According to the 2021 Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report, 75 percent of consumers are willing to spend more money on a brand that provides a stellar customer experience.
And this is great news for small business owners.
You may not always be able to beat larger competitors when it comes to prices, but you can outshine them when it comes to service. With the right systems and processes, you can train your team to provide excellent customer service so that your business stands out in the crowded market. In this article, I will share 9 tips on engaging your team in how to do stellar customer service.
9 Tips to Provide Excellent Customer Service
Your employees are the front line of your business, and how they interact with your customers’ matters. Use the tips below to train your team to provide the kind of excellent customer service that people will rave about!
1. Make customer service everybody’s job
Depending on how big your small business is, you may have a specific customer service department. But customer service is not a department—it’s a culture. And it’s everyone’s responsibility, from the CEO to your part-time virtual assistant. Everyone needs to make customers feel valued with every touch.
Creating a culture of customer service involves understanding what your customers expect from you and making sure that meeting these expectations is at the top of everyone’s mind. For 6 steps on doing this, check out my article How to Create a Culture of Customer Service.
2. Invest in training and development
Top-notch customer service skills aren’t something to expect from employees when they walk in for Day 1 of their new job. Even if they have experience in customer service, they might have picked up some bad habits and practices along the way. Therefore, you must train them specifically in what customer service means to your business.
Some training techniques to consider include:
- Building a knowledge base to train your staff, including an employee manual and written/video tutorials.
- Setting up job shadowing or a buddy program so new employees can learn from experienced team members.
- Holding presentation sessions on important customer service topics, one-on-one or in a group setting.
- Roleplaying common customer service scenarios, including conflict resolution exercises.
- Sharing a book on customer service with the team and holding a lunch and learn discussion session.
3. Consider customer service channels
To provide excellent customer service, it’s also important that your employees know about all the various customer service channels you use and the best practices for each channel. Speaking to someone face-to-face is much different than communicating through email or on social media. So, offer specific training for in-person customer support, phone, email, live chat, social media, reviews, etc., and highlight which channels you want them to use to engage customers.
4. Empower employees to solve problems on their own
Your employees must have the authority to provide great customer service. This will allow them to provide excellent customer service independently, without having to come to you for every approval. This requires a great deal of trust in the people you hire to be able to make the right decisions. By providing the training and tools, they’ll have what they need to help customers quickly. By providing regular feedback and support, they will grow more confident and own their role.
5. Encourage active listening
Customer service is about solving customer problems. And you can’t diagnose and solve those problems without listening to the customer. Luckily, active listening is a skill that your employees can learn. Here are some important tips to share that will help them provide excellent customer service through active listening:
- Face the customer and make eye contact
- Don’t interrupt
- Listen without judging or jumping to conclusions
- Focus on listening only – don’t start planning what to say next
- Pay attention to non-verbal cues (body language, tone of voice, etc.)
- Ask questions to clarify and get more information
- Paraphrase and summarize what has been said to show you understand it
Often the thing customers want MOST is to simply be heard. Try these tips, and you’ll be impressed with how much better customer service conversations go.
6. Support wide-ranging company knowledge
If an employee has limited knowledge of your business, then they will be limited in how much help they can offer customers who approach them. Don’t limit their knowledge and experience of your business to their specific job and duties. By ensuring that every employee has a good understanding of how the company runs, the different departments, and the customer journey, you’ll set them up for success.
7. Talk to your employees
Training employees to provide excellent customer service is important. But it’s also important to get into the habit of talking to your employees about what they are seeing on the front lines of customer engagement. Inviting them to have an ongoing dialogue about their customer experiences is vital. And it’s something that small business owners might miss!
Employees need continual feedback to grow their knowledge and confidence when dealing with customers. It’s also beneficial to check in with employees periodically to see how they are doing and address any challenges. Finally, this ‘ongoing dialogue’ should be a two-way street. Make it safe to communicate by encouraging your team to communicate openly, honestly, and regularly.
8. Model patience and empathy.
At the heart of all good customer service is respectful communication. When you model patience and empathy toward your employees – and make this respectful way of interacting with one another part of your business culture – your employees will show the same patience and empathy toward your customers.
For ideas on boosting empathy in your business by modeling empathy, check out this Forbes article that highlights involving employees in decision-making, showing concern for employee goals and interests, and sharing your own feelings are all great ways to model empathy and patience to your employees.
9. Leverage technology to aid customer service.
In addition to training your employees to provide excellent customer service, you should invest in technology to help in the customer service process. There’s customer-facing and agent-facing technology.
Customer facing technology:
- Self-service Customer Portal: A digital knowledge base or FAQ where customers can find answers to their questions and issues.
- Chatbots: Smart technology that works thru potential issues and sales inquires and responds with solutions to common questions (like service hours, pricing plans, and return policies) answered in seconds from any page on your website or the FB messenger app.
- IVR or Interactive Voice Response helps your customers contact the right department when calling your contact center.
- Internal knowledge management: A private knowledge base to help sales reps maintain a consistent level of customer service.
- Customer service software: Help desk software helps manage incoming support tickets from various channels, including email, voice, social media, and chat.
- AI-powered automations: Speed up common requests with AI-powered workflows like selecting from recommended replies, highlighting tutorials, and more.
According to Zendesk research, 69 percent of consumers try to solve their own issues. Therefore, small business owners can use a knowledge base or an FAQ to help customers find solutions to their problems independently.
How to Provide Excellent Customer Service
Teaching employees to provide excellent customer service comes down to properly training them in what good customer service looks like in your business and establishing a culture that exhibits those same values. Make a habit of doing customer service training at least every six months. Try out these tips, and you’re sure to get a reputation as a small business that offers excellent customer service, which is key to keeping your customers for life.