The Definitive Guide to Customer Service Standards in 2020

Customer service is what truly makes or breaks your business. Every interaction your support team has with end-users is essential in shaping their perception of what your brand represents. Customers, at each stage of their journey, expect a good standard of service and will not appreciate slow, unprofessional answers. In fact, we found out that 56% of consumers globally have stopped doing business with a brand due to a single bad service experience in the last 12 months.

This means, as a manager, you’re often dealing with questions such as ‘What is categorized as good customer service?’, ‘How can I ensure that my support agents are well equipped to handle frustrated customers?’, or ‘Is there a certain set of rules we should be mindful of before interacting with customers?’. The answer to all these questions lies in the simple fact that there is, indeed, a set of customer service standards that your business should meet and exceed to ensure customers get the optimal experience they deserve.

How do you create good customer service standards?

To achieve these standards, it takes a combination of factors that all contribute to delivering stellar customer experiences. The three most important things to consider are:

  • Investing in the right kind of service training
  • Using the right tools, and ensuring an efficient support process is in place
  • Tracking and targeting the most relevant success metrics and KPIs

Let’s delve deeper into these factors and look at the different processes that your team should look to implement. 

1. Ensuring Good Customer Service Etiquette 

When support reps speak to customers, it is very important that they are polite, empathetic and precise in the way they communicate. It’s essential for them to have the ability to break down complex technical problems and explain them in layman terms. They should also be able to put themselves in the customer’s shoes before suggesting any troubleshooting measures. 

Further, different channels of communication require different etiquette rules. For example, replies via traditional communication channels like phone and email require you to be formal and elaborate, whereas newer channels like social media and live chat need you to be more conversational and precise.

A good email response

Netflix reply

A good social media response

Xbox reply

To inculcate good email, phone, and chat etiquette in your support agents, you should invest in the right training resources. You can hire dedicated soft skill trainers to strengthen your team’s language and writing skills. You can also document a set of best practices for each communication channel and circulate it to your team to ensure they’re familiar with the expected service standards before getting started. 

Here’s a look at the metrics that you can track to get a good estimate of your team’s ability to communicate with clarity and precision:

– FCR percentage (The higher, the better) – The percentage of tickets resolved within the first contact
– CSAT (The higher, the better) – The percentage of customers who gave a positive response to your satisfaction survey

2. Honoring Service Deadlines

It goes without saying that customers expect to get their support queries resolved quickly. They do not appreciate long wait times and excessive back and forth with support agents. This is where the benefits of having Service Level Agreement (SLA) policies come into the picture. When you set SLAs for your business, it helps set the right customer expectations. Every time a customer is creating a new support ticket, they will know the maximum time limit within which they can expect a response, and will thus feel at ease. 

You can choose to operate with both response SLAs and resolution SLAs. The deadlines can be fixed based on the priority of the ticket, the channel the customer reached out on, or the type of plan the customer is using. For example, email tickets can have a response SLA of close to 5 to 6 hours, whereas social media tickets have to be responded to at least within an hour. As a best practice, your team should try to respond to and resolve all customer complaints well before their designated SLAs.

You can further set up escalation rules in case there are SLA violations. Every time an SLA is violated, you can route the corresponding issues to senior support staff who can bring the situation under control and ensure customers are not kept waiting for too long. You can check out our detailed guide on escalation management for more such tips and takeaways. 

A typical escalation matrix

Escalation matrix

A helpdesk software like Freshdesk will help you set up multiple SLA policies based on your team’s business hours, and allow you to manage escalations with ease. It will also help you stay on track of important SLA-related metrics such as:

– Response SLA percentage(The higher, the better) – The percentage of tickets that received replies within the response SLA limit.
– Resolution SLA percentage(The higher, the better) – The percentage of tickets that were resolved within the resolution SLA limit.
– Percentage of escalations(The lower, the better) – The percentage of tickets that violated SLAs and had to be escalated.

3. Being Available to Customers on Multiple Channels

While email and phone still continue to be the most reliable channels to get service queries addressed, customers are increasingly switching to more modern channels like live chat and social media. As these channels come with a guarantee of short response times and immediate action, they’ve made it significantly easier for customers to seek help from businesses. In fact, according to Econsultancy, 79% of consumers favor live chat support as it allows for almost instant responses.

But the challenge that often arises with delivering omnichannel support is the constant switching between tools and the absence of a seamless flow of data between them. For example, if a customer who had earlier reached out to you on social media contacts you again via email, your support agent might not have the required context to give a satisfactory response. 

