Can great customer service really impact your brand, or is good customer service good enough?
In today’s saturated marketplace, customer service matters more than ever. As the recent data highlights:
- 86% of customers would leave a brand they were previously loyal to after just a few bad experiences, with 62% saying just one bad experience is enough to dissuade their loyalty.
- 68% of customers will pay more for products or services from brands known for their excellent customer service.
- 89% of consumers are more likely to purchase again in the future after having a positive customer experience.
So, not only is great customer experience a key differentiator among brands, it’s also a key driver for brand loyalty and even sales and profitability. The data indicates that customer service and customer experiences are directly related to your bottom line—yet many companies overlook the value of improving customer service from good to great.
According to a 2022 study, 87% of companies believe they’re providing “excellent CX,” while a mere 11% of customers agreed that businesses delivered excellent service. So, not only does customer service matter more than ever, but delivering service that truly wows customers is more difficult than ever as well.
How can brands deliver great service in today’s world? In this article, our team of experts outlines the four key attributes of good—and great—customer service, and the key tactics and strategic insights to know as you implement them at your organization.
4 Key Attributes of Good Customer Service
Customer service has many components, but the most essential elements break down to just four key categories. In fact, according to a recent survey by PwC, nearly 80% of American consumers cite these four elements as the most important ones for great customer service.
These are speed, accessibility, connection (or friendly service), and helpfulness (or agent knowledge). Let’s break down each of these key attributes of good customer service.
Speed. Customers want help, and they want it quickly. As a customer yourself, you probably instinctively understand their desire. Whether or not the problem is truly urgent, you don’t want to be on hold for 25 minutes or have to wait several days for an email response whenever you need a problem resolved from a company. As such, providing speedy and efficient service demonstrates that your company values your customers by valuing their time.
Accessibility. Accessible service means meeting customers where they are, and making it effortless for them to get the help they need. We’ve all experienced the companies that seem to make it intentionally difficult to find their customer service phone number, or have a live chat option available, only for no agent to ever “pick up” your chat. While not every brand needs to be available on every possible channel, making it easy for customers to contact you and receive the help they need is a key component of good service.
Connection. Friendly service is still a key attribute of good service, and this shouldn’t be too surprising. In a depersonalized world, having a moment of genuine human connection is typically pleasant—and when customers connect that pleasant experience with your brand, they tend to remain more loyal and even spend more. Employing and empowering friendly agents to respond with empathy to your customers is essential for good service.
Helpfulness. Finally, knowledgeable help is an obvious must. When customers contact your support team, there’s generally a problem they need solved or an action they’re trying to complete that they need help with. If your support staff is fast, easy to contact and friendly, but they can’t solve the customer’s problem, that’s still a major problem. As such, good customer service requires agents who are seasoned problem-solvers, able to resolve customer concerns both efficiently and satisfactorily.
These four attributes are core components of any good customer service solution—but in a competitive market, good isn’t always enough. So how can companies go beyond good to deliver truly excellent customer service?
Going Beyond “Good” – How to Deliver Great Customer Service
Great customer service doesn’t have to be futuristic or show up at the airport with a fresh steak for a customer (although that certainly checks the box). Instead, great customer service goes above and beyond in those four categories that consumers cite as the most important: speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and friendly service.
So, how can you move beyond “good” to develop excellent customer service in these four key areas?
Improving Customer Service Speed
Speed matters to consumers—and it matters a lot. In fact, 53% of consumers cite speed as the most important aspect of great customer service.
However, speed can be difficult to define. For many customers today, speed doesn’t just mean fast—it means instant, and on-demand. Customers want 24/7 service that’s accessible anytime and can get them the answers they need immediately. Not sure how fast is fast enough? Here’s the recent data:
- 66% of customers expect a live chat response within five minutes.
- 35% of consumers expect a response on social media within 2 hours.
- Around one-third of customers expect a response via email within 1 hour or less.
