Good customer service plays a key role for companies looking to deliver a high-end customer experience. In fact, it often determines whether a customer will stick with a company or move on to a competitor (89% of consumers say they have after receiving poor customer service).

While the customer experience encompasses the entire buyer’s journey—from seeing an ad to possibly making a return or exchange—customer service is rooted in human interaction. To ensure that a company provides amazing service, the right people need to be on the frontlines. Customer service agents must possess honesty, patience, and empathy.

Once a company has the right people in place, it’s up to them to establish resources, guidelines, and support channels that empower their employees to do what they do best—serve customers. While some dos and don’ts of customer service appear obvious—be polite and respectful, don’t be indifferent and dishonest—plenty of tactics require more nuance. Below, we’ll touch on four dos and four don’ts of customer service that help fuel a better overall customer experience.

The dos:

Establish unified messaging across all customer interactions

Customers often get most frustrated when a company provides mixed messages. Whether it’s a customer service agent contradicting something on a FAQ page or agents contradicting one another, customers lose faith in a company quickly if messaging isn’t unified. To combat these situations, provide an easily-accessible “source of truth” resource to employees, such as agent-scripting tools to ensure agents are consistent with their answers. Encourage these same employees to keep their eyes peeled for any discrepancies that may arise in their day-to-day work. Another great tactic is to schedule internal audits on a quarterly basis to guarantee all customer touchpoints remain updated and unified.

Communicate internally when unique circumstances arise

Customers use products in many different ways. And while smart companies have best practices and guidelines established for 95% of customer situations, some outliers will no doubt stump even the most savvy customer service agents. Rather than trying to solve the issue themselves, agents should confer with their coworkers and management. If the situation has arisen before, someone likely figured out a workable solution. Once that solution has been agreed upon, be sure to include it in any internal best-practices documents or online help guides. Providing your agents with the right tools to facilitate internal collaboration will go a long way.

Proactive customer communication

It’s one thing to receive great customer service in the midst of a purchase. It’s even better when that same company reaches out to a customer after they’ve made a purchase—especially if it’s not a product that requires support. Reaching out organically, or even setting up automated emails, will show customers you not only care about their satisfaction, but that you want them to get the most out of a product, as well. This simple action can help boost repeat purchases and customer lifetime value.

Know your company’s products inside and out

Customers want to know that the agent they’re talking to is an authority on the product or service the customer is inquiring about. Nothing shatters your customer’s confidence more than when an agent can’t properly navigate their company’s products when answering any type of query. If the customer want more information before buying, insufficient answers could be the difference between making or not making a sale. If the customer has already purchased the product or service and has a troubleshooting question, reps need the confidence to walk them through their query, locate documentation to help resolve the issue, and know when to reach out to individual teams outside customer service to get an expert opinion.

The don’ts:

Treat customers as a transaction

There are two ways to think about your interactions with customers. First, you can look at them as a mere transaction—just another job to do. Secondly, you can look at them as relationships—as actual human beings whose wants and needs actually matter to you. The former is a quick way to lose repeat purchasers while the latter provides the personal touch that can go a long way to help retain customers, build brand loyalty, and spark word-of-mouth marketing that brings in additional buyers.

Leave customer conversations open

Never leave a customer wondering if you’re going to get back to them.  Even if you solve the problem and the conversation seems finished, send a quick note to make sure the customer feels confident in the resolution.

Commit to a deadline you can’t meet

When offering a deadline—e.g., “I’ll get back to you by 2:00 p.m.”—be sure that it’s reasonable for both the customer service team and the customer. Underestimating the time it will take to solve a problem can leave the customer frustrated. It can also lead to customers assuming your agents are inept. Of course, there will be times when a deadline can’t be met. In these instances, it’s imperative to communicate with the customer. A simple, ”Hey, we’re still working on helping you out” can do wonders toward strengthening company/customer relationships. And using the right tools to make sure the agents remember to communicate back at the agreed-upon time is key. You can’t expect agents to keep track of all their call-back on Post-Its. You need tools that automatically prompt agents to call customers back at a scheduled time—these can range from sophisticated software solutions for large call-center teams or free scheduling tools like Trello or Google Calendar.

Use jargon

Like you would with any external communication, leave jargon out of customer service interactions. Jargon not only confuses your customers but it can leave them feeling incompetent. To avoid jargon, come up with a list of terms your entire company uses and “de-jargon” them. For example, rather than calling the “settings icon” by its technical name, call it a “gear icon,” because that’s what it looks like. Simple language shifts like this help create a fluid and efficient customer service experience.

Putting it all into practice

Customer service starts with hiring the right people—people who are honest, patient, and empathetic. Once a company has a foundation of great service agents, it can build a robust and unified service department, where all agents are aligned on language and behavior. That way, even if a customer has to speak with multiple agents, the experience will be seamless.

Following the do’s listed above, and avoiding the don’ts, can help companies stand out from competitors and grow their businesses––not just through product sales, but through high-level service that keeps customers coming back and referring it to others.

Originally published Jul 30, 2020, updated Jan 16, 2023