A question like “what is good customer service” will never have a simple answer. Customer service delivery and expectations have changed alongside technology, raising the bar for factors like response time and available channels for customers to reach out on. Add to the mix companies with standout customer service like Amazon and Apple, and you’ll quickly see the high (and continuously increasing) standards that companies need to meet in order to give “good” customer service.
Despite varying definitions and changing technological times, there are common themes among industry experts about what makes “good” customer service. All signs point to the human side of service as this distinguishing factor.
I’ve asked four leading customer service experts what they think makes good customer service. Here’s what they had to say:
What is good customer service?
Mike Aoki, Sales and Customer Service Management Trainer, Speaker, and President of Reflective Keynotes
“Consistent excellence is the hallmark of a great customer service department. Even if nine out of ten customer interactions are excellent, a single poor example will stick out in the customer’s mind.
How do you ensure consistent excellence? Benchmarking, calibration and coaching are the three keys to success:
- Benchmark the right behaviors. Establish what “excellence” looks like for your company and communicate those behaviors to your department.
- Conduct constant calibration sessions so that every Team Leader and Quality Assurance Coach knows how customer service excellence looks and sounds.
- Coach your team members to hone their skills so that excellence becomes the norm rather than the exception.”
Shep Hyken, Customer Service and Experience Expert, Keynote Speaker, and Author of books including Amaze Every Customer Every Time
“Your customer’s perception is his or her reality. It is the customer who is the judge and jury of what makes good customer service. As a company, you can only hope that your efforts are in line with your customers’ expectations. And, only your customers will determine if you have met or exceeded them.
Good customer service starts on the inside with your company’s culture. Leadership must create a customer service vision that every employee can relate to. It must be concise, simple and easy to remember. It must be trained too – not just once, but continuously. Every employee must do their part. Once they understand the vision and are properly trained, they must manage every interaction that they have with their customers for an optimal experience. The secret to making it optimal is not out of reach for any company. Just make the experience better than average– just a little. That may sound easy, but what makes it more difficult is that it must be better than average all of the time. In other words, the customer can count on it.”
Steven Curtin, Customer Enthusiast, Speaker, and Author of Delight Your Customers: 7 Ways to Raise Your Customer Service From Ordinary to Extraordinary
“Let’s start with a definition: Customer service is a voluntary act that demonstrates a genuine desire to satisfy, if not delight, a customer. Within this definition are seven elements that are key to consistently providing exceptional customer service:
- Voluntary: Exceptional customer service is predicated on a service provider’s willingness to take initiative and expend discretionary effort in the moment of choice.
- Act: Service is a verb, requiring action.
- Demonstrates: Exceptional customer service reflects job essence, a service provider’s highest priority at work, in words and actions.
- Genuine: Exceptional customer service is authentic. Service providers do not mask their true feelings; they actualize them.
- Desire: Service providers must want to deliver exceptional customers service. While there are things they have to do (job functions), delivering exceptional customer service isn’t one of them. You can’t force an employee to provide exceptional customer service any more than you can force a customer to be loyal.
- Satisfy, if not delight: Attempting to delight customers by exceeding their expectations in every case is exhausting and unsustainable. In everyday service situations, most customers simply want to be acknowledged, appreciated, and have their expectations met.
- Customer: The purpose of a business is to create a customer who keeps creating more customers through referrals, testimonials, and positive reviews.
The opposite of exceptional customer service is not poor customer service; it’s indifferent customer service. This occurs when service providers simply execute job functions, disconnected from job purpose, treating each customer like the previous customer until the end of another boring and monotonous shift.”
Blake Morgan, Customer Experience Futurist, Speaker, and Author of More is More: How The Best Companies Work Harder And Go Farther To Create Knock Your Socks Off Customer Experiences
“The worst thing that an executive team can do is under resource and under staff customer service departments […] How much effort is made to make contact with the customer? The answer is– a lot. But why is it that after the transaction, we want to put as little resources and effort into supporting the customer as possible?
To be exceptional, you can be in a position to help the customer quickly and effortlessly. One way to do this is to know more about the customer than the customer assumes you know– even before they pick up the “phone” to contact you.
Communicate clearly with customers and make sure that you have a tone of genuine interest. Tone means a lot, particularly when it’s not in-person. If you simply act like you want to be there helping that customer, you are ahead of most other customer service people.
Education, training and development are very important for your employees, whether that’s education about the products and services, or simply onboarding employees into your culture and philosophies. You will be investing in your employee experience, and in turn, your customer experience.”
Human touch trumps technology
Despite technological advances, human interaction trumps high tech when it comes to customer service (at least until AI develops to a level of uncanny human emotional equivalence). Still, that doesn’t mean that technology can’t aid in the delivery of good (even great) customer service.
Continue reading about how customer service technology can aid in providing good customer service: