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It's hard to improve your customer satisfaction scores without respondents, so SurveyMonkey has a few actionable tips to improve your response rate.

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Think back to when you had an excellent customer service experience. Perhaps a call center agent went above and beyond to solve your problem, or a store employee provided exceptional care when you needed it.

Those experiences stay in your mind long after they happen. They’re powerful engines, fueling customer satisfaction, loyalty, and business growth.

But providing exceptional customer service is difficult for many companies, even if they want to. Many factors go into offering customers a memorable experience every time, and those experiences look different depending on your company, industry, and customers.

However, there are certain elements that almost every business can implement to improve in their customer service. This guide will tell you what you need to know and how to strengthen your customer service offering to delight your customers every time.

Customer service is how your business supports your customers and meets their expectations. This can include answering questions about your products and services, helping troubleshoot problems, and ensuring customers get the maximum value from their purchases.

Customer service helps you deliver value and assistance to your customers throughout their journey, from when they first become aware of your business to their initial purchase and beyond.

Customer service helps your business build stronger, longer-lasting customer relationships.

Good customer service has many advantages. It can even lead to higher revenues and profits. Customers are willing to spend 17% more with companies that offer good customer service.

In an increasingly crowded competitive landscape (with heavy marketing noise), great customer service allows your business to stand out from the rest of your industry and win over customers.

And once those customers have purchased from you, they’re more likely to return and stick with your business over the long term. Since gaining new customers is much more expensive than retaining existing ones (anywhere from 5 to 25 times more costly), your business needs to keep customers to grow sustainably.

Excellent customer service helps you find new customers, too. A customer with a wonderful experience with your customer service team or other employees will likely tell their network about it, giving you free, highly effective word-of-mouth marketing.

On the other hand, bad customer service can cost your business significantly in several ways. Customers with a negative service experience will likely tell their networks about it or amplify their complaints on social media. SurveyMonkey research found that 81% of consumers are likely to share a poor experience with friends or family.

Customers unhappy with your business's customer service will likely look for a competitor to purchase from next time, even if it costs them more. Bad customer service makes gaining and retaining customers harder, further underscoring why providing excellent customer service is vital.

Measure customer service performance and take the right actions to drive brand loyalty and revenue growth.

There’s no single definition of excellent customer service. It will look different for every company. And what is good customer service varies significantly by industry.

For example, exceptional customer service at a five-star hotel includes turndown service and an on-call concierge, and that wouldn’t be expected from a budget motel.

However, there are qualities of good customer service that apply across most industries and businesses.

  • Friendliness: Greeting customers with a smile, being courteous and respectful, and generally being friendly is always a part of what makes customer service outstanding.
  • Empathy: Understanding what customers think and feel, especially in difficult situations, is essential to meeting and exceeding their expectations.
  • Fairness: It’s essential to treat all customers fairly, no matter how much money they spend.
  • Control: Allowing customers to get help how they prefer, whether using self-service resources, a chatbot, or live support, helps them feel in control.
  • Information: Giving customers access to information they need, like how to set up their new product or get in touch with your customer service team, is vital.
  • Time: Your customer service team should respect the customer’s time and work to resolve issues and answer questions promptly.

Knowledge of your product or service is key to providing great customer service. Your customers expect you to be the expert on what you sell. They won't be happy if they have to explain simple issues to your team.

Knowing the product, features, use cases, and how to troubleshoot issues shows them that you are the expert and are here to help them. If you can help customers feel like they’ve gotten the most value out of their money, that’s an excellent customer service experience.

Even when things get challenging or heated with a customer, it’s crucial to maintain a positive tone and attitude. Responding to an upset customer in a careless or cold tone can turn the interaction more negative for everyone.

Instead, focus on conveying warmth, care, and positivity, no matter how you communicate with customers. Talking with customers exclusively through chat or email can require additional thought as tone is easily misinterpreted on these platforms.

This is one of the top customer service skills that every rep needs. Your customers will often see the same issues, and you’ll know how to solve them. But the real test comes when an unusual problem arrives.

Getting creative when faced with a challenge helps you to go above and beyond for customers in an unexpected way. This can create wow moments customers might share with their friends, colleagues, or social media networks.

When a customer has an issue, they want it solved as quickly as possible. Even a delay of a few hours - or minutes, in some cases - can cause dissatisfaction and churn. This is especially true for minor issues, as customers expect these to be solved immediately.

But speed isn’t always everything - if you rush to solve a problem that requires more creativity, you might miss out on a chance to impress a customer even more. Balancing speed and diligence is a constant balancing act in the customer service world.

To impress customers experiencing a more significant issue, you can get back to them immediately to let them know you’re working on a solution and continue to update them frequently. They won’t feel ignored or forgotten, and you’ll have more time to get creative.

