What is Good Customer Service?

Shutterstock_112847047Unless your company has a stranglehold on your industry or was a first-mover, everyone agrees that in order to have a truly successful business, you need to have more than just a great product or service. Good customer service is the better half of a real successful business.

When we talk about a successful businesses in this post, we don't mean just in terms of revenue, nor just traditional customer service, but successful in the sense of operating in the territory of positive sentiment -- so much that the mention of your brand triggers good feelings from a customer. Yes, when customer service evolves into customer experience.

Sounds new age-y, yes, but tell me how you feel when I mention companies such as Southwest Airlines, Amazon, and American Express?  What comes to mind?

Only a small percentage of companies are able to navigate through the current service landscape of social media, always-connected consumers, and the "customer is always right" mentality unscathed. And those that raise the bar when it comes to serving their customers and exceeding not just their expectations, but the industry's, are the businesses that rise to the top.

It's not an award to be given out, but they'll be annointed by customer loyalty, word of mouth, and of course, revenue growth.

What is Good Customer Service?

That begs the question, what does good customer service actually mean and how to achieve it?

We all know that good customer service is crucial, but once you get down to trying to define what goes into it, not everyone is on the same page. To some, good customer service is as simple as solving problems and offering solutions in an expedient manner. To others it means overall pleasantness and politeness from those who represent the frontlines of the company.

Others define it as when a company is willing to give their customers anything and everything that they want -- you know, the customer is always right approach - no matter how unreasonable some of those demands may be.

There isn't a right or a wrong, because the factors of what makes customer service “good” also depend heavily upon what specific things a particular customer may hold valuable or their expectations from what industry competitors do. 

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Good customer service is partly defined by the industry, but a large part of how your company defines it will determine what good customer service means to you.

Back to that first part. Yes, there are definitely customer service basics you should be covering. After some research, we've determined that there are common touchpoints to good customer support. Many agree that these four points can help form a structure around defining what good customer service is.

These factors may seem simple, but actually implementing them in your business may take more strategy, time and effort to achieve a truly satisfying customer experience.

1. Don’t Make Your Customers Wait

Patience is a virtue, but don’t depend on it when interacting with customers. In one survey conducted, 69% of those interviewed defined good customer service as receiving a quick resolution to a reported problem.

On the other hand, 72% of respondents blamed their frustrations on having to address an issue to multiple employees at different times. If you've ever had a similar experience, then you know how aggravating it can be to call back or be transferred only to re-explain your problem over again (and again), while seemingly never actually getting any closer to a solution.

Customer service representatives who have neither the authority nor the ability to resolve problems on their own, and are thus forced to take those problems to higher levels, run the risk of alienating customers. Unfortunately, this is a common problem. In fact, 26% of consumers have experienced being transferred from agent to agent without any resolution.

Failure to respond properly to customers can negatively impact a business’ bottom line for years to come. According to the same survey, only a quarter of respondents said they would continue to seek out a vendor two years or longer after a bad experience, while 39% said they would avoid vendors for longer than two years. Women, B2B customers, and “Gen-Xers” are more likely to continue to avoid a business for a longer period of time.

Interestingly, high-income households had the most profound results, with 79% stating they’d avoid a business longer than two years after a bad experience. To avoid damaging lulls in service, make sure that the employees who will be working most closely with your customers actually have the authorization and training to offer solutions when issues arise.

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2. Transaction Transparency

As a customer navigates your online store, will they see a clear reason why a sitewide sale isn’t being applied to their order?

Can they easily access information about delivery timeframes and returns? Will they be able to understand when and how discounts can be applied? If the answer to any of these or similar questions is a “no,” then you may be coming up short on the customer service front—and could be sacrificing sales as a result.

According to Forrester, 45% of customers will abandon an online transaction if they cannot easily find an answer to their question

When it comes to providing information, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. Providing a clear frequently asked questions (FAQ) page is a start, but the most successful online companies take it further by offering guidance and direction along the way, and making sure not to hide any pertinent information that the customer may find useful.

In brick-and-mortar stores, things are handled slightly differently. In this case, good customer service hinges on signage and verbal communication. The last thing you want is for a customer to make incorrect assumptions while in your store. If you’ve adopted a no-return policy for certain items, for example, this should be made clear to customers before they purchase. Also, don’t expect customers to read fine print; any important data should be shared upfront -- if there's transparency throughout the transaction, you'll minimize surprises on both ends.

3. Help Them Help You

In the age of e-commerce, many companies make the mistake of letting online shoppers fend for themselves, relying on self-service resources.

Although it’s true that today’s buyers are more independent, not everyone is equally tech-savvy, or always in the mood to put their self-sufficiency skills to work. Sometimes your customers don't want to figure it out and want an answer by asking someone.

According to eConsultancy, a large majority of web customers (83%) require some degree of customer support while shopping online.

Whether that's speaking to an agent in person or online, or over an email (for issues that aren't as urgent) -- most customers, at some point, prefer human interaction  so they can get straight to the point or complete their transaction.

To avoid a sea of abandoned shopping carts, ensure you are meeting your customers' needs with the support they expect. Live chat is best, as this has been proven to reduce abandonment rates. If live chat isn't an option, be sure to at least provide an easy-access link for email questions and a 24/7 toll-free number posted prominently on every page of your site.

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If your customer feels like they have no where to go to get a quick answer, then you place the customer in a situation where they abandon their shopping cart. They may intend to come back later or they may have decided that it's not worth the effort. Whatever the reason, the likelihood of that sale happening just dropped significantly.

Reduce the amount of abandoned shopping carts by providing timely, well-placed service resources in front of the customer.

4. Build Trust and They Will Come (Back)

If your company is answering a phone by the first ring, is straight forward with all pertinent buying information, and is giving customers a personalized experience when they need it, then congratulations, you are building much-needed trust. This is the final piece of the puzzle, but it's the most important.

Your product or service will attract them initially, maybe even bring them back a second time, but what consistently entices customers to return is trust that they're going to have a good, barrier-less customer experience.

If you can provide the customers what they're looking for, when they need and expect it, then that trust built between your company and the customer will evolve into invaluable customer loyalty. 

Good Customer Service: Case By Case

Not everyone is going to agree on what it is exactly that makes up good customer service, but bad customer service isn’t quite as hard to define, because while specific service standards vary based on your company, industry and expectations, you can bet that customers will recognize bad customer service when it happens to them.

Perhaps most important of all is to is recognize that good customer service encompasses any interaction, online or off, that a consumer or potential customer may have with your company, and it includes the entire experience, from initial contact to final sale and beyond.

Be sure to do everything in your power to keep your consumers informed, on the move, and—above all—happy. If your company is responsive and friendly, and provides timely, relevant information when the customer needs it, you’ll build a reputation for consistent good service.

If your company can achieve a positive and efficient service experience wherever your customers happen to be, and can scale it, then you're on your way to defining what good customer service means to your company.

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Now that you have the foundation for providing good customer service, take it to the next level with our free e-book6 Secrets to Exceptional Customer Service.

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