Customer Service Skills Guide: How to Engage the Modern Customer in 2022

17 min read
Smiling woman text messaging on smart phone. Happy female customer with curly hair is wearing casuals. She is shopping at supermarket.

Since 2020, companies of all sizes have been finding ways to innovate their businesses and services in order to not only survive but thrive in an evolving landscape. The global business community needed to rethink how to succeed, while society had to collectively reframe the very nature of how we lived. As such, the concepts of customer service (CS) and customer experience (CX) have been redefined, and both focal points are now dominating culture like never before. While certain aspects of life have resumed, the pandemic has left a very different kind of terrain in its wake. 

Customer service has not only had to reinvent the delivery of products and services, but it has also been a source of connection for consumers and businesses during a period of unprecedented isolation and physical distance. In order to capitalize on the full potential of the years ahead, businesses need to effectively traverse a still-evolving service landscape. Therefore, it’s an ideal time to review, assess and deepen our understanding of the current and future customer service ecosystem.

Is our team on the same collective page? Are we up to date with the latest software tools and customer service skill advancements? After such an accelerated evolution in customer service across all industries, what has emerged and where are we exactly? These are some of the important questions that customer service leaders need to ask themselves. Let’s take a closer look at the answers to these questions and more while navigating this digital-first, customer service shift that now drives the global market.

Feel free to explore at your own pace, starting with our table of contents:

A hand holding a glowing orb that contains the many elements of customer service

What Is Customer Service? 

Customer Service is the help and advice that a company gives people who buy or use its products or services. Not so complicated, yet, the Digital Age has redefined how service is provided, and the pandemic has further compounded the need for innovative delivery methods for said service.

Generally, customer service can be provided through these seven modalities:

  • Brick and mortar support: This refers to physically in-person support that takes place within a business’ brick and mortar location
  • Call: Many organizations have customer support representatives available via a call center
  • Email: Email support has become a popular customer service option, especially for customers who need to submit tickets for more complicated questions that require more time
  • Messaging and chat: Live chat and chatbot features are increasing in popularity for the customers who would prefer to get quick answers and are concerned about waiting on hold over the phone
  • SMS/Text: As texting has become one of the preferred modes of communication over calls, it’s only logical that customers would also prefer to text companies for support
  • Social media support: Social media is another accepted customer service channel, as it encourages engagement not only between the customer and the brand, but also among other customers in a location where customers already spend time
  • Self-Service: For some customers, the less they need to interact with a customer service representative, the better — FAQs and other self-service support can provide important answers without ever needing to speak to a customer service professional

Evolution of Customer Service 

While the acceleration of customer service innovations has been swift since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, these changes have revealed opportunities and opened up space for fresh trends. These customer service trends will successfully satisfy the growing expectations of today’s customers. Now is the time to equip your brand for embracing and implementing them:

  • Social media as a primary channel for CS
  • Exceptionally quick response times
  • Centralized hubs for customer queries and tickets
  • Personalized service across every channel 
  • Multiple self-service options
  • Optimized data-driven customer service strategies
A woman smiles while holding her phone after a positive customer service experience

Benefits of Customer Service 

With 91% of American consumers reporting that they will take their business elsewhere following a bad CS experience, the benefits of providing excellent service are measurable. While addressing customer demand in the Digital Age is a multifaceted endeavor, CS has a direct impact on the success of a brand regardless of size. Additionally, in order to cultivate loyalty and retention, customer service needs to be integrated throughout the entire customer journey, not only limited to the initial purchase transaction. 

Here are some of the top benefits for providing an exceptional customer experience that incorporates CS throughout each customer step:

  • Touchpoints that engage the customer frequently and effectively
  • Greater customer satisfaction
  • Increased customer retention and loyalty
  • Collect CS data and analytics to perpetually improve the experience

What Are Different Types of Customer Service 

When creating your CS and CX strategies, it’s essential to understand the different types of customer service and, as a result, the different skill sets and methods your team will need to facilitate streamlined interactions regardless of the avenue.

Digital Customer Service 

Digital customer service has become one of the most popular CS types based on the demands of the digital consumer. Companies need to have a robust understanding of the preferred digital methods by which customers interact with the brand, including live chat, chatbots, text, email, and social media. Each customer might prefer a different digital channel, so the CX strategy for every available digital customer service option should be tailored specifically to its unique audience segment.

