A single bad experience is all it takes to lose a customer’s trust. It’s arguably easier than ever for customers to bounce to a competitor.
Because, hey, customer expectations are high. Like, really high.
So, if customers are so fickle, then what’s the point in trying to improve customer satisfaction? They’re just going to leave at some point anyway. Right?
Well… (you knew this was coming), not exactly.
If you’ve impressed your customers consistently and maintained a high enough level of customer satisfaction, then that’s probably the best buffer you can have against the little hiccups that pop up in business. Like momentary service outages. A delay in the delivery schedule. Even a customer service rep who’s just off their game because they’re having a bad day.
These things happen. A lot. And they’re not always preventable. That’s why you need strategies to increase customer satisfaction where you can—to protect your company against these things (and your customers’ negative reactions) when they do happen.
And as a company that’s helped so many customer support teams communicate and collaborate with their customers (we do have a contact center product, after all…), we know what it feels like when a customer service rep feels like they’re on thin ice. It’s not fun.
So, if you’re struggling with how to increase customer satisfaction, this guide breaks down 14 specific strategies to help small businesses meet and exceed the expectations of modern customers:
- Practice proactive service to get a jump on your customers’ concerns
- Empower your support agents (with motivation and tech tools)
- Keep a detailed list of your customer interactions to get to know them
- Set expectations that you can actually follow through on
- Always give your customers the opportunity to talk to a human
- Beyond letting customers talk to a human, be human in your support
- Take the time to celebrate your satisfied customers
- Meet customers at their support channel of choice
- Prioritize speedy service with notifications and performance-tracking
- Curate customer feedback to predict problems in the future
- Don’t settle for one-size-fits-all service
- Make customer satisfaction a goal across all departments, not just support
- Be conscious of your greetings and goodbyes
- Integrate customer satisfaction into your company culture
How customer-obsessed is your business? Take the quiz. 💚
Test-drive these 14 strategies to increase customer satisfaction
1. Practice proactive service to get a jump on your customers’ concerns
First things first, providing service and support shouldn’t always be a reaction to a problem.
As we mentioned in our guide to creating a customer-centric strategy, it’s always helpful to be in touch with your customers regularly. This is also known as “outbound customer service” (as opposed to “inbound,” where you’re receiving these calls and questions instead.)
This not only shows customers that you’re invested in their continued success using your product or service, but also lets you nip potential problems in the bud before you end up facing a full-blown customer retention crisis.
One good thing to do is to get to know your customers’ and their personal preferences. Even if that means they want a more hands-off relationship and would rather you not reach out to them as much, at least you know directly. (If you’ve ever adjusted your email communication settings because you were getting too many emails from a company, you know what we’re talking about.)
One of the keys to providing proactive customer service is to have all your customers’ information—like their past purchases and conversation history—at your fingertips when you’re reaching out or following up. Which makes sense. “Hey Sarah, just calling to make sure everything went smoothly with your new mortgage and that you’re enjoying your beautiful new loft,” sounds a lot clearer and more impressive than, “Hey Sarah, uh, just wanted to check in and see how everything’s going.”
This is where customer service software can really make even a small customer service team of one or two look like a huge organization. For example, in RingCentral, not only can you see your messaging history with a customer, it also lets you make and take calls directly from your computer so that you always know exactly who you’re talking to—even if you’ve never spoken with them before:
2. Empower your support agents (with motivation and the right tools)
Chances are your support agents need, well, support.
After all, they’re the ones dealing with difficult customers and managing the (probably very high) expectations set by your company. Anything you can do to help them avoid frustration and burnout is a plus.
For starters, it’s crucial to keep your support agents motivated. It’s well-documented that highly engaged employees produce better results for businesses.1
From sharing performance data to celebrating milestones and encouraging customer service teamwork, don’t be shy about letting your agents know when they’ve knocked it out of the park. This can be done during your weekly meetings or daily stand-ups. (In other words, your support agents shouldn’t be in the dark about how they’re doing.)
Equally important is empowering your agents with tools that allow them to work more effectively.
Food for thought, 56% of support agents2 have to toggle between screens when communicating with customers. This results in wasted time, frustrated customers, and equally annoyed agents who have to bounce from platform to platform just to do their jobs.
Consolidate your customer support team’s customer service apps. If one tool can do three tasks, why pay for three separate tools every month to get the same work done? Not only does that help your small business streamline costs, it’ll also help your team work more quickly since they have fewer apps to dig through—which results in speedier service for customers.
On a related note, if your business has multiple social media profiles, wouldn’t it be helpful if you could see all your messages in one place? This is where an omnichannel customer service solution would come in handy. Some will even let you handle your live chats, text messages, emails, social media, and more—all in the same dashboard. For example, here’s how it looks in RingCentral:
So much of figuring out how to increase customer satisfaction is a combination of speeding up your customer support and engaging with customers on their terms.
The takeaway here? More efficient agents result in more agile customer service, which results in more satisfied customers.
Get more customer service tips here.
3. Log your customer interactions diligently
Based on our recent consumer survey, forcing customers to repeat information is a surefire way to annoy them. Actually, 70% of respondents ranked having to repeat themselves after being transferred as “very annoying”:
And so, recording your customer interactions in detail is one of the most important—and low-cost—ways to improve customer satisfaction.
For example, the following customer details should be front-and-center for your agents whenever they hop on a support call:
- How long a customer has been with your company
- What their preferred method of contact is
- Past support issues they’ve had
- Which agents they’ve spoken to in the past (if any)
- Which products and services they’re using
- Demographic data (age, location, gender)
It shouldn’t be difficult to find this information in real time. (And you don’t have to spend hours logging this in spreadsheets, either.)
If you don’t have a business phone service or collaboration hub that can do this, a CRM might be another option. Piggybacking on the previous point of making your team’s lives easier, a CRM can also take care of task automation by automatically logging details and customer interactions. Combine that with a communication platform like RingCentral, and you can see all of your customers’ profiles and notes as you’re dialing out to them:
4. Set expectations—that you can actually follow through on
Although customer expectations are arguably higher than ever, keep in mind that your company has control over those expectations.
For example, a small business shouldn’t promise free two-day shipping to compete with Amazon if they can’t actually deliver on that promise.
From money-back guarantees to return policies and beyond, brainstorm how you can delight customers—and avoid potential problems by simply being clear about what you offer.
Warby Parker’s satisfaction and return policy3 is a good example of what we’re talking about. Welcoming (“We <3 improving”) and flexible, this is how you set expectations that are positive and clear:
Make a point to promote these policies (think: on your website, via contracts) so your customers know what you’re doing to go above and beyond.
5. Always give your customers the opportunity to talk to a human
In fact, phone support is still a commonly preferred channel for customers:
Despite the rise of chatbots and automated messaging, companies shouldn’t sleep on their phone support and real-time communication. Just having those different options for support can be a low-effort way to increase customer satisfaction.
Based on our own case study with Pipeline Deals, offering human support is still something that customers want—even when they’re buying something technical like software:
“A big part of our value proposition is that, as a customer, you’ll always be able to reach a human when you call us,” says Paige Thomas, the company’s Customer Care Manager. “RingCentral is a big help there because it’s a cloud phone solution that we can use anywhere.”
🕹️ Get a hands-on look at how RingCentral works by booking a product tour:
6. Beyond letting customers talk to a human, be human in your support
Sounds simple, but so many companies are still afraid to do this. Dropping unnecessary jargon and corporate-speak is a simple way to increase customer satisfaction.
Be professional and helpful, yes, but don’t be a robot. (This goes for both online customer service and traditional phone calls or in-person interactions.) Talking to customers in a conversational and friendly way goes hand in hand with providing a human touch. We see this often with companies providing support via social media today:
Refer to your customers by name. Don’t be afraid of small talk. Oh, and don’t try to “template” your conversations with scripts. (To be fair, scripts are a great tool, but in our humble opinion, they’re usually best used as a starting point and general guideline as opposed to a rigid must-follow rule.)
7. Celebrate your satisfied customers
Customer satisfaction is about so much more than sweating over questions and complaints.
For example, consider your business’s loyal fans and advocates. You know, the people who are willing to talk up your business and sing your praises.
Make a point to let these folks know that you’re listening. From great customer service stories to shout-out posts on social media, don’t let your digital word-of-mouth go to waste:
Celebrating and sharing positive customer feedback shows that your company is listening to—and talking to—your customers. And why wouldn’t you want to share these stories from satisfied customers? It might just create a halo effect for your company.
8. Meet customers at their support channel of choice
Customers crave flexibility when it comes to how they get in touch with your business.
Maybe you have customers who hate hopping on calls. On the flip side, maybe your target audience almost exclusively wants to talk in real time. You need to be flexible.
Are you mostly talking to Millennials and GenZ digital natives? Or Boomers who use Facebook? Tailor your messaging for each channel and audience.
Typically, you’ll need to provide a combination of self-service resources (think: a knowledge base, videos, blog posts) as well as real-time communication (think: phone service, live chat, social media customer support) in order to cover all of their bases.
Essentially, customers should be able to reach your team, but also troubleshoot issues themselves if they need or want to. For example, companies like Adobe have a robust knowledge base with an FAQ section, contact options, and a massive YouTube channel with user tutorials:
They also respond to social comments and Facebook messages to meet their customers across all channels:
Bear in mind that you can’t assume how your customers will use each communication channel. Customers might respond to a Tweet or comment on an Instagram picture with an order issue. Treat those communications with the same care as you would a more traditional phone call.
