What is Customer Service? Definition, Benefits, Skills, & Tips for 2022

Customer service is crucial to the success of a business. If you’re new to the concept of customer service or just want to keep yourself up to date with the latest trends, we’ve got you covered.  

What is customer service?

Customer service refers to the support, solutions, and advice you provide to your customers to solve their problems related to the purchase and use of your product or service. This includes all communication from the way you respond to email enquiries to how you handle feedback from your customers. 

Like all things in life, there are two sides to customer service – the good and the bad. Good customer service involves providing fast, contextual, and empathetic assistance. On the other hand, long wait times, inconsistent experiences across channels, and repetitive requests for information are a few qualities of bad customer service.  

Skip to:
How is customer service changing in 2022?
9 essential customer service skills every agent needs to have
How to get started with delivering excellent customer service in 2022

Why is customer service important?

Customer service is the frontline of customer communication during or post a sale and is critical for large and small businesses alike to gain happy customers. Here are four tangible benefits of delivering good customer service:

#1 Build brand loyalty and increase retention

Customer service directly impacts your bottom line – 52% of customers stopped buying from a company during the pandemic because of poor customer service. Offering great customer care is an affordable way to create future demand for your products and services.1 For instance, Amazon has become an ecommerce behemoth by delivering top-notch customer service and building a loyal customer base.

#2 Create opportunities to resell and upsell

The probability of selling to an existing customer is rated at 60-70%, compared to 5-20% for a new customer.2 This means your existing customers are the perfect target for upsells to a premier tier product or subscription. Staying in constant contact with customers allows you to understand their needs better and pitch the right solution accordingly.

#3 Lead to future referrals

82% of consumers read online reviews for businesses3, and 60% of customers will tell friends and family about a brand they’re loyal to4. Positive customer experiences can gain popularity, especially with the help of social media and online reviews. For instance, Zappos gained more fame for their delightful customer service than their products, leading to more people wanting to try out the Zappos experience.

#4 Gain a competitive advantage

Two-thirds of companies today compete based on customer experience.5 Even though customers can be loyal, they won’t stand for an experience that’s below their expectations. This means there’s plenty of space for you to win over a customer by offering a better service than their last provider.

Further reading: Why is customer service important: 4 benefits you cannot overlook

Who offers customer service?

Businesses generally have a customer service team consisting of product specialists known as customer service agents, customer service representatives/reps, or customer happiness executives to assist customers. However, in smaller businesses or startups, all employees, including the CEO at times, chip in to help customers.

Freshworks customer service team
The customer service team at Freshworks

What are the types of customer service?

You can deal with customer issues in two main ways — reactively or proactively.

Reactive customer service, or customer support, happens when a customer encounters a problem and gets in touch with you directly. You then handle their query as it comes in, and respond on the same channel.

Proactive customer service is all about offering a solution to your customer before they get in touch with you. Proactive customer service requires you to find out how your customers buy and interact with your product or service, and identify patterns in the issues they report at each stage of the journey. This helps you anticipate customer problems in advance and set up mechanisms in place to resolve these issues proactively.

Further reading: 
What is proactive customer service, and how to implement it in your organization
Choosing the right types of customer service for your business

Where does customer service happen?

Customer service happens anywhere your customers reach you. Here’s a comprehensive list of frequently used customer service channels as of 2022:

  • Live chat
  • Chatbots
  • Messaging applications including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Apple Business Chat
  • Social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
  • Email
  • Knowledge base
  • Discussion forums
  • Phone
  • In person
  • Video

Pro tips:
– With mobile-first customer service experience gaining popularity, live chat and mobile applications are likely to dominate customer engagement in 2022. Make sure you meet your customers where they are to improve customer satisfaction.

– If you need to offer in-person customer service, take necessary precautions to keep your employees and customers safe (95% of customers want companies to implement physical protection and distancing measures to help keep them healthy6).

How is customer service different from customer support?

Customer service is also referred to as customer support, and while the two terms are often used interchangeably, there is a subtle difference between customer service and customer support.

