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What makes a good customer service experience?

Your customers are your business. They’re the ones buying your products, recommending you to their friends and families, and telling their stories on social media. What kind of customer service experience do they have when they interact with your company? Do they feel like an important part of the team? Are they treated well by someone who knows them personally instead of just a name in a CRM? When something goes wrong, is there someone available to help them out so that it doesn’t turn into a disaster for everyone involved? The best companies take customer service seriously – not just because it’s good marketing or PR, but because happy customers mean repeat business and referrals down the line. As long as you’re willing to put in some time and use the best resources available, there’s no reason your company can’t provide what those top companies do.

Companies talk a lot about customer service, but what exactly makes a good customer service experience? It’s more than just being nice and making sure the customer is happy. In this article, we’ll give you some tips on how to provide excellent customer service so your customers will come back again and again…

1. Have a sense of urgency ​

When a customer reaches out to your company, whether it’s by phone or through a support ticket system, they expect a response right away. If they don’t get one for an hour or two – or even worse, must leave a voicemail and wait for you to call them back – they’re going to be annoyed. As the person receiving that message, use good judgement as well as what the customer is asking – if there’s nothing urgent about their request, take care of it as soon as possible. On the other end of things, if something serious does happen (like someone without permission has been logging into their account), make sure you deal with it appropriately and let the client know what has happened and why.

2. Be honest and respectful ​

Even if there’s a problem with your product or service, don’t treat the customer like they’re stupid or didn’t know what they were doing. If you must be blunt about something, do it in a way that won’t come off as condescending or rude. You can acknowledge their frustration without making them feel small about it – for example: “I understand why this issue is frustrating for you.” or “I am sorry this happened while using our service.” Empathize with them and let them know how you want to get the problem resolved just as much as they do. If things go south from there, at least they’ll have some respect for you because you didn’t make them feel incompetent!

customer service agent smiling
3. Be helpful ​

This goes along with the previous point – don’t be condescending or rude, but also give your customers everything they need to get the issue resolved as quickly as possible. Assisting customers is about more than just giving them what they want – it’s about giving them solutions that are tailored to their specific needs and making sure they’re happy with the end result of any situation where things don’t go according to plan. If someone’s having an issue with their account, don’t just reset their password without letting them know why it happened in the first place. How would they have known there were problems if no one had told them? Answering questions like this and taking them into account is a great way to provide helpful customer service.

4. Communicate ​

Be as open and honest with your customers as possible. Not only does this make them feel valued, but it also gives them an idea of what’s going on if they’re having problems or issues that need to be resolved on your end. If someone reaches out, don’t just tell them everything’s on the up-and-up without actually looking into whether there is really is an issue – let them know you’ll look into it and get back to them as soon as possible (as long as within 24 hours or so). This will not only give the person who contacted you information on what’s happening but also shows them that their issue is being taken seriously.

5. Know your product ​

Knowledge is power. If someone calls in with an issue or question about your company, they are looking to you for help and guidance on how to fix whatever problem they’re having. If you don’t know the answer (and it’s not something trivial like what time the store closes), make sure to let them know you’ll look into it and get back to them with an answer ASAP. Make sure all of your employees are well-versed with your policies and services so when customers call they are ready to provide accurate information.

6. Deal with difficult people ​

Of course, not everyone will be sunshine and rainbows when it comes to how they behave on the phone – no matter what you say, some people just won’t be satisfied with your answers. If a person is being rude or condescending with you, don’t respond the same way – instead, try to deal with them in a professional manner that will hopefully convince them to have a more constructive conversation about their issues.

7. Be proactive ​

Part of dealing with difficult customers means anticipating possible issues before they become big problems. You can do this by having measures in place so you can detect unusual activity on accounts and promptly resolve any issues that arise from the said activity so things stay under control. For example, if you have a login to your company website and you see security issues with someone’s account, don’t just wait for them to contact you – proactively disable the account to keep things secure.

8. Be kind ​

It doesn’t matter how much someone yells at you or makes your life in general harder when they’re calling in, you have to remain professional and business like. For small businesses reputation is everything and it takes on average 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative one. Make sure everyone who may be involved with your businesses customer service has their patience in check because not every customer will speak to them with respect – and it’s up to all of us who deal with these customers day-in and day-out whether we let their attitude get to us or treat the situation professionally and stay cool.

9. Listen to what the customer is saying, and don’t interrupt them

Even if you know what the answer is, let them say everything they need to. Also, make sure to repeat key points they mention back to them. Try your best to solve whatever problem the customer seems to be having – even if it may not be under your control. If someone can’t create an account but has a valid email address and password, it’s because there’s a problem with their email address being registered… or maybe their account was deleted due to inactivity. Pointing this out could solve the issue on its own!

10. Take responsibility for any mistakes that were made

Even if everything was done according to your policies, something may have slipped through the cracks. If someone is calling in asking where their order is or why it hasn’t arrived, take responsibility for whatever happened (even just a “we are looking into that and will get back to you as soon as possible” shows you care about the issue) and let them know what’s being done to fix it.