Our own customers have had to overcome the challenge of not only meeting customers on multiple platforms but also making sure that none of those interactions get lost in the shuffle. For example, Stratejm found that having a consolidated communications solution made a huge difference for both the business and its customers:
“RingCentral takes several problems off my plate,” says John Menezes, Stratejm President and CEO. “Now my analytics can communicate and collaborate with our customers in whatever way they choose including voice, chat, text, email, and video. RingCentral enables us to make Stratejm friendlier to our customers. Thanks to RingCentral, we can deliver a great customer service experience. And that’s good for business.”
9. Prioritize speedy service with notifications and performance-tracking
No surprises here: customers hate waiting.
Customers want their experience with your business to match how easy non-business-related apps make the rest of their life. Just as they can watch shows on demand on Netflix or instantaneously message friends on WhatsApp, they expect customer service to be equally quick and easy.
This again speaks to having instant, self-service options available to customers.
The question of “how long” is “too long” varies from business to business. Regardless, you should be aware of what your communication times and other customer service KPIs look like, and improve them where you can.
That’s why, when you’re choosing a contact center tool or customer service app, having access to data (ideally through easy-to-digest dashboards) is so important. For example, RingCentral’s Contact Center analytics show you how each person on your customer support team is doing:
As highlighted by our case study with AseraCare, data is crucial to spotting ways that service teams can improve. Matt Dillman, the company’s IT Support Supervisor notes:
“I see what is going on with the team in real time and get insight into both the customer experience [queues and hold times] as well as agent performance [handle time per agent, number of calls handled].”
Learn how to track the right call center metrics.
10. Curate customer feedback to predict problems in the future
If you want to satisfy customers in the future, you need to look at your most common problems in the past.
And even though it’s not fun, you should also definitely assess the reasons why you’ve lost customers. For example, you could dig into data regarding cancellations or lost customers to figure out your shortcomings. This can be hugely useful in the future for knowing what not to do as you try to increase customer satisfaction. Dashboards like Baremetrics’ “Cancellation Insights”4 highlight customer pain points, such as products being too pricey or technical for their liking:
A combination of customer data and real-world feedback can clue you in on how to better satisfy customers.
11. Don’t settle for one-size-fits-all service
Setting rigid rules and relying solely on scripts to provide service is… not the best way to serve customers.
Customers (rightfully) expect in-depth, personalized care when the situation demands it—and sometimes even when it doesn’t. This is especially true when trying to figure out how to increase customer satisfaction in industries like hospitality where you’re serving a diverse range of customers (think: budgets and backgrounds) with totally unique needs.
The same rings true for tech support, where agents might need to share their screens or have a virtual meeting to get to the root of a customer’s problems. These hands-on tactics are another way to boost customer satisfaction.
12. Make customer satisfaction a goal across all departments, not just support
Customer satisfaction isn’t the sole responsibility of your support agents.
For example, consider how marketers are responsible for messaging and coming up with ads that speak to your audience. Think about how sales teams are tasked with picking prospects’ brains, figuring out which services and features are the most compelling to potential customers.
Employees across departments should be empowered to talk to each other. From sharing resources to analyzing customer insights together, they need a communication tool that lets them call each other, send messages in team threads, do screen sharing, and more—basically, however the team wants to communicate.
For example, RingCentral’s desktop and mobile app lets teams make phone calls and video calls, send each other messages, share files, screen share, and more—all in one app:
13. Be conscious of your greetings and goodbyes
Figuring out how to increase customer satisfaction isn’t always about making big, sweeping changes.
The little details, like how you greet customers or sound-off, also matter. And you don’t necessarily need super advanced customer service skills either:
14. Integrate customer satisfaction into your company culture
Creating a customer-centric culture should be the long-term goal for just about any company today.
This means not only making satisfaction a priority across departments, but also as part of your onboarding and training process. New hires should know what a satisfied customer in your industry looks like and what it typically takes to meet their expectations.
Share customer insights and team knowledge widely and generously. What pain points are your customers facing? Which products and services are people most interested in? If you want your whole company to be empowered to increase customer satisfaction, they need the tools to do it! (This also brings us full circle, back to our original point about being proactive and logging customer details.)
How is your company going to increase customer satisfaction?
Increasing customer satisfaction requires a conscious effort, and it doesn’t happen by accident.
If you feel like your business has a lot of work to do, don’t sweat it. Instead, focus on adopting the strategies above one-by-one and letting tools (like
RingCentral) do the heavy lifting when it comes to streamlining your customer communication.
Originally published Jun 01, 2020, updated Oct 16, 2020