18 customer service tips to win over your customers
Uncover the customer service secrets experts swear by and upgrade your organization's customer experience (CX).
By Hannah Wren, Staff Writer
Last updated July 26, 2023
In competitive markets where your customer service practices directly impact customer satisfaction and revenue, all businesses strive to win over customers.
To stand out from rivals and show customers that you care about them, ensure your team is up to speed on customer support best practices—because every interaction counts. Here are some of the latest customer service statistics and 18 research-backed tips business leaders should share with agents to turn them into experts.
- Define customer service KPIs
- Establish a standard with customer service guidelines
- Ensure every customer-facing employee knows your product
- Build a customer-centric culture
- Empathize to de-escalate tense situations
- Make customer service easy to reach
- Offer more self-service solutions
- Provide fast support
- Embrace AI and automation
- Find opportunities for personalization at every touchpoint
- Collect and utilize customer service data
- Request feedback from customers
- Avoid saying no if you can
- Don’t get defensive
- Invest in the employee experience
- Communicate effectively and transparently
- Show appreciation for your customers
- Equip your team with the best customer service tools
- Get ready to ring in a new era of service
1. Define customer service KPIs
Savvy customer service teams will use key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess agent performance and customer needs regularly. Customer service KPIs measure customer service team performance to ensure the department is on track to meet long-term goals.
Harry Wray, the global CX strategy director at Zendesk, suggests businesses start by defining goals and objectives before establishing KPIs. This ensures that business leaders, and, more specifically, CX leaders, can:
- Focus on the metrics that matter most for goal completion.
- Set benchmarks and implement meaningful change to achieve goals.
- Track success over time by identifying and tracking a few key metrics to routinely monitor progress.
2. Establish a standard with customer service guidelines
Ideally, all agents within an organization will adhere to a clearly outlined set of customer service guidelines so every agent can offer a comparable level of service.
The guidelines should outline the ideal environment, messaging, and key department strategies, from sales to marketing. This could include tenets such as:
- How to de-escalate a situation and apologize
- Who to loop in when escalating a ticket
- What the best practices are for documenting support requests
- Which discounts and rewards to offer, and when
3. Ensure every customer-facing employee knows your product
Customer service agents spend their time answering customer questions, troubleshooting, and sometimes identifying sales opportunities. To do this successfully, agents must have all relevant context about the customer and situation and a comprehensive understanding of the products and services.
However, agents shouldn’t just know the product in and out, they must also know the customer. According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2023, 70 percent of customers expect the agent they speak with to have all the necessary information about their account to efficiently resolve their problem.
Ensure every agent can meet customer expectations by providing training and equipping agents with reference materials they can quickly access without leaving the agent workspace and delaying a solution for the consumer.
4. Build a customer-centric culture
Customer-focused cultures highly value creating the best possible CX through communications, support, and offerings. Every conversation and strategy happens with the customer in mind.
All employees, from reps to CEOs, need to keep this question in the back of their mind: Will my actions serve customers well?
But that’s just the start. A customer-centric organization will carry this ideology through all decisions and interactions, including:
- Prioritizing the customer experience over sales
- Incorporating customer feedback
- Creating products that customers need
- Making it easy for customers to connect with human support agents
- Hiring a compassionate and experienced support team
- Providing proactive support
5. Empathize to de-escalate tense situations
Customer service agents will inevitably have to deal with angry customers. That’s why businesses need to hire empathetic agents who can de-escalate tense situations and pivot to a more solution-oriented conversation.
According to Gregory Gavin, the customer advocacy manager at Zendesk, agents must empathize with the tough situation customers find themselves in and problem-solve with a collaborative mindset rather than taking an “us vs. them” approach.
With the right customer service skills and tools, agents can turn angry customers into satisfied, repeat customers. Agents may also find the customer service platform’s omnichannel capabilities useful and choose to switch to another channel, such as a phone call that accurately reflects the agent’s compassion and active listening skills.
6. Make customer service easy to reach
Customers expect an effortless, omnichannel experience, and that means meeting customers on the channels of their choice.
Channel preference varies based on the issue, customer demographics, and the channel that’s most convenient for them to access. Some channels customers may use to contact support include:
- Live chat
- Social media
Gavin recommends that businesses set expectations with agents and encourage them to remain professional and approachable across all channels for a better, more cohesive experience.
7. Offer more self-service solutions
Customers have preferred to help themselves for a while now—this is nothing new.
Consumers increasingly believe that self-service support alternatives like AI chatbots and self-service portals will improve the efficiency and quality of customer service, bringing us to our next best practice.
8. Provide fast support
In the age of same-day delivery, customers don’t want to wait hours—or even days—for a response. Speedy replies are essential to a good customer experience. This is a must in the world of messaging and 24/7 customer support, where consumers expect rapid replies.
According to a study by SuperOffice, 46 percent of consumers expect a response in less than four hours, and 12 percent expect a reply in under 15 minutes.
To deliver great customer service and fast solutions that customers demand, businesses must create more efficient workflows and use deflection tactics like:
- Knowledge base articles
- AI chatbots
- FAQ pages
Businesses can also speed up support and improve resolution rates with skills-based routing, sending customers to the first available agent with the necessary skill set to resolve the problem.
9. Embrace AI and automation
Technological innovations are moving quickly, and AI and automation are making it easy for agents to provide high-quality customer care. Support teams should jump on this bandwagon if they haven’t already because these tools improve customer service and agent experiences.
