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9 customer service principles that’ll delight your customers

Ring Central Blog

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12 min read

You’ve heard it all before:

“The customer is always right…”

“Don’t forget to smile…”

“First impressions are everything…”

But beyond the obvious clichés and soundbite advice, what does it actually take to develop a solid customer service strategy?

How can you build a customer service process that ensures a positive and pain-free experience for everyone who comes into contact with your brand?

You start with your fundamental customer service principles, of course.

In this post, we’ll look at:

So let’s start by looking at why you should develop a customer service philosophy in the first place.


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Why you need a customer service philosophy

A customer service philosophy is an overarching ethos that guides your business in all its customer interactions. 

Different businesses have different attitudes toward customer service. For some, customer service is just another business function, while for others it plays a decisive role in maintaining a competitive advantage.

The truth is you can’t sleep on building your team’s customer service skills if you care about sustainable business growth. The benefits of good service are too great—and the costs of bad service are just too steep.

Benefits of good customer service

Costs of bad customer service

Clearly, providing great customer service isn’t just a matter of common decency; it also makes a lot of business sense.

But what exactly is “great” service? What are the key ingredients? And how can you achieve it reliably and efficiently?

These are the questions your customer service philosophy will help answer.

To help hone your own philosophy, we’ve collected nine core principles that form the foundation of outstanding customer service.

9 foundational principles of outstanding customer service

1. Responsiveness

Response time is probably one of the biggest factors affecting customer service satisfaction. In fact, in the Customer Communications Review, 60% of respondents thought that waiting on hold for anywhere from 10 seconds to 3 minutes was too long:

how long is too long on hold  

This is hardly surprising. We’ve all felt the agony of being put on hold for way too long.

The two most important metrics to bear in mind when looking to develop fast customer service are first-response time and first-call resolution, or first-contact resolution ratio

First-response time refers to how long it takes an agent to respond after a customer first reaches out. A short first-response time reassures the customer that their problem has been registered and that someone’s working on it.

First-contact resolution ratio refers to the proportion of customer issues that are resolved in one go. Fun fact: up to 67% of customer churn is preventable if problems are solved when the customer first raises them.7

Factors affecting responsiveness:

2. Know-how

Reps with a strong understanding of your product or service are better equipped to give accurate answers to specific customer questions.

This won’t just minimize mistakes; it’ll make your customers feel confident that their problem is being dealt with by a competent pair of hands.

Knowledgeable agents are key to a better customer experience: 33% of customers say that speaking to an agent that knows their stuff is the most important aspect of customer service.8 

Factors affecting know-how:

3. Effortlessness

You should try to make your customer service as easy to access and understand as possible.

Chances are your customers are already preoccupied with the problem or question they’re contacting you about. The last thing they need is to jump through a bunch of hoops to get to you.

Factors affecting effortlessness:

4. Consistency

Inconsistent brand interactions can leave your customers with a bad impression.

It’s important to do all you can to ensure that customers receive the same quality of service across all your communication channels

Kate Leggett explains this in a Forrester Research analysis of consistency in customer service9

Customers expect the same experience every time they interact with a company—whether it be when researching a product, completing a sales transaction, or getting customer service—over all the communication channels that a company offers.”

In fact, consistency can play a big role in customer loyalty, with up to 73% of customers willing to switch brands if they don’t receive consistent experiences across different channels.10

Factors affecting consistency:

5. Openness

Maintaining a level of honesty and openness with your customers can go a long way toward earning their trust and respect.

For example, it’s okay to let the customer know if you’re unsure of something. You can tell them that you’ll look into it and to give them the answer as soon as you can. 

Likewise, for most people, waiting isn’t so bad. What gets people agitated is not knowing why they’re waiting, or for how long they’ll have to wait.

The key here is to keep your customers in the loop so they aren’t left hanging.

Factors affecting openness:

6. A human touch

Politeness, personality, and empathy are key human traits that make all the difference in creating an inviting customer experience.

People don’t like feeling like they’re interacting with a faceless, soulless machine, and they certainly don’t want to be treated like one themselves!

A human touch is indispensable: 73% of customers stick with a brand because of the memorable experiences created by friendly employees.11 

Similarly, 68% of customers think being assigned a pleasant agent is key to a positive customer service experience.12

Showing that you care about the individual at the other end—including their problems and goals—will leave your customers feeling uniquely appreciated. 

Factors affecting a human touch:

7. Proactivity

Truly great customer service stories tend to be both proactive and reactive.

Proactive brands go out of their way to serve customers in ways that aren’t prompted—that’s how you really exceed customer expectations.

Proactive customer service may include letting customers know about a new service or upgrade they’d like, telling them about any errors or defects in a product, or reaching out to reward them with a loyalty bonus.

The great benefit of proactive customer service is that it takes care of customers’ needs before they even realize they have it. So it’s not surprising that 68% of customers view proactive brands more favorably.13

Factors affecting proactivity:

JetBlue providing swift support to a dissatisfied customer on Twitter

8. Customer autonomy

Customers often like to take the reins and troubleshoot service issues themselves. 

In fact, 73% of customers want the ability to solve these problems on their own14, while 70% expect company websites to offer self-service options.15

Self-service is generally quicker and easier for the customer than opening a service ticket. It also reduces the amount of work for your agents.

Ideally, your customers will be able to choose self-service and escalate to a real-life service agent if needed.

Factors affecting customer autonomy:

RingCentral’s knowledge base, which lets customers find answers to commonly asked questions whenever they want.

 

9. Continuous improvement

You should continuously look for new ways to refine your level of customer service. There will always be things you can do better.

