Customer service skills don’t happen overnight. They take time, effort, and interpersonal skills. Most importantly, they’re something everyone on your team needs to have. That being said, how can you foster 5-star customer service skills in your team from scratch? It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it takes the right strategy.
As far as your business goals, customer service is a must. While this was something businesses didn’t previously have to place a lot of focus on, the tides are rapidly changing. With Americans paying 17% more for great customer service, this impacts your revenue and bottom line in big ways.
A strong company is built on relationships with customers. When customers feel connected to a retailer or service provider, they’re more likely to stay loyal long term. This is how you build superfans, people who are actively engaged in a company’s success. The smartest companies know that customer service isn’t one-and-done. It’s a constantly proactive way to listen to your customers, attend to their needs, and learn as you go.
If you’re actively looking for ways to improve your team’s customer service, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll share how to foster 5-star customer service skills in your team. No matter where you’re starting from, you need to always create an outstanding service experience with every customer interaction. This is the newest battleground amongst businesses, and it’s how outstanding brands stand out.
- Consider everyone to be a member of the customer service team.
- Invest in your team as much as you would in your customers.
- Empower team members with ways to go above and beyond.
- Emphasize the importance of transparency and humility.
- Demonstrate the value of customer feedback by implementing it immediately.
- Approach all conversations with a ‘service over sales’ mindset.
- Be an example for your team in all of your service efforts.
- Create 5-Star Customer Service Skills
Consider everyone to be a member of the customer service team.
First, customer service doesn’t just belong to the support team. While it’s true that customer support agents handle the majority of service interactions, the responsibility of providing a great experience falls to everyone. Everyone on your team is a member of the customer service team. Your customers should be able to interact with any member of your team and have the same high level of service.
While it might seem small, poor experiences add up. A reported 65% of customers have switched brands because of a single poor experience. Whether a service agent is responding to an email or tech support is helping with a log-in issue, everyone should have a strong customer service foundation.
For example, Hulu does a great job of this on their Twitter page. Their support page combines teams, relying on customer service, tech, and sales agents to make sure their customers feel heard. The Hulu support page is active every day, and it makes it possible for customers to get real-time assistance from the right department fast. At Hulu, customer service is a responsibility that belongs to everyone, from high-level executives to social media managers.
Invest in your team as much as you would in your customers.
Next, many brands make the mistake of thinking the sole focus of their customer service expenses should go to customers. In reality, you need to find the right balance between customer and employee support. When your team feels supported, they’re more prepared to serve customers fully.
There are a lot of powerful ways to invest in your team. These don’t have to be expensive. It’s all about showing your employees that you’re leading by example. More importantly, you want them to succeed, and you invest in their ongoing success. Some ideas include:
- Set clear guidelines for what’s expected
- Provide comprehensive onboarding to welcome new team members
- Train employees in best practices regularly
- Provide employees with the tools and software they need
- Encourage communication and support within teams
With 70% of the customer’s journey dictated by how they feel they’re being treated, you need to make sure your customer support team is prepared. To see this in action, look at the national real estate brokerage Keller Williams. Though their agents are independent contractors, they still invest heavily in their success. The BOLD program offers free Keller Williams Real Estate Agent training to set you up for success. By investing in their new team members, they improve the overall service experience for real estate clients in the process.
Empower team members with ways to go above and beyond.
From there, it’s also important to trust your employees to make their own decisions. When you empower team members with ways to go above and beyond, they ensure each customer has an outstanding experience. It’s impossible to anticipate every possible situation. By empowering employees, you show them you trust their judgment.
While you should set parameters and guides, make sure your employees know they can take their own steps. Nobody likes a micromanager, and it’s ineffective. Give your customer service team decision-making authority and provide the right tools so they’re ready to succeed. If you’re hiring and training strategies are in the right place, this pays off.
Trust and empowerment go so far as to earn your company greater revenue. People who trust their companies experience 74% less stress. In addition, they have higher productivity and fewer sick days. When employees feel good about their work, this bleeds into service interactions. They’re excited to serve customers, and they believe they can really make a difference on an individual level.
The best example of this is the hospitality leader The Ritz-Carlton. Known across the globe for outstanding service, The Ritz-Carlton actually allows employees to use up to $2,000 to address guest problems. Though this might sound extreme, it creates a memorable experience. When a customer has an amazing stay, they come back (and tell their friends about it). By empowering team members, The Ritz-Carlton continues to rank on top in terms of hotel guest satisfaction.
Emphasize the importance of transparency and humility.
Next, you need to emphasize the importance of transparency and humility within your customer service skills. This is especially true when things go wrong. Today more than ever, your customers want to support brands that are transparent. A reported 94% of consumers say they’re more likely to be loyal to a brand that offers transparency.
