In today’s modern business environment, there’s more competition than ever, margins are shrinking, and maintaining market share is getting more and more difficult. That new reality leaves many businesses looking for strategies that will help them achieve steady growth, despite the tough conditions.

Some focus on innovation, believing that the next big idea is the key to success. Others work to drive down prices, in an effort to make consumers offers they can’t refuse. In truth, both approaches are necessary parts of any successful business strategy, but there’s another one that could have a far greater impact than many businesses realize: maintaining excellent customer service.

How important is it? A recent survey by American Express found that seven in ten US consumers reported spending more money with a company that provided excellent customer service. That means there’s a reliable way that businesses can maintain healthy profit margins and capture market share at the same time. The key is for them to redouble their efforts to put the customer at the center of everything they do. To help, here are the four keys to improving your company’s customer service.

1. Understand Your Customers

The simple, yet oft-overlooked first step in improving a company’s customer service is to figure out just what it is the customers want and need from their experience. This is a vital part of developing the customer service systems and procedures to keep them satisfied and returning again and again. To do it right, businesses must offer customers multiple ways to provide feedback, in whichever format suits them best. That means developing phone, email, or web-based surveys, alongside a system to respond to the feedback that gets collected. Doing so will simultaneously provide valuable insight into what the business can do better, while also giving customers a stake in shaping the customer experience they want to have.

2. Build a High-Skill Customer Service Team

When seeking to improve a business’s customer service, it’s vital to understand that success ultimately depends on the front-line staff that will be interacting with customers. To build a team that can create the desired customer service experience, a business must hire people with the right skills and provide training in the specifics of what they’re expected to do. In general, customer service personnel should have the following qualities:

  • Patience – As any customer service professional can tell you, customers often contact a business without a clear idea of exactly what they’re looking for or how to ask for it. That means patience is the first and most important quality required to do the job right.
  • Communications Skills – More often than not, problems that develop within customer service can be traced back to misunderstandings or a lack of clear communication with customers. To remedy that, every customer service representative should possess excellent communications skills from day one.
  • In-Depth Product Knowledge – To effectively represent a business, all customer service personnel should be well versed in everything their company does. That means a thorough understanding of products, policies, and all potential areas of customer concern.

3. Offer Customers Multiple Service Options

Just as it is vital to collect feedback in whichever methods suit the customer, it’s also necessary to provide customers with multiple ways to connect with the business to get the services they desire. For that reason, excellent customer service now requires a multi-channel approach that includes options like:

  • Online Chat Support
  • Social Media Feedback and Response
  • A Fully-Developed Self-Service Option Online
  • Phone Support

On top of all that, all customer service options must be mobile-friendly to allow customers to connect from wherever they are, at whatever time they choose.

4. Detailed Recordkeeping

In the interest of efficiency, it’s rarely possible for a business to assign one specific customer service representative to work with customers throughout the resolution of their issues. To make sure the customer experience remains frustration free and achieves the desired results, it’s vital to make use of a CRM system or a support ticketing system to keep careful track of every interaction a customer has with the business. In this way, the customer will have a seamless experience even if their request must be handled by multiple employees, and they’ll never have to repeat themselves – which is a key pain point for modern consumers.

The Customer is Always Right

Although it’s become somewhat of a cliché, the old saying that the customer is always right really does make quite a bit of sense when it comes to providing excellent customer service. For that reason, all businesses should strive to apply the above keys to improving their customer service, as it’s the best way to keep customers happy and coming back for more. Remember, also, that customer service isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it affair, so it’s just as important to continue to refine practices and procedures as customer needs change. Businesses that do so will find that their customers will notice – and reward them with loyalty and repeat business.

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