8 Smart Strategies to Improve Your Customer Service

Good customer service can mean the difference between success and failure as a company. Here are eight simple ways to dramatically improve customer service at your company.

Lots of small companies focus inordinately on product development, sales, and marketing. But if you're neglecting customer service, you will pay dearly for it — a Salesforce survey found that 47% of customers said they'd stop buying from a company if they have a bad experience.

Think about all the work you’ve done to get the customers you have, and how painful it would be to lose half of them because of one shortcoming in your business — customer service.

As competition increases, you can't afford to have subpar customer service. So if you’ve realized you must improve in this area, it's time to act.

Providing customer service that goes above and beyond to solve a buyer’s problem is vital to customer retention, which leads to new buyers. Consider these simple ways to improve customer service at your company right away.

8 customer services strategies to improve customer satisfaction:

  • Focus on listening
  • Watch your words
  • Understand what you’re selling
  • Improve technical skills
  • Seek compromise
  • Practice empathy
  • Review results
  • Commit to improving

1. Focus on listening

The first step in any good customer experience strategy is to listen better. In the words of Stephen R. Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, seek first to understand, then to be understood. Hear customer concerns and understand where they’re coming from. Reflect their concerns back to them to show you’ve listened to and processed the issue. Don’t interrupt, and don’t try to overtalk.

Quick tip: Although you should always listen first, set boundaries. If someone is being rude and abusive, pass them along to a manager to handle them.

2. Watch your words

The words you choose matter. Avoid words with negative connotations, even if the overall sentiment you’re trying to express isn’t actually negative. For example, instead of saying “don’t choose option 1,” you could say, “option 2 is your best choice.” Don’t be combative with your words and refrain from talking down to your customers.

Quick tip: If the conversation is going in a negative direction despite your best efforts, choose words to bring it back into positivity. Say something like, “I’m sorry you’re still not happy, what can I do to make it right?”

3. Understand what you’re selling

A big plus for any customer care team is employees knowledgeable about the products you sell. Few things are more frustrating for a customer than to call a customer support line asking for help, only to find that the person on the other end of the line can’t answer even basic questions about the product.

Ensure your customer representatives know what they’re selling and can quickly put the customer in touch with an expert for more detailed questions when needed.

Quick tip: Rather than just explain the features, teach your team how the product or service relates to customer needs. What problem is it solving? What aspects are most important to your customers? This understanding will better position your team to help the customer.

4. Improve technical skills

Beyond understanding the product, your team should also have technical skills in other areas — such as how to use information systems, real-time chat, and ticket processes. Automate processes and continuously develop your team. The more skills they can master, the more time they can spend on solving customer problems.

Quick tip: Provide regular customer service skills training to your team — it’s worth the few hours of work they lose every few months. This small time investment will ensure your team is constantly growing in skills, improving their efficiency. and boosting their overall happiness as they become more confident in their work.

5. Seek compromise

The cardinal rule of customer service is to avoid adversarial interactions. Always seek to find common ground with the customer no matter how combative they are (as long as they are not unacceptably abusive).

This is easier to accomplish through a phone or video call as opposed to email or live chat, which are more impersonal. This creates win-win situations in which both the customer and the company leave the interaction better off.

Quick tip: If you interact with an unhappy customer through email, invite them to have a quick phone call with a team member to resolve their issue. You are less likely to satisfy the customer’s needs through email and should seek a more personal connection if they are willing.

6. Practice empathy

Empathy is more than just caring about your customer — it means having the capacity to understand or even imagine what it's like to feel what the other person is experiencing.

By placing yourself in your customer's shoes, the correct course of action to please that customer becomes obvious, and it's more likely you'll succeed in meeting their needs. Customers will be more open and patient, and they will open up and be more likely to be happy with the result.

Quick tip: While we think of empathy as a feeling that people are born with or not, in reality, it’s a skill that can be developed and refined. Train your employees how to better understand what customers are thinking and feeling when they experience a specific issue, and teach them how to respond in an empathetic way.

7. Review results

To excel at customer service, you must know how you are doing. Assess results constantly using customer service metrics, such as average resolution time, customer satisfaction score, and anything else that tells you how your team is performing.

While a customer satisfaction survey is a must, don’t just get feedback from customers — ask your team what they think, because they’re on the front lines and can help you identify blind spots.

Quick tip: Use customer service software to track customer metrics and create a customer portal where buyers can more easily interact with you. Most of these platforms gather metrics automatically, and they’ll provide detailed reports on the metrics you care about automatically.

8. Commit to improving

Even if you have excellent customer service, it can always be improved — and failing to improve can cause atrophy. How is your customer communication? Does your team need more training in a certain area? Use the metrics you gathered to identify specific ways to improve your team’s performance.

Avoid complacency regardless of success, and ensure you and your team are continuously learning. Customer service technology is always changing, and competitors are making moves, so you must keep up with what’s going on to be on top of your customer service game.

Quick tip: Schedule a quarterly “gut check” meeting with your customer service reps. Ask them how they felt the last quarter went, and if they’ve noticed any new problems cropping up. If they identify new issues, brainstorm solutions right then and there, and make them part of your operations manual going forward.

Schedule conversations as a first step

You can't improve your customer service without the proper information, so take the first step and schedule conversations with both your customers and your customer support team.

Create a survey to send out to your customers that asks basic questions about how often they've interacted with your team and how satisfied they are with the experience.

Then schedule a meeting with your customer service team to talk over the results and ask them to share their insights.

Taking this proactive approach, you'll identify concrete steps you can take immediately to improve customer service, laying the foundation for strong customer growth in the future.

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The Motley Fool has a Disclosure Policy. The Author and/or The Motley Fool may have an interest in companies mentioned.