Of course, improving speed is easier said than done. To improve your speed in a way that customers will actually notice and appreciate, implement one of these tactics:
AI/Chatbots. AI can help speed up many backend operations when it comes to call centers, ensuring that your agents reduce call handle time and thus speed up operations overall. In addition, chatbots or virtual assistants can not only reduce the amount of time an interaction takes, but it can also reduce the number of interactions that human agents need to take care of. Of course, a chatbot can also be available 24/7 to help as many customers at once as needed.
Live chat. Although customers expect a response most quickly via live chat or over the phone, live chat is a great way to supplement phone lines. As opposed to a voice call, most agents can handle a number of separate chats at the same time, allowing customers to get help more quickly. In addition, supplementing with chat bots or virtual chat agents can help keep your chat function live 24/7 and moving quickly.
Outsourcing. Sometimes you simply need more agents to achieve the speed needed at scale for your business. When this is the case, outsourcing some or all of your customer service to a trusted partner is the most efficient way to scale up your business and improve speed of service.
Improving Customer Service Accessibility
Of course, part of providing speedy service involves being accessible to customers. The easier it is for customers to find you and contact you, the faster they can get their questions answered. Two key ways to make yourself more accessible to consumers is through omnichannel support and self-service solutions.
Omnichannel support. While many consumers today still prefer phone calls, the average consumer has contacted customer service through at least three different channels. As such, omnichannel support is a must. Importantly, though, omnichannel support is more than just being accessible on a variety of channels. It also means creating a seamless experience between those channels so that when customers contact you on a new channel, that agent has the background on their previous interactions.
Self-service solutions. Self-service options are a great way for customers to get answers quickly, but they’re also an important way to improve accessibility. Because self-service allows the customer to take the lead on getting answers, they’re available anytime—24/7/365. You can’t get much more accessible than that!
Improving Customer Service Connections
Unlike speed or accessibility, connection is difficult to automate. According to a recent survey of US consumers, 86% still preferred interacting with a human over an AI chatbot. As chatbots improve over the next few years, that number is likely to lower, but there are always instances where humans will prefer to interact with other humans—especially during stressful, complex or high-risk situations.
So how can brands improve connection and relationships through their customer service?
One of the most effective ways to do so is to employ personalization throughout your entire customer journey. When customers feel that your brand knows them, understands their preferences and caters to their needs, they’ll naturally feel more connected to your brand. In addition, personalized solutions, interactions and recommendations during customer service touch points go a long way. This can be as simple as using a customer’s name, or more complex, such as making a personalized recommendation for a customer based on previous purchases.
At the end of the day, the key is in treating customers like people, not case numbers. While this may seem obvious, 61% of consumers still say they feel they’re treated more like a number than a person, highlighting that most brands still have a long way to go with personalization and connection.
Improving Customer Service Helpfulness
Helpfulness is an obvious core component of good customer service. After all, the primary reason customers contact a brand is to receive help with some problem or situation. However, just providing an accurate and helpful offer isn’t always enough for true excellence in customer service.
The best customer service is proactive as well, going above and beyond to “seal the deal” and make sure things are wrapped up and going well for your customers. This can take place during a customer-initiated interaction as well as when customers haven’t initiated.
One straightforward way to go above and beyond with your customer service is to simply ensure that the problem is resolved to the customer’s satisfaction before ending the call and closing the case. Far too often, cases are marked as resolved before they truly are, leaving customers dissatisfied and creating more customer service tickets in the long run.
For example, if a customer calls needing a password reset or help getting back into a locked account, rather than just having agents provide them with a temporary password or sending the reset email, have your agents wait on the phone with them to ensure they were able to successfully get back into their account or reset their password.
Customer Service Examples To Learn From
Sometimes the best way to learn what excellent customer service looks like is to see it in action. Here are four brands doing customer service well, and the takeaways you can learn from them to implement in your own organization.
Wistia is a video hosting and analytics platform that’s becoming well-known for their excellent customer service, and great content. How do they do it?
They take an approach to customer service that’s unique for many companies, yet true to their brand and product: implementing personalized videos into their customer service responses. After all, they’re a video hosting platform—why shouldn’t they also use video in their customer service?
From personalized how-to videos or videos answering customer questions or walking a customer through the product, video is a great way to educate and inspire Wistia customers. In addition, they’ve also been known to use video to send personalized messages, thank-you notes or check-ins as well, combining customer service with customer success.
Don’t fit yourself into a box, or assume you have to use certain channels just because everyone else is doing it that way. Instead, be true to your brand—and your audience—and use the channels and service methods that make the most sense for you and your customers.
The Ritz-Carlton hotel chain is famous for their excellent customer service—but you don’t have to employ Ritz-Carlton levels of luxury to develop good customer service. In fact, some of the principles behind their customer service are applicable no matter your brand. So, what does the Ritz get right in their service?
For one, they empower their employees to deliver exceptional experiences. Rigid customer service solutions don’t allow for personalization, nor do they create memorable experiences for the customer. Instead, the Ritz allows staff members a budget of up to $2,000 per situation to solve customer problems and create memorable, exceptional experiences.
With values such as “I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests,” and “I own and immediately resolve guest problems,” the Ritz provides employees with practical boundaries as well as flexibility and freedom to truly inhabit those values.
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In an interview with Forbes, Herve Humler, President of the Ritz-Carlton, said, “I believe in the power of recognition and empowerment leading to great employee engagement. And employee engagement is critical to guest engagement. Employee empowerment and recognition is the core of our culture and how we achieve outstanding service.”
Not only is employee engagement and empowerment implemented at all levels, it begins from the very top. When employee empowerment and customer experience remains a focus for even top-level executives, it becomes much easier to integrate this into all levels of the company.
Empower your employees to create exceptional customer experiences. In many cases, your customer service agents or other customer-facing employees have a good idea of what customers need and want—they speak with them all day, every day, after all. You don’t have to give each employee a $2,000 budget to do so, either. Instead, allow variation from your standard scripts, flexibility and creativity in solutions, and a reasonable budget based on your brand for creating memorable service.
Developing a sense of ownership, responsibility and trust among your employees—and empowering them to truly own and take action on customer problems—will help develop personalized, exceptional service for your customers.
Chewy, an online pet food and pet-related product retailer, is well-known now for going above and beyond to delight and care for customers. Most importantly, empathy is at the heart of their customer service.
For example, many customers have shared online about the care and support they received from Chewy when a pet died. Many Chewy customers are enrolled in automatic pet food shipments, so when a beloved pet passes, they have to cancel their subscription. Upon doing so, many customers have reported receiving handwritten notes, small pet-related gifts or refunds of already-shipped food from customer service agents at Chewy who helped them cancel their orders and learned of their pet’s passing.
Not only does the brand provide a solution for the customer—canceling their order or subscription—but they go out of their way to respond with empathy and create an emotional bond that makes the customer feel valued, especially during a difficult time.
Keep empathy at the forefront of your customer service interactions. Whether it’s showing concern for a customer going through a hard time, sympathizing with a difficult aspect of your product, apologizing for a service failure, or connecting with a customer over a shared situation or preference, making connections with customers and empathizing with their problems and excitement is at the heart of great service.
Stitch Fix is an online clothing brand that creates excellent customer experiences through personalization. For Stitch Fix, personalization isn’t just a customer experience tactic—it’s at the heart of their entire business model.
The Stitch Fix brand aims to resolve what many people experience as an awful in-store shopping experience, by allowing customers to work with personal stylists to receive a box of new clothing pieces each month. Once they receive their box, customers can try on items and either purchase them to keep or simply return them.
This personalization is delivered at every stage of the customer experience. From the beginning, customers start with a style quiz to understand their shopping and fashion preferences, then begin receiving personalized fashion recommendations and pieces from stylists who tackle user profiles one-by-one.
At every stage, Stitch Fix has asked, “How can we make the shopping experience better for the customer?” and then has created a personalized journey that is accessible and convenient for the modern shopper.
Know your audience, and personalize your products for them. Stitch Fix knew the traditional shopping experience wasn’t working for their audience—and they revamped the entire experience with their customer in mind, plus catered the experience to each individual shopper along the way. With your own brand, finding ways to incorporate personalization at every stage of the customer journey will take your customer service from good to great.
