The health and wellbeing of any public-facing organization is utterly dependent on the quality of their customer service standards. Whether selling a product — or if service is your product — friendly, helpful, knowledgeable customer service representatives are vital components of the purchase cycle which keep happy consumers coming back time and again. And skillful representatives maintaining great customer relationships are fostered by companies with established, actionable customer service standards.
What is Basic Customer Service
The Customer Service 101 textbook might look familiar to anyone who flipped through its pages. That’s because at its core, customer service is about kindness, common sense, and human decency — foundational tools for pleasant interpersonal interaction. And these fundamental skill sets are implemented to serve the needs of a given company’s consumer base. No matter how you’re helping a customer, whether that’s troubleshooting an issue, processing a purchase return, or teaching them how to use a niche aspect of your product, you should:
- Use positive language, and answer in the affirmative. Even if you personally cannot help the customer, know who can!
- Be consistent, and provide the same excellent service to every customer, every time.
- Speak plainly, and use language which the customer can easily understand. Remember that not everyone comprehends industry jargon, and avoid employing an overly-specialized vocabulary.
- Never argue. If a customer has inaccurate information about your product or services, it is your job to educate them, respectfully.
Customer Service Rules of Etiquette
In this section, we will elaborate on some of the more foundational qualities of great customer service that were touched on in basics. Best practice customer service standards utilize consistent codes of conduct to provide an enjoyable and effective experience for customers, every time. The following is a list of 9 rules that customer service representatives should implement.
9 Customer Service Rules and Etiquette
- Use your manners. Speak graciously, say “please” and “thank you” when appropriate, and always address the customer by their name.
- Practice active listening. You should be able to recite the customer’s questions back to them. But don’t worry if you forget a detail: politely ask them to clarify or restate their question if you need a refresher.
- Never tell a customer you can’t help them, or that you “don’t know.” Instead, explore all avenues to find a solution to their inquiry. If you genuinely cannot help them, direct them to someone who can.
- Never reciprocate a customer’s anger. If you are dealing with an angry or upset customer, maintain empathy and imagine yourself in their shoes. Keep your composure and try to help them as best you can.
- Never ask an upset customer to “calm down.” This will likely have an adverse effect. Again, maintain empathy, and instead communicate to the customer that you understand how they feel, and proceed.
- Avoid phrases like “no worries”, or “no problem” — this implies that the customer’s requests are a burden. Replace these statements with affirmative expressions, such as “of course” or “absolutely.”
- Defer to the customer when speaking: if you both begin to speak at the same time, allow them to continue before you respond.
- Ensure that you have a working understanding of your company and its products. You should be able to walk your customers through, at minimum, basic functions of your products or services.
- At the end of your conversation, always inquire if there is anything else the customer needs. Many customers, out of politeness, will not request additional support if you have already helped them. Make sure they know that they are free to ask for whatever they wish.
Means and Methods for Setting Customer Service Standards
Excellence in customer service should be a priority for any organization. However, having the goal of great customer service is not good enough: a company committed to providing the best service available to its consumer base must follow through in order to see results. In this section, you will find actionable steps which will help your organization create and maintain an extraordinary standard of customer service.
Step 1: Define Standards
Start by looking at your customer base and determine what it is they need from their service interactions with your company. Is it expedience? Is it dogged determination to solve their problem, no matter what? Is it as simple as friendliness and conversation? Gather information either by survey, or by analyzing characteristics of your most successful customer interactions, and use the data gathered to define your standards.
Step 2: Create a Mission Statement
What do you want your company to be known for? If you could look at a reviews page for your organization, what would you want it to say? These goals can range from the practical, to the intangible, to the extraordinary. Your list might include global sales, household recognition, a 99% positive customer experience rate — allow your organization to dream big and take actionable steps toward actualizing these goals.
Step 3: Implementing the Standard
Initially, you will write relevant customer service policies which will reflect your standards and mission statement. These policies should then be incorporated into your training and continued education programs. Excellent customer service standards should apply to all members of the company, not only the frontline professionals. Holding your organization to standards of excellence will eventually reflect in your overall company culture, leading to a reputation which will maintain a thriving consumer base.