The dictionary defines customer service as “the assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services”. So, if you’re a business owner with customers – and you have employees who interact with those customers – then you’re giving some sort of customer service.

Research from Salesforce revealed that customers now expect businesses to go beyond the basics like quality service and a fair price. Their expectations now include:

  • connected interactions (the same level of service in-store, on the phone, and online)
  • personalisation
  • innovation
  • trustworthiness (reviews)

What Is Good Customer Service?

Some of the core principles of good customer service include:

1. Being friendly

Being friendly and courteous is one of the most important factors in good customer service, whether this be in person, online, or over the phone.

This doesn’t just involve a smile, it means showing professionalism and respect to your customer. For example, in a high street shop, if a queue forms, being more urgent and apologising for the wait.

2. Reward loyalty

Returning customers are some of the most enthusiastic about your business. It’s quite common for coffee shops to run loyalty schemes, giving their customers cards that get stamped every time they buy a coffee. Rewarding them with a free coffee after so many purchases.

3. Personalisation

Salesforce research found that 52% of customers expect offers to be personalised. This is largely in relation to online interaction, but online expectations are increasingly spilling over into the real world too.

Loyalty cards can give you data on what your clients buy a lot of, Sainsbury’s Nectar Card does this to send vouchers and bonus points to its customers.

If you business is an online shop, it’s possible to buy software that analyses customers previous purchases and send them offers through email.

4. Technology

Technology lets customers get in touch quickly and easily. Email is a great, but social media accounts are even better, they market your business, build connections and rapport with your customers.

Connected interactions have become important. This means that if someone contacts a business through social media and then subsequently email, replies should be consistent and refer to what was said in each interaction.  Softwares such as QuickDialog can help integrate all your connection channels.

5. Invest in your employees

If you have employees, then you need to focus on your business culture, make it a great place to work.

Famously said by Richard Branson, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

Do this and it will translate to the service they give to customers. Beyond offering a competitive salary and reward scheme, look at hosting social events for your employees, or investing in their training and development.

It’s important to have a clear business mission that employees can connect with. If they connect with the mission, they’ll often want to give customers the best service.

How Do You Improve Customer Service

Here are ways to improve customer service:

1. Make it easy for customers to give you feedback

Ask for feedback through surveys, reviews and even by calling and speaking to your customers.

You can use paper forms in a shop and offer an incentives for its completion. If your shop is online, software like SurveyMonkey make collecting feedback through email easy.

Surveys are a great source of feedback, just be sure to review it and implement changes where needed.

Reviews are a great form of feedback as well, but people are more likely to leave a review if they’ve had a bad experience. If your review score on TrustPilot, Reviews.co.uk or Google is being dragged down by some negative scores, balance it out by proactively asking customers who you know had a good experience to leave you a review.

2. Listen to feedback 

Once you receive feedback, you need to action it. Be open to what your customers have told you as it will help you make positive changes to improve your customer experience.

Look out for common themes. Is there any quick changes you can make to solve the problem.

3. Listen to your employees

Speak to your employees, how do they think you could improve your products and/or customer service. Employees have a unique perspective as they deal direct with your customers so it’s important their ideas are heard.

4. Training

Training varies depending on the type of customer service you provide, there are some common processes you can introduce, think about:

  • teach core customer service skills – consider how to foster empathy, positivity and clarity of communication
  • training for all new employees – are new employees introduced to your business in the same way? Establishing expectations for customer service early means your customers should receive a consistent experience
  • crisis management – talk to your staff about how to handle various scenarios, potentially role playing different situations, how your business handles problems can have a big impact on your reputation

In a world where people are quick to criticise (sometimes publicly), good customer service has never been more important.  Statistically we will tell between 9 and 15 people about a bad experience, and only 3-4 about a good one, businesses need to be looking to provide excellent experiences, and ask for the feedback and reviews.