This scattering of data between multiple tools can be avoided with Freshdesk. Freshdesk converts customer messages from these diverse channels into tickets and makes them easily accessible from a single location. When support agents respond to these tickets, customers will receive the replies on the channel they originally reached out on, making it convenient for both the agent and the end-user. If you have dedicated teams handling queries from specific channels, Freshdesk makes it easy for you to automatically route these tickets to the concerned team. 

To ensure you have a successful omnichannel strategy in place, the most important metric you should look at is:

Channel attribution – The breakup of the percentage of support queries that come in from multiple channels. If your channel attribution percentages are uniform, it means that you provide an equally good customer experience on different communication platforms.

4. Having Self-service Options in Place

67% of consumers today prefer self-service over talking to a customer service representative. The signs are clear. Customers want to be self-sufficient and do not want to rely excessively on conversations with support reps. 

The right strategy to help customers find answers to support issues on their own would be to invest in self-service resources. The most popular self-service channels include:

  • Knowledge base (self-help portal)
  • Chatbots
  • Community forums

These mediums have together given customers the power to troubleshoot problems by themselves in a quick and convenient manner.

You can unleash the full potential of your knowledge base by using Freshdesk. Freshdesk allows you to completely customize the look and feel of your help content and make it as comprehensive as possible. You can embed images, videos, and gifs into your solution articles to help customers at every step of the way. It also lets you allow users to find answers to their questions without having to scan through your entire knowledge base. You can simply add the help widget on your website, and customize it to display answers to frequently asked questions.

Help widget

Here’s a glimpse of how revamping our knowledge base at Freshworks with the above best practices paid great dividends:

Knowledge base

Chatbots are another widely used form of self-service. Most businesses today use chatbots on their website to improve customer experience and deflect potential support questions. Chatbots initiate a conversation with customers when they land on your website and find out what they need assistance with. Based on the user’s response, they suggest relevant resources or hand over the conversation to an actual support agent.

Modern chatbots are programmed with machine learning principles and are capable of learning from past conversations. They can, thus, progressively get better at answering queries and deflecting tickets.

Answer bot

Another nifty self-service option is the community forum. Community forums give your customers a platform to interact with each other. This way, they can resolve problems and find answers to prevalent issues amongst themselves. They can also use the community forums to pitch new ideas for product features, suggest improvements in the user experience, and more. 

The self-service metrics to track are all primarily concerned with how successful these resources have been in deflecting support tickets:

– Knowledge base success rate(The higher, the better) – The ratio of the knowledge base views to incoming support tickets over a specified time period
– Bot success rate(The higher, the better) – The ratio of chatbot conversations to incoming support tickets
– Forum success rate(The higher, the better) – The ration of new forum discussions to incoming support tickets

5. Addressing Customer Feedback

Feedback from customers about their service experience helps you understand their requirements in more detail, and also identify potential areas of improvement in your existing processes. But how do you go about asking customers questions about their experience and collect their valuable inputs?

You should first identify the questions that you would want to ask and then figure out the best way to do so. For example, if you want feedback about a particular support interaction, then the agents can themselves bring it up with the customer over phone/email in an informal manner. But if you’re looking for broader feedback about the entire service experience(from the user experience on the website to how easy it was getting a resolution to a problem), you need to adopt a more formal approach. 

Here are some popular ways of collecting customer feedback:

Satisfaction surveys – At the end of every support interaction, customers are sent a satisfaction survey where they give feedback on the quality of service provided. The customer satisfaction score refers to the percentage of customers who picked a positive response to the survey questions. If the satisfaction score is low for your company as a whole or for specific agents, you can take steps to deliver a better support experience. This can include hiring more experienced agents, investing in a full-fledged helpdesk solution, or offering goodies/discount coupons to customers who’ve had an unsatisfactory experience.

Net Promoter Score(NPS) – The NPS is a 10-point scale that measures a customer’s willingness to recommend a company’s product or service to others. It is a good indicator of how loyal your customer base is and whether they are satisfied with the product/support experience they have been receiving thus far. A low NPS rating is a cause for concern and an indicator that your brand needs to invest more money and effort in improving the quality of service.

Customer Effort Score(CES) – The CES is a metric that measures user experience with a particular product/service. Customers are typically asked to rank the ease of using and navigating a product on a scale ranging from ‘very easy’ to ‘very difficult’. If a high percentage of your customer base ranks your product as difficult to use, you can work on improving the overall experience and make it more accessible. This, in turn, will reduce the number of support queries your agents have to deal with on a daily basis.

To Sum Up

Is your team on par with the above service standards? Have you identified areas where you think you can do better? We hope this article has helped you address these questions and has given you insights on how to invest in the right tools, processes, and people to win customers for life. If there are other factors that you think are important to measure customer service standards that have not been covered, let us know in the comments below.