To do this, you need to pay close attention to operational data and customer feedback.

Negative reviews often contain valid insights that you can act on to improve your service. You should value these complaints as much as you do positive feedback since 91% of unhappy customers will simply leave without complaining.17

Factors affecting improvement:

Monmouth Coffee is a well-loved coffee shop in London. The handful of poor reviews on Google contain ideas of how they could improve their service.

 

3 real-life examples of customer service philosophy in action

1. Disney

Disney is perhaps the gold standard of customer service. 

The company obsesses about providing magical experiences to its customers, and its incredible 70% return rate for first-time visitors speaks for itself.18

Disney even runs its own institute (The Disney Institute) to help service professionals from other companies improve their customer experience.

So, how does Disney work its magic?

For Walt Disney, the secret to quality service lay in the constant improvement of mundane processes and careful attention to detail. 

This philosophy remains at the heart of the company to this day.

For example, Disney found that some children would wait in line for a ride only to find out they were too short to get on (despite efforts to make height-restrictions clear and obvious). To turn these situations into positive experiences, Disney now gives these children a special pass to skip to the front of the line for their next ride. (We tried to find you a photo of these fabled passes to show you what they look like, but alas…)

In another example of process optimization, Disney found that many customers leaving the park would struggle to find where they left their cars in the enormous parking lot. The solution was to fill the parking lot each morning in a particular order and give guests a note of their arrival time. That way, at the end of the day, leaving guests could simply let the park tram operators know what time they had arrived in order to be dropped off in the right place.  

Disney also emphasizes the importance of employee knowledge, tone, and body language in service delivery. Employees (or “cast members”) must stay true to their roles in front of guests. For example, if you ask Cinderella, “Hey, can I take a picture of you with my iPhone?”, you might expect her to reply, “What’s an iPhone?”—thereby staying in character. 

2. Zappos

Zappos is another company with a legendary reputation for customer service.

The company prides itself on being a service company first and a clothing and footwear company second. 

Zappos’s mission to continually “WOW” customers and offer the best solutions possible spills into every aspect of their customer service.

For example, customers can speak with an agent for as long as they want. Zappos has no restrictive call time parameters. In fact, the company’s record for longest customer service call is 10 hours, 51 minutes!19

Zappos’s Customer Loyalty Team is known for its big, customer-delighting gestures. Each year, the team sends out 13,000 custom-illustrated greeting cards directly to customers, for weddings, birthdays, and other special occasions.

By doing all they can to go above and beyond for their customers, Zappos succeeds in building long-term relationships and a truly loyal customer base. That’s why 75% of purchases through Zappos come from returning customers.20

Rob Siefker, Senior Director of Customer Loyalty at Zappos, explains simply why the company is so obsessed with impressing its customers: “People will not choose your business if you don’t provide them great service”.

3. Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s is yet another company known for its excellent customer experience.

In fact, Trader Joe’s was the only national grocery store to rank top in Consumer Reports 2019 customer satisfaction survey.21

Each store has a welcoming, neighborhood feel to it, and the staff are famously cheerful and eager to help customers. 

Store managers spend most of the day on the retail floor interacting with customers, while store assistants respond to every customer need, readily offering taste-tests to undecided shoppers. 

Of course, this level of service is no accident. 

CEO Dan Brane lists seven core values that each new team member adopts when they join the company22:

  1. Integrity
  2. Product-driven company
  3. WOW customer service (Sound familiar?)
  4. No bureaucracy
  5. Kaizen (a Japanese word that means “continuous self-improvement”) 
  6. The store is the brand
  7. We’re a national chain of neighborhood grocery stores

Ready to define your own customer service principles?

Top-notch customer service is an essential pillar for any customer-facing business. 

It’s a key that unlocks some of the finest prizes on offer when growing a business: customer loyalty, brand advocacy, and rich customer feedback. 

Poor customer service, on the other hand, can lead to dire consequences for your brand.

Your customer service strategy should be informed by an underlying customer service philosophy. This set of principles embodies your company values and will guide your employees in every customer interaction they have.

 

 

 


1 zendesk.com/resources/customer-service-and-lifetime-customer-value

2 experiencematters.blog/category/roi-of-customer-experience

3, 10 salesforce.com/research/customer-expectations

4, 5, 12, 16 about.americanexpress.com/press-release/wellactually-americans-say-customer-service-better-ever

6 https://www.salesforce.com/products/service-cloud/best-practices/customer-retention-rate

7 ameyo.com/blog/customer-experience-statistics-which-will-impact-your-business-in-2016

8, 13 info.microsoft.com/rs/157-GQE-382/images/EN-CNTNT-Report-DynService-2017-global-state-customer-service-en-au.pdf

9 go.forrester.com/blogs/11-07-16-a_consistent_customer_experience_requires_consistency_in_managing_voice_electronic_and_social_interac

11customerthermometer.com/customer-service/customer-service-and-satisfaction-statistics-for-2020

14 bizreport.com/2015/04/report-poor-customer-service-pushes-consumers-away.html

15 slideshare.net/stevenvanbelleghem/the-self-serving-economy/13

17 huffpost.com/entry/50-important-customer-exp_b_8295772

18 huffpost.com/entry/how-disney-creates-magica_b_7093682

19 zappos.com/about/stories/record-call

20 sharpencx.com/blog/zappos-customer-service

21 consumerreports.org/grocery-stores-supermarkets/best-grocery-stores-and-supermarkets

22 traderjoes.com/TJ_CMS_Content/Images/Digin/pdfs/InsideTJs-Episode2-Transcript.pdf

Originally published Mar 02, 2020, updated Oct 16, 2020

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