This includes transparency with customers and your own team. When you’re open about mistakes, business processes, and information, you encourage honesty in return. Even when mistakes happen (and they will), staying transparent helps businesses regain trust. In fact, it’s shown that customers trust a brand more when they’ve made a mistake and turned the situation around.
With that in mind, how can you focus on transparency as a customer support team? Start by cultivating a culture of honesty. This means employees feel comfortable sharing concerns and opinions. From there, make information accessible and respond to customers quickly. Transparency and humility should be at the foundation of your strategy.
When mistakes happen, don’t play the blame game; fix them. The outdoor retailer Patagonia truly highlights transparency on their Footprint page of their website. By outlining their full supply chain, environmental impact, and company culture, they make it easy for both customers and employees to understand their impact. Similarly, when a customer or employee has a question about these complicated topics, it’s easy to share clear information. Employees feel empowered by their knowledge.
Demonstrate the value of customer feedback by implementing it immediately.
Another important step is to not just request customer feedback but to also implement it quickly. It’s easy for brands to assume they know best. In reality, you’ll never know what your customers think until you ask them yourself. Your customer service team is a great source of insight regarding customers’ perspectives, but you can also implement targeted surveys.
It’s important to recognize that your customers won’t always speak up about problems on their own. A reported 1 in 26 customers is actually likely to bring up complaints. What about the other 25 customers? They’ll just stay silent and take their business elsewhere. This is why it’s a must to make sure you’re requesting customer feedback and implementing it.
How can you get customer feedback? It can be as simple as any of these ideas:
- Post a survey or poll on social media
- Collect feedback through comments
- Use a feedback box at an in-person location
- Monitor social media mentions
- Offer discounts or rewards in return for feedback
- Ask for feedback on a confirmation page
- Send email surveys regularly
Alaska Airlines makes it their priority to always ask customers for feedback. While they do this throughout the customer journey, they even follow up after a trip is complete. Customers are asked to rate their experience out of 10 to determine key metrics like net promoter score. This is why Alaska Airlines continues to lead among customer satisfaction surveys year after year.
Approach all conversations with a ‘service over sales’ mindset.
Next, sales are important, but not as important as service. As a team, it’s easy to get swept up in the lure of a new sale. In reality, this isn’t how you attract more customers. It’s also not how you keep your existing customers loyal. Nowadays, consumers are savvier than ever. They don’t want to feel like a sleazy car salesman is trying to take advantage of their wallets.
Instead, focus on curating a service mindset. The key to fostering 5-star customer service skills is to look for ways to add value. This means you don’t want to sell something to a customer for the sake of it. How do you master this mindset?
- Why: Start by understanding your ‘why.’ If you don’t know what your company does well and why it’s the best fit over competitors, it’s impossible to convince your customers.
- Value: Winning team members also understand the true value of their products and services.
- Personalization: Today, it’s never been more essential to personalize the experience. Every customer should be seen as an individual with unique needs.
- Listen: The final piece in the ‘service over sales’ mindset puzzle is listening more than you talk.
A brand that always leads with service is Trader Joe’s. This non-flashy grocery chain goes above and beyond to position employees in a place of helpfulness. For example, Trader Joe’s employees stock shelves during store hours. While this might seem strange, it means there’s a bigger chance customers will engage with employees. These interactions add up, resulting in billions in net sales each year.
Be an example for your team in all of your service efforts.
Last but not least, be an example for your team from the start. When it comes to fostering 5-star customer service skills amongst your team, it starts with you at the top. Employees look to their leaders to understand how they’re expected to perform. If you lead through your own example, it’s easy to create a group legacy of success.
With 67% of people across the globe agreeing that customer service is increasing as an industry, the competition has never been more fierce. When you provide a great experience to your team, your customers, and other leaders, it’s clear that this is valued at all levels. Customer service can’t exist in a sillo. It needs to be a part of every team and every interaction. From there, everything else falls into place naturally.
The communication company AT&T does a stellar job of leading by example. With over 280,000 employees nationwide, it’s not always easy to make sure all employees feel prepared. Thanks to AT&T University, executives lead leadership and management development courses for employees across the nation. AT&T understands that leadership takes skills, and they need a strong program to commit to this type of team building.
Create 5-Star Customer Service Skills
Ultimately, 5-star customer service skills don’t happen overnight. They take ongoing effort, training, and empowerment across your whole team. Today, customer experience is the newest battleground for companies of all shapes and sizes. It’s no longer good enough to have ‘great’ service. You need to push beyond expectations to show your customers you value their loyalty.
When it comes to creating superfans, your foundation starts with customer service. When you improve customer service in your business, you optimize all brand touchpoints. By ensuring each interaction is worthwhile and memorable, you build something worthwhile.