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It seems like you can never be good enough at customer service. Even when you think your business is doing a pretty good job of going above and beyond for your clients, along comes another company who blows you out of the water. The truth is, as in most things in life, wherever you set the bar, it can always be set a little higher. Running a little low on inspiration for how exactly to lift your game? Let us help you out with 7 simple strategies for improving your customer service quality.

  1. Open up more channels for customer feedback

Have you analyzed what problems are the real pain points for customers? Good for you? Have you gone out and fixed them? Even better. Did you go back and check in with the customers again? Er, well… no-one’s perfect.

Customers need many and varied means of communicating with your business, as survey solution giant SurveyMonkey points out. Perhaps it is something as obvious as a client satisfaction survey, but it could also be a “How did we do?’ Card mailed with a physical product, a feedback box on the counter, a social media competition or an evening focus group. Whatever you choose, make sure your options for being contacted are many and varied, and customers will make good use of them.

  1. Embrace the path of the snail

In this digital age of been there, done that, the unexpected arrival of a handwritten note can work wonders for revitalizing worn out old business relationships. And the beautiful part is, this can work just as well with employees and suppliers as it can with customers.

Do you appreciate someone’s time, effort or business? Tell them so via a heartfelt creation, suggest the folks over at Kissmetrics. If the new marketing trends are all about personalization, nothing screams personal like a sweet hand-written note, or if you are feeling adventurous, maybe a handmade card. Come on, it will give you an excuse to get out that glitter glue you’ve been hoarding in the bottom desk drawer for just such an occasion. You know you want to.

  1. Hire for customer service greatness

A lot of people will tell you; customer service is all about the team. So it makes lots of success to put your best foot forward by hiring a great team from the outset. Yes, you can re-train, you can re-motivate, you can re-inspire your current customer service representatives, but nothing beats hiring for the right attitude right off the bat.

Not in a position to start from the ground up? Relax. There’s no reason why you would be. Most managers have to improve their team culture by degrees, not in great leaps and bounds. Think first about what kind of customer service culture you wish to create, and hire your next employee accordingly. Do this consistently, and customer service awesomeness will surely follow.

  1. Empower employees to resolve issues

One of the unhappiest types you will find in an organization is a micro-manager. And why? They can never let anything go, while all at the same time they are drowning in an ocean of work. Even where they are supposed to be delegating down the chain, the terror of empowering someone else to make a decision usually results in them clinging on tighter, obsessively checking in every 15 seconds with their hapless subordinates.

The irony? If you are a micro-manager, you should know that this scenario does not end up in a better result for your customers, but rather a bottleneck where everything stops at your office door. Instead, try empowering your employees to resolve customer service issues on their initiative. If you need to, set some boundaries within which they can roam, but give them some autonomy within that range. You may be pleasantly surprised by the result.

  1. Provide a rich learning environment for your team

Your customer service team, along with the rest of your employees, should always be learning… developing their content skills, their interpersonal relationships, their technical expertise, their time management skills … all of which add up to improvement in the customer service arena.

To give your customer service strategy a shot of adrenaline, rapidly upskill your customer service team in a critical skill that will make a difference and carefully observe the result. Experiment. Have fun with it. Remember, everyone learns differently, and people also learn at their own pace. What’s important is to ensure that training opportunities are plentiful, relevant, accessible and ongoing – no matter what path your employees ultimately take to arrive at their destination.

  1. Practice active listening with customers

What do your customers want from your customer service team? To be heard – truly heard – especially when things go wrong. To do so, your reps and customer-facing staff need to be trained in the art and science of active listening… a task that is admittedly easier said than done.

The truth is, a lot of what we call “listening” these days is merely waiting our turn for the other person to finish speaking so that we can put our point across. This attitude is a death knell for a customer service relationship. Instead, train your staff to listen carefully to get to the heart of the problem, reflect back what the client is saying to them, and take appropriate and detailed documentation to provide a basis for follow-up. When the conversation is reopened at a later date, you want your customer service team to be able to pick up where they left off seamlessly.

  1. Underpin your customer service strategy with data

Almost every customer interaction opens up the potential for valuable data collection – data that will be able to underpin your company’s future directions with hard evidence. But if you choose not to collect it, receive the wrong things, or perform the database equivalent of letting your data collection sit in a dusty desk drawer, you are essentially operating in the dark.

So, are you missing a tremendous opportunity to radically overhaul your customer service strategy through the fair use of carefully curated customer data? If so, there’s no time like the present.

There are so many reasons to collect even just the basics on your client characteristics and interactions. They provide you with a better ability to understand who your best customers are, and what, when and where they are buying. They allow you to project where you might find more of them, in the guise of new customers. They enable you to track how well you are traveling on customer service and a whole lot of other metrics you might care to measure. At their core, they allow you to engage in the form of time travel: to look back over where you’ve been, and forward to where you’re going, all at once. And the best part? You can start right where you are.

Read More: Is Your Customer Service Strategy Hurting Your Brand?