35 Things Every Seller Should Do to Offer Great Customer Service
In our latest full-length guide, we’re counting down everything you should be doing to offer excellent customer service.
We talk about customer service a lot here on the Brainery. In fact, the very first guide we ever published was entitled, “The 29 Most Important Customer Service Skills for eCommerce Sellers.” And our most popular guide to date is, “32 Customer Service Facts You Can’t Afford to Ignore.”
This trend is no coincidence. The Brainery exists to offer sellers the insights and information they need in order to grow their businesses. And every company’s growth and success depends hugely on the quality of its customer service.
So today, let’s take a fresh look at this most-vital topic and do a deep dive into how you can master it. Here are 35 things every seller should do to offer great customer service.
1. Listen to Your Customers
Excellent service starts with listening to your customers. What kinds of questions are they asking? Are lots of customers having the same types of problems or issues? Actively listen to each and every customer with whom you interact and do your best to provide them with an agreeable solution.
2. Pay Attention
Part of listening to your customers is to pay attention to what they’re saying. If you’re speaking live with someone (for instance, on the phone), listen closely to what they’re saying. Rather than planning a response in your head as they speak, give their words and tone your undivided attention. This will help you to respond more helpfully and appropriately.
The same goes for email or live chat conversations. Don’t just scan a customer’s message for certain words, such as “shipping,” “return” or “wrong item.” Instead, read every word of a customer’s message carefully before replying so that you can address their needs to the best of your ability.
3. Ask Questions
Another crucial step in figuring out exactly what customers need is to ask the right questions. For example, if a buyer sends you a complaint that they received the wrong item, ask them a few questions to make sure you send them the correct replacement. Sure, you could just look back at their original order. But by also asking the customer directly, you are ensuring that you take care of the issue properly on the first try.
4. Show Empathy
One of the most important qualities in any customer service representative is empathy. Make sure to show each and every person you encounter that you genuinely care about their customer experience. When someone contacts you with a problem, phrases such as, “I understand your frustration” and, “I would be upset if this happened, as well” can go a long way toward making the customer feel valued.
5. Have a Friendly Customer Service Demeanor
Another must-have customer service rep characteristic is a friendly demeanor. We all know that customer service can be grueling, difficult work. However, approaching every interaction with a positive attitude can make all the difference in the tone and outcome of your conversations.
6. Practice Patience
Patience is paramount to great customer service, and it comes into play in a variety of scenarios.
First of all, some customers may take a while to explain their entire problem or question to you. Don’t cut them off or rush them. Let them know they are valued by giving them plenty of time to speak (and even vent) to you about everything they want to ask or complain about. Sometimes, once they’ve vented to a patient customer service rep, the customer may already feel a little better before you’ve even begun to offer your solution.
Secondly, patience is required when you need to try different resolutions to address a customer’s issue. We’ll talk about this in more detail later in the guide, but be sure to stick with it and keep trying until you’ve resolved everything to the customer’s satisfaction.
7. Be Honest & Transparent
When it comes to running a business, honesty and transparency are the bedrock of your company reputation. And these factors are of the utmost importance to your customer service strategy.
Good customer service isn’t just about fixing customer problems or answering questions. Sometimes, it’s about owning up to mistakes, or even just explaining limitations.
For instance, imagine a scenario in which a customer complains because they placed an order with you over a week ago and still haven’t received a shipping confirmation. When you check on the issue, you find that there has been a mistake in the warehouse, and the customer’s order hasn’t yet been packed or shipped. The right thing to do is to respond to the customer, admit the mistake on the part of your team, apologize and do what you can to make things right (possibly by shipping immediately, and refunding shipping costs if there were any). This is an example of honesty.
Now, picture another interaction in which a customer is complaining because your prices on a proprietary skincare item have increased. In this case, the reason for the price increase is that you use the top-notch ingredients to make the product, and the cost of those ingredients has also gone up. So, you explain truthfully to the customer that, in order to continue offering skincare of the highest quality, you needed to raise your prices. This is an example of transparency.
8. Treat Every Customer Service Issue as a Priority
No customer wants to feel like “just another number.” When you’re providing customer service, make sure to give each interaction your full, undivided attention. Let your shoppers know that they are your top priority, and that you are dedicated to ensuring their complete satisfaction.
9. Maintain Product Knowledge
It’s pretty hard to offer excellent customer service without maintaining thorough knowledge about the products or services you sell. After all, a huge percentage of customer inquiries are product questions.
Stay up to date on everything your company offers, as well as where to find each item in your store or on your website. Get to know things like dimensions, sizes, available colors, options, similar items, usage steps and more. If you fully understand your products, you will be well-equipped to answer any question customers throw at you quickly, accurately and comprehensively.
10. Say “Thank You”
This one is simple, yet incredibly effective. By thanking your shoppers for the opportunity to serve them, you are setting a tone of appreciation and customer-centricity.
You should thank your customers frequently — for their brand loyalty, for any questions they ask, for any issues they bring up (giving you the chance to fix them), etc. Additionally, when you send follow-up messages after an interaction, be sure to say “Thank you” for their time and for reaching out to you.
