This story was originally published here. Posted with the author’s permission.
Today’s customer is very different from customers from 10 or even 5 years ago.
With the rise of social networking, today’s customers can afford to be extra picky and discerning in their choices. With Facebook and Google at their disposal, customers are one click away from either being turned off or intrigued enough to read more. With the average attention span of online users lasting just a few seconds, valuable information sticks and the noise gets filtered out.
photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez
In this competitive marketplace, companies are getting squeezed to provide support that will edge them out from the competition. In addition, most companies are unsure how to position their strategy online. The truth is, online customer support is akin to traditional service channels most businesses are already used to, but with added perks. There’s opportunity to centralize knowledge, engage with existing customers and attract new ones.
It all begins with revolutionizing the way you think about customer service right from the start. Instead of visualizing customer service as an expense, think of opportunity, especially in terms of online reach and scaling potential within your organization.
Here is a list of 20 basic customer service principles for modern customer service. This is by no means a complete list, but it can definitely give you some new insight into your own process.
1. Consistency is priority
Consistent customer service should be a priority for each and every company. This means utilizing tools that help you quickly and consistently offer excellent customer service.
2. Get your whole team involved
Everyone in the organization should be tasked with providing customer service, even those who don’t deal with customers on a daily basis.
3. Give your customers options
When faced with a problem, we want answers – regardless of time and place. Your customers may prefer self-service over a support representative.
4. Customer perception = reality
In order for a customer to leave satisfied, their perception should match reality. Once you understand this way of thinking, providing excellent support will be a breeze.
5. Customer service is a relationship
You should treat your customer as someone you love – by listening, showing care and empathy to the situation at hand.
6. Personal effort counts
Every customer service task should be a personal investment for the agent. There’s a reason why most customers demand to be connected to a live agent as soon as possible.
7. Listen during difficult times
When no one wants to listen, your service reps should. It happens far too often in real life as well – a grim situation can be turned around by simply listening.
8. Do it right the first time
It’s not always possible to be correct, 100% of the time. When you make a mistake, follow up immediately, apologize and offer actionable resolutions.
9. Leave procedures at the door
Stop thinking about company processes, procedures and policies. Remember it’s your customer that pays your company, so keep it that way.
10. Exceed expectations
By starting and keeping a dialogue, you’ll know what your customer is looking for. Why not go a step further and exceed those expectations?
11. Rethink customer service periodically
Sometimes it helps to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch. You may discover a new process that you haven’t thought of before.
12. Customers aren’t always angry
Why do customers contact support in the first place? There’s simply a misunderstanding or a failure in meeting expectations. It doesn’t mean a customer is angry with you or your product.
13. Be quick with your service
Delivering prompt service is always valued. When dealing with a request, don’t tack on irrelevant information until you’ve dealt with the core issue first.
14. Always keep the doors open
Listen to every feedback or comment made by your customer, no matter how trivial. By keeping the door open to customer feedback, you never miss an opportunity to align your company with what your customers want.
15. Be objective
Don’t hold on to your preconceived notions based on past experiences or cases. Treat every case as a learning experience and a stepping stone towards greater customer understanding.
16. Be Friendly
Sometimes all it takes is a friendly chat to turn the mood (and the customer experience) around. However, knowing when not to overdo it is equally as important.
17. Show resolve
Nothing can put off a customer more than an unsure representative. Be assertive in your information delivery. If unsure, state who you need to reach and when you’ll be back with an answer.
18. Ask questions
Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or additional information if you feel you can’t pinpoint the problem. Be sure to record all information, even if you don’t think it’s relevant – it may be later on.
19. Honesty is the best policy
Even if you think your clients don’t want to hear it, being honest will keep them coming back. An open dialogue gets noticed and appreciated by everyone.
20. Keep it simple!
Your customers are people just like everyone else – with 24 hours a day to spare. Keep your service simple, to the point and friendly.
Today’s customers are well-informed and cautious due to abundance of choices on the market. Learning to provide great customer service is an on-going process, since customers tastes and expectations are ever-shifting. Start off by deciding which principles work for your needs and try implementing them. Do that, and you’re halfway there to offering great customer service!