customer service definition

Customer Service Definition: The Untold Story Behind Success

Customer service is an essential cornerstone of a company’s success, but we often don’t discuss the definition of customer service.

Customer service refers to the support and assistance provided to customers before, during, and after their purchase or interaction with a product, service, or company. It involves:

  • Addressing customer inquiries
  • Resolving issues
  • Ensuring their overall satisfaction with the experience

Effective customer service aims to create positive interactions, build trust, and foster long-term relationships between customers and the business.

Customer service can be delivered through various channels, such as in-person interactions, phone calls, emails, live chat, social media, and self-service portals. Omnichannel customer service, in which your organization maintains the same experience between those disparate channels, is increasingly expected by customers.

Customer service plays a crucial role in maintaining a good reputation for a business and influencing customer loyalty and retention. Excellent customer service involves being responsive, empathetic, and attentive to customers’ needs, striving to exceed their expectations and leaving them with a positive impression of the company.

That might define what we want to achieve in customer service, but what ultimately matters is what the customer perceives. Customer service expert Shep Hyken outlines 4 definitions the public gives for “customer service.”

  1. “Customer service is a group of people who help me when I have a problem or complaint.”
  2. “Customer service is the way people treat me.”
  3. “Customer service is a friendly experience.”
  4. “Customer service is easy and convenient.”

But how do you distinguish between the definition of customer service and good customer service?

Definition of Good Customer Service

What defines good customer service? As Shep says, “Customers have their definitions, and yours doesn’t really matter.”

According to Shep, the bottom line is that the customer always wants to be happy.

He outlines six things customers often look for in their customer service experience:

  1. Friendly and knowledgeable employees
  2. Excellent customer support when there’s a problem
  3. A simple, convenient experience
  4. Not having to wait
  5. Fast response times
  6. Employees who have empathy when it’s needed

One way to reduce customer response times is to use a text automation tool like TextExpander, which can store and quickly retrieve solutions and empathetic responses for your customer support team. The support teams of 1Password, Dropbox, Shopify, Sketchup, Uber, and other great companies trust it.

However, even better if you can go a step above those interpersonal interactions. Customers increasingly desire a self-serve experience. One of Amazon’s keys to success is Bill Price’s philosophy of “the best service is no service.” You rarely have to interact with the company to request a return or find out when your order is shipping.

Adrian Swinscoe is a customer experience expert who has consulted for companies like Apple, Olympus, HarperCollins, and Nespresso. He’s also the author of Punk CX and host of the Punk CX podcast.

He says that most people don’t want to contact customer service. They would rather help themselves, but can’t—around about 60% of all customer service contacts are because the customer couldn’t find the right information on the company website

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Customer service expert and author John Sills also emphasizes the importance of being proactive in your approach. In The Human Experience, Sills lists three elements of being proactive:

  • Doing the work for your customers.
  • Identifying potential problems and solving them before they’re problems.
  • Anticipating the next question a customer may have.

In the book, Sills outlines 7 customer experience behaviors essential to high-functional customer service teams:

  1. Accessible: Is your company easy for customers to contact?
  2. Consistent: Do you provide a consistent experience between channels that inspires trust and matches your brand promises?
  3. Flexible: Are you willing to bend the rules and work with your customers to guarantee a great experience?
  4. Proactive: As described above.
  5. Respectful: Do you respect the customer, their time, and demonstrate humility?
  6. Responsible: Do you take ownership of the experience and go to bat to solve your customer’s problems?
  7. Straightforward: Communicating clearly without jargon, treating your customers as adults, and making your customers certain of what will happen and when.

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What customer service means for your business

“We cannot determine if we give good customer service. Only our customers can. In other words, it is our customers’ perceptions that determine if we’ve provided good or bad customer service. The customer acts as the judge and jury. As a business, we can only hope that our efforts are in line with our customers’ expectations. And, only our customers will determine if we have met or exceeded them.”

Shep Hyken

Many leaders see customer service as a necessary cost of doing business, but its importance is incalculable and can even drive ROI.

First, great customer service helps you retain and keep customers coming back. It costs 5-7 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one, demonstrating the raw value of customer service for ROI.

A recent survey by Verint revealed some stunning statistics:

  • 88% of customers are likely to make a second purchase after an excellent customer service experience
  • 82% are likely to recommend a business to friends and family after an excellent customer experience
  • 62% of customers are unlikely to make a repeat purchase if a customer service issue isn’t resolved in a single attempt
  • Regular customers spend more, with 42% spending at least $100 at a time

In The Human Experience, John Sills offers three methods for improving ROI through customer experience:

  1. Improve overall customer sentiment with an excellent customer experience.
  2. Work proactively to prevent unnecessary customer complaints and resolve customer issues quickly to improve overall efficiency.
  3. Consider lost opportunities that bad customer experience generates.

Read more: Customer Experience ROI: Is It a Myth?

During his talk at our Work Smarter Virtual Summit, Adrian Swinscoe outlined 13 customer experience characteristics that drive ROI:

  1. They are clear on their experience, vision, and strategy and how it connects to business objectives.
  2. They really know their customers.
  3. They take an experience, data, tech—ordered approach.
  4. They are brilliant at the basics.
  5. They are relentless at the identification and removal of ‘grit.’
  6. They make things as simple as possible – inside and out.
  7. They focus as much on their employees as they do on their customers.
  8. They understand where loyalty is earned.
  9. They strike the right balance of technology and the human touch.
  10. They are proactive by nature.
  11. They personalize everything about their experience, not just their marketing, and they do it in a non ‘creepy’ way.
  12. They have the right sort of leaders and leadership.
  13. They strike a balance between present and future demands.

Read more: 4 Customer Service Characteristics that Drive ROI

Common Customer Service Terms

Here are some common customer service terms and what they mean:

Call Center: A centralized facility where customer service representatives handle incoming and outgoing telephone calls with customers.

Cancellation Policy: Guidelines and procedures for customers who wish to cancel a subscription or service.

Cross-selling: Recommending related or complementary products to customers based on their current purchase or needs.

Customer Feedback: Opinions and comments provided by customers about their experience with a product or service.

Customer Satisfaction: The level of contentment and happiness a customer experiences with a product or service. Often abbreviated CSAT.

Customer Service: Providing assistance and support to customers before, during, and after purchasing a product or service.

Customer Support: Similar to customer service, it refers to the help and assistance provided to customers to address their inquiries, issues, or complaints.

Escalation: The process of forwarding a customer’s complaint or issue to a higher management level or specialized team for resolution.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions): A list of common questions and answers about a product or service, aimed at addressing common customer inquiries.

First Call Resolution (FCR): The percentage of customer inquiries or issues that are resolved during the initial contact with customer support.

Help Desk: A resource that provides technical or non-technical assistance to customers with their questions or issues.

Live Chat: Real-time online communication between customers and support representatives.

Loyalty Program: Incentive-based programs designed to reward loyal customers for their continued business.

Onboarding: The process of helping customers get acquainted with a product or service they have recently purchased.

Resolution Time: The amount of time it takes to resolve a customer’s problem or inquiry.

Return Policy: The guidelines and procedures for customers who want to return or exchange a purchased product.

RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization): The process by which customers obtain authorization to return a product for repair, replacement, or refund.

Service Level Agreement (SLA): A contract that defines the agreed-upon level of service between a company and its customers, including response and resolution times.

Ticketing System: A software tool for tracking and managing customer inquiries or support requests.

Upselling: Suggesting or offering additional products or services to customers during a purchase or support interaction.

These are just a few of the many customer service terms used in the industry. Each term plays a crucial role in delivering a positive customer experience and building long-lasting relationships with clients.

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