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What Is Good Customer Service? Here’s What Customers Think.

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There are a lot of opinions out there about what makes great customer support. Here’s the truth.

You know what’s really easy?

Like, insanely easy?

I’ll give you three things:

  1. Breathing.
  2. Eating.
  3. Coming up with opinions and stating them as fact.

The first two are useful, but the third? That one’s dangerous.

And there are so many “gurus” out there that will have you believe that whatever ideas they come up with and publish to the web should be taken as indisputable, flawless reflections of reality.

It’s true in every field, and it’s especially true in customer support.

“Good customer service is just plain common sense!

“Good customer service is all about the product!

“Good customer service is being on social media!

Somebody thinks of something, they publish it, and if it gets shared enough, it becomes a “best practice.”

But what is good customer service, really?

Not “what is the prevailing opinion on good customer service,” but what’s the truth?

Well, the hard truth is that it doesn’t mean the same thing to everybody, and it won’t be the same thing for every business (which is why empathy is so important).

But we do have some real, data-backed insights on what customers actually consider good support.

And today, we’ll take a look at those insights to help answer that question in a bit more meaningful way.

1) Good Customer Service Is About More Than Just Speed

It seems to be common sense that speed is key in support.

And it is important. But not as important as you might think.

One survey by Gallup measured how engaged customers felt after getting service at a bank.

While customers who felt that the bank offered speedy service were six times more likely to be highly engaged, customers who gave the bank high ratings on “people” factors like the tellers’ courtesy and willingness to help were nine times more likely to be fully engaged.

As William J. McEwen puts it in Married to the Brand, “Speed is one factor, but it is markedly less important than having tellers who can deliver services in a friendly and competent manner.”

Rather than a laser focus on speed, emphasize thorough, attentive and friendly customer service.

2) …Except on Social Media, Where Good Customer Service NEEDS Speed.

Good customer service doesn’t mean the same thing when you’re talking about email support versus phone support versus live chat, and so on.

The same holds true for social media, where it turns out that speed actually trumps all.

In a survey by The Social Habit, 32% of social media users who contact a brand expect a response within 30 minutes, and 42% expect a response within 60 minutes.

And customers don’t like to wait just because it’s a night or weekend. 57% of customers expect the same response time at night and on weekends as during normal business hours.

It might not be fair, but it’s a fact: customers expect speedy service on social media.

3) Good Customer Service Is About Making Things Easy

A lot of the conversation around building customer loyalty focuses on ways to “delight” your customer. To “wow” them.

And that’s all fine; it feels good to do, and it can certainly result in memorable (and shareable) positive interactions.

But from a loyalty standpoint, there’s actually a force more powerful than delight: reducing your customers’ effort.

In a 2007 survey by the Customer Contact Council, more than 75,000 customers were surveyed about their phone, chat and email interactions with customer service representatives. The study found that the single most important factor to increasing customer loyalty is reducing the amount of work the customer has to do to get their problem solved.

How can you apply this?

Simple: if the customer needs to do something to resolve their issue, do it for them.

Does your customer need to follow a link and fill out a form to make updates to their account? Make the updates for them.

Do they need to take steps to troubleshoot an issue they’re having? Set up a screen share on Skype or Google Hangouts and walk them through it.

Customers are often asked to do a lot of work to solve their problems:

By taking the work off of your customers’ plates, you can both reduce their effort and delight them, as they’ll be more than a little bit surprised by your (unfortunately) unusual approach.

4) Delivery Matters In Good Customer Service

“Alright, I’ve got good news and bad news…which one do you want first?”

It’s an old cliche, but it turns out that the way you deliver good and bad news does make a difference. And the order you choose can actually change the way your customers feel and act.

Researchers at UC-Riverside tested the order in which they delivered news to subjects, and gauged their responses and behavior.

What they found was interesting:

People who were given the bad news first were more likely to feel better about what they were told, while people who were given the bad news last were more motivated to act on the news.

In customer service, we generally want our customers to be happier, so it’s a good idea to lead with the bad news.

But if you need to persuade the customer to act, then start with the good.

5) Good Customer Service Is a Powerful Marketing Strategy

From where I sit, we’re thankfully finally seeing the days where businesses think of support as a “cost” wind down.

More and more businesses are investing in customer service to make their customers happier, more loyal and more valuable in the long-term.

But that’s not the only return-on-investment that good customer service can deliver.

Research suggests that it can bring you new customers, too.

Happy customers, on average, tell nine people about their experiences.

Happy customers also reduce your costs, and the probability of selling to an existing happy customer is up to 14x higher than the probability of selling to a new customer.

So while bad customer service can crush you, delivering excellent customer service can help build loyal customer relationships, reduce churn, increase retention and referrals, and quickly grow your business.

That’s great news, as referrals from friends or family members are the single most-cited reason for customers trying a new product or service, beating things like sales, reviews and advertisements by a large margin.

Good Customer Service Is a Moving Target

It’s tempting to pigeonhole good customer service into a single sentence or soundbite that makes it sound simple and easy.

But excelling at support—and using it to grow your business—means constantly learning, trying things, and evolving to always be delivering the experience that truly make your customers love you.

The good news is that if you’re reading this blog (and have made it all the way to the bottom of this post), then you probably agree with that, and are committed to making your customer support the best it can possibly be.

Hopefully this post serves as a helpful reminder that there’s always more we can do, and that good customer service could look a bit different for all of us.

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About the Author

Len Markidan heads up marketing at Groove. He’s focused on helping startups and small businesses build better relationships with their customers.

Read his latest posts or follow him on Twitter

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