small gesture, but it makes the customer feel cared about.
You can either treat customer support inquiries as “one-time” messages or use them to build a positive relationship with your customers and encourage them to return to you. By showing that you care about all of your customers and are happy to help them whenever they need you, you aren’t a regular company anymore – you’re more like their friend.