Excellent customer service goes beyond an FAQ page and a 24-hour chat box. To set your business apart, your customer service has to make each customer feel like their request is your top priority, with a winning combination of empathy and action.
If you put in the work to build a strong customer support team, you’re laying the foundation for customer loyalty, which means repeat business and, ultimately, more revenue and longevity. If you don’t, you risk losing customers and—worse—having your brand name dragged through the mud on Twitter for the world to see. That’s why it’s imperative for small businesses to understand what great customer service is and how to execute it.
What is customer service?
Customer service refers to the ways businesses interact with customers who have questions or concerns regarding its service or product. Customer interactions can take place in person, on the phone, or online. Someone from a company’s customer support team processes client concerns and proposes a resolution, such as offering a dissatisfied customer a replacement product or a refund. Customer service also includes personalized service, like providing sizing recommendations based on a client’s measurements.
Good customer service can increase customer satisfaction, help build brand loyalty, and drive repeat business. Salesforce research reports that 89% of customers say they would be more likely to make a repeat purchase following a positive customer service experience. Similarly, a Khoros survey found that 83% of respondents reported that responsive customer service made them more loyal customers.
4 types of customer service
Many businesses offer customer support via multiple channels to make it fast and easy for customers to get the help they need in the method that works best for them. These are four common types of customer service:
Examples of in-person customer service include helping a retail shopper find an item in a store and processing in-person customer returns. These customer-facing employees directly interact with clients and provide them with support.
In this form of customer service, clients interact with a customer service professional via a phone call. For instance, a customer of a coffee subscription company might call the customer support team and ask to suspend their subscription while they’re traveling. Phone support teams can also provide information or technical support to clients using a product in their own home.
Online customer service involves—you guessed it—providing customer service via digital channels, such as email, social media, live chat, or AI chatbots. Online support is especially important for ecommerce customer service, because customers are already used to interacting with your business online and will expect to find solutions via the same channels from which they purchased the product.
Self-serve content empowers customers to solve problems on their own with online resources, which include everything from FAQs to how-to articles to educational videos.
What makes excellent customer service?
When you’re interacting with a customer—especially one who’s dissatisfied—there are several key ways to deliver exceptional customer service, including:
- Study the top customer service issues
- Patience and empathy
- Clear and accurate communication
- Fast response times and follow up
1. Study the top customer service issues
You can get a leg up on your customer service operations by training your team to expertly address common questions or issues. For instance, a portable bluetooth speaker maker might know that pairing with a smartphone for the first time often trips up new customers, so it preps articles and videos to share with customers, and trains customer service representatives on all the ways to troubleshoot device pairing when customers call.
2. Patience and empathy
Effective customer service agents actively listen to clients, acknowledge their frustration, apologize as necessary, and take action that matches the importance of the issue. Imagine you order a shirt to wear to an upcoming wedding, but the shift you receive is missized and you can’t wear it, forcing you to scramble. Sure, you get a refund, but excellent customer service would listen to your frustration with empathy and offer you a discount code for a future purchase to make up for the inconvenience.
3. Clear and accurate communication
Whether you’re sharing good news or bad, you owe it to your customer to be clear and direct. If a product is backordered and delayed getting to customers, be sure to communicate an honest timeline, rather than one you may not be able to meet. Honesty and accuracy go a long way toward building strong relationships, in business and beyond.
4. Fast response times and follow up
You can show a client that you value them and respect their time by promptly addressing their queries and following up until an issue has been resolved. If you know it won’t be a quick solution, present a timeline, and let them know why the issue is taking longer than usual. Once the issue has been addressed, collect customer feedback on how your customer service could improve. Doing so gives you valuable insight and shows the customer you’re committed to their next experience.
How do you measure the impact of customer service?
Businesses use two categories of metrics to measure their customer service results. One set of metrics directly applies to customer-client interactions. A second set of metrics are broader, accounting for both customer service and other areas of company performance.
Metrics directly related to customer service
These three metrics specifically measure actions and outcomes related to your customer service operations.
- Resolution time
- Response time
- Customer satisfaction score (CSAT)
1. Resolution time
Resolution time is the total amount of time it takes to solve a customer’s problem. Short resolution times show that complaints are being resolved quickly. This metric, however, might not be able to capture whether the customer is satisfied with the solution offered.
2. Response time
Somewhat simpler than resolution time, the response time metric simply measures how much time it takes a customer service agent to reply to client communications.
3. Customer satisfaction score (CSAT)
Customer satisfaction score (CSAT) is calculated by asking customers whether or not they are happy with their service, then taking the total number of positive responses and dividing by the total number of responses. CSAT relies on customers responding to surveys; non-responses can impact your dataset.
Metrics impacted by customer service
These three metrics offer insights into customer service as part of a more holistic look at company operations.
- Net promoter score (NPS)
- Customer churn rate
- Customer LTV
1. Net promoter score (NPS)
Net promoter score (NPS) is measured by asking customers, on a scale of 1 to 10, how likely they are to recommend a business’s service to a friend. Some NPS questions directly relate to customer service, but other questions reflect other factors, like product quality, price, and delivery times. Like CSAT, NPS relies on robust survey responses to get reliable datasets.
2. Customer churn rate
Customer churn rate, which is usually written in the form of a percentage, measures how many customers stop buying a business’s product or service over a period of time. Ecommerce churn rate can be used to measure customer retention for subscription-based businesses. Like NPS, churn measures many variables beyond customer service, including pricing and product quality.
3. Customer LTV
Customer lifetime value (LTV) is an estimate of the profit a business expects to receive from a customer over the entirety of their future relationship with the business. Marketing costs and product quality also play a role in determining a client’s long-term relationship with a company.
Customer service FAQ
What is the main role of customer service?
The main role of customer service is to engage with customers, making sure their questions are answered and complaints are heard. Good customer service is key to retaining customers and securing new ones, ultimately leading to revenue growth.
How has technology impacted customer service?
Technology has created more ways for businesses to communicate with and get feedback from customers, especially online. It has allowed businesses to introduce customer service tools such as video tutorials and online chat, and get feedback on their customer service performance through emailed questionnaires. It has also created higher expectations when it comes to response times and problem solving.
What are common challenges in customer service?
Common challenges include when a customer service representative lacks the knowledge to fix a problem, or when they have trouble communicating a solution effectively. That can exacerbate a situation in which a customer is already frustrated or irate, and provide them a bad customer experience.
How do you measure the impact of customer service?
Popular ways to measure the impact of customer service are to look at response times, resolution times, customer satisfaction scores, and net promoter score.