21 Great ideas to enhance and improve your customer service

March 2020

Looking to improve your customer service offering? Here’s our list of 21 great ideas that will help you find new ways to enhance customer engagement and satisfaction.

Here at SightMill, every day we work with many CS teams across our customer base and these discussions and meetings have helped us put together these quickfire top-tips as a starting point for your plans and initiatives that will help turn even negative detractors into positive promoters and delight your customers.

There are a lot of tips here, so to help you navigate, we’ve sorted them into the following categories: 

  • Building relationships with your customers
  • Customer technology
  • Dealing with customer service requests
  • Empowering your customer service workforce
  • Asking and acting on customer feedback
Are we missing something? Let us know if you’ve seen success with a particular tactic and we’ll add it this list. Just get in touch to let us know.

Building relationships with your customers

1. Nothing beats a good first impression

We’ll get the obvious out of the way first. 

Smile, if you’re offering face-to-face customer service. If you’re on the phone, sound engaged, friendly and eager to help. Make sure to take customers’ names when dealing with their enquiries - it turns whatever interaction you’re having into a personal one. 

All of this sounds simple...but getting the basics right will put you light years ahead of a surprising number of people. Did you know, for example, that only 21% of support staff ask for a customer’s name? 

This is an opportunity to get ahead and well worth taking it. 

2. ...and continuing that good impression

At the same time, you need to follow through. 

Make sure that your customers feel as valued as the first time they walked into your store or clicked that ‘free trial’ button on your website every single time you interact with them. 

Customers who value a particular brand emotionally - and believe that the brand values them back - have a staggering 306% higher lifetime value than other customers. 

They also typically recommend the company at a rate of 71%, rather than the average rate of 45%. 

3. Personalised emails get opened more

And not only opened more, but they’ll generate better response rates. 

It’s time to ditch that generic onboarding sequence and offer something a bit more special. That might mean a little extra effort - but when they’re deciding between three or four different products, it’ll make all the difference. 

A simple way is to not rely entirely on email automation and instead personalise the emails you send out based on the customer and their requirements.

If you are a SightMill user, you can personalise both the subject line and the main text of your email surveys.

4. Tailored offers

If you can offer customers more of what they like, the chances are they will make more purchases. 

Avoid simply offering the same thing again. We all know how baffling having a ‘you might also like’ section filled with different versions of stuff you’ve already bought can be (yes, we’re looking at you, Amazon). 

Did a customer buy some shoes recently? Perhaps you could tempt them with a selection of bags that might go well with them. Do they regularly buy shoes of a similar style? Use your email newsletters to keep them updated on new product lines, or perhaps offer them a cheeky birthday discount.  

5. Provide incentives and rewards

There are plenty of ways to get people to start (and continue) buying from you. You could consider: 

Free trials:
a risk-free opportunity for potential customers to see how good your product is. Avoid asking for credit card details straight up - it’s off putting. 

Straightforward refunds:
always have a clearly laid-out refund policy, both for your customers who want clarity over their rights and your customer service agents, who will be processing refund requests. 

nothing says ‘confidence in your product’ like a lifetime guarantee - and they’re great for reassuring customers too. 

An enticing loyalty scheme:
whether it’s in-store shopping days and discounts, regular little treats or deals with other retailers (e.g Nectar Points), a well thought-out loyalty scheme is worth its weight in gold in terms of customer retention. 

Customer technology

6. CRM

Having an up-to-date, central database of all your customers’ details that you can segment by type of customer, is one of the most essential cornerstones of a successful marketing and sales departments. 

Now, you can do this without a CRM (customer relationship management) tool...but the question is why would you want to? A good CRM tool automates most of the grunt work you’d have to do to keep an Excel spreadsheet current, and offers plenty of useful segmentation and analytics features to help push your relationships with customers to the next level. 

Given there are so many on the market, it’s pretty much a guarantee that there’s one to suit your business needs and budget. 

