In the business world, the Pareto principle—also called the 80/20 rule—says that 80% of your company’s sales comes from 20% of your customers. When such a small part of your customer base has such an outsized impact on your business’s sales and overall success, it’s important to know how to retain and make these customers happy. That’s where exceptional customer service comes in.
In this article, we’ll help you understand what makes exceptional customer service and how to achieve it.
What is customer service?
Customer service is the support a business offers its customers before, during, and after a purchase. It involves catering to your customers’ needs and addressing their questions, concerns, and complaints to provide a positive experience that fosters customer loyalty.
Customer service can be provided in a variety of ways, including in-person, by phone, via email, live chat, and social media, and through chatbots or some other type of artificial intelligence support. Businesses often have customer service departments to handle satisfaction issues.
Why is customer service important for a business?
- Customer retention and loyalty. More than half of customers said they would “bolt” after just one bad experience with a business, according to a 2023 Zendesk report. Meanwhile, a separate Oracle report found that 73% of customers remain loyal to a company after positive interactions with customer support—emphasizing the power of memorable ecommerce customer experiences.
- Increased revenue. Providing value to individuals through customer service is a good strategy for earning new business and increasing sales. Research shows that customer-service-focused companies are 60% more profitable than their peers.
- Improved branding. News of high-quality customer care spreads quickly among consumers, especially when the interaction occurs through the public forum of social media customer service (versus direct messaging, for example, which is private). For companies like Apple, Disney, and Amazon, strong customer service is part of their brand, which helps drive new and repeat business.
- Collecting feedback. Customer service presents an opportunity to collect both negative and positive feedback that can help you make company-wide changes or stick with what’s working. Knowing when and how to improve your customer operations can make the difference between keeping—or losing—valuable customers.
How to improve customer service: 9 tips
- Streamline returns and exchanges
- Increase automated servicing
- Personalize customer care
- Take advantage of artificial intelligence (AI)
- Improve checkout and payment options
- Use training courses
- Use data
- Gather feedback
- Embrace an omnichannel customer service strategy
Training your employees in good customer service skills and developing and implementing a customer service plan are fundamental. But how do you improve the systems you already have in place? Here are 9 customer service tips that can help boost customer satisfaction and ensure your business’s success.
1. Streamline returns and exchanges
Streamlining your returns and exchanges by offering customer incentives—such as free returns, emailed packing labels, and easily accessible drop-off points—can help improve customer loyalty. According to a 2021 PwC report, 31% of respondents noted that a “good return policy” is a Top 3 concern when choosing where to shop online. If you’re a Shopify merchant, you can handle returns and exchanges easily from your dashboard. Our built-in tools can help you design a returns management process that’s simple, reliable, and focused on your customers’ needs.
2. Increase automated servicing
Rather than making a phone call to contact a customer service agent, research suggests that many customers prefer to use self-service systems, including chatbots, detailed website Q&A sections, or knowledge bases (online digital libraries with information about a business’s products or services). The best knowledge bases are easy to navigate or searchable. Taking advantage of these types of tools can lead to quicker resolution times and, in turn, happier customers.
Shopify’s platform makes it easy to integrate a chatbot. Merchants can do this with Shopify Inbox or Shopify-compatible chatbots in the Shopify App Store. Popular vendors include Zendesk Chat, Zowie, Certainly, and DeepConverse. Most offer free trials, but expect to spend hundreds of dollars for a monthly subscription once the trial expires.
3. Personalize customer care
Using customer names, sharing customer information and concerns when transitioning between service team members, and following up on resolved issues are strategies that support positive customer service experiences.
Integrating customer relationship management (CRM) software into your business operations can also help personalize customer care by giving your customer service team additional data, such as purchase location and history. Shopify’s customer conversation app, Shopify Inbox, allows your customer service rep to communicate with customers while they shop and educate them on product offerings, discount codes, and returns and exchanges.
4. Take advantage of artificial intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence, or AI, is a powerful tool that can help cut costs by reducing the number of hours you and your staff dedicate to customer service. AI chatbots can be embedded directly on your website to help answer customer queries using natural language processing (NLP), making customer conversations feel more natural and increasing the likelihood of positive feedback.
5. Improve checkout and payment options
Regular and cloud-based point of sale systems have a multitude of functionalities, such as inventory management and prompted customer feedback like post-checkout satisfaction surveys. POS features like one-click checkout, secure processing, and easy-to-use payment interfaces that accept digital and contactless payments can also help improve the customer experience.
6. Use training courses
There are a wide range of training courses that businesses can use to improve customer service offerings. These teach customer support teams soft skills like communication and problem-solving, as well as how to best gather and use data-driven metrics such as customer satisfaction score (CSAT)—customers’ happiness with the goods or services provided.
7. Use data
Measures such as average resolution time (ART) (the typical amount of time it takes to solve a customer complaint), net promoter score (NPS) (how likely a customer is to return to or recommend your business), and first contact resolution (how many customer service issues are resolved without being escalated), are useful metrics for tracking both customer attitudes and how well your business responds.
8. Gather feedback
Through customer-service-based chat apps, which allow valuable feedback about the level of service provided, businesses can aggregate information about what customers want, what the company is doing well, and areas needing improvement. Issuing surveys via email or following checkout, as well as soliciting reviews on social media, are other ways to garner feedback from existing customers.
9. Embrace an omnichannel customer service strategy
You may have heard of omnichannel marketing, which incorporates social media, email, online, and other channels. You can apply the same principles to your customer service strategy. Companies embracing omnichannel customer engagement were 89% more likely to retain their customers, meaning it can help strengthen brand loyalty. Being able to reach your customers through their preferred platforms offers more opportunities for engagement, timely responses, and improved customer satisfaction.
Customer service training FAQ
What are the key elements of excellent customer service?
How can I better understand my customers’ needs and expectations?
What should I look for when hiring customer service representatives?
- Emotional intelligence (understanding individuals’ feelings and empathizing with others)
- Strong written and verbal communication
- Ability to de-escalate tense situations
- Problem-solving and creative-thinking skills
- Decision-making abilities
How can I train my employees to provide better customer service?
What are the most effective communication channels for customer service?
- Chat services via websites
- Social media platforms via comments, direct messages, or messaging apps that provide store management support
- Self-service mediums such as knowledge bases (online digital libraries with products and services information) or online forums