Jason W. Swindle Sr. contributes to well known publication, helpcrunch.com, in their recent article about the high value of customer service. These principles define the experience our clients receive at SLG.
If you try and google something like ‘customer service in 2019’ or ‘predictions for customer support’, you’ll already find a bunch of articles. Companies dealing with customer service in one way or another, software providers, analysts – everybody’s giving their best tips and predictions on how customer service is going to change and all that stuff.
What’s interesting, though, is that many of these predictions are contradictory.
Here’s what Shep Hyken writes on Forbes:
AI will not take over the world, at least not in 2019. Currently, AI is used to offer customer support for lower-level requests and questions, such as a change of address, checking the status of an order, etc.
But if we check some tips from TeamSupport, they write the following:
AI will become less artificial and more a part of “real” customer service teams
So which one is that? Should you go and build your own chatbot right away? Or should you invest more efforts into your customer service team? Is there a middle ground somewhere?
We decided to ask real CEO’s and customer service representatives about what worked for their companies and what they’re going to change this year. What we got are 24 excellent battle tested quotes on what customer service means for them in 2019.
Years ago I learned how something as simple as listening can make all the difference between excellent customer service and poor customer service.
It was my first day taking over a team and they immediately had me deal with an extremely angry customer.
By the time I talked to him he had dealt with several people over the past week. I started off just listening to his frustrations. After he was done venting, I apologized for all that he had been through and told him we would come up with a plan to help him out.
He looked me in the eyes and said, “Over the past week not one person has really listened to me and that is really why I was so angry.” He continued to be my customer for over the next 10 years and followed me wherever I went.
Listening to my customers was already something I did, but after that experience I made sure I never forgot how much that can change the outcome. Instilling this virtue to all my teams has been a big part of successfully creating world-class customer service teams.
Michael Garcia, Director of Customer Success @ OptimumHQ
2. Being there for customers
“We build it from the CEO down. I give every customer my personal cell number in an effort to provide the best possible customer service and to show them that it starts with me. I am always willing to go the extra mile. I do that by giving my customers my cell number and they know that they can call me any time of day.”
Chris Carter, CEO @ Approyo
3. Genuinely asking ‘How can I help you?’
Customer service is first and foremost at our company. We are dealing the vast majority of the time with people who are in a distressed situation. We buy home from distressed property owners.
We start all of our initial telephone conversations out “How сan I help you?” We want them to know we are here for them trying to solve their problem.
We go the extra mile buy loaning them some money if they need it before the deal closes.
Don Wede, Heartland Funding Inc.
4. Having the right team with the right tools on the right channels
Customer service in 2019 is about focusing on how your team can empower customers to get access to information or help related to your products/services wherever they are. And as quickly as possible.
There are several ways to do this:
Empower customer-facing employees so that they are in the best position to offer exceptional customer service.
Make use of tools to allow for customer self-service. More customers are looking to find answers themselves as opposed to speaking to an agent when researching a product/service or looking for answer to a problem. Make use of knowledge base software like Helpjuice, chatbots on social , a FAQ
Make an effort to provide effective omni-channel support so that customers can contact you on their preferred medium/network. This is just one place where software like HelpCrunch can be extremely effective as it allows for a seamless way of interacting with customers across teams.
Make use of live chat for your website. Not only is this a good way to answer any inquiries that someone might have, but it can also be used to help encourage a user to make a purchase. Software like HelpCrunch would be a great option.
Be active on social media sites where your target audience is so that you can respond to any questions or problems on a timely basis. You can have dedicated staff to handle your social presence and/or make use of social listening tools like HootSuite or Awario.
Anthony Capetola, Marketing Manager @ Sales & Orders
5. Answering customers’ questions before they even ask
Customer Service to me is answering 95% of my customer’s questions before they even ask them.
When any question is asked more than three times, we know that it is an opportunity to streamline our process. By adapting our process to take out the need to ask the question, we make it easier for our clients to hire us.
If there is an oddball question that needs to be asked, we respond within 4 hours. We make sure our phones are answered. Our inboxes are clear. Our client’s concerns are alleviated, quickly and efficiently.
Justin Riordan, Founder of Spade and Archer Design Agency
6. Good impression on every step of customers’ journey
Customer service to me means serving the customer and making sure they have good experience with your company at any single point. Not just from the customer service department but through the entire company from website’s user interface and user experience to delivery man sending the goods to the customer.
As for extra mile, I feel that it is determined by the current strategy of the company. Just like when Uber first started and was acquiring users aggressively, they could refund any transaction immediately upon an issue raised through the app.