Customer Self-Service 

Customer self-service is defined as a method of customer service that helps customers find the information and solutions they need. Self-service empowers customers to find answers via how-to tutorials, FAQs, and other support content before speaking with a company representative. This is becoming an increasingly preferred method not only because it helps customers find quick, succinct answers to common questions, but it also saves customer service professionals time that can be better utilized for more complicated customer interactions.

Remote Customer Service

With an uptick in people working from home and being online more than ever before, consumers need and expect customer support 24/7. Your remote customer service agents should do everything an in-house CS rep can do: handle incoming conversations, process high-level customer questions, and be attentive to your customer’s unique needs. This method has a particular benefit for brands as they don’t need to rent costly office space or hire full-time in-house customer service professionals to deliver an exceptional experience.

Examples of Customer Service by Industry 

While a high-performing customer experience is the primary goal regardless of the industry, there are key distinctions that should be considered and addressed when examining customer service practices for different sectors. Seamless, successful CS may look differently for healthcare than for retail, for example. Each industry has its own set of needs and challenges specific to the culture of its product or service. Fortunately, there are software solutions designed specifically for certain industries that help deliver and achieve optimal customer service with each unique business sector in mind.

Customer Service in Healthcare 

In the wake of COVID-19, customer service expectations in the healthcare sector are at an all-time high. Staying up-to-date with the latest medical advances has always been a priority for the healthcare industry, but in the face of a worldwide pandemic, new technology and the opportunity to improve the administration and patient experience can fall behind. With lives on the line, however, it’s essential that the healthcare CX is streamlined and easy to understand.

Customer Service in Retail

The pandemic not only resulted in major customer expectation shifts for healthcare but for retail, as well. Customers no longer see relationships with retailers as transactional — they see their favorite brands as an extension of their own personal identity. A streamlined CX strategy that facilitates customer satisfaction from initial discovery through to happy purchaser not only increases customer retention but also creates loyal advocates who bring new customers into the funnel. That’s why delivering an exceptional customer experience, and building relationships with consumers, is imperative for retail business success.

Customer Service for Small Businesses

Small businesses form the very fabric of a local community. Even though customers understand that small businesses have fewer resources than big enterprises, research has shown that a growing number of consumers still expect personalized, seamless, and swift customer service. Small businesses generally have smaller volumes of customers, which puts them in a unique position to offer highly personalized customer experiences. When small businesses play to their strengths by integrating personalization into every element of their CX strategy, it can account for up to a 60% increase in company revenue.

Customer Service for Subscription-Based Companies 

Due to the unique repeat model of the subscription business, exceptional customer experience is of the utmost importance for subscription brands. In fact, beyond customer service, given the immersive nature and longevity of the subscription-based model, CX is key to the long-term success of a brand. Every kind of business has to work to maintain customer relationships after an initial purchase; if done right, the subscription-based company has long-term customer relationships built into the model. However, this also means that customer expectations are high when they receive content or goods from your company every week, month, or quarter. Don’t focus your CX strategy on only the new sign-ups, but use a highly integrated customer experience to ensure every customer is excited to renew when the time comes.

 A customer service team smiles and raises their hands above their heads

7 Elements to Consider When Selecting Customer Service Strategy 

Though a modest light is shining at the end of this pandemic tunnel, the last two years of lockdowns and limited movement have reshaped consumer behavior while increasing customer expectations. Many businesses were able to successfully connect their physical and virtual worlds during the last twenty-four months. That said, ensuring these worlds offer a fluid experience for customers is central to building on these reshaped infrastructures.

1. The Big Picture of CS Strategy

A CS strategy is a well-thought-out plan to facilitate positive interactions with customers. Many brands strive to offer a consistent experience throughout all channels, but it can be difficult to implement if you don’t first take a step back and think about what it means to create a winning customer support strategy — one where the customer sees the benefits and the company can scale effectively.

2. Qualities of Customer Service

Just because your company offers round-the-clock customer support doesn’t necessarily mean you’re offering great service to your customers. Not all great customer service qualities are obvious, and many organizations fall short in some of the essential ones, such as offering self-service options and following up after completing an interaction. Consumers who are attentive enough to reach out for assistance will always be able to spot the difference between above-and-beyond customer support and disjointed, sloppy service.

3. Compassionate Customer Service 

Treating your customers with compassion and good, old-fashioned kindness is now a must-have, not a should-have. The global pandemic has forced nearly all communications between customers and businesses into a digital interface. As a result, the main cues a customer service representative uses to understand a person’s emotