What is Customer Service

Chapter 01: What is Great Customer Service

Think about one of your favorite brands — your go-to place when you’re searching for a specific item. Sure, that company may always have the item in stock or may offer free shipping. But, so do a lot of other companies. Chances are, you keep going back to the same brand because of something special: how that company makes you feel. Every interaction with a representation is hassle-free and positive. You never have to worry about anything. That is the power of customer service.

Customer service is defined as “the assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services.” It can take the form of an in-person interaction, phone call, social media, chat conversation, email, or any other communication method. And, it should extend to the entire customer lifecycle, not just when a customer makes a purchase.

What Is Great Customer Service

The difference between good customer service and great customer service is that "wow" factor. Great customer service creates an emotional connection between you and your customers that transcends a simple transaction. To put it simply, your customers feel special.

Some principles of great customer service include:

  • Apologizing: Your company’s customer service skills are always put to the test when mistakes happen. Mistakes are inevitable, but how you handle those errors is what matters most. Be proactive take responsibility, and focus on what you can do for the customer to make it up to her.
  • Surprising and delighting: Think of ways you can give more to your customers than expected. Can you extend the warranty on your service for some extra time? Can you offer a free month of service to your most loyal subscribers?
  • Using complaints as opportunities: While customer complaints are inherently negative, change your mindset and view them as opportunities to improve. Instead of brushing complaints aside or criticizing employees, use them as a time for learning.

Examples of Good Customer Service

How do real companies approach good customer service? Here are four examples of great customer service. 1. This legendary story of wow customer service features Neiman Marcus and was highlighted in the book "What Great Brands Do" by Denise Lee Yohn. Neiman Marcus is a luxury department store that sells fine clothing, gifts, and accessories. When a customer in Alaska returned tires he had purchased from a store that previously occupied Neiman Marcus’ current space, the Neiman Marcus representative took the tires back.2. Zappos, an online retailer for shoes and clothing, is widely recognized for its superior customer service. One of the many examples of excellent customer service was when a customer representative listened to a customer who called about returning a pair of shoes due to a medical treatment. The Zappos representative didn’t just accept the shoes, but sent a bouquet of flowers and upgraded both the customer who called and her mother to lifetime of free shipping. 3. Grocery store Trader Joe’s doesn’t deliver, but it did make a rare exception. There was a storm in Pennsylvania around the holidays and an 89-year-old man was snowed in at his home. His daughter tried calling grocery stores to deliver him food, worried that he wouldn’t have enough to eat. Trader Joe’s changed their policy and delivered the food to him, completely free of charge.4. A family staying at the Ritz-Carlton in Bali had brought special eggs and milk for their son who had food allergies. When they arrived, they saw that their eggs had broken and that the milk had gone bad. The Ritz-Carlton manager and dining staff searched the town, but couldn’t find the right replacement items. The executive chef, however, remembered a store in Singapore that sold them, so he called his mother-in-law who bought the products and flew to Bali to deliver them.

Important Customer Service Skills

Providing excellent customer service isn’t easy. It’s not just about a friendly demeanor or giving away free swag. Instead, it requires the right skillset to make your customers feel heard and appreciated.

Here are eight of the most important customer service skills:

  1. Patience: You’ll deal with all kinds of customers, from the really angry and frustrated to those who want to explain every detail to you. Keeping your cool is key to making the customer feel seen and heard.
  2. Respect: Regardless of a customer’s attitude, good customer service dictates that you show respect at all times. Some simple ways to show customers respect include using their name, not interrupting, and waiting until they’re finished before responding.
  3. Adaptability: Each day will bring new scenarios and challenges, and you need to be able to think quickly to address the situation.
  4. Clear communication skills: Customers turn to you for answers and you need to make sure you can convey your advice in a clear, concise, and positive way to instill confidence.
  5. Ownership: When you don’t know the answer to something or aren’t in a position to make the final decision, you need to own that follow-up action and advocate for the answer on behalf of the customer.
  6. Time management: Customers want help immediately and if you put them on the back-burner for even a few minutes too long, it may cost your company their business. Make quick response times a priority.
  7. Persistence: Stick with a customer’s problem until it is solved. This persistence will show your customers that they are valued and that their concerns are valid.
  8. Sense of humor: Sometimes all you need is a joke or two to diffuse a tense situation. Humor doesn’t always work, but when done correctly and appropriately, it can help alleviate a sticky situation.

Final thoughts

You don’t have to spend millions of dollars to wow customers or shoot for out-of-this-world customer service that will be documented in books. But, by having the right skills and showing genuine care for your customers, you can create an experience that exceeds customers’ expectations, builds trust, and keeps them coming back.