Many customer-centric companies strive to differentiate themselves from the competition by offering exceptional customer service. This is an excellent tactic, since greater retention leads to significantly higher profits. In fact, an increase in retention rates of just 5 percent can boost profits anywhere from 25 percent to 95 percent.
But what is exceptional customer service? Until we answer that, it’s impossible to know how you can improve customer service in the workplace.
Let’s look at how we define exceptional customer service in 2020.
1. Exceeding Expectations
The most important characteristic of exceptional customer service is surpassing customers’ expectations. Rather than treating customers as just another to-do for the day, you need to help every individual feel important. Go beyond providing the minimum and think of ways to make the experience even better.
Key here is for your service to be memorable — in a good way, of course. Customers should remember how you treated them many years after the fact and even use this as a reason to recommend your company to others.
Customers expect a fast response to queries and problems. If they send you an email or message on social media, they expect an answer within the hour. If they call you, they want to speak to someone quickly — no one likes to be stuck on hold indefinitely.
Availability is especially important when a lead is asking a question that will help with the purchase decision. If you fail to answer promptly, the lead may find a different solution with one of your competitors.
In fact, it’s important to prioritize customers according to the issue — rather than responding in chronological order. Start with requests that are time sensitive as well as those that could result in a lost customer. Just make sure you avoid repeatedly pushing a less-urgent request to the bottom of the list.
3. Human Support
Tech will help you streamline processes, but there are many times when a customer needs to talk to a live person. An automated phone system and a chatbot on your website or social media pages can provide basic information, but there will be many times when that’s not enough. To make the most of these tools, use them to figure out what customers need and then send customers to the right person on your team.
However, just ensuring you have live customer support answering calls and responding to chat is still not enough. You also need to treat customers as individuals. This means putting away scripts and taking time to emphasize with customers.
4. Friendly Demeanor
How you communicate with customers is just as important what you say to them. Even if you give customers everything that they need, if you do it with a bad attitude, they’ll be unwilling to return. In contrast, if you show enthusiasm and take the time to make sure your customers are satisfied, your clients will feel valued.
A great way to ensure you treat each customer as an individual is to personalize your service. Make an effort to remember customers’ names and other details. By using these details in communications, customers will know you see them as people and not just a way for your business to make money.
6. Listening Skills
Customer service involves many skills, but one of the most critical is listening. Take the time to hear what a customer has to say — never jump to conclusions just to resolve an issue faster. Although this can be particularly difficult when a client is upset, this is your chance to fix the problem and retain the customer.
In addition, demonstrate to the customer that you have been actively listening. Repeat what customers say in your own words and express that you understand their needs. This will give customers confidence that you are going to find a solution.
It sounds obvious that you need to be honest, but too often this is something businesses neglect. If you promise you’ll do something within a particular period of time, you need to do your absolute best to fulfill your promise. If you’re unable for any reason, explain this to your customer — although it’s far better to only make promises you know you can keep. If you’re all words and no action, your business will soon gain a bad reputation.
Exceptional Customer Service Examples
Some companies in particular are known for how well they treat their clients. These examples will show you what is truly exceptional customer service.
Sainsbury’s Giraffe Bread
A three-year-old messaged the British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s questioning the name of one of its products: tiger bread. The girl said she thought the bread should be called giraffe bread. The customer service team responded and sent the girl a gift card along with a note. But the story didn’t end here. The child’s mother posted both letters on her blog — and they went viral. As a response, the grocery store officially changed the name to giraffe bread.
Morton’s Porterhouse Steak
Entrepreneur Peter Shankman has shared his experience with Morton’s Steakhouse as the greatest customer service story ever told. As a joke, Shankman sent a tweet from an airport just as he was boarding a plane asking Morton’s to meet him at his destination with a porterhouse steak. He never expected the restaurant actually would. In fact, an employee dressed in a tuxedo was there to meet him with a full meal.
Trader Joe’s Holiday Delivery
When an 89-year-old World War II veteran was snowed in without enough food over the holidays, his daughter called a number of grocery stores in the area to find out if any would deliver. Although Trader Joe’s was not offering a delivery service, the store said it would — as a one-off. However, Trader Joe’s went a step further: bringing the groceries just 30 minutes later, they told the man that there was no need for him to pay.
Ritz-Carlton Loss Prevention Team
You can find numerous examples of exceptional customer service from the Ritz-Carlton.
One that stands out is of the famous Joshie giraffe. A child who had been staying at the hotel left the toy behind and was quite distraught when he realized. To comfort him, his parents told him that the giraffe was just taking a longer vacation and asked the hotel if they could take a picture to back up the story. The loss prevention team went a step further, taking a whole binder of photos.
Another occasion when the loss prevention team saved the day comes from author John DiJulius. Rushing for a flight, he left his laptop charger behind. Before he could even call the hotel the next day, he received a package containing both his original charger and a spare one.
Starbucks Employee Learns Sign Language
Ibby Piracha is a regular to his local Starbucks branch. As he is deaf, it types his order on his phone to communicate with staff. One day, he was pleasantly surprised when an employee responded in American Sign Language. The barista had been learning ASL just to be able to provide an equal experience to all her customers.
Spotify Hidden Message
After Spotify user Jelena Woehr sent some positive feedback to the music streaming service, she received a playlist called “A Hidden Message.“ The songs in the playlist spelled out the sentence: Jelena / You Are Awesome / Thanks a Lot / For These Words / It Helps Me / Impress / The Management.
How to Improve Customer Service in the Workplace
Now you understand what is exceptional customer service and you’ve seen some real examples, it’s time to think about how you could apply similar ideas to your own company.
One option is to outsource customer service to experts. However, you should bear in mind that this doesn’t mean you can forgo all responsibility — it will just take some pressure off your team.
Even if you do outsource customer service, your team will still need some training in best practices. For example, they need to be experts at problem solving. Training should involve teaching staff how to identify and analyze problems as well as how to come up with various solutions and evaluate each to arrive at the best option.
Finally, you need to make sure customer service is consistent throughout your company. Your team needs to be clear about procedures, terms and conditions, and brand image. The last thing you want is for one employee to tell a customer one thing and another employee to say something contradictory.
Exceptional customer service involves providing clients with the treatment you’d like to receive. Your staff need to develop excellent communication skills and be clear about how to resolve any problems customers may face. Get as creative with customer service as you can: it’s one of the best ways to stand out from your competitors and gain glowing reviews for your business.