With every passing day, your customers’ expectations grow higher and higher. Being “good” is no longer “good enough,” and it’s time to invest in the right customer service qualities. While many brands focus on attracting new customers, the real money is in retaining current customers. If you want to boost retention, you need to understand the most influential customer service qualities.
It costs 5x more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. With this in mind, it’s time to get serious about retaining the customers you have. When your customers feel heard and valued, they continue to support your company long-term. This is how you create superfans who are excited about your success.
If you’re not practicing the right customer service skills, you’re losing customers to the competition. Better yet, the longer you retain customers, the more likely they’ll continue to spend more over time. In other words, keeping the customers you have happy can increase profits overall by anywhere from 25% to 95%.
Your customer retention can’t be an afterthought. It needs to be at the foundation of every interaction. Still, keeping customers satisfied and engaged takes the right skill and know-how. It doesn’t always come naturally, especially with customers expecting more than ever. In this guide, we’ll share 8 customer service qualities guaranteed to boost retention.
First, your brand needs empathy. When you can understand your customers from their own perspective, it’s easier to serve them. Empathy not only shows customers that you care, but that you’re willing to take their concerns seriously. In customer service, there’s something called the Peak-End Rule. This is the idea that customers don’t judge their entire experience as a whole. Instead, they only remember the most intense moment and the end.
When customers are experiencing a moment of intense emotion (frustration, worry, stress, etc.), it’s important to respond with empathy. This “peak” moment is a huge part of how your customer remembers their overall experience. How can you practice empathy with each interaction?
- Run through common tasks your customers carry out (like ordering something on your website)
- Review your previous customer reviews or ratings
- Host focus groups with your audience
- Practice empathy amongst your team
- Talk to other associates about their own experiences with their favorite and least favorite brands.
When you practice empathy from the start, you don’t have to worry about your customers not feeling heard. It’s not enough to practice empathy sometimes. It needs to be woven into each interaction. The self-care beauty brand Lush is great at practicing empathy in every customer service interaction. Below, one customer shares a special good luck message she received with her order. By leading with empathy, customers have a memorable experience every time.
Attention To Detail
Another key customer service quality is attention to detail. When you don’t focus on the little details, you overlook important parts of the customer experience. While these things might seem minor, they truly add up over time.
For example, say you spoke to a specific representative at a hotel on vacation and you let them know you’re visiting for your birthday. At check in, if the representative remembers it’s your birthday and wishes you a special stay. This attention to detail stands out. It doesn’t have to be anything big, but details matter to your customers.
The fast food chain Chick-fil-A truly shines when it comes to attention to detail. Not only do their team members go above and beyond to let their customers know it’s their “pleasure” to serve them, but they also make their customers’ days better. This is why Chick-fil-A continues to lead in customer service surveys.
One franchise in Virginia, for instance, gives expired (but still safe) chicken nuggets to pet owners to feed their furry friends. By taking notice when patrons bring Fido, they create an experience that stands out. More dog owners will be excited to try Chick-fil-A in the future because of this small detail.
Third, never underestimate the power of a positive attitude. When your team is excited and positive, your customers reflect this same energy. We can all relate to the struggle of dealing with a monotone, uninterested service member. It doesn’t make you feel good when completing a purchase or fixing an order.
When customers are frustrated, greet them with a positive attitude. When they feel confident you’re in control of the situation, they’ll feel more at ease. This ties back into empathy, and it’s about understanding what your customers need proactively.
Nobody enjoys talking to a monotone, uninterested, or negative team member. This sours the entire experience, and it makes customers feel unappreciated. With 50% of customers saying they would switch to a new brand after one bad experience, you can’t afford to ignore your attitude.
How do you stay positive, even in challenging situations? Start by empowering your team with customer service education. When you feel prepared to take on new challenges, these situations become less intimidating. From there, make sure employees set clear boundaries with their customers so they can maintain their positivity without the customer affecting them negatively.
Next, it’s important to maintain a collaborative mindset. You’re always a representative of your company, but you’re also a part of a team. Though some industries might feel more competitive than others, you won’t get ahead by undermining others. When you contradict coworkers or leaders, it doesn’t make you or your company look good.
As the saying goes, we’re stronger when we’re together. Having your team to fall back on when you’re struggling is a source of empowerment. Knowing your team and your leadership has your back makes it easier to do your own job. Though simple, don’t underestimate the role of a collaborative mindset.
To see this in action, look at AT&T. This cellular service and tech company isn’t afraid to collaborate as a team. They launched the Innovation Pipeline in May of 2009. This was a simple idea: to collect innovative ideas from all corners of AT&T. Throughout the past 10 years, over 50,000 ideas have been submitted and over 100 projects have become real-life products. By keeping this culture of collaboration alive and well, it’s easier to innovate.
Additionally, it’s important for all employees to have strong product knowledge. We all know the frustration of getting different answers from different representatives. What’s worse is when those answers aren’t even correct. A reported 44% of consumers say they’ve received the wrong answer from a customer service representative in the past.
How do you make sure everyone is on top of product knowledge? There are a lot of great ways to do this, depending on your industry. Some ideas are:
- Experiential learning: Allow your team to use these products and tools themselves. Hands-on experience is the best teacher.
- Ongoing training: Instead of bombarding employees with training all at once, break it down into micro learning sessions.
- Simulations: Encourage team members to role play amongst each other to play out different questions and scenarios.
- Competitive research: It’s not enough to know your own product. Employees today are also expected to know the competition. Some basic understanding of similar tools goes a long way.
When employees are confident in their knowledge, it’s easier for them to perform their jobs with ease. Better yet, they’re able to serve customers at a higher level. The eyeglass brand Warby Parker does a fabulous job empowering employees with product knowledge.
Not only do they list staff picks and favorites at their in-person stores and online, but full-time employees get a free pair of glasses or sunglasses every quarter. Because the employees experience these products for themselves, they provide practical, real-world help for customers in their journey for their own perfect pair.
As the saying goes, patience really is a virtue. It’s also one of the customer service qualities guaranteed to boost retention. Customers aren’t all the same, and you can’t expect to treat them as a single entity. There is no one-size-fits-all in customer service. Instead, recognize that different people learn in different ways. You might need to explain things multiple times, change your approach, or troubleshoot in a new way.
Being patient throughout the entire support process is key. When you remain patient, the customer feels their concern is valid. One of the most valuable tools for expanding one’s patience is active listening. Though many service professionals listen to customers, they don’t always hear what they say. When you’re an active listener, you focus on what the customer is saying and what they mean.
For example, if a customer is frustrated about how to use your company’s app, you’ll want to fully listen to what they’re saying. Once they’re done sharing, confirm that you understand them. You might say, “I hear that you’re not sure how to send pictures, is that correct?” When they confirm, you’re more prepared to solve their problem.
A Trader Joe’s store in Oregon went viral in early 2021 for it’s manager’s superhuman patience. Though one woman wishes to enter the store without a mask, breaking the store’s mask policy during the COVID19 pandemic, the manager stands firm. He calmly and patiently explains the store’s policy, focusing on the safety of other customers and his employees. His commitment to keeping his cool with a frustrated customer is a testament to Trader Joe’s customer service.
Similar to patience, it’s important to talk about how to handle the times when customers don’t act perfectly. As we’ve explained above, customers are all different. They bring their own experiences and personalities to service interactions. While we might wish everyone would treat us with kindness, respect, and patience, it doesn’t always work out that way. This is why it’s important to have unflappability.
Being calm and professional, even when customers aren’t behaving their best, is a learned skill. It’s easy to lose your cool and feel like things are getting out of control. However, this only spirals the situation even further. When a customer is getting heated, take a moment to breathe. Keep calm and communicate with the customer as best as you can.
Most importantly, set clear boundaries. It’s never appropriate for a customer to insult a service worker or to get belligerent. If this does happen, have a plan in place for ending the interaction. This is a great opportunity for management to step in and redirect the customer. While each customer deserves to be heard, it’s important that everyone maintains proper respect for others. Take the lead from the Trader Joe’s example above. As soon as the situation got out of hand, the manager stepped in confidently, putting his team first.
Last but not least, practice humility. Everyone can always improve. There is no such thing as perfection in customer service. Never stop looking for ways to serve customers more efficiently and effectively. When you stay humble about your growth and accomplishments, customers respond with their own openness. Even if a mistake happens, 78% of customers will still do business with that company if they respond with great service.
One of the best ways to stay humble is to always ask for feedback. When you’re aware of your own strengths and weaknesses, you know exactly where to grow. It’s okay if you’re not where you want to be. This just means you have a solid path forward.
The doctor scheduling app Zocdoc does a great job showing humility with customers. Though they boast a commitment to simplifying doctor’s appointments, things don’t always go according to plan. Instead of making excuses or blaming the doctor’s offices themselves, they simply accept blame and apologize. By apologizing right away and admitting that a mistake happened, they build real trust with consumers. More importantly, they have a chance to make things right.
Go Above and Beyond with Your Customer Service
Ultimately, outstanding customer service isn’t any single action. It’s a collection of service qualities that together form a remarkable experience for both employees and customers. When customers feel heard and valued, they become lifelong superfans. This is what separates casual shoppers from long-term customers.
Are you ready to create more superfans? Take a look at the type of customer service skills you and your team currently bring to the table. There’s always room to grow, so start with this targeted list of service qualities above. Your customers (and revenue) will thank you.