Nobody likes to feel like just another transaction. Tailoring the customer service you provide, even when it’s just a small matter, can make customers feel that you value them as a person. That helps to strengthen the relationship with them further.

To improve, start by addressing customers by name wherever possible. Add personalization layers like sending a card to customers on their birthdays, providing product recommendations based on their preferences, or loyalty discounts. Your company likely has lots of customer data, so use it to provide better customer service where possible.

Only some customers want to call and talk to someone when they have a problem. Maybe they’re busy or simply like to figure things out themselves. Giving them the option to help themselves can make these customers happier.

This can mean bulking up the self-serve resources on your website, creating how-to videos on YouTube or TikTok, or providing a detailed onboarding guide when a new customer buys your product. Always ensure that these are easy for customers to find and use so they can get right to what they need.

See more tips on how to provide great customer service by checking out our Ultimate guide to customer service.

Much like customers have different preferences when they’re troubleshooting, they also like to contact your customer service team in many different ways and expect multiple options.

Providing omnichannel customer service means enabling your customer support team to handle questions across different platforms, such as phone, email, messaging, live chat, social media, etc. Meeting customers where they’re spending time helps you to serve them faster and with less effort on their part.

Assuming that you know how your customers feel is a common mistake. You won’t truly know until you listen to them actively. What are they telling you in your customer service surveys, in social media comments, and when talking with your reps? You need to find out and then act on the feedback you receive.

Customer service is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Every customer wants and expects something a little different. Tuning in and paying attention to all kinds of feedback helps you do better in the future and deliver excellent customer service every day.

One of the most basic tenets of good customer service is delivering what you promise every time. If you’re not living up to the expectations your sales and marketing teams set, you need to adjust.

Customers will feel disappointed when what you promise isn’t what you deliver, and they may take that frustration out on your customer service. If you promise two-day shipping, for example, but it often takes longer, customers will get irritated or angry.

Instead, ensure you build credibility so customers trust and take you at your word. And if you occasionally slip up, take accountability for the slip-ups.

Want to deliver truly exceptional customer service? Then, you can’t simply react to your customers. You need to anticipate their needs proactively. Going the extra mile by determining their needs can win a loyal customer base. Being proactive ensures that customers feel valued and known by your company and helps you provide for their needs better.

Providing great customer service can cost you money in the short term. You need to ensure your reps are well-trained, provide thoughtful extras like gifts or discounts to loyal customers, and sometimes give refunds when things go awry.

But these expenses are no comparison to your customer lifetime value. Thinking long-term can help you realize how small these investments create a base of highly loyal, satisfied customers who will stick with your business for years—or even decades.

One of the best investments to make when improving your customer service is having both human and automated service channels—choosing only one, or the other means that some customers will always be left dissatisfied.

Getting someone on the phone to a timely issue, won’t always be the best option as wait times vary and service reps are available 24/7. However, only leveraging automated services might require more customer effort, depending on the issue at hand.

Instead, ensure you have both options available. That can mean better training your call center staff on the top customer service tips or investing in a highly advanced IVR or chatbot solution. However, not all artificial intelligence customer service solutions are widely accepted. SurveyMonkey research found that 90% of people still prefer to get customer service from a human rather than a chatbot.

Learn how customers feel about AI from the companies they buy from by grabbing your copy of our report: AI in the customer experience: The ups, downs, and up-and-coming opportunities.

Customers know that sometimes, issues will come up with your products or services that are no one’s fault or are a simple error. That minor issue is a big problem when your company doesn’t acknowledge or fix the mistake.

It can be an instinct. No one likes to admit to making an error. But customers won’t be pleased if they’re dealing with a mistake and an unrepentant company simultaneously, which can be enough to cause them to churn.

Your customer service needs to be reliable to be truly great. Suppose customers have very different experiences when talking to different reps, or your phone service is dismal compared to your chat help. In that case, customers won’t feel they can rely on your company to fix problems or answer questions every time.

You can improve your customer service to make it more consistent by ensuring your reps are trained regularly on the best customer service practices and encouraging teams to share their own best practices.

You can also measure the consistency and effectiveness of your service by creating a closed-loop feedback system to identify underperforming or excellent teams or reps to determine exactly which areas need improvement.

Many factors go into providing an exceptional customer experience. Often, those factors are unique to your organization’s industry, location, and more. However, understanding the foundational elements of building a fantastic customer service experience is a good place to start.

Put your customers first, refine your operations, and craft an unforgettable customer service experience. Get the insights you need to attract and retain customers, drive revenue, and streamline customer service with SurveyMonkey.

Measure customer service performance and take the right actions to drive brand loyalty and revenue growth.

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