Jun An, founder of Eezee.sg
7. Staying personal and open
Customer service needs to include a personalized touch.
It goes a long way when someone doesn’t sound like a robot. People know when you use automation tools and they get frustrated by it because they feel like they’re treated as just another person.
Make an effort to acknowledge their problem, situation, concern and then address how you will fix it and if they need to do anything.
Experience DM helps business book authors with marketing their personal brands online.
Since we’re a service agency, we’re constantly communicating with our clients. Whether it’s good news, bad news, a quick heads up, or even a Happy New Year! email, it’s important to keep them in the loop on what’s going on at all times.
This is one of the reasons people love working with us. No egos and Continuous communication.
We’re willing to go the extra mile if we feel it would benefit the client and their brand. If they’re asking for something we know we can handle we’ll do it. If it’s something we don’t feel confident we’ll have an open conversation about it and suggest someone else to work with to complete that particular task.
Michael Mejer, Founder of ExperienceDM
8. Offering help proactively
We employ a process we internally call “proactive customer service,” which means we hold regular calls with our biggest clients to see how we can improve our processes. A few months ago, one of our biggest clients–a major digital agency–told us offhandedly that they wished our back-end could sync with their accounting software, making invoicing and accounting much easier for them. We followed up with their developers and accountants, wrote a custom API and had things working within 2 months. They were more than impressed. It just goes to show: paying attention to your customer’s pain points, even those pain points that aren’t directly related to your business, pays off in the end.
We’re also obsessed with user testing. Everything about our service–from the website, to the telephone experience, to the back-and-forth with our clients–has been user tested to ensure it’s the best it can be. We believe that putting the client first means giving the client what they want before they know that they want it. In other words, make using your product so easy and seamless that your customers want to come back and use it again.
Jordan Bishop, founder of Yore Oyster
9. Keeping calm and carrying on (as fast as possible)
Because we live in a world where everyone expects convenience, that is exactly what customer service should include. We provide convenience to our clients by working mostly by phone, email, scans, and fax.
Customer service should also include what most customer service teams lack nowadays – a short wait time. When you call Boomer Benefits’ CST, you can expect to not wait on hold long, if at all.
One last thing that I believe customer service should include today is a piece of mind. Your customer service team should include representatives that reassure the customer that whatever they need done will not only be resolved, but resolved in a timely manner. Our reviews that mention our CST almost always include how efficient the team is.
Bailey Sigmon, Digital Marketing Assistant @ Boomer Benefits
10. Being a friend
We make sure to respond to every inquiry in a welcoming and affable tone.
We steer clear of any kind of accusatory statements because customer service is not about assigning blame, but instead about providing efficient assistance.
These practices promote strong customer satisfaction because even when we can’t immediately solve the issue at hand, we make sure the user feels that it’s a top priority and that we value them for bringing it to our attention.
Perhaps most importantly, we always use the sandwich model: we open warmly, respond to the problem, and then end our response thoughtfully and reassuringly.
Kind words, regardless of how the user approaches the conversation us, go further than people realize. Kindness, care, and warmth, always.
Julian Flamer, Head of Customer Service @ Pavemint
11. Customer retention is the new customer acquisition
We’re in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business, which has a recurring revenue model.
Every SaaS company reaches a point in the company’s maturity where customer retention is far more important than new sales. When customers churn as fast as you can can acquire new customers, the goal of reducing churn outweighs the goal of attracting new sales. In fact, the long-term valuation of the company itself becomes a function of the company’s churn rate, at least in part.
To pursue Customer Service excellence at Rising Star Reviews, we go the extra mile every chance we get.
We do our best to respond to customer email inquiries within minutes rather than hours.
We spend a lot of manual effort on each customer inquiry… more than the customer really expects. And we often respond to a simple customer question with useful recommendations.
We never treat any customer interaction as “transactional.”
We see every customer interaction as an opportunity to be a partner and trusted advisor to our customers.
The result is that we have low churn rates which boost our recurring revenue and ultimately raise the long-term valuation of our company.
Chas Cooper, CEO & Founder @ Rising Star Reviews
12. Being flexible and transparent
At Authority Hacker, our customer service activity is mainly through interacting with potential or existing buyers of our online marketing courses.
The two principles we built our customer service on are transparency and flexibility.
We always strive to provide as much information as possible about our courses, even if that means the customer will decide not to buy our product in the end.
This approach puts us in a unique position of trust and respect in a market that is notorious for scams and over-hyped products.
Customers increasingly expect companies to adhere to certain ethical standards, and reward those that do with both their trust and their money.
The bigger you are, the harder it is to stay flexible, but as a smaller business it absolutely pays off.
While we have certain guidelines in place, the customer support team is responsible to proactively solve issues that fall outside of this framework. This can mean segmenting a payment plan, or a special discount, or being lax with our 30-day money-back guarantee if we deem the situation warrants it.
Giving customer support the power to make such important decisions really helps them feel as true ambassadors of the business. This leads to better customer retention and employee satisfaction.
All in all, giving agency to customer support representatives is something that many businesses should definitely consider in 2019.
Balazs Hajde, Authority Hacker
13. Letting them go
We’ve run the numbers in our data tells us about 5-10% of people are not worth dealing with and its best to help them move onto a company who can help them
Is the customer always right… Not really… But the customer is always the customer.
Sometimes the best way to deal with an insatiable customers to fire them.
We have to fire hundreds of customers every month, it’s unfortunate but is just part of the business that we are in.
Unfortunately our platform is not a good fit for every single use case when it comes to landscaping maintenance and gardening.
But we take great care and handing these people off to somebody locally or another online service that can help them.
Why do we do this?
Because this day and age the customer is more right than ever.
There are a dozen places that they can leave a scathing review and when you factor the cost of the negative impact overtime of each of those reviews it makes sense to invest in a “customer handoff process“
Ideally we could just tell these people to pound sand but we have found ROI in investing in great care to match them up with another solution to their needs so they do not have a bad taste about the GreenPal platform in their mouth.
Zach Hendrix, Co-founder of GreenPal
14. Creating a perfect team
Here at Lessonly, we operate everything from the perspective of delighting and impacting the learner.
Our mission is to help the world “Do Better Work” and the way we do that is by creating meaningful experiences not only with our software but also through us as a company. We are maniacally focused on ensuring every single person we bring on board is someone who we would want to work with and that we think will make the team better by being there.
People that can do the job are easy to find, we’re looking to build an all-star team and we do that by bringing in people that push us to be the best we can possibly be.
What this looks like in practice is lengthening the interview process and having potential peers interview the candidate as well as a tangential manager that won’t actually be managing them. This helps us because we now have 5-6 opinions instead of just one person’s judgment of how someone will fit into our culture when they join the team.
All of this comes full circle and results in having exceptional customer experiences because we have built a team of Ideal Team Players that are humble, hungry, and smart (EQ & IQ).
Steven Emch, Emch Enterprises
15. Using classic strategies
So much of our approach to customer service in 2019 will include existing strategies that have always worked for us. These include following up with customers, putting effort into solving problems, and maintaining a great attitude about addressing their needs.
We’re excited to highlight our customers and their incredible businesses by sharing their stories on our blog and in our newsletter in 2019.
We’ve already started chatting with customers to hear the stories behind their startups.
We may help entrepreneurs incorporate or form LLCs for their businesses, but no two companies are alike. It’s amazing to hear where their journey as entrepreneurs continues to take them and to know that we contributed to that success!
Deborah Sweeney, CEO @ MyCorporation
16. Never discriminating
For me, customer service means not discriminating customers on their appearance.
Many times customer executives decide their level of service on the basis of the background of customer i.e wealth, age, gender etc. But that’s very detrimental to any business because it’s based on prejudice.
Who knows the boy whom customer service is taking lightly might be the owner of some digital company.
Ketan, Founder of GoodVitae
17. Listening (even more)
Customer service in 2019 means fulfilling the consumer’s requests and, more importantly, listening to them. With so many platforms for customers to share their negative experience of your company, from customer review websites to social media, it’s important you are reactive and proactive with your response to both customer praise and complaints.
Customer service is all about going the extra mile; if customers or clients are dissatisfied with your products/services, you need to ensure their opinion on your organisation changes. To do that, offer a discount on their next purchase, refund the money for an item they are unhappy with, and go above and beyond to ensure they are satisfied with your response.
We do this for our customers; if they are unhappy with our wellness programmes or retreats, we ensure we get to the root of the problem.We take customer criticism on board and fix any issues immediately, to prevent receiving the same complaints in the future and encourage the customer to return to us for a wellness holiday in the future.
Understanding the customer is so important, and to successfully provide good customer service, it’s crucial you understand that. Remember, it’s easy for customers to leave a negative review if they feel they’ve received a poor level of service or products, so it’s your job to spin that negative into a positive and work on making each and every one of your customers happy.”
Frances Geoghegan, Managing Director at Healing Holidays
18. Feeling the mood
Customer service is essentially about feelings. When a customer contacts you with a grievance, the most important thing is that they leave feeling satisfied and positive about your company. Even a customer requesting a refund can leave with a positive impression if handled well.
With live chat robots and increasingly automated support systems, customers are facing more boilerplate messages and it’s usually clear the communication isn’t really tailored to them. Often times, it’s more likely to make them feel like a nuisance or an expense for your company. In 2019, the most impactful thing you can do is to treat your customers like real people and let them know there’s someone who cares on the other side of the inbox.
Ben Sibley, Founder of Compete Themes
19. Never saying ‘no’
Every touch point with a customer is an opportunity to go above and beyond. Whether the inquiry comes via an e-mail, in person or by phone, we never say “no” to a customer.
An example is to often start earlier or stay later when needed, without charging overtime, to ensure a positive client experience. This helps drive word of mouth and we know that it is the most effective marketing by far. Nearly half of our clients come from referrals, proving that investing in customer service pays dividends.
Jimmy, Photographer @ Pixelicious
20. Being empathic
The biggest facet of customer service that has helped my clients, and in turn, my business is having empathy for these people. The natural mindset is that if I need to sell my house fast, someone is going to come in and try to rip me off. Instead, we come in and listen to their situation, show the sellers respect and try to offer a solution that will help solve a problem. Sometimes it works, sometimes not, but we always treat our customers with the utmost respect.
I think it is this mindset that has led to our 5 star Google Reviews and many, many video testimonials.
To be fully honest, in an online world, I am thinking about that 5 star review the entire time I am working with my clients. It’s a great source of accountability and a huge reward and test if at the end of the deal, the client is willing to fill out that review online.
Honestly, I can say that customer service is probably the #1 most important value add that helps set our business apart, and I am crazy fanatical about delivering.
Eric Sztanyo, Founder of We Buy NKY Houses
21. Setting priorities
Customer service, at least for us, is coming to an understanding with our clients that
1. They are our priority day in and day out.
2. We work very hard to accomplish their requests.
3. We work on a basis of mutual respect.
We are not hesitant to turn clients away who don’t fit our typical client or who approach us in a negative way. When we do chose to sign clients, we work extended hours, weekends, and holidays to combat production issues, random drama, and tight deadlines.
We find a fundamental and agreed on level of respect and perceived ability is crucial when we work as hard as we do for our clients. Nothing is worse for my staff than feeling undervalued and nothing is worse for the client than feeling forgotten.
Send a giant gift basket when you are wrong. Stand your ground when you are not.
Granted we work in a higher stress environment than most companies but we find this to be the basis of our customer service! And we are known for how well we treat our clients.
Emily Rowe, Chief Executive Sensei @ Social Sensei
22. Remembering about basics
Customer service is simple. Return messages, perform, and treat each client like they are your only client.
Jason Swindle, Swindle Law
23. Letting customers make a final call
The customer is not always right…
But the customers is always the customer.
The popular saying is wrong. Customers do not always make the right decision, but they always make the final call.
For service businesses (consulting, marketing, architecture, financial advisers), the “expert” gives their professional recommendation. When the client choose a different option, it can be frustrating.
For good customer service, the expert must swallow their hurt feelings, smile, and ensure the client’s decision is implemented successfully.
Mike May, Brightspot Incentives & Events
24. Hearing, respecting and acting
While we do not have a very structured approach to customer service, it is embedded in our culture.
We are a design/build residential remodeling company, working in the middle-to-high-end market. While most contractors will go to the clients’ home for the first visit, we conduct the first meeting in our office where we interview the client to get a firm grasp on their wants/needs/concerns and explain our process and our business philosophy. Throughout that first meeting we are impressing upon the client that communication is paramount to a successful relationship and they leave that meeting knowing that we’re good listeners.
Besides being proactive in exhaustively planning projects to avoid “awkward conversations” during the project, and being empathetic to the inherent invasiveness of what we do, we have made the client confident that they can communicate any and all issues with us.
I conduct exit interviews with clients once the project is completed. In one of those meetings, the client said, “I never had to hesitate to raise an issue. I knew it would be heard, respected, and acted upon.”
So it’s all about setting the stage for open communication from the get-go, making your promises well documented and understood (clear contract), and then doing more than you promised.
Greg Antonioli, Out of the Woods Construction & Cabinetry
Say what you will, but my personal impression is that customer service isn’t really changing over the years. New communications channels come and go, many aspects get automated, but the essentials stay. Listen, respect and genuinely try to help.
So yeah, these were our 24 customer service recommendations. Did some of them come across as counterintuitive to you? Or maybe you have something to add? Don’t hesitate to leave your comments above.