7. Email marketing

Do more of your customers open your emails on mobile, tablet or desktop? Which types of subject lines get opened more? What was the click-through rate on the CTA? If you can answer these questions accurately, you can provide your email subscribers with more relevant content that engages and converts. 

Email marketing tools provide you with A/B testing features, advanced analytics, template builders and more that let you do this. If you use email as a way to reach your customers, this is a must-have.

8. Feedback tools

Better businesses almost always implement feedback channels and take onboard the customer comments and feedback and track satisfaction using metrics like NPS (Net Promoter Score). These Feedback tools make gathering, processing, sharing and responding to feedback significantly easier for everyone involved. 

Send out feedback surveys over different channels, add surveys to your website, tag feedback by sales rep or location and use this data to improve your NPS score over time - and even turn it into something your marketing department can really shout about. 

And no surprises that SightMill can help you with all of these requirements – just book a call and we’ll see how we can help you. 

9. Live chat

Engage potential customers as soon as they land on your site, and provide visitors with an instant, easily-reachable point of contact for any questions they have. You could also consider screenshare and co-browsing capabilities to help your support agents explain things to users clearly. 

Live chats are great for solving low-level queries quickly and effectively, so that you can focus the rest of your channels on solving more extensive issues. 

Dealing with customer service requests

10. Don’t write off customers who complain

It’s easy to assume that once a customer has complained, that’s the end of the relationship. ‘Nothing will make this right’ you think, ‘best cut our losses and spend our time on something more productive. 

The fact is that a speedy and satisfactory complaint resolution can make customers more loyal to your brand. They appreciate that things go wrong sometimes, and the fact that you took the time to listen and resolve their issues properly can be reassuring. 

And, as an extra incentive, don’t be shy of offering a few ‘We’re sorry’ incentives to come back - free products, subscriptions and money off vouchers definitely ease the process along.  

11. Spice up your canned responses

It’s a good idea to have automated responses in place in certain situations - an automatic acknowledgement that you’ve received a social media message, for example, with reassurance that their query will be dealt with soon. 

But...much as customers know and understand these are there for reassurance more than anything else, it’s still a nice touch to create something a little more human.

Compare your reaction to: 

‘We’ve received your message and will be in touch soon’

With how you’d feel if you received:

‘Thanks for getting in touch. Our customer service team may take a couple of hours to respond to messages depending on demand, but rest assured we’ve heard you, and will be in touch as soon as we can.’

The second is friendlier, sets expectations and gives the customer confidence that their issue has been registered. The first is overly vague and impersonal. Make your customers feel valued by taking some time over these. 

12. Offer equal support over different channels

This might not come as a surprise to you, but people don’t love spending their time on hold to your customer service desk, being told repeatedly that ‘the solution to many of your problems could be found on our website...’.

There’s a reason they’re on the phone - acknowledge that, and make sure you have the resources available to deal with customer issues this way. Ditto for live chat, social, email and any other channel you have - good customer service means helping your customers however they feel most comfortable. 

13. Respect your customers’ time

Did you know that two thirds (66%) of US adults say that valuing their time is the most important thing companies can do to deliver great online customer service?

This doesn’t mean that you need to resolve all complaints the minute they fall into your inbox - some are complex, and it’s always better to aim for a satisfactory resolution than a speedy one. 

That said, aim to keep response times short (within 24 hours should be the absolute minimum standard, though people expect quicker over social media or phone), ring or email back when you say you will, and emphasize that resolving their issue is a priority. No-one likes having to hold for 20 minutes in a helpdesk phone queue for example - it’s easy enough to implement a ring back system

14. Keep apologies appropriate

Have you ever received a wildly out-of-proportion apology email from a company? Best-case scenario: you found it a bit weird for the relatively trivial issue it pertained to. 

Worst case? ‘This seems over the top...is there more to this than they’re letting on?’

If you respond appropriately, on the other hand, you create a balanced, put-together impression that reassures customers that - whilst errors can happen from time to time - you can resolve them swiftly and with minimal fuss.