11. Reward Loyalty
Along with thanking your customers, you need to reward them for brand loyalty. You can do this easily by offering things like discounts on their next purchase, frequent shopper points that can be exchanged for store credit, premium content to newsletter subscribers and the like.
12. Run Promotions
Another way to offer great customer service is to run promotions. This strategy is right in line with saying “Thank you” and rewarding loyalty. By holding promotions regularly, you are showing your shoppers that you appreciate their business and want them to get the most out of being your customer.
Bath and Body Works is a great example of this practice. Twice every year, the company holds a huge semi-annual sale in which customers can find their favorite body products at significantly discounted prices. During these sales, Bath and Body Works even adds retired and seasonal items back into their inventory in order to offer buyers an exciting selection of wares they can’t always get.
13. Take the Time to Offer Great Customer Service
If you want to keep your shoppers happy, take the time to offer really great customer service. This goes back to our section on patience. Not every interaction is going to have a quick and easy solution. But if you stay focused on that one customer until they are fully taken care of, your efforts will surely pay off.
Not only will you have a great ratio of customer service success, you will also build a reputation as a company that is laser focused on customer satisfaction.
14. Own up to Mistakes
No one is perfect, and not every interaction is going to go well. But when you’re providing customer service, it is important to own up to mistakes. Trying to deny them will only make your company appear dishonest or dodgy.
If you make a mistake, your customer may not be thrilled about it, but most of them will respect that you were honest and apologetic. At the same time, an attitude of honesty and contrition will usually make most customers feel more open to giving you the opportunity to make things right.
15. Make Amends
And when there’s a problem, whether it’s a mistake on your company’s part or something outside of your control (such as courier shipping delays), offer great customer service by doing what you have to do to make amends.
If there’s a mistake, correct it. If there’s a courier delay, apologize to the customer, explain the issue, and maybe offer something like free shipping on their next order. The important part is that you fix the problem for the customer and leave them feeling valued and taken care of.
16. Be Willing to Try Again
As we’ve stated previously, not every issue is going to have a quick and easy solution. In addition to that, every customer is different. So their reactions to the solutions you propose are going to vary as well.
Keep trying different resolutions until you find the one that works best for the customer and situation at hand. We aren’t saying that you should accept abusive or unreasonable treatment from customers, but it is important to be willing to try again in order to resolve an issue and achieve customer satisfaction whenever possible.
17. Learn from Negative Customer Service Experiences
Again, not every customer interaction is going to go well, but there is a silver lining. By learning from any negative experiences, you can put strategies into place that may keep potential problems from repeating.
18. Get Creative with Your Customer Service Approach
Like we’ve already mentioned, every customer is different. So, get creative with your customer service approach!
When you’re trying to come up with good solutions to unique problems, try thinking outside the realm of the usual fixes. For example, if you run an online craft and games store, and a customer contacts you asking about ways to keep her kids entertained, have a little fun brainstorming the various products that might work.
Ask the customer questions about the childrens’ ages and what types of games they like. Find out if they might be interested in puzzles, sidewalk chalk or learning to cross-stitch. This is also where previous sections on listening, asking questions and maintaining product knowledge come into play. But the point is, flex your creative muscles when helping your customers.
19. Go the Extra Mile to Offer Great Customer Service
Every great customer service representative is willing to go the extra mile in order to keep their shoppers happy. Again, we know you’re busy, but demonstrating that you’ll go above and beyond to take care of your customers can go a long way toward growing your business.
20. Consult Reviews & Seek Feedback
Want to know how you can better serve your customers? Go straight to the source. Look to reviews to learn more about what you’re getting right and where you can improve.
And, while existing reviews are very helpful in this endeavor, statistics we’ve reported before show that many customers will simply leave a brand when they’re dissatisfied rather than complaining or leaving a review. That’s why it is also important to actively seek feedback. You can do this by sending follow-up emails, using a pop-up form on your website and more. If you’d like to learn more about how to request and gather feedback, check out our other full-length guide on the subject.
21. Bring in Other Customer Service Reps & Team Members
You may not always be able to answer a customer’s question or fix their problem, and that’s okay. Don’t be afraid to bring in other customer service reps or team members that might be specialized in the subject you’re discussing.
For example, if a shopper is asking a complicated question about your returns policy, and your company employs a returns / refunds specialist, bring that person in to answer the question. Or, if a customer is requesting something that you aren’t authorized to sign off on, ask your manager to step in. The point is to do your best to make sure the customer gets the assistance they need as quickly as possible, without having to call or email back in.
22. Follow Up
Regardless of whether a customer service interaction goes really well or very poorly, it is always important to follow-up with the customer.
This can be as simple as sending an email the next day that says something like, “Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to assist you yesterday. We hope the solutions or answers we provided addressed your concerns and accurately reflect our dedication to customer satisfaction. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.”
You can also use this opportunity to request feedback, offer a freebie or store discount and point the customer to your website’s help docs or self-serve options.
23. Create Self-Serve Options & Help Docs
On that note, another way to offer great customer service is to create self-serve options and help docs. This type of content enables your customers to find the answers they need without having to take the time to contact you.
Just a few examples of this approach include:
- Help docs that walk customers through step-by-step product / service usage or navigation instructions.
- FAQ pages that answer commonly asked questions.
- Knowledge base articles full of useful information.
- Self-serve options that allow shoppers to take care of their own needs.
24. Offer Convenience to Your Customers
Every customer wants to enjoy a convenient shopping experience. From searching / finding products on your website quickly to navigating through the checkout process with ease, your customers should be able to get their shopping done without any hassles or problems.
Make sure your development, customer service and all other teams are doing their part to ensure the most convenient experience possible for each and every customer.
25. Make It Simple to Return / Exchange
One important factor in convenience is the ability to make returns / exchanges easily. Make your return / refund / exchange process as seamless and simple as you possibly can. Doing so will not only help ensure customer satisfaction, it will also encourage repeat business. You should also let customers know about your return policy by including it somewhere (in very clear, easy-to-understand language) on your website.
26. Provide Live Chat Customer Service
As we’ve covered in previous guides, customers want lightning-fast answers to their queries. Many shoppers prefer not to have to hold on the phone or even wait for a response via email. Instead, they prefer businesses that offer the ability to receive immediate, live chat support.
If you utilize a helpdesk such as Replyco, providing this type of customer service is quick and easy. We enable users to install a live chat widget on any selling website that can be used to provide real-time service to customers. Additionally, users can even set up live chat auto-responders for after-hours, holidays or weekend times.
27. Engage via Social Media
Want more information on what your customers want, or even what they’re saying about your industry or your company? Engage on social media!
Search hashtags pertinent to your industry to find, study and participate in conversations that are relevant to your business. Search your company name to discover any complaints or positive comments that you might not know about. You can even respond to complaints or questions directly on social media, which helps you showcase your company’s dedication to customer satisfaction.
28. Hire the Best Customer Service Staff
Your customer service begins and ends with your staff. So, make sure you’re hiring the very best possible candidates as customer service reps. Peruse the qualities mentioned throughout this guide to determine what factors to look for in a good representative. Some of the top most important aspects would be a friendly demeanor, good listening skills, patience, the ability to maintain product knowledge and dependability.
You can learn more about how to hire the best customer service staff members here.
29. Train Your Customer Service Team
Once you have the right team in place, it’s time to train them. Again, use the qualities throughout this guide to inform your efforts in explaining to customer service reps what you expect from them. Make sure they know the protocol for handling particularly disgruntled customers, or what to do if they don’t know the answer to a question.
30. Hold Regular Customer Service Team Meetings
After training your staff, it is also important to hold frequent customer service team meetings. This will give your team members the chance to communicate openly about any problems they’ve been having, or to share anything with which they’ve had notable success.
You will also be able to answer questions and adjust policies as needed, based on your team’s experiences and reports.
31. Put Customer Service Policies in Writing
Speaking of customer service policies, it’s always a good idea to put all of your strategies and protocols in writing. This gives your teammates the ability to consult company documentation when they’re unsure how to handle a specific situation. It also comes in handy when training new employees.
Make sure all team members have easy access to policy documentation, and update it any time there’s a change in strategy or protocol.
32. Test Various Customer Service Strategies
When you’re coming up with new customer service strategies, the only way to know if they work is to test them out.
For example, if your team is considering two different strategies for dealing with the same type of situation, test the two against each other to determine which one is more effective. You can then tweak your approach as necessary and continue testing until you’ve finalized your policy.
33. Communicate Throughout the Buying Journey
Provide customers with amazing service by communicating throughout the entire buying journey.
For instance, when shoppers buy something online, they want to know when they’ll receive their item(s). So, send emails at every stage of the process. A few examples of buying journey workflow emails include:
- Thank you for your order.
- Order processed confirmation.
- Shipping confirmation.
- Item(s) delivered notification.
- We hope you liked your item(s).
34. Anticipate & Mitigate Potential Problems
If you want to provide the best customer service, try to anticipate and mitigate potential problems.
For example, shipping was delayed throughout 2020 thanks to COVID-19. If you know an issue like this is going to affect shipping from your warehouse or cause courier delays, let your customers know ahead of time. They might not be thrilled about slower shipping speeds, but they will appreciate that you were upfront about the issue and let them know what to expect.
35. Respond Quickly
One of the absolute most important aspects of any customer service strategy is to respond quickly to all inquiries. Customers are no longer satisfied to wait days or even hours for a reply to their message. Instead, today’s shoppers expect an answer in minutes.
The best way to respond quickly to customers is to be easy to reach and well-organized when keeping up with messages. But we realize this is easier said than done if you’re a multi-channel eCommerce seller. And that’s exactly why we created Replyco.
With Replyco, you can centralize your messages from every selling channel and multiple platforms into one, easy-to-use inbox. And with tools such as live chat and smart auto-responders, you can make sure that customers get immediate responses to their messages, even when you’re not around (keeping response times down and enabling you to address the customer as soon as you return to work).
Start your 7-day, no-credit-card-required, free trial to take control of your inbox today. Or learn more by taking a tour of our features.
Have questions about managing your customer service? Reach out to us any time. We’re always happy to help!