Customer service is the foundation of every business. No matter what you’re doing or selling, you won’t be successful if your business is built on bad service. And that can’t be viewed in general terms, or the overall effectiveness of your customer service, or the average level of your customer satisfaction. It’s about the whole experience, every single member of your team pulling in one direction to create a cohesive whole. It’s about how you’re measuring customer experience and expectations, and not only ensuring every stage of their journey is exceptional, but that the metrics you use to gauge that success are as accurate and relevant as possible.

You may well believe that you have a customer-centric business, and there’s no need for improvement. But the key attribute of any truly successful business is the ability to constantly push for improvement. So whether you’re confident in the quality of your customer service, or fully aware there’s room for improvement, understanding this: great customer service is vital for success, and no matter how good (or bad) your is, there is always room for improvement.

It used to be that a customer receiving bad service might complain to a handful of people. Now they can shout it from social channels and reach potentially thousands.

Today’s 21st century customers have more power over brands and companies than ever before. Online reviews can make or break. Complaints can go viral.

That kind of reputational damage is hard to come back from. Your customers and potential customers are listening and if they don’t like what they hear, they will look elsewhere.

This blog, however, isn’t about the importance of customer service. You already know it’s important. You’ve probably trained your call centre and customer-facing employees already.

So why aren’t you receiving more compliments and positive feedback?

Why are you struggling to retain customers and attract new ones?

Why is your business not growing the way it should?

If you think you’re already optimising your customer service, then look again. You need to go beyond fulfilling basic customer needs and deliver an experience that surpasses all expectations. Let’s get your customers singing your praises from the rooftops, not airing their grievances on Facebook.

Happy customers cost you less, make you more and build your reputation for you. So here’s the truth about how to improve customer service, and achieve business growth…

Think Beyond Your Contact Points…

What many companies or organisations don’t realise is that customer service doesn’t begin and end with their reception staff, or the phone calls, emails, texts and facetime you have with your customers.

Good customer service is created when everyone pulls together – not just one team or department. Every single member of staff has a role to play.

It’s critical that your people display the right attitude and dedication. Good customer service comes from empathy, communication, patience, an ability to handle difficult situations with a cool head, and a willingness to solve problems and offer solutions.

Start by looking at your team members at your most prominent customer touch points. Have they got the right interpersonal skills for customer service? Do they understand the importance of their role in creating business success?

However, your customer service goes beyond these primary touch points. It happens every single time your customers interact with your business on their journey to buying your services or products.

Think about your mobile operatives, accounts department, even your website and social media – are they customer focused? Are they just doing their job, or are they geared toward the customer experience and delivering added value?

A business’ online customer service is just as important in the digital era as its face-to-face interactions. If you’re not responding promptly to comments, queries and complaints on your website or social media, that’s just as bad as leaving a customer hanging on the phone, unable to get through.

What’s more, happy customers, on and offline, are more likely to leave positive reviews on Google, Yelp, Facebook and more, boosting your digital standing and driving more customers your way.

Create A Customer Centred Culture…

There are many operational things you can look at that will improve your customer service. These include better workflow and communication between teams or departments, CRM systems, and enhancing your website and phone systems to make them as user friendly as possible.

All of these things are important and can have a big impact. However, business at its core is about people.

People like dealing and speaking with people.

I believe the only place to start when looking to improve your customer service is your people – not just their skills, but how they feel.

Are they happy?

Do they enjoy their work?

Do they believe in what your company? Are they a single, passionate, engaged team driven by mutual rewards and recognition?

To give exceptional customer service, your employees need to feel valued. They need to feel engaged with your business goals.

But how do you create happy, engaged workers? The answer lies in your culture.

If your company culture is toxic, stale or uninspiring, that negativity will filter down into the attitude of your employees and impact on the customer service they provide.

If you’re really committed to improving customer service, you’ll need to take stock of your entire business culture. Change a profit-driven culture to one that is led by customer experience. Switch your focus from input to results; hours clocked to innovation and fresh thinking. Get your managers to swap control for employee trust and empowerment.

Implementing big changes across a workforce is no small task. You’ll need to dedicate time, energy and money to creating and embedding a customer centred culture throughout your organisation.

By changing your company values to customer-first, and empowering your people to make sure those changes stick, you’ll be positioned to accelerate your business growth.

Feedback, Feedback And More Feedback…

The only way to really know for sure if you’re meeting customer needs is by asking them.

Customer feedback is absolutely vital.

You need to understand their needs and pain points. What do they like and what could you do better? What are they interested in? What problems are they seeking solutions for?

To really uplevel your customer service, you need to follow up and seek feedback at every opportunity.

This could include a simple ‘How Did We Do?’ email after an interaction, a reminder to leave a review, surveys or a good old fashioned phone call.

It sounds like a lot of work, but these days these actions can all be automated with a decent CRM system. Once set up and working, customers will be automatically sent feedback forms or surveys at the appropriate points and all the responses are then collated.

Once you have their feedback, make sure you act on it. And when you have made improvements as a result of feedback, make sure your customers know about it.

In the modern world, data is king. The more you know about your customers and their experience with your business, the better you can tailor your delivery, products and services.

Improve Your Customer Service…

If you think your customer service is holding your business back from achieving its full potential, you’ll need to get serious about taking it to the next level.

This means starting from the ground up – stripping back your processes, your culture and your teams and building them again with a renewed focus on customer experience and added value.

Change is not easy, but if what you’re doing isn’t working then change is a necessity. It’s the only way to survive in a world where customer desires and expectations are continually evolving.

To find out more about creating a customer centred culture, embedding change and engaging your people, sign up for my free video series on The CPR Method, and see how it can transform your business…