Do unto your customers as you want to be treated when you’re a customer.Alex Knapp, Associate Editor, Forbes
Surely, when you had read the epigraph line, you thought “But of course, that’s obvious”. True, you can do the best customer service only when you step into your customer’s shoes. However, for everyone, the shoe size may be slightly different, thus, the idea of the golden rules of customer service may be also different.
Today, customer service departments are almost never a “one-man show”. They are large teams working in shifts with people coming and going all the time. Yet, in a perfect customer service, the customer should not feel any difference whether they are talking to Robert, Diane or Alejandro, because the service level is always the same.
There is only one way to reach that uniform service level that customers are happy with, and that’s setting the rules. By introducing a certain set of rules that your customer service should follow in their communications with clients, you can be sure that all members of your team show the same high level of service.
Of course, each business is unique and has its own standards in serving the clients. Still, there must be a certain reference point, a set of customer service rules that your team always follows.
We at HelpCrunch also apply such rules in our customer service, and we have perfected them over the long years we have been in this business. In this post, we are going to share our “golden rules of customer service” hoping our little checklist will help you build the best customer service ever.
As a bonus, we are also including a little summary of the rules of customer service that are used by five major brands and influencers. Great companies base their success on great customer service, so let’s see if they have anything worth adopting.
10 rules for stellar customer service
OK, have your notebooks ready, let’s put together our list of the golden rules for great online customer service.
1. Fast response is often the best response
Don’t like being put on hold and listening to music, do you? Do you hate it when your emails seem to sink into a black hole with no answer for hours? Well, that’s the customer’s shoes for you. They don’t like it, either.
Forrester found that as many as 73% of customers appreciate it when the company values their time.
Now, how fast is “fast”? On the average companies take about 12 hours to respond to an email which falls well within the customers’ expectations – the majority expects their emails to be answered within 24 hours.
In a live chat, however, customers expect an immediate response. That’s a challenge but also a great advantage of using a live chat in your customer service.
Together with other benefits, a live chat allows the fastest response time as compared to other channels – 2 minutes – and that, in turn, increases the customer satisfaction rate.
2. Treat your customer service representatives as properly as your customers
This is, indeed, one of the basic rules of good customer service. Happy employees mean happy customers. When your team members feel valued and respected, they will carry that attitude further to their interactions with customers.
Your employees spend one-third of their lives at work, and it’s up to you to make that time decent and comfortable.
Let’s admit, the job of a service or support operator is full of stress and negative emotions. Customers rarely contact support to say how happy they are with the service. The customer support service is the front-line that gets most of the customers’ frustration and anger.
Thus, it is important to make the job of your customer support team convenient and effective. Start with organizing an ergonomic working space and providing them with an access to a user-friendly customer service software of your team choice.
Besides, always encourage their willingness to get involved in the company matters and, especially, their wish to learn and develop. By treating your staff as you are treating your customers – with respect and dignity – you are building a great team of highly motivated people you can always rely on.
3. Customer service is everyone’s job
In a customer-facing business, all activities ultimately boil down to making the customer happy. No matter how distant your position may be from the actual customer serving department, you are a part of it, too, even if indirectly.
Jan Carlzon, former CEO of SAS Group, once said: “If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.” This is a great description of how things should work in a truly successful company.
The practical aspect of this concept is that the company should aim at the level when every employee, from CEO to warehouse staff, should be able to help the customer. These cases are quite frequent in small businesses – we have all seen how restaurant owners dress in waiter’s uniforms and wait on tables on busy nights or startup founders answering customer questions via chat at 2AM.
The same policies become increasingly wider adopted in medium and large businesses, too.
Of course, it is impossible to know everything, but phrases like “That’s not my responsibility” are becoming a definite no-no. Even if you cannot help the customer directly, you should be able to point them to the one who can or, preferably, find the solution on your own without bouncing the customer between departments.
4. Remember: customer service is your new growth engine
This point may throw a little light on the “Why is customer service important?” question.
Today, customer service is a key component of customer success that is becoming a major growth driver. We are living in a world where competition in all sectors is truly insane, and businesses are focusing on the customer and striving to help them achieve the most successful experience of their products.
In practice, this means that businesses begin, on the one hand, investing more in their customer service departments and, on the other hand, turning them into a proactive force exploring opportunities rather than solving problems.
Instead of simply fixing the issue that the customer is facing, the service rep should use this chance to sound out how the customer is generally satisfied with the product and try to raise that satisfaction level, if possible. Show new options, offer related products, help with onboarding – you know what we are talking about.
5. Exceed expectations with proactive service
This is a logical follow-up to the previous point in our list of rules of customer service excellence. Being proactive means anticipating the problem before it turned into one, as opposed to being reactive which is handling the problem that already exists.
In terms of the best customer service, becoming proactive is a multi-sided task that is going to bring huge benefits at the end of the day. It involves asking customers for feedback, monitoring social media and other resources for customer comments, creating a knowledge base, and, of course, admitting your issues and informing customers about them. If you make a mistake – well, better you say it out loud than wait for your customers to notice and start complaining.
Becoming proactive is the future of customer support, and will increase your customers’ loyalty and turn them into your best brand advocates.
For example, one of the proactive techniques is the use of auto messages that are sent to customers at the right time following a certain predefined activity by the user. Such auto messages initiate conversations with users and ultimately increase the conversion rate.
6. Informal tone is often better than formal
Of course, it is up to you to choose the communication style with your customers – some businesses are formal while others prefer a more relaxed attitude in their customer interactions. However, there are some hard facts to think about – 2 customers out of 3 prefer casual tone to formal.
Why is that? A formal or even neutral tone may sound distant or indifferent to the customer while they expect empathy and care.
However, do not make the mistake of overusing the casual tone or using it in a wrong situation. For example, in a very negative case, casual tone may create an impression that you do not take the customer’s problem seriously.
And, please, no LOLs or BRBs. While they are perfectly OK in personal conversations, for a customer service rep using such lingo is highly unprofessional.
In short, customers expect service agents to be, first of all, human. Thus, try to be caring and emphatic while remaining professional and respectful.
7. Constantly improve your team’s customer service skills
We said already that a good boss always encourages the employees’ wish to learn.
The most important thing your customer support reps should know is your product. They must be the first to know about updates, new releases, patches, product-related events, promotion campaigns, and other relevant matters. Introduce regular newsletters and sync-up sessions to bring your customer service team up to speed.
Also, don’t forget about improving your team’s customer service skills. Hold trainings for your reps to learn and practice the art of customer support. By the way, your list of best customer service rules that we recommend you put together after you’ve read this post can become the basis for such trainings. Trust us, both your beginner colleagues and seasoned support gurus will benefit from them.
Of course, there is also self-education. The customer service industry has been around long enough to accumulate quite a wealth of wisdom. You can find lots of really great books on customer service on the market, and we do recommend that you include them into your learning program.
Start, for example, with:
- Win the Customer: 70 Simple Rules for Sensational Service by Flavio Martins
- Amaze Every Customer Every Time: 52 Tools for Delivering the Most Amazing Customer Service on the Planet by Shep Hyken.
8. Don’t ever promise more than you can deliver, but always deliver more than you promise
The quote in the heading belongs to Lou Holtz, an American football coach, but it fits the customer service like hand and glove. The reason is simple – when we are making promises, we are entering the territory of trust, and trust is a precious thing that takes months and years to build but can be destroyed in a snap. In a customer-facing business, trust leads to loyalty, brand advocacy, higher retention, higher conversion rates, and everything else that marketing experts get paid for.
Any promise that the customer service team makes must be based on solid knowledge and confidence that the promise can be fulfilled. Of course, it is nice to assure the customer that you can do what they ask for, but some things are just impossible. That’s a fact, and we have to live with it. Promising something that has little chance of being delivered can kill trust and lose customers.
On the other hand, over-delivering can win points for you. If your customer is complaining about their Internet failure, promise the standard repair window, even if you know that the repair team is already working and may finish sooner. If the customers get their Internet back in 2 hours instead of 8, that may be the factor turning a failure into an opportunity.
9. Monitor customer service reports and team performance
No, this is not about punching a time clock and controlling when people come and go. An online customer service gathers tons of different metrics that help you evaluate its effectiveness and find faults and bottlenecks.
With a properly configured reporting system, you will be able to monitor the number of calls or requests your team receives, the time taken to respond or resolve the issue, the number of replies in each interaction, and a lot more. Reports help to see whether the problem persists over time or is seasonal or otherwise repetitive. This knowledge will help you find the remedy.
For example, HelpCrunch customer service tool includes a comprehensive reporting section that displays all sorts of metrics that you can use to track and improve your team performance.
10. Use all-in-one customer support tools
All-in-one customer support software, like HelpCrunch platform, combine the user-facing functionality, such as a live chat widget, and a service-facing part with a convenient dashboard to manage all customer interactions via chat and email, help desk functionality, and a reporting suite. Besides, you can also set up email marketing campaigns there.
Of course, you can have all these functions by different providers, but that gives you an additional problem of integrating, maintaining and supporting all these different tools at the same time. Besides, consider that you need to train your customer support personnel for each of these tools that may – and usually do – have different UIs, controls, flows, troubleshooting principles.
An all-in-one tool removes all problems with integrating different products and setting up proper data exchange.
5 examples of customer service rules from major brands and influencers
Now, as we promised, we give you a short summary of the rules for customer service adopted by major global brands that need no introduction.
1. Apple customer service rules
Apple’s customer service policy is based on – surprise! – APPLE. Or, rather, A.P.P.L.E. That’s the core of its customer service principles, and we will quote it fully here:
- A – Approach customers with a personalized, warm welcome.
- P – Probe politely to understand all the customer’s needs.
- P – Present a solution for the customer to take home today.
- L – Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns.
- E – End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.
Self-evident, isn’t it? Judging from Apple’s steady upward climb both in popularity and in market capitalization charts, this approach works just fine.
2. Disney rules of customer service
Disney, being an entertainment company, stands out from among other names in our list. To deliver happiness, joy, and fun is a challenge in itself, thus, the importance of an excellent customer service is double. Disney sets the rules for service employees in its amusement parks as well as for those handling claims and complaints.
For the Disney personnel who assist customers in their entertainment, the company sets some very simple rules:
- I project a positive image and energy
- I stay in character and play my part
- I am courteous and respectful to all guests including children
- I go above and beyond
However, for situations where the customers are somehow unhappy with the service, Disney applies the LAST model:
Nothing fancy, as you can see, but it works. We like to be listened to and treated with dignity. You can read more about Disney’s customer service policy here.
3. Ritz-Carlton rules of customer service
When you browse the Ritz-Carlton Gold Standards page, every word spells luxury and class. This hotel chain steadily tops various customer service ratings, and its rules and values played no small part in it.
Ritz-Carlton focuses both on its customers and employees, making the former satisfied with highly personalized experience and the latter proud of being a part of this business. The motto alone gives an idea of the high standards that the hotel chain sets: “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”
The rules of customer service that Ritz-Carlton uses are also high-class. We have picked some of the most significant ones, and you can read the full list of rules on the Ritz-Carlton Gold Standards page:
- I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.
- I am always responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
- I continuously seek opportunities to innovate and improve The Ritz-Carlton experience.
- I own and immediately resolve guest problems.
- I am proud of my professional appearance, language, and behavior.
4. Richard Branson’s rules for customer service
We know Sir Richard Branson as an entrepreneur, philanthropist and an eccentric and cheerful person. However, mainly, we know him as the founder of Virgin Group which includes Virgin Atlantic, an airline often receiving praise from passengers for the service quality.
Richard Branson has worked out 7 basic rules that he as the company leader uses to achieve the best customer service:
- Be visible
- Express a passionate commitment to serving the customer
- Your company’s employees are its greatest assets
- Hire people who have the Virgin attitude
- Empower your employees to solve problems and to make every experience great
- Engage in social media with a genuine voice
- Have fun
5. Stew Leonard’s customer service rules
Stew Leonard’s, a supermarket chain, has a ridiculously simple set of customer service rules. In fact, there are only two of them, and they are literally set in stone. The stone in question is a three-ton block of granite bearing these two simple rules:
- Rule 1: The customer is always right!
- Rule 2: If the customer is ever wrong, reread Rule 1!
We’ll leave it to you to decide whether to adopt the same policy in your business, but, admit it, there is something to it.
We hope our research on the golden rules of customer service can help you shape up your own customer service policy.
They are just one of the components of your unique customer service philosophy that makes you recognizable among your competitors. Another one that can make a difference is an effective customer service tool.
Check out HelpCrunch platform and try it with a free account – you will see a whole new level of customer service!
Check these 7 elements of topnotch customer service management to make sure you're nailing it.