Loyal customers are proof that a company is on the right track.
You may have the best product in the world, but to keep customers coming back, you want to treat them well.
Companies famous for their customer service stand out. For example, Chick-fil-A goes above and beyond to delight customers by taking their needs into account. They now offer packaged hand wipes in their condiment section. After a meal, these moist towelettes have been the answer to my dining prayers!
Just like Chick Fil-A, Zappos, Amazon, or Southwest, every company can provide legendary customer service.
I sat down with experts from top companies like Mailchimp, Basecamp, Kustomer and Webflow to hear their tips on top practices in customer service. Without further adieu, here are 4 ways to improve your customer service.
4 Ways to Improve Customer Service
1. Listen to Understand the Customer's Needs
Great customer service means that customers feel understood. The act of intentional listening is key to you understand your customers better.
Sometimes people’s idea of “listening” means to stop talking when the other person starts. But this kind of listening rarely helps two people get on the same page. To truly listen, you must turn off all assumptions of what someone else is thinking or feeling.
In his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," Stephen Covey highlights the value of true listening.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
– Stephen Covey, from "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People"
Covey suggests that there is a gap between speakers and listeners. Customers speak to employees with the intent to be understood. Support agents who actively listen to understand will enhance each customer interaction.
Here are six steps to sharpen your listening skills for customers:
Ask questions to clarify their situation
When customers come to you with issues about your product, the way you can better understand them is to ask questions to clarify their situation.
Ask questions like:
- What do you feel is the issue?
- When you said ... what did you mean?
Look for any sort of patterns in the types of questions customers ask or issues they bring to you. Doing this can give you foresight into what issues the customer might encounter next. With this intuition, you can anticipate what customers might need next from your team.
Use empathy to gain trust
When you help customers feel like they can trust you, they will be more ready to trust your advice. You will connect with them on a deeper level because you understand their situation and goals.
Kustomer’s support and success teams step into the shoes of their customers. As manager of both teams, Brandon McFadden says that this empathy opens up opportunities to advise the customer as makeshift consultants.
“We take a consultative approach. We’ll say, ‘If I were you in this situation, then I would…"
– Brandon McFadden, Manager of Customer Success and Support at Kustomer
Brandon’s goal is to always provide value to the customer. He never tries to upsell customers on anything. He treats customers in the manner that he wants to be treated.
Pay attention to scenarios
I saw customer empathy in action while working at a boating dealership. Each Sales Representative knew the boating industry well, but no one had as much success with customers as the Head of Sales. I paid attention as this man interacted with customers. He sincerely listened. He learned what each customer wanted for their situations, then would tell them how he would feel if he were in their shoes. Then he kindly showed them the door on the way out. One day I heard a few sales guys make reference to this man's particular sales approach. They said things like ‘no one sells like he does.’
2. Help Customers Succeed
Show customers that you want them to succeed. Here are a few ways to help your customers get the most out of your product.
Learn your customer’s goals
Every customer has goals. Even though customers often seem to be looking for quick fixes, remember that each customer hopes to achieve great things through your product. Customer service representatives can train themselves to see past temporary setbacks that customers bring to them. They can remember that the customer has overall goals that they are working towards.
Identify customer goals to show that you are genuinely interested in a customer's progress. Learn each customer's story so you can cater your service to them. Although many of your customers will come from similar backgrounds, each customer has unique goals and definitions of success.
Help customers achieve more
As you talk with more customers and become familiar with all types of scenarios, you will be able to troubleshoot problems faster! You’ll have an internal knowledge base to reference so you can find unique solutions tailored to each scenario.
Yvette Johns, Manager of Technical Support at Mailchimp says their customer support involves a higher level of awareness around client activity. For example, if a customer is planning to send out a mass email to their customer base, a support person may offer additional suggestions on how to make an email more effective.
"Our mission in support goes beyond mere ticket resolution and extends to help our customers achieve as much as possible with our product."
