We frequently talk about metrics and tools and systems for providing excellent customer service. While those are all critical aspects of a great customer experience, there’s one simple thing to remember, above all else:
Start with friendly customer service.
And we don’t mean that fake-smile, roll-your-eyes-when-you-turn-your-back service from department stores of the past. We mean true, genuine, friendly customer service.
Let’s dig into what friendly customer service looks like in the digital age, and why it’s vital to business success.
Friendly customer service is critical—especially online.
As commerce moves more and more online, it gets harder to convey friendly service. Customers can’t see your bright shining face, they can’t discern your helpful tone of voice. But those aren’t the only reasons friendly service is so important.
Customers have more choices than they used to. Products and services are harder to differentiate, so many customers rely on other intangible ways to decide between brands. Customer service is a great way to stand out—and having friendly customer service could put you miles ahead of your competitors.
In Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report, customers ranked “Treat me as a person, not a number” as one of the top 3 actions that build trust. And 94% say how a company treats its customers influences their decision to buy.
Plus, customers’ opinions of customer service are often cumulative. Even small interactions add up to their overall perception of your brand. Customer experience was the top factor (43%) that drives customer loyalty for online shopping, according to a consumer survey from BrizFeel.
Keep reading for some friendly customer services tips.
What does friendly customer service look like over messaging?
Even this writer will admit it—enthusiasm can get lost over messaging. It’s easy to read helpful sentences as condescending or patronizing. And periods? Don’t even get us started.
But there are ways to appear more friendly through online customer service. Here are a few of them.
1. Start with a *digital* smile.
You’ve heard of service with a smile—and even how a smile comes through over the phone—but what does that look like for customer service messaging? It’s all about enthusiasm!
Start with an enthusiastic welcome and a few pleasantries if your customer’s time permits.
For example, start with something like this:
Hello! How are you this morning/afternoon/evening? What can I help you with today?
Even small variations from the standard, “Hi, how can I help you?” will make a customer feel less like a number and more like a person.
2. Use exclamation points!
Don’t be afraid to throw in exclamation points! At times, exclamation points have been controversial (do we use them in emails?), but messaging lends itself to more casual conversations. Use them, especially in intros and goodbyes (i.e., Hello! and Let us know if there’s anything else we can help you with!). Just be sure to pay attention to the customers’ sentiment. If they’re upset or angry, an exclamation point can rub them the wrong way.
3. Embrace emojis.
It’s hard for your customers to see or hear the tone in your text, so use emojis to help connect with them just like you would a friend. Okay, maybe not just like your friend. Avoid accidentally inappropriate emoji conversations by laying out which are and are not appropriate for your support staff to use.
As long as emojis fit within your brand voice, use them to punctuate a conversation, just like you would with real emotions in person. We’d stick with the simple smiley faces 😊 or a well-timed shocked face 😳.
4. Use sentiment check-ins.
It’s hard to tell when a customer is satisfied with the conversation, frustrated, or confused. Ask questions throughout the conversation to check in with them. Simple questions like “Do you have any questions?” or “Is that what you were looking for?” can help you assess how the customer is feeling.
You can also use conversational AI platforms to help track customer sentiment through written cues and even prioritize conversations based on it.
5. Use your manners.
Texting has shortened our written communications and eliminated a lot of the niceties of the past. But when you’re chatting with customers—it’s important to remember your manners. Say please when asking for information, and always say thank you after they’ve given it to you.
While many customers think manners are table stakes, it’s certainly worth repeating. Even though messaging is a much more casual communications channel, niceties work for every occasion.
6. Be mindful of customers’ time.
Your customers are busy! Although many digital communication channels are asynchronous (both you and the customer don’t have to be present at the same time), you want to keep conversations as short as possible—without losing that friendliness.
Sometimes that means skipping the small talk. While it works in person and sometimes over the phone, it rarely works over messaging. Asking about your customer’s day is fine, but if you’re getting short, clipped responses, that’s an indicator that they’re in a hurry. Most of the time, customers want to get in, get their questions answered, and get out. Respect that, and don’t draw out the conversations unnecessarily.
7. Respond as quickly as possible.
We know that this is a given (of course you’re responding quickly), but it’s important to remember. When you’re chatting with a friend, an instant response will always show more enthusiasm than one that comes 30 minutes later. Do your best to respond quickly to problems that your customers deem urgent.
Responding quickly is also more likely to reflect the pace of an in-person conversation, which customers might find more natural and friendly.
8. Don’t skimp on product knowledge.
When agents can’t answer questions, or spend the majority of their time searching for answers, friendly service can go out the window. While information is at your agents’ fingertips, they should still know as much about the business as possible.
Continually train agents on new products and services, along with ongoing soft skills training. It’ll keep agents on top of their product knowledge and keep them fresh and enthusiastic to serve customers better.
9. Be respectful.
It’s easy to get swept away in emotions, especially when agents have dealt with their 10th angry customer of the day. Customer service can be a difficult job, especially when customers are frustrated over products and services (or even with the world in general). While it’s easier said than done, agents should stay calm when chatting with customers.
Here are some ways to help agents get through tough conversations:
- Step away if emotions get too high.
- Loop in a manager or another support agent to help diffuse the situation.
- Use role-playing to practice handling difficult situations.
- Remember, it’s not personal.
Reducing agent stress will also help promote a more respectful environment for customers. When agents aren’t worried about meaningless metrics (only the important ones), or an unstable work environment, they’re much more likely to have friendly customer interactions. Only 15% of agents are extremely satisfied with their workload, according to Zendesk. That dissatisfaction will likely trickle down to your customers.
10. Be honest.
Ready for a cliche? Honesty is the best policy! Okay, maybe not always, but it’s certainly important when delivering friendly customer service.
Customers say communicating honestly and transparently is the #1 way to build trust, according to Salesforce. That means customer service reps should give real answers when customers ask why something went wrong and be upfront about internal mistakes.
Honesty also needs to be a top-down initiative. Agents can’t be open and honest with customers if they’re not getting the truth themselves. Incorporate honesty into every level of your organization and your customers will feel it.
Friendly customer service pays off.
Need some motivation to implement these friendly customer service tips? How about higher revenue?
According to Zendesk, 81% of customers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience. There’s more:
- 74% of customers are more likely to forgive a mistake after excellent customer service.
- 70% have made a purchase decision based on customer service.
- 61% say they would switch to a competitor after just one bad customer service experience.
Friendly customer service is the key to building brand loyalty—increasing revenue as a result.
Remember: Friendly service first.
If you only remember one thing from these friendly customer service tips, let it be that friendliness trumps most. It turns mistakes into opportunities, bad experiences into good ones, and good experiences into great.
Yes, metrics and tools and processes and surveys are all important aspects of running a working customer service center. But friendly agents with heart are what make it truly successful.