Customer service refers to the support and advice provided by a business to their customers or product users.
The ultimate aim of customer service is to help customers have the best possible experiences. For that reason, it is one of the most important parts of running a business. Customer service often involves a one-on-one interaction between a customer and a business and, because of this, it is seen as a crucial way of improving customer satisfaction as well as overall customer retention – this is also why customer service has been a mainstay of businesses for decades.
How Has Customer Service Evolved?
As technology has evolved, so too has customer service. Before the age of the internet, customers would have little choice but to call in to ask questions or resolve issues with the help of human customer service agents. In time, businesses found they could rely on technology to respond to customers faster, and through more convenient channels. This is a big reason why digital customer service is fast becoming the preferred process for customers looking to conduct conversations with agents. As such, it’s now an expectation for businesses across industries to be able to provide customer help through email, text, live chat (on apps and the web) as well as through social media platforms.
Most recently, customer service teams have addressed the growing need for convenience and speed by employing automated solutions. Customer service automation through technology such as chatbots, is enabling customer issues to be resolved at a faster rate. These AI-powered bots can direct customers to resources that answer their questions and help them to self-solve without the need for human agents to step in. That being said, human customer service agents are still an integral part of the customer service process and the option to elevate a query and speak to a human representative is often regarded as a necessity for most organizations.
Why is Customer Service So Important For Businesses?
Customer service can make or break the customer experience. According to Microsoft, 90% of US customers use customer service to help them decide whether or not to do business with an organization. Providing good customer service is a crucial part of acquiring and retaining customers as well as deriving more value from your relationship with them.
In the long-term, having good and efficient customer service in place can lead to significant business growth. According to a study carried out recently, when service is good, customers are 38% more likely to refer your business on to others.
Customer service is also an important part of maintaining customer loyalty. Customer retention costs less than customer acquisition. According to research, not only are returning customers more likely to convert than new customers, but they are also willing to spend 67% more in comparison.
By investing in customer service, a business can effectively decrease their churn rate, which is particularly important in the digital age. With brands now having a presence across different digital platforms, it’s become even simpler for customers to communicate with a business as well as with each other. While word of mouth is great for getting referrals, it is also possible to lose prospective customers in the same way. If your customer service is bad, the internet and social media has made it even easier for the customer to tell everyone about it. Investing in improving customer service is vital for brands wanting to keep their customers feeling happy and valued in the long-run.
What are the Most Important Customer Service Skills?
While there are no hard and fast rules on how to deliver a consistently good customer service, there are a number of skills a customer service team should be able to demonstrate. When it comes down to it, the cornerstone of excellent customer service is making sure your customers are able to get what they are looking for. Below are five fundamental customer service skills.
Customer service has evolved into more than a phone conversation. Agents now have to be able to hold conversations with customers over platforms such as email and live chat where it is easy for information to be lost or misunderstood. It is also more challenging to convey tone. This is why communication skills are so important.
Customer service communications normally have one main objective – to answer a customer’s query or solve their problem. To do this, explanations shouldn’t be long winded and hard to understand. Not only will this take up a lot of unnecessary time, but it opens the door to potential miscommunications which can leave a customer feeling frustrated. Particularly when it comes to communication through email or live chat, having instructions written down clearly and concisely is crucial.
Customers want to feel listened to. When it comes to customer service, there is nothing worse than feeling like your issue is not being understood. Listening to a customer helps to ensure the right solutions can be implemented and reduces the chance of miscommunications along the way. It can also help to improve service going forward. If a customer is explaining what went wrong, this is an opportunity to make changes that minimize the chances of the same problem occuring again. To ensure the most effective resolutions are in place, it is common for customer service teams to have a record of customer service interactions that can be referred to in the future.
According to HubSpot, 33% of customers say waiting on hold as the most frustrating aspect of customer service. Another top frustration is being passed around multiple customer service agents and having to repeat the problem each time. Efficiency is therefore key.
Customers shouldn’t have to wait in an endless line only to be told they need to talk to a different person. Customer service teams should do everything they can to improve their response time. Even if it’s not possible for an agent to answer a question at that time, being able to clearly point customers in the direction of a resource hub or FAQ section where they can self-solve is one of the most efficient ways to streamline the process. It’s also important to maintain efficiency even if the issue needs to be elevated to a different member of the team by ensuring the customer doesn’t have to repeat themself over and over again.
While it’s crucial to be able to give customers the time and attention they need to reach a resolution, it’s also important to make sure to prioritize. Customer service teams need to demonstrate effective time management skills, spending more time solving the more complex issues and making sure the common queries and smaller problems can be solved fast and effectively.
Customers look for competency in any business they work with. Customer service relies on a team having an understanding of the business and its products. Without this, it’s exponentially more challenging to solve customer problems. Becoming an expert on a company’s services is not expected to happen overnight, but this is a skill that is developed with training and experience. It’s often the case that new employees are trained in customer service when they join a new company, this way all staff can use their knowledge to answer customer queries.
Expertise is often shared through knowledge hub sections that can be used to support customer service teams. In these cases, customers can be directed to a resource that answers frequently asked questions or explains how to resolve common issues in a clear way.
How to Deliver and Improve Customer Service Skills
More than ever, teams are looking to improve customer service. If a company thinks they lack good customer service, it’s more often than not due to inefficiencies and miscommunications. For a company to deliver consistently high customer service, they need to be aligned on processes as well as ensuring all agents can provide customers with the answers they need.
Know What Good Customer Service Looks Like
An important step in improving customer service is first defining what good customer service looks like for your company and for your customer base. No two companies are the same, so it stands to reason that customer service expectations will vary case by case. It’s important to define how customers like to be communicated with, including which channels they most prefer to be contacted on. For instance, if customers are primarily contacting you through your app, make sure this aspect of your digital customer service is working as efficiently as possible. Analysing past interactions is also a good way of establishing where weaknesses may lie and informing where to improve going forward.
Improving convenience is a key element of delivering great customer service. Provide customers with the ability to contact your customer service team whenever they need to and through whichever channel they prefer. Research indicates that 75% of customers prefer using live chat over any other contact method, so it’s becoming increasingly important for businesses to be able to offer that as an option. When engaged in communication with a customer service team, customers should be able to multi-task and not be forced to stay within the chat window if they don’t want to. Customer service platforms like Helpshift enable customers to exit the chat window without having to exit the conversation.
Technology is only going to grow in importance for customer service teams. As well as digital platforms playing a greater role in interactions, automated customer service solutions are becoming more necessary to maintain efficiency. Integrating chatbots into customer service operations is one way businesses are improving their processes. AI-powered bots can hold conversations with customers, recording the basic issue details and classifying them in order to work out the next steps. In some cases this is referring customers on to existing resources, in other cases this is escalating the issue to a human agent.
Humanize Your Service
While automation is being leveraged to improve customer service experiences, it’s important not to lose sight of the human aspect. Chat technology is evolving to new levels where conversations can feel natural and free flowing. Alongside this, however, it is still important to have human elements to your customer service offerings. The ability to bring in human agents to solve the more complicated problems and carry out more sophisticated exchanges is seen as an absolute necessity for many companies and their customers.
The Helpshift Customer Service Solution
Helpshift is here to help businesses to provide great customer service. The Helpshift platform is designed to simplify mobile-first customer service experiences for businesses and their customers. With purpose-built solutions for in-app and web help, businesses can benefit from faster resolutions and happier customers. Additionally, by integrating Helpshift bots, rote tasks and common issue resolutions can be automated which frees up agent time to focus on higher-value tasks. Problems are automatically classified, allowing them to be routed to the right agent or bot while AI-powered features allow constant learning based on agent feedback. Chatbots are also able to respond to customers 24 hrs a day, meaning your customers can be receiving help even while agents are asleep.