–Yvette Johns, Manager of Technical Support at Mailchimp
Get to know your product inside and out
Educate customers about your product
Customer education is one of the best ways to increase CSAT ratings and offset churn. Why? Because knowledge is power, especially when it involves learning how to use your product. Here are some suggestions on how to educate customers.
Share use cases
Give your customers vision on ways that your product can fit into their workflow. Customers get a better grasp of your product's value when they see how your product plugs into the work of other companies.
Notify them when new features release
Your customers are so busy using your product that it can be hard to keep up with product changes. Help them bridge the gap by sending them your latest product updates. Encourage them to share feedback with your team so that each update only gets better.
Be a proactive mentor
Customers can tell when a support person goes above and beyond. People are elated when someone or something exceeds their expectations. Why? Because people grow accustomed to average treatment and minimum standards that people have offered them in the past.
Here are a few ways to be more proactive with customers.
Send them educational resources
Send helpful feature articles or training videos to your customers. They will love you for it. It shows you know their needs and you know solutions for them. The Customer Success Manager at Webflow, Waldo Broodryk says it is as important for service agents to familiarize themselves with the content available to their customers as it is for them to know their customers.
Whether a customer has reached out to you thirty times or never before, pay attention to customer usage. This awareness will enable to perform quality check ins with your customers.
Hold customers accountable
Customers don't expect company employees to be as vested in their progress as they are. Show them that their success matters to you by checking in on their journey, helping them avoid pitfalls, and celebrating when they get closer to their goals.
3. Upgrade your Technical Skills
Depending on company resources, you can train yourself to serve a tech savvy customer base better. There are countless tools, apps, softwares and skills that can plug into technical support.
Webflow is a website design platform that continues to evolve. As new technical features are added, team members watch training tutorials, ask questions, and sink their teeth into the feature. Webflow's support and production teams have built up a robust knowledge base known as Webflow University. Technical training equips thier customer service team to relate to customers learning the exact same thing!
If your company hasn’t started already, consider organizing employee trainings taught by employees. It’s a unique opportunity for employees to inspire coworkers with other skills and concepts they've learned on the side. This will help foster a culture of learning and curiosity.
Yvette of Mailchimp is impressed with teammates who invest their time to learn technical skills that enhance their work. Someone on her team is an expert with API. This person took on the challenge to further develop their programming skills and building something from scratch to run the application. Yvette admired the discipline and curiosity of her teammate. Take initiative!
4. Encourage Customer Feedback
Create Channels for Feedback
You create your product for your customers, so listen to them! Customers who use your product experience similar situations. Sometimes customers just want to hear from each other. It can be reassuring to learn that others have similar questions when learning the ins and outs of a newly released feature.
Similar to other online forums, Webflow has created a special in-app user forum for users to raise questions, make comments, and receive help. Users love the peer threads because of the reward that comes with figuring things out together alongside fellow users.
The Adobe XD team setup a UserVoice account, where they receive product feedback from customers and learn about requested features.
Webflow has created an in-app chat so customers can submit and receive feedback as they work. This gives customers a convenient way to centralize conversations on their work.
Since customers submit golden feedback to guide your product’s next steps, dig deeper into what they have to say. One way that Basecamp improves the feedback process is by scheduling phone calls or “customer interviews” to investigate issues further. They use open-ended questions to gauge the specific context of a customer's situation. This helps their service team understand multiple factors that led them to submit their feedback. This initiative goes above and beyond the feedback surveys sent out after a product experience.
Gathering feedback is not enough. Be sure to document and organize customer information so that you can reference it in the future.
Great customer service means being prompt and transparent on timing. You can facilitate faster feedback between customers and product teams by creating a prioritization system. Many companies label and categorize customer feedback so the impact of each customer issues is immediately clear to the proudct team. From there, product and engineering can choose whether to act on feedback quickly or put it on the back burner. Check out Basecamp’s impressive tagging process.
Use these tips to become a better listener, understand your customer, and enhance the quality of your work. You'll feel more productive and enjoy work more.
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