The Subtle Differences Between Good and Bad Customer Service


Share on LinkedIn

This article was originally published on the FCR blog on August 31, 2018. Click here to read the original.

I recently spent some time with some of our star colleagues who consistently earn high customer satisfaction marks from customers. As I shadowed chat support conversations I was struck with the realization that the differences between great and less than great customer service are ever so subtle. If I had to boil it down into one word it would be personalization, and it’s all in the name of connecting meaningfully with customers. It’s also about giving the customer the assurance that there’s a human on the other end of the line as opposed to a bot or a human pretending to be a bot.

When we’re talking about chat and other messaging channels where the messages are short, the differences between good and bad support are often subtle. And they often don’t require additional time, effort, or resources but definitely puts those things to better use. Here are three examples.

A few extra words

This classic phrase, “Is there anything else I can help you with” can be a trigger for some customers because it’s so often used to try to end the conversation. It also wreaks of a canned response. I’ve explored the idea of switching this to an open-ended question like, “What else can I help you learn today?” or “How else can I assist you?” and think these are great alternatives, but I have a couple other variations to add to the mix.

  1. Try adding the customer’s name. Say something like, “Can I help you with anything else today, Paul?”Any time you can work the customer’s name naturally into the interaction is a win.
  2. Reference the specific issue you just assisted the customer with. Say, “Is there anything else I can help you with on this billing issue?

In both of these examples it took somewhere between one and four more words to personalize the message.

A few extra seconds

One of the last things customers want to be told is that they contacted the wrong department or company. They contacted support for help and being told to contact somebody else almost surely triggers a negative response. A great way to soften the blow is to hang on the line with the customer while they contact the other company — and chat support is a perfect medium for this.

Rather than saying, “Unfortunately, I can’t handle your request here. You need to contact this other company” we can say something like, “Your request actually needs to be handled by this other company. Here’s how to reach them. I can stay on the line while you try to contact them.” Again, I didn’t add a bunch more words to make that message better, and at minimum it took me about thirty seconds to look up the support page for the other company. Waiting while the customer tries to contact another company takes almost no effort in chat support and helps keep them from feeling like we’re just trying to push them off to another company.

A few extra steps

Have you ever heard a customer say, “Why did I bother calling customer support only to hear them repeat exactly what’s on the website?” That’s always a punch to the gut when you realize that our support did nothing to enhance the customer’s experience.

In a recent example, I witnessed a customer asking about a certain percentage-based fee and how much it would cost them at the end of the day. My colleague responded with the fee that was listed on the website, but they didn’t stop there. They then opened the calculator on their computer and calculated the actual fee, showing the customer their math along the way. This is incredibly subtle and probably took an extra thirty seconds.

I daresay that if you sit down with your top performers, these are the sorts of things they’re doing to better take care of customers. In contact centers we love to “Go the extra mile” for our customers — or at least we love to carelessly throw that phrase around. I just decided that I’m going to instead say, “Go the extra couple feet” or “Go the extra thirty seconds” or “Go the extra three to five words.” My friends, the differences between bad and neutral customer experiences and great ones are sometimes more subtle than you think.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jeremy Watkin
Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Support and CX at NumberBarn. He has more than 20 years of experience as a contact center professional leading highly engaged customer service teams. Jeremy is frequently recognized as a thought leader for his writing and speaking on a variety of topics including quality management, outsourcing, customer experience, contact center technology, and more. When not working he's spending quality time with his wife Alicia and their three boys, running with his dog, or dreaming of native trout rising for a size 16 elk hair caddis.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here