 If it’s a trivial misprint in customer documentation, for example, apologise, reassure them that they haven’t been left out of pocket by your error, reissue the documents involved and move on. Leave the ‘we’re so sorry for the inconvenience caused’ for times when things really warrant it. 

On a similar note, avoid making promises, big or small, unless you’re 250% sure you can keep them. Can you really guarantee that that issue with the customer’s credit card ‘will never happen again’? If not, don’t say it - you’re only setting yourself up for trouble further down the line.
Empowering your customer support staff

15. Create a clear outline of who in your team can solve what

Customers don’t like being passed from pillar to post whilst the helpdesk figures out where to send your call. 

Cut down on faff and hold times by introducing a telephone triage system and offering your staff clear paths to follow with each query that comes in.  

16. Trust your staff to solve problems on their own

“I’m sorry, I think I’ll have to get my manager to sort that for you...oh, they’re not available at the moment, can I phone you back?”

We’ve all been there. We all know how frustrating it is to hear these words at the end of a phone line, particularly if you’ve been on hold for a while and/or you never get that phone call back. 

If you want to keep your complaint resolutions speedy like we discussed above, you’re going to need to trust your team to make decisions without constant approval from higher-ups. This doesn’t mean no scrutiny at all - but it does mean trusting your staff to make some decisions for themselves and investing time and resources. 

This leads us nicely onto: 

17. Offer regular support staff training sessions

Investing in your staff is essential if you want to provide stellar customer service. No ifs, no buts. 

If your staff are experts in your products (and have some handy other bits of training too - think sensitive data handling, GDPR, etc), you’ll be able to give customers the answers they’re looking for quicker.

As a result, more customers are served, and they are left happier. What’s not to like? 

18. Make employee engagement central to your company ethos

All too often, companies take a ‘churn and burn’ approach to their customer support staff, particularly those that work in call centres. 

As well as being hideously expensive (around £30,000 on average per employee, depending on seniority and factoring in hiring and training costs, plus lost productivity), this also erodes the bank of operational knowledge that keeps everything running smoothly - which encompases everything from important customer-facing processes to where to find key documents or how to work specific bits of tech.

So...why create this problem for yourself? Build a workplace environment which your employees love (by which we mean fair pay, responsive management and opportunities for advancement rather than yoga on Friday lunchtimes) and they’ll stick around, feel happier and deliver better customer feedback as a result. 

Asking and acting on customer feedback

19. Send out survey requests

Don’t just wait for the feedback to come in. As well as being a lost opportunity for improvement, you’ll get an unhelpful negative balance to your reviews (people will go more out of their way to complain than to offer praise, as you’ll probably have experienced). 

Instead, actively ask for feedback. Embed surveys on your website, or send them out via SMS or email to get feedback from a broader selection of your customers. This will create a more accurate picture or where you are customer service-wise, and where you need to be. 

20. Set (realistic) KPIs

You won’t know how well you’re doing unless you’ve got something to measure your success by. 

Pick a few metrics to track to check you’re on target and review regularly. Common choices here are number of complaints, NPS score, or an external review site (e.g Trustpilot, Trip Advisor) rating.

21. Share and act on feedback

Feedback is next to worthless if:

a) You don’t act on it
b) It doesn’t get to people that need to hear it

If you’re tracking NPS score, the ‘comments’ section of the survey you send out will be super useful here. Sort the feedback you get by category to make it easier to address, and share it with those who would benefit from it. 

Having actionable feedback and a metric you can use to view how your business is improving will make this process a whole lot easier. 

We really enjoyed compiling this list - especially since we got to talk to our customers, engage and discuss and share ideas. We hope you find at least some of these ideas work in your organisation to help you improve your customer service and, ultimately, improve your business.

See what SightMill can do for you - start your free trial today

If you have any additional ideas, we would love to hear from you to help build this list - and we always appreciate your comments and feedback.