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Enhance your customer service by understanding how your customers are feeling about their experiences. Get started quickly with SurveyMonkey’s expert-written customer satisfaction templates and solutions.

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What is the most important thing you can do to improve relationships with your customers? The answer is as obvious as it is overlooked: improve customer service. No matter how great your product is or how talented your employees are, one of the things that customers are most likely to remember is the direct interaction they have with your company.

The bottom line is that your customer service team is often the face of your company and customer experience (CX) will be defined by the skill and quality of the support they receive.

A strong company will already have great customer relationships. But a smart company will constantly be asking “What is good customer service?” The short answer is that it means carefully listening and attending to your customers’ needs. If you are not constantly on the lookout for opportunities to improve your customer service, your relationships will suffer.

Good customer service supports good customer experience (CX). And it starts with empathy and adaptability, meeting customers where they are emotionally while addressing evolving needs.
It’s an important factor in a business's success or decline, as each customer interaction tends to be a positive or negative experience. It's likely that a positive customer service experience will encourage repeat business and strengthen customer loyalty.

In contrast, a negative experience can provoke doubt in a product, service, business or brand, creating the opposite effect to good customer service and, consequently, declining brand loyalty. When you build customer loyalty, you also build brand equity, giving you an advantage over competitors. This achievement helps establish trust with consumers, who will most probably be more trustful towards other products and services you present under the same brand name. 

The other benefit of providing exceptional customer service is building brand equity. Brand equity allows you to sell products and services at a premium since you have already proven that your business can meet customers' needs successfully. 

Teleservice agent and customers

However, there is a way to recover or avoid a negative customer service experience altogether. Here are a few customer service tips for identifying ways to better serve customers:

Firstly, it’s important to make sure that your customer service team has the right skills for managing your customers’ needs. No amount of CRM software can compensate for shortcomings in this area. But what skills should you be looking for in a customer service rep?

These days, many businesses are replacing human customer service with Artificial Intelligence (AI). While this technology has its benefits, it can also be frustrating for customers who require specialised attention that AI can’t provide. 

Unlike a bot, you can listen to your customers' concerns and show empathy and patience. When customers are displeased, be prepared to handle the situation with empathy. Let the customer speak and never interrupt or talk over them. Repeat their concerns to let them know you're listening.

Every customer is different, and you should be able to handle surprises, sense the customer’s mood and adapt with empathy and consistency, as previously noted. This also includes a willingness to learn, as providing good customer service is a continuous learning process. 

Customer service involves navigating challenging situations that can change frequently. The best way to manage difficult circumstances is to prioritise the tasks that require the most attention. It’s up to customer support teams to prioritise each case according to the immediate need of each issue and the order in which you received their ticket. 

Ensure you convey to customers exactly what you mean. For example, you don’t want your customer to think they’re getting 50% off when they’re getting 50% more product. Use authentically positive language, stay cheerful no matter what and never end a conversation without confirming that the customer is satisfied. 

Idealistically, every customer service situation should be handled on a case-by-case basis according to the issue and staffing you have. If you can't solve a customer's problem immediately, acknowledge that and let them know you'll be right with them to work towards solving their problem in a timely manner. 

The timing of the response and how the response is communicated are important attributes of  clear communication and exceptional customer service. Good customer service also anticipates a problem before it occurs by understanding customer behaviour. Learn what consumers consider good customer service with the right survey. 

Join millions of people making better decisions with SurveyMonkey.

Brand loyalty isn’t a given; it’s earned by companies that work hard to keep it. Customers appreciate support teams that consistently see their problems through to their resolution. By showing that you are dependable and set a high standard of service through a strong work ethic, you’re also proving to be the ideal brand ambassador. 

With every interaction, remember that every customer is equally crucial to building and strengthening your company’s brand equity. A strong work ethic is the foundation of reliability, care and professionalism needed to build customer trust and loyalty. 

Ultimately, customers expect customer service to be close to the product or service their company provides. Exceed their expectations by staying informed about the latest product updates and offerings, anticipating any technical questions. At the same time, don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know, but I’ll ask someone who does.” Customers will appreciate your honesty and efforts to find the correct answer. 

While some products might sell themselves – even to customers who are experts in the industry – it's important to be able to answer questions that allow you to explain your company’s differentiators. Customer service representatives are the face of a business, especially in e-commerce, and that’s why educating your team about all possible solutions that they can provide to your customers is vital.

For some customers, a bad experience at any point in the customer lifecycle can ruin the reputation of your brand forever. To anticipate any friction, you need to ensure that customer experience skills are being demonstrated consistently throughout the journey. Pay the most attention to key touchpoints, but make sure you have a full view of the customer experience; otherwise, you will risk lapses in service that can really damage the business overall.

Key touchpoints involve how customers come into contact with your brand before, during and after the purchase phase. So, it's crucial to consider all these steps when engaging with a customer who might have had a positive or negative experience.

If your staff has the necessary skill set, that’s a good start. But they still need to relate to your customers. Here are some tips for ensuring that customer service is both thorough and well received.

Customer service rep sorting through NPS promoters and detractors to ask follow-up questions

Ask reps to try to identify common ground with the people they help. This point of understanding makes conflict easier to overcome by humanising the relationship and endears customers to your rep (and ultimately your company). For instance, asking how a customer’s day is going makes a difference to how customers think about your business. Talking about the weather is another way to establish common ground and remind the person on the other line of communication that your conversation doesn’t need to be purely transactional. 

Active listening ensures that your customers feel heard. Clarify and rephrase what customers say to confirm that you understand them. Empathise with and reflect on their feelings by saying things like, “That must have upset you” or “I can see why you feel frustrated.” Repeating a customer’s issue back to them affirms that you’re listening and establishes that you understand the problem and are working to solve it quickly.

When you admit your mistakes in real time, even if you discover them before your customers do, this builds trust and restores confidence. By taking ownership, it also allows you to control the situation, refocus the customer’s attention and resolve the issue. 

Don’t forget to follow up after a problem is solved to make sure that the issue remains fixed and that your customers are satisfied with the service. Sending an email, or even a feedback survey, is an excellent way to let the customer know you’re still on their side.  In addition, a feedback survey can be a great way to understand customer service performance and where it might need improvement.

Your employees may have the skills and know-how to interact with your customers. But what organisational strategies can you employ to please customers? Practise proactive customer service by making your customers happy before they come to you with problems. Here’s how:

Your customers want to feel like they have access to real people, not bots and FAQs. Offer more than just automated email responses; don’t let your telephone prompts or website send them down a rabbit hole. Take full advantage of social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, Instagram and Yelp) and write responses when your customers post on your page. Post photos and bios on your website. This shows your customers that you are real people working on their behalf.

To make sure you are fully meeting your customers’ needs, consider assigning reps to specific customers so they can develop a deeper understanding of individual customers’ needs. You can also offer special benefits for your longest-standing and most loyal customers to let them know they are appreciated. What special services might your customers enjoy? Set up focus groups, interview customers or run a survey to generate ideas.

Your customers will feel even more valued if you treat them as important community members. You can bring various customers together in various ways, including webinars, interactive websites, social media, trade shows and conventions. And don’t forget that although your customers come to these forums to learn from you, you can learn as much (if not more) from them.

You can have the best customer service skills and the best training in the world, but if your reps aren’t engaged and enthusiastic about your company, then all that counts for nothing. Improving employee engagement is another way to ensure that customers have a great experience. Dissatisfied employees are unlikely to come forward with their problems, so consider an anonymous suggestion box or an employee engagement survey to see what makes your employees tick.

This also offers insight into how your customer service team feels about working conditions and remuneration, opportunities for career advancement, training and their peers. Our employee engagement template is a great first step. We’ve also compiled benchmark engagement data to help you understand how your employees’ engagement compares to other companies.

Since engagement can vary between industries, you may also want to look at more specific data via a service like SurveyMonkey Benchmarks.

Regardless of how proactive you are, you’ll never be able to achieve direct communication for every customer issue. To ensure that you learn about all the experiences your customers have, create an easily accessible way for them to give feedback.

Whether it’s a phone survey at the end of a service call, an email survey sent directly from your CRM tool or a form on the “Contact Us” page of your website, creating a means for customers to give feedback makes it easier for you to learn what needs improving on. It also helps to prevent unhappy customers from voicing their displeasure in highly visible places, such as on your social media pages.

Whichever steps you choose to take, remember that feedback is important to customer satisfaction. Here are a few examples of how to get it: 

Asking meaningful questions using a customer satisfaction survey (CSAT) can give you valuable insights into how well your business operates in the eyes of customers. You can ask binary or open-ended questions or use the Likert system that allows survey respondents to rate their experience with your business. Utilising a researched bank of questions from SurveyMonkey, you can pinpoint what’s working well and which part of your customer service model needs work. 

A Net Promoter Score (NPS) is another way to learn about the customer experience in a qualitative way that will make the analysis process more efficient. The NPS can measure a customer’s opinions, attitude and overall perception of your business in contrast to a binary question requiring a yes or no answer. For example, you can ask customers how they felt about the purchase experience by gauging it with an NPS. 

See how SurveyMonkey can help improve customer service by gathering valuable feedback and insights from customers and employees. Get started today to garner targeted responses to enhance customer service operations. 

Net Promoter, Net Promoter Score and NPS are trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, Inc. and Fred Reichheld.

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