Think back.  

Remember that time you called your internet provider (you know the one..GRRR) about the terrible service you were getting, and you were on hold for an hour and a half (closer to 3!), before spending the next hour having your call transferred between various departments who kept asking you the same questions before deciding that you weren’t actually their problem? Punching bag anyone?

Remember how much you enjoyed that?  Remember how grateful you felt towards the company, and how much you wanted to keep using their service? (er…not)

If you’re like most customers, an experience like that would be enough to elicit a scathing one-star review and only cause you cant give Zero. Regardless of how good or bad a company’s product or service is, it’s customer service that shapes how consumers see you. 

Providing good customer service starts with the right training in the right areas.  That’s why, if you’re willing let’s walk you through some ideas on online and interpersonal communication, with practical tips on how to actively improve them both.

Online Communication

Yes, we’re talking email, chatbots, social media and all the rest of it.  If you can do it on your computer or smartphone, it counts as online communication.

With remote teams and AI on the rise, customers are getting used to receiving service over the internet, but that doesn’t mean you can let your standards drop.

Here are some quick ways you can up your online customer service game.

  • Use the customer’s language.  If you’re providing computer support to someone who knows nothing about computers, don’t fill up their screen with technical jargon.  Talk to them in a way that they understand.
  • Never assume anything.  This goes for all customer service – never assume anything about your customers or their level of knowledge.  Ask the right questions, and get the info you need in an efficient and respectful manner.
  • Use content to supply answers.  Sure, many people like talking through their problem with a human – but a lot of customers also find it easier to get the answers from FAQs and knowledge documentation. 
  • Respond as quickly as possible.  On social media, 40% of consumers expect brands to respond within the first hour, and nearly 80% expect a response in 24 hours.  Speed is of the essence when you’re handling online comms.
  • Don’t be robotic.  Just because you’re typing instead of talking doesn’t mean you need to sound like a robot.  Be empathetic – show them that you care.  

Interpersonal Communication

Communicating face-to-face is still the best way to provide amazing customer service – but it’s also the hardest to get right.

There’s no hiding behind screens or copy-pasting chat scripts here.  Your staff need to come across as genuine and authentic, and in a way that still makes the customer feel special.

Here are a few easy tips:

  • Display appropriate body language.  Even if we’re not consciously aware of it, body language can be a big sticking point in interpersonal comms.  Avoid crossing your arms, fidgeting, or not fully facing the customer – these can make you seem defensive or uninterested.
  • Make eye contact.  Don’t be that person (you know, the one with the weirdly intense stare that comes off as creepy), but do show the customer you’re paying attention by regularly making eye contact with them.
  • Smile!  A friendly smile can help defuse a tense situation and remind customers that you’re actually there to help them. It can be a challenge sometimes to smile if you don’t feel like it – you may feel vulnerable but it’s all the more important. It’s probably the single biggest indicator to the other person that they are safe and welcomed. 
  • Use a friendly tone of voice.  You can say all the right words, but if you don’t say them in the right way, they won’t sound convincing.  Be warm and be sincere.
  • Be confident, but not cocky.  Coming across as nervous or uncertain can be as off-putting as arrogance.  Be confident and speak clearly, but don’t talk over the customer, cut them off, or grandstand.  
  • Never lose your cool.  Even in confrontational situations, remember: you’re still a representative of your company.  Be polite and try to resolve the problem, but also be firm.  You too are a person, and you don’t deserve to be abused, threatened or mocked.  If the situation is untenable, either politely ask the customer to leave, or transfer them to a manager or capable team member.                  

The Bottom Line

Even in a world that’s moving online, good customer service remains an imperative. We believe it always will.  One bad experience can be enough to drive a customer away – but it only takes one amazing interaction to make them advocates for your brand.

Remember, you want customers to talk about your company, to brag about how great you are to all their friends and colleagues, and that starts with excellent customer service, both in person and online.