Want to stand out from the competition? Raise your customer service standards. Chip R. Bell, a world-renowned authority on customer loyalty and service innovation, says that customer service standards impact a company’s success more than anything else1:
In this article, we’ll discuss the customer service standards customers value the most and how to meet them. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What are customer service standards?
- Why customer service standards matter
- Top customer service standards
- How to meet top customer service standards
- References and further reading
What are customer service standards?
Customer service standards represent the quality of service that an organization strives for in all customer interactions, based on its values, mission, and vision. They can also be defined as an organization’s service expectations or objectives, or as guidelines for how to deliver customer service.
Those standards are embedded into every interaction you have with customers, from how you greet them to how you handle complaints.
The most universally adopted standards include responsiveness, transparency, accountability, empathy, over-delivery, availability, a positive attitude, omnipresence, a commitment to empowering customers, and the use of automation.
Why customer service standards matter
For organizations, customer service standards are key to delivering effective customer service. They establish a common understanding of how to treat customers and handle specific situations, which is helpful not only for training new hires but for guiding customer service professionals in their day-to-day.
These standards also help customers know what to expect in their interactions with organizations. Customers can use this information to decide whether they want to do business with a company or not.
Setting a standard for response time, for example, is useful to both support agents and customers.
“If both sides understand when they should expect a response, there’s less friction in the customer experience because agents have a clearer understanding of their workflow. So long as they meet the expectations they’ve established, customers will feel like they’re being treated fairly,” says customer service specialist Clint Fontanella2.
Top customer service standards
Earlier this year, HubSpot’s Service Blog conducted a survey of 100 consumers across the US to determine which standards were most important to them.
The top five standards, ranked in order of importance, were responsiveness, accountability, over-delivery, availability, and friendliness or a positive attitude3.
As Alana Chinn notes in her summary of the survey’s findings, being responsive means more than simply responding (although that in itself is important and not always a given).
Responsiveness is also about being efficient and genuinely helpful: “A quick response is great, but you’ll want to follow that up with a speedy and thorough resolution to their request,” she wrote.
Accountability involves acknowledging problems and taking responsibility for solving them.
We’ve already written about how important that is, especially in highly emotional customer service conversations. Angry customers want to feel heard. In most cases, they want validation, not an explanation — at least at the beginning of the interaction.
Overdelivering means exceeding expectations. In customer service or support, that might look like this:
- Giving customers more than just short-term, immediate solutions; anticipating their future needs.
- Doing everything to solve customers’ problems and sometimes compensating them for their trouble.
- Delighting customers
Availability is being there for customers when they need help. Setting clear expectations is essential here: customers need to know what companies’ operating hours are and when customer service teams are available.
Customer service representatives need to be as responsive as possible during publicly announced service hours.
5. Friendliness or a positive attitude
Customers expect to have positive interactions with customer service representatives and support agents. Empathy, kindness, and politeness matter, especially in situations where the customer is stressed. Because of this, it’s important to hire customer service professionals who embody those traits.
How to meet top customer service standards
Customer service professionals need strategies and tools to meet customer service excellence standards. Here are tips for raising the bar for quality service:
Meeting this customer standard starts with setting team and individual goals. But a commitment to responsiveness isn’t enough: customer service professionals need the help of technology to achieve their goals.
Teams can improve responsiveness by adopting AI tools and omnichannel support; providing customers with self-service resources (such as a knowledge base or a community forum); and automating repetitive tasks2.
For automating repetitive writing (such as typing standard responses to FAQs) text expansion is one of the most effective solutions. Tools such as TextExpander help customer support teams leverage the power of text expansion to dramatically improve their response time.
The most challenging customer interactions are the ones when saying the right thing matters most; they’re also the ones when customer service professionals find it difficult to decide what to say.
For these situations, it helps to have answers pre-prepared. Templates or canned replies not only serve as a starting point for handling complaints but also help ensure a consistent support experience for customers.
Most customer service software programs have a “Saved Replies” feature. “Saved Replies” help users quickly store, access, and pull up standard responses.
Text expansion software takes the idea of “Saved Replies” even further. For example, TextExpander allows users to create saved replies with fill-in-the-blank form fields and multiple-choice options — making it easier than ever to send standard responses that are still personalized.
Making a kind, empathetic impression helps any customer service interaction run more smoothly. When customer support agents include a personal, conversational greeting; a thank you to the customer for reaching out; or state that they’re happy to help, it makes customers feel supported and cared for4.
Text expansion software makes it easy for customer support professionals to communicate in a warm, friendly tone no matter how they’re feeling or what’s going on around them.
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What are the 4 customer service standards?
The four customer service standards that matter most to customers are responsiveness, accountability, over-delivery, availability, and friendliness.
What are examples of customer service standards?
Examples of customer service standards include responsiveness, transparency, accountability, over-delivery, availability, friendliness or a positive attitude, omnipresence, a commitment to empowering customers, and the use of automation.
What are the five qualities of customer service?
The five qualities of customer service are responsiveness, accountability, over-delivery, availability, and friendliness.
References and further reading
1. Strategic Customer Service: Managing Customer Service Experience to Increase Positive Word of Mouth, Build Loyalty, and Maximize Profits. Kindle e-book. John A. Goodman (2009).
2. What’s Customer Responsiveness? (& How to Create a Customer Responsive Culture). Blog post. Clint Fontanella. HubSpot.
3. The Top 5 Most Important Customer Service Standards, According to Consumers. Blog post. Alana Chinn. HubSpot.
4. 31 Phrases to Show Empathy in Customer Service – Top Example Scripts. Blog post. Sarah Chambers. TextExpander.
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