Here are four key ways your business can incorporate this technology into existing workflows:
- Workflow automations: AI frees customer support teams from menial tasks that eat up hours of their day, which means more time to offer the kind of white-glove customer service that customers remember.
- Intelligent routing: AI can save time on ticket assignment and speed up resolution times by assigning customers to the most appropriate agent based on customer sentiment and intent, agent skill, capacity, and status.
- Messaging automations: Businesses can also streamline repetitive communications using macros—predefined responses that agents can quickly tweak and reply with.
- Intelligence in the context panel: Agents can sprint through tickets because of the convenient knowledge base content recommendations accessible from the agent workspace.
These powerhouse features ease agent workloads and assist with seamless resolutions.
10. Find opportunities for personalization at every touchpoint
Today’s customers don’t want to be just another number buried in a slew of tickets.
Many businesses provide quick answers and cookie-cutter replies. But what can you do to make that experience a memorable one that will turn a disgruntled customer into a brand advocate?
The key is to offer more personalization and human conversations.
With this in mind, encourage your agents to go off script occasionally to forge a connection, empathize, or find humor in a situation. At the minimum, agents should avoid making customers repeat themselves by reviewing notes about the customer before asking additional questions.
11. Collect and utilize customer service data
Regardless of which channels your customers prefer, you’ll need good customer service software that connects every interaction in a single, centralized location.
Customer success relies on the elimination of data silos and cross-functional collaboration. Without quick and easy access to contextual information, it’s almost impossible for different departments to achieve common goals, such as improving operational processes and meeting customer expectations.
72% of business leaders believe that merging different teams with a focus on CX can increase operational efficiency, and 64% of those organizations already have plans to make the change. Zendesk CX Trends Report 2023
12. Request feedback from customers
Another type of customer data is customer feedback. This key type of data allows businesses to evolve products, services, and business processes.
One of the easiest tips a business can implement is sending out customer satisfaction surveys. These simple, one-question surveys require little effort from customers and can give you a valuable overview of your customer service team’s effectiveness.
If your customers are happy with your support, chances are they’d be willing to recommend your services to friends, family, and others. For customers that give your company high scores, capitalize on the opportunity to request a review on your preferred platform.
That said, no matter how good your customer service is, you’ll sometimes lose customers. Customer complaints are an opportunity to learn what went wrong. So, when you receive lackluster scores, set up and send off a churn survey.
13. Avoid saying no if you can
Customer service phrases like “no” and “can’t” don’t typically go over well in a customer service environment.
To avoid losing or angering a customer, agents should always do their best to stay solution-oriented and keep the conversation moving forward.
If agents exhaust their scope of knowledge and don’t have sufficient resources to solve a customer’s problem, ensure they know to escalate the ticket to someone within the organization who is qualified to handle it.
After the fact, team leaders can use the experience to provide more training or create a knowledge base resource to guide agents and customers.
14. Don’t get defensive
A key piece of customer service advice is that avoiding defensive language and behavior goes a long way. Often, customers seeking help don’t approach matters with a lot of tact, and may resort to harsh words or blame whoever accepts their ticket.
So rather than going on the defensive, agents need to remember that customers are really mad at the situation, not them.
Teach agents early on to navigate these situations with staples such as being honest, accepting customer feedback, resolving the issue, and apologizing if needed.
15. Invest in the employee experience
Customer-first companies equip their service teams with the EX platforms they need to perform their jobs, as well as offer appropriate training.
With that company mindset in place, support leaders must focus on building teams of customer service stars with the social skills, empathy, and demeanor required to ensure unhappy customers don’t stay that way.
When agents achieve these standards, remember to reward them and show your appreciation for their hard work and dedication.
16. Communicate effectively and transparently
We already touched on the importance of proactive messaging, communicating on the right channels, and personalization, but we haven’t discussed the final piece of the puzzle.
Customer service agents must also be able to establish rapport with a customer and “speak their language” to effectively communicate important information. Accessible language and a personable tone can also improve the customers’ view of the entire customer service experience. If they’re able to build a relationship, it increases the likelihood that a once-troubled customer will become a long-time buyer.
Effective and friendly communication relies on several factors, such as:
- Striking the right tone
- Putting a positive spin on customer conversations
- Providing transparent answers
- Understanding the customer’s communication style
17. Show appreciation for your customers
According to a consumer outreach survey by Handywrytten, only 18 percent of customers feel that the brands they shop with often appreciate their patronage. This is a missed opportunity for businesses that could be prioritizing customer appreciation efforts and improving sales, customer loyalty, and their reputations.
Businesses need to make an effort to show gratitude for their customers and incentivize them to stick around. Incentivization also creates loyal customers, serves to increase customer retention, and sometimes results in word-of-mouth referrals.
Some ways you can show customers you care include sending them:
- A thank you note
- Free swag or merchandise
- A personalized gift
- A discount code
Or, if you want to send a creative, custom thank you note, try out the Zendesk Thank You Machine to create one from an interactive template in seconds.
18. Equip your team with the best customer service tools
You hired your customer support team members because they have promise, passion, and experience—but it takes more to maximize success. Give them the tools to provide excellent customer service and leave a lasting impression on your customer base.
Try out the Zendesk customer service solution to gain access to an arsenal of essential tools such as:
- A unified omnichannel agent workspace
- Advanced reporting and analytics
- Workflow automation
- Intelligent conversation routing
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