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Customer service is a broad concept encompassing how you treat your customers, the level of support you provide to your customers and whether you meet your customers' expectations. How you assist a customer depends on their individual needs, but you can do various things to ensure you always tick the customer satisfaction box.
Assisting customers involves listening to their needs and taking steps to help them. Great customer service means going one step further and making them feel valued.
What is the Definition of Customer Service Excellence?
While there's no set definition of customer service excellence, it's widely considered to be going that extra mile for a customer. You'll impress a customer if you deliver more than they expect or feel they could get from another business. Basically, customer service excellence is going out of your way for a customer, rather than simply doing the bare minimum.
Why is it Important to Have Good Customer Service?
Good customer service is important for your reputation (your customers will share their great experience with other potential customers), customer retention (customers won't go elsewhere if you treat them well) and, of course, profits (satisfied customers spend more money). When it comes to satisfaction, good customer service is more than going through the motions. Based on customer response surveys, "rationally satisfied" customers don't feel an emotional engagement with a brand, whereas "emotionally satisfied" customers feel a sense of loyalty to a brand, which they then reciprocate. According to Gallup research, emotionally satisfied customers contribute far more to the bottom line than rationally satisfied customers do, even though they are both technically satisfied. The research found that for all kinds of companies, fully emotionally engaged customers deliver 23 percent more than the average customer in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue and relationship growth.
How Do You Provide Good Customer Service?
You can provide good customer service from the moment you first come into contact with a customer. If interacting with customers face-to-face, greet them with a smile and simply ask what you can do to help them. After you have established their needs, act quickly to meet them. This is equally important if you are providing customer service online, such as via social media channels. According to a survey by The Social Habit, 32 percent of social media users expect a brand to respond to them within 30 minutes and 42 percent expect them to respond within 60 minutes.
Whatever your customer requires, from product advice to making a complaint, your role is to make the process easy and pleasant for them. How you do this depends on your customer's particular needs or issues. For example, if you work in a furniture store and a customer asks for your help choosing a sofa, good product knowledge is vital. You must listen to your customer and tailor your advice to her specific needs, taking into account her budget.
Customer service sometimes involves delivering bad news as well as good news, for example letting a customer know a product he has on order is subject to delay. According to research by a team at University of California, Riverside, people who were given bad news before good news were more likely to feel better about what they were told, while people who were given the bad news last were more likely to react negatively. For example, this could mean telling a customer they have to wait longer than expected for delivery of their new sofa, then offering them a 10 percent discount on the purchase price.
The emotional satisfaction element is derived from a personal connection with your customer. Make an effort to find some common ground. Ask a couple of questions to get to know them as a person, not just a customer. Empathize with them if they have a problem. Make them feel as if they have your undivided attention for as long as they need it. Do all of the above, and your customer is more likely to come back to you, again and again.
- Gallup: Unlocking Customer Service Excellence
- Entrepreneur: 10 Reasons Why Good Customer Service Is Your Most Important Metric
- Convince & Convert: 42 Percent of Consumers Complaining in Social Media Expect 60 Minute Response Time
- Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin: Do You Want the Good News or the Bad News First? The Nature and Consequences of News Order Preferences
Claire Gillespie is a writer and editor with experience in law, business and PR. She has written about careers for many websites, including SheKnows and Reader's Digest.