What is the purpose of customer service?

Running a successful business is in large part about providing the right products or services to customers at the right price. But there’s also another vital element in the mix that you can’t afford to ignore if you want your company to thrive – and that’s customer service. So, what exactly does this term refer to, and why’s it so important?

What does customer service mean?

Customer service simply means the experience and support your business offers customers before, during and after a purchase. It’s a catch-all term that describes the various interactions you have with customers, both in person and remotely.

Whereas in the past, the vast majority of interactions that companies had with customers happened either face to face or over the phone, now there are a plethora of communication channels available – and you need to pay attention to all of them. As well as being able to speak to call operators who are there to answer questions over the phone, your customers might expect contact options including email, live chat, social media channels and text messages, as well as online self-service support hubs.

What is the importance of customer service?

Getting customer service right can mean the difference between success and failure for your business. It’s that simple. According to research from the Qualtrics XM Institute, 89% of companies with ‘significantly above average’ customer experiences outperform their competitors financially. And this should come as no surprise. There are many ways in which providing a high standard of customer service benefits organisations’ bottom lines. For example, a HubSpot study found that 93% of consumers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies that offer excellent customer service. Retaining customers in this way is hugely important for growth and revenue.

Another way to think about this is in terms of customer lifetime value (CLV). This is a measure of the total amount of money your business can make from a single customer over time. By raising the CLV, you can boost revenue without having to fork out more on marketing.

Effective customer service can also make it much easier to generate new business. The Qualtrics XM Institute study cited above found that more than nine in 10 customers will recommend a company whose service they rate as ‘very good’. Word of mouth recommendations between friends, family members, colleagues and so on can be hugely powerful when it comes to expanding your customer base. These days it has more potential than ever before because of social media. Now, when people have a positive experience with your business, they can share this with their whole network of connections online. Of course, the converse is also true. If people are put off by your customer service, they can do significant harm to your reputation by posting about it on the internet.

More generally, good customer service can help to protect your business’ brand image. As any business owner knows, building a favourable reputation requires a lot of time and effort, but it only takes one high-profile slipup to do major harm to your company’s profile.  

What constitutes good customer service?

Good customer service isn’t rocket science. It just requires you to follow some basic principles. If you’re looking to improve this aspect of your business, here are some pointers that may help.

Always be prompt in your responses

Customers don’t like to feel neglected; they expect a quick response to their questions or comments. If you don’t have the resources in-house to pick up calls or reply to emails or other communications promptly, you may benefit from using outsourced customer support services. This allows you to deal with enquiries quickly without having to divert resources from other important tasks.

Meet your customers where they are

A common mistake companies make is trying to funnel customer communications into particular channels that people wouldn’t necessarily choose themselves. For example, a business might only provide a phone line or an email address as a means for people to get in touch. Increasingly, consumers expect organisations to respond to their questions and comments in their preferred channels. This could mean on social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook, live chat tools, email or phone, for example.

People tend to pick channels based on how complex their problems are and how quickly they want a response. They also often like to connect with businesses on the same platforms they use to communicate with friends and family. Being flexible in your approach and making sure you offer the options that people actually want rather than just what suits your business will help to ensure a positive customer experience.

Help customers help themselves

Customers don’t always want to ask for assistance. Sometimes, they prefer to help themselves. Providing resources like community forums, chatbots and knowledge hubs can be a great way to enable people to do this.

Be proactive

It’s far better to anticipate problems and deal with them proactively than to wait for people to come to you with complaints. For example, you can ask customers for feedback on your products or services by providing short questionnaires for people to complete after they’ve made a purchase. This allows you to pick up on issues customers may be having and take action to deal with them. You may want to incentivise people to complete these questionnaires by offering rewards for doing so. This should improve the response rate.  

Simply giving your customers the option to offer feedback can leave them with a more positive impression of your business.