11. Offer solutions instead of just apologizing or making excuses

Apologies and excuses help very little – in most cases, someone calling in is looking for a solution to their problem. If you made a mistake when fulfilling an order or somehow didn’t catch that someone moved when updating their address, try to find a way to fix the issue. Sometimes this may mean providing whatever service they originally ordered at no extra charge (if it’s something simple) or going out of your way to accommodate them if things were complicated. The customer experience leaves a lasting impression on customers – good experiences build loyalty, while bad ones can lead customers away from your brand forever.

Customers expect businesses to provide excellent support – Microsoft found that 90% of Americans use customer service as a factor in deciding whether or not to do business with a company. In addition, good customer service is crucial for promoting positive social media interactions. Even if a customer has a bad experience with your brand, social media gives them the opportunity to voice their complaint publicly and complain about it to anyone who sees it. This can be damaging to your brand because many online platforms have one-click reviews that display prominently next to your product information. The best way to combat time wasters is by anticipating what they’re going to say before they even say it- imagine yourself in the shoes of the person calling in. Be proactive instead of waiting for someone else’s error or oversight, respond professionally instead of reacting emotionally and solve problems before people react to things on social media.

12. Make customers feel like they’re being heard and respected

It’s easy to get frustrated when you’re having to deal with an angry customer… but it’s important not to take their words personally. Acknowledging the customer’s problem and spending a few extra seconds hearing them out shows that you care about their concerns, which helps diffuse their temper. Remember, no matter who is at fault, these are still people on the other end of the line- give them empathy even if they don’t deserve it.

13. Don’t keep customers on hold for too long

Customers expect service immediately. If your queue is constantly stacked with calls or your hold time goes over two minutes, your team may be understaffed. Maybe you are an individual who owns their own business and manages the incoming calls by yourself. If you are struggling to answer the calls as you are taking care of other aspects of the daily business then leaving customers on hold or letting them go to voicemail might not be the best answer, especially if those calls don’t ever get a call back. One solution may be to have an answering service answer your calls. Learn more about our solutions here.

14. Don’t argue with customers – just fix the problem

It can be frustrating to deal with entitled customers who complain about everything… but never let your frustration get in the way of helping them out. Sales numbers are worthless if you turn customers away because they don’t like your brand- try listening to their complaints and solving their problems instead. Who knows, they may be coming from a unique perspective that could actually improve your company.

Customers love being acknowledged, even if what you say isn’t what they want to hear. If your business makes mistakes, admit to them- “Yes, we did not send this item with your order” is better than avoiding the issue or giving an excuse.. The same mindset goes for offering refunds or exchanges- provide them right away when something isn’t up to par without making excuses. Even if the person on the phone is wrong, it’s still your job to fix their problem and provide them with a satisfying experience so they continue to return for business. The customer is always right.

15. Offer an easy way out (like a refund or replacement product) if they are dissatisfied with your company

When dealing with unsatisfied customers, it’s important to remain calm and rational- these are the people who could potentially be your biggest advocates or detractors in the future. One of the best ways to diffuse their anger is by providing them with a solution that makes both parties happy. If you have an affiliate program, give them a coupon code for another purchase at your site, or if they’re unhappy with their experience, see what you can do about replacing their product or giving them a full refund. Not only does this show that you stand behind your products, but it also provides positive word-of-mouth advertising for when other users search online reviews!

16. Always end by thanking the customer for their business

Customers don’t have to love your brand, but they should at least be satisfied with their purchase and receive prompt service from a friendly representative. Even if you’re not able to solve their problem, say “thank you” before hanging up it’ll make them feel better about their experience and will probably encourage them to give you another chance.

The most important thing is to stay positive and helpful throughout the entire interaction. There’s nothing worse than a customer service representative who gets defensive or makes excuses instead of attempting to resolve a situation… so even if the person on the phone is being irrational or rude, keep calm and carry on! Of course, there are times when someone isn’t going to stay happy no matter what- just do your best and try to prevent unhappy customers from becoming vocal and angered.

The customer service experience is a key part of the buying process. If you want to improve your company’s reputation and have better reviews, it’s important to create an excellent customer service experience for all customers. To do that, we recommend following these guidelines. It will give them peace of mind when they’re looking at different companies or making a purchase with one over another because they know they’ll be taken care of if anything goes wrong. You can also use this list as a checklist before each interaction with a potential new client so make sure you don’t forget anything.

BONUS TIP: How can Southern Answering Service help your business’s customer service experience?

For businesses, especially small businesses with minimal employees, it can often be hard to find a solution to provide great customer service and missing phone calls without either hiring extra staff or a dedicated receptionist. Here at Southern Answering Service, we operate as an extension of your team with local agents answering your calls 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Our professional, courteous agents are trained to provide superior customer service to your customers and you never have to worry about missing calls again. With offices in Florida and Georgia – your agents are always 100% US-based who can provide the local touch to your business.

Learn more about what an answering service can offer you small business here.

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