The Subtle Differences Between Good And Bad Customer Service

You could have the best product on the market and do everything right, but, as luck would have it,  nothing and no one is perfect. Problems always arise in some form or another. When they do, if your customer service reps prove to be unreliable, hard to reach, or just plain rude, regardless of your product’s allure, you will inevitably see a high churn-rate. 

As online customer reviews grow in influence and customer support continues to expand into online channels like chat and social media to solve customer dilemmas, many businesses strive to stand out by showing their customers that they genuinely care. Of course, if everyone makes that claim, it’s hard to prove it. 

There are many ways to improve a customer service team’s performance. Things such as reliable, updated resources, continued training, and implementing effective goal setting are steps in the right direction. However, a team needs to have the fundamentals of listening and communication skills to brave the sometimes rocky waters of customer support. This article shows the subtleties that can take a customer’s support experience from bad to good to (hopefully) great.

Why is good customer service important?

Customer experience is how your customers perceive your brand, which influences how they engage with it. Globally, 96% of customers say customer service is an important factor in their loyalty to a brand and the likelihood of repeat usage and sales. Additionally, consumers said good customer service is the number one important consideration when determining their trust in a company. 

To put it simply, your service reps are a salient domino in the line because they directly handle the majority of interactions between company and consumer. As Zappos founder Tony Hsieh says, “Customer service shouldn’t be just a department; it should be the entire company.” Hsieh’s mindset reflects what’s at the heart of many brands’ aspirations: to disrupt, to solve problems— to satisfy an itch. The keyword being “satisfaction.”

What does poor customer service look like?

No one should go into a customer service conversation expecting a bad experience. Though, they certainly remember it if it is one. In the US:

  • 59% of customers say they’ll walk away from a company after several bad experiences, despite how much they like the product
  • 17% said they’d walk after just one bad experience

Poor customer service happens anytime a business fails to meet a customer’s expectations. Customers expect, at the very least, speed, efficiency, and a level of professionalism. Picture this scenario: A customer walks into a coffee shop, and no one is there to greet them. They wait patiently for a few minutes, decide to go to the bathroom, and then come back up to try again. Two employees emerge from the back talking to each other – they wait to engage the customer until their conversation is over. The customer has a question about a drink but is given the description on the menu with no further details. After ordering, the customer learns that the shop is out of an ingredient. Finally frustrated, the customer asks for a refund, a manager is called, and they give the same service as the employees. The customer leaves, aggravated.

This terrible experience can translate to online customers being transferred multiple times or having publicly available information from the company’s website regurgitated back to them. These are small but irritating things that can be a quick way to turn off your customers. 

What does good customer service look like?

As it turns out, it doesn’t take a lot to change a customer’s perception of the quality of your service from bad to good. The smallest, most subtle signs can often make the biggest difference. Here are 11 signs that your customers might be looking for: 

11 small signs of good customer service

  • Prominently displaying the support phone number and/or email address on the website
  • Utilizing 24-hour chat-bots
  • Ensuring website information is consistent and up to date. 
  • Emphasizing quick reply times in team culture. 
  • Having confident, knowledgeable reps.
  • Offering to stay on the line until the transfer is complete to make sure it goes through.
  • Calm and creative problem-solving.
  • Avoiding too much technical jargon. Engage customers using the right language and tone of voice, making the conversation feel less intimidating.
  • Social media communications are responsive, timely, accurate, honest, and positive.
  • Creating a robust knowledge base to empower customers to find answers on their schedule
  • Having clearly defined SLAs to ensure a consistent experience

Think back to the coffee shop. If the customer had walked into a readily available— and present— team, they might have more efficiently handled the problem. When asked about the beverage, the barista could have compared it to a commercially similar product. When it was discovered they were out of the product, the barista could ask the customer about their typical flavor preferences, offering to try and make something comparable. Here, though there is still a problem to be solved, the customer feels more engaged, listened to, and valued.

Availability and authenticity are two crucial ingredients of successful customer service. Your clients could be in different time zones, and no one appreciates being ghosted when they need immediate assistance. They also don’t want to feel like they’re just another transaction in your day, so ensuring that their time feels valued is equally as important. 

Tip the scale with a few little extras

Once the basics are handled, a few simple extras can help your team stand out in the crowd. As briefly mentioned, knowing how to utilize tone and frame language are quick ways to take a customer service experience from good to great. It’s easy to misinterpret the tone of written communication, and email or live chat can come across as cold or disingenuous. The brain uses multiple signals to interpret someone else’s emotional tone, including body language and facial expression, both of which are absent from online interactions.

Naturally integrating customer’s names while interacting can be a small but appreciated change of direction from a cold copy/paste reply. Additionally, referencing specifics of their concerns or complaints can also ensure customers feel heard throughout the entirety of the interaction. An example might include, “Is there anything else I can help you with on this billing issue, Dean?”

Conscious use of word choice can sway your conversation into the exceptional service territory as well. Instead of leading statements with words like “unfortunately” or “sadly,” you can redirect the statement to a more positive route by saying something like, “your request actually needs to be handled elsewhere— I can help direct you…”.  If a rep is uncertain of an answer, taking an extra minute to look for the right solution can make all the difference. Saying “I don’t know” is never an acceptable answer.  

To summarize

While things like positive attitudes, personal touches, and word choice may seem like common knowledge, they can make all the difference for customer retention. They should remain relevant bits of conversation in training and continued learning as the company grows. Whether it’s software or coffee, a consistent human touch will always be the cherry on top of automated efficiency.