5 Steps To Implementing a Great Customer Service Strategy Within Your Organization
Implementing great customer service is easier said than done. These five strategic steps can help you create practical change and deliver exceptional experiences, every time.
Start with the customer
Of course, great customer service begins with the customer. You need to understand what the customer wants, and what customer preferences are at every stage of the customer journey, on both a high-level and an individual scale. That is, what do our customers (generally) want at this step of the customer journey, and also, what does this particular customer want?
Customer profiling and customer journey mapping can both be helpful tools to help understand your customers, both collectively and individually. Once you’ve gained a solid understanding of the customer, keep a customer-centric approach at every stage of the customer journey.
As you implement new customer service tactics, you should constantly ask yourself, “how does this benefit the customer?” By keeping a customer-focus, you can work to anticipate customer needs (through knowledge of the customer) and solve for them in advance (through a customer-oriented business strategy).
Doing so will not only amplify your customer service, but it will allow you to proactively engage and support your customers, delivering stronger customer experiences that will drive loyalty and revenue over time.
Get the right data….
As you develop a customer service strategy, having the right data in place is essential. Not only does the right data help you understand your customer and customer preferences, but it also enables you to understand the customer experience, your operational success, areas of improvement and more.
With so much data available, though, which is the right data to track?
As a baseline, companies who want to create exceptional customer experiences should be tracking and measuring both operational data as well as experiential data. Operational data reveals how well you’re delivering on service fundamentals, while experiential data reveals how customers are actually experiencing your brand.
As you implement a customer service strategy, you should aim to track metrics across the four key areas of service discussed above: speed, convenience, experience and resolution. For example, you might measure:
- Speed via time in queue, average call length, average handle time, or so on.
- Convenience via Customer Effort Score or abandonment rate
- Experience via CSAT or NPS scores
- Resolution (or Helpfulness) via FCR rates, open tickets vs. resolved tickets, time to resolution and so on.
Clear data allows you to understand your performance in each of these key areas, drawing out areas for improvement and highlighting important customer insights.
…so you can personalize your experience
Speaking of customer insights, another key area data can help with is personalization. The right data allows you to know and understand your customer so you can deliver personalized service, even at scale.
As you seek to implement more personalized experiences, identify key touchpoints along the customer journey, then ask your team:
- How can we make customers’ experiences more personalized at each of these steps?
- What would make this experience better for our customers, in general?
- What could we learn about individual customers to make this experience better for each customer, individually?
Once you have answers, collect the data you need to personalize effectively. Remember, personalization can be small—incorporating personalized touches like birthday surprises, personalized recommendations based on past purchases, reminders to refill a product they previously purchased and so on. These small touches add up and help customers feel that you are there to support them at every step.
Data isn’t the only answer—as discussed above, companies who want to offer truly great customer service need to empower their agents to provide it—even if that service goes “off the books” a bit. Rather than limit your agents to scripts or textbook solutions, agents need to be empowered to solve problems with customized solutions.
In addition, agents need ongoing training, resources and support to continue doing their jobs well, a step that many companies overlook. In a recent study, less than 30% of customer service agents said they felt empowered to do their jobs well, and 62% said they wanted more “skills-based training to improve their performance.” You can’t support great customer service without also supporting the agents who are powering that service!
Finally, empower your agents to collaborate together to solve problems and go above and beyond for customers. The majority of customers today expect teams to collaborate on their behalf to provide seamless experiences and solutions. As a result, customer experience leaders need to provide channels for collaborating both within and outside of the customer service team.
Partner with an expert
Finally, getting serious about delivering exceptional customer service may mean partnering with an expert to really develop and execute successfully on a customer service strategy. When you work with a customer experience expert, like our team at Global Response, you’re not just getting more resources—you’re getting a team of experts with 40+ years of experience in customer service that can develop and execute the strategy that makes the most sense for your brand, your audience and your goals.
Ready to take your customer experience from good to great? Connect with an expert from Global Response today, and get a partner that’s dedicated to creating loyal customers for your brand.