Customer service is all about helping your customer. Your customer service team’s role involves:
– helping customers find the right products
– directing them to relevant resources, and
– managing complaints (both online and on-field).

Customer support is more specific, and centers around offering support for your products and services. Customer support agents mainly focus on troubleshooting tech issues, explaining how to use features, and dealing with errors as they arise.

While they are slightly different, customer support ultimately falls under the customer service banner.

How is customer service changing in 2022?

Customer service is expected to be faster, more personalized, and automated with seamless self-service. According to Freshworks’ Future of CX report, 80% of customers demand quicker responses from businesses. Our research also indicated that 61% admire companies that use a smart mix of self-service and humans who can support them with empathy and speed. Plus, 80% of buyers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalized experiences.

Further reading: The Future of CX: 2022 (downloadable guide)

Now that we’ve covered what customer service is, let’s find out what it takes to deliver quality customer service.

9 essential customer service skills every agent needs to have

Your customer service team interacts with your customers every single day. They are your customers’ gateway to your company, so it’s essential that they all have the right skills to deliver an impressive experience.

Let’s take a look at some of the top skills your team needs to have or develop in order to deliver top-notch customer service in 2022.

#1 Empathy

Understanding your customers’ struggles and putting yourself in their shoes goes a long way in creating a memorable customer experience. Empathy helps you reason with the customer, and fix their problem in the most relevant, effective way. Being empathetic also helps ensure that customers feel heard and understood.

#2 Honesty

It can be tempting to smooth over something or upsell a product, but customer service representatives should always be honest.

This includes not upselling a product that won’t help a customer, or saying you’ll raise an issue internally that you won’t act on. Honesty leads to a relationship of trust with your customer, which can help build brand loyalty.

#3 Communication skills

Good communication skills ensure that customers get a relevant, tailored fix or answer.

So, as a customer service agent, you need to be able to listen fully to customers and take note of the problem at hand.

You also need to communicate clearly, use language customers understand, and keep them informed at every step of the journey.

#4 Product knowledge

While customer support agents handle troubleshooting, customer service teams need to know about the products and services offered.

So, it’s important to stay up to date with the latest feature launches or enhancements and pricing updates. Having access to an internal knowledge base or an agent assist bot with company and product briefings is a great way to learn and keep abreast of the latest changes.

#5 Proactivity

Being proactive and offering help and information in advance is key to delighting customers. Be proactive and keep your customers informed, so they can use this information to decide what to do next.

Here’s how Playstation keeps customers informed about server status enabling them to make a choice over whether to wait it out or try again later.

Screenshot of PlayStation's portal for customer service skill proactivity

#6 Patience

Patience is a must-have for customer support teams. You might need to manage expectations while you wait for a reply from management, or deal with a difficult customer in a pressing situation.

Staying patient, calm, and collected can help create the same response in your customer, leading to a more positive interaction.

#7 Collaboration

Regardless of your customer service team’s size, cross-collaboration and communication are essential to help deliver an impressive customer experience. Agents will need to talk with billing, product, and sales teams to get the answers a customer needs, so the ability to collaborate efficiently is a must-have.

#8 Time management

Customers want their queries dealt with fast. In fact, a survey conducted by McKinsey revealed that seventy-five percent of customers online still demand help in 5 minutes or less10.
There are only so many hours in day, and with a constant inflow of tickets, and service level agreements and targets to hit, you need to learn how to move swiftly and manage your time efficiently.

#9 Desire to improve

Customer service is constantly evolving. Having the desire to improve and innovate to deliver high-quality experiences and gain a competitive advantage is absolutely essential.

It’s important to reflect (both on an individual and team level) on interactions with customers and suggest ways to improve the experience you deliver. Create a culture of improvement and openness to dealing with customer feedback.

Further reading: A beginner’s guide to customer service skills

How to get started with delivering excellent customer service in 2022

Customer service excellence relies on your team and the support you give them. Alongside encouraging essential skill-building, here are six tips to build your team up for success.

#1 Set goals, principles, and philosophies

Each customer service team is likely to have a unique objective. For instance, a customer service team in an e-commerce business will aim to assist customers right from the start of a sale proactively. Whereas, in a B2B business, a customer service team’s goals are related to events that unfold after the sale, such as onboarding and technical support.

Based on your goal, you can draft your own customer service principles and define a philosophy that ties everything together.

Further reading:
The complete guide to defining customer service goals for your business
5 customer service principles that elevate your business
How to define a customer service philosophy you can live by

#2 Assemble a winning team

To deliver best-in-class customer service, you need a team that fully believes in the power and impact of good customer service.

Build a winning customer service team that will help you reach your targets and motivate the people around them. Invest in the right number of customer support agents, customer support managers, and leadership positions. Hire based on values, soft skills, and approach – you can train people to your specific system later.

Further reading: How to hire a customer service team (tips from the CEO of Freshworks)

#3 Offer effective training

To train new recruits and retrain or upskill your customer service team, you need to give them training that’s relevant, easy to access, and personalized. Effective training means your customer service reps can handle customer requests, communicate effectively, and deliver great service.

You can even launch agent-facing bots that enable agents to learn on the job while getting familiar with the ropes of their role. By interacting with the Assist Bot, all agents irrespective of their work experience can get contextual assistance that empowers them to take the customer conversation forward in the right direction.

Further reading: A complete guide to customer service training

#4 Invest in the right tools

The right customer service tools can help cut down on wasted time, leading to better efficiency and productivity. The right toolkit also makes it easier for your team to support customers in the most effective way possible, with more relevant information, shortcuts, and streamlined processes.

A great customer service software will enable you to:
– Deliver assistance from a unified view of customer interactions across channels
– Automate support process and set up an SLA matrix
– Build a range of self-service options such as a knowledge base, customer-facing chatbots, and community forums
– Offer proactive customer service
– Collaborate seamlessly within and across teams
– Increase agent productivity using canned responses and agent-facing AI
– Track and measure important customer service metrics

With the right software, your agents have everything possible at their disposal to support your customers. They’ll be able to do it quickly too, with the best resources and technology in their hands.

Further reading: 12 customer support tools you absolutely need to have

#5 Invest in agent wellness

You can’t deliver winning customer service if you don’t invest in your people. Agent wellness should be one of the major focuses moving forward in 2021.

Check in with your team regularly. Encourage them to come to you with any concerns they might have. Offer health and wellness benefits and stipends that people can customize, to create a personalized package of support. Best of all, make wellness a priority right from the top.

Further reading: 7 causes of call center stress (and how to fix them)

#6 Measure the right customer service metrics

Create realistic targets that matter and help you reach your goals. For instance, if your focus is to reduce customer churn, set your team a target to improve customer satisfaction metrics.

Review your targets regularly to check they’re still relevant. Get feedback from your customer service teams on what’s working, and where you need to adjust targets.

Further reading:
Top 15 customer service metrics
11 crucial customer service KPIs you need to track in 2022

Power your customer service team

Customer service takes time to perfect, but with the right mindset and support your team can deliver experiences that set you apart from your competitors. It’s all about having the right skills, resources, and tools to help you get there.

Try Freshdesk for free to find out how it can help your customer service team deliver impactful customer service in a more efficient way.

Sources:
1  https://www.freshworks.com/resources/reports/deconstructing-delight/
2 – https://altfeldinc.com/pdfs/Customer%20Loyalty.pdf
3 – https://www.brightlocal.com/research/local-consumer-review-survey/
4 – https://www.yotpo.com/blog/customers-brands-love/
5 – https://techjury.net/blog/customer-experience-statistics/#gref
6 – https://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2020/04/27/customer-experience-mindset-in-a-post-covid-19-world-an-infograph/?sh=29d515ff3d0e
7 – https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/customer-experience-creating-value-through-transforming-customer-journeys

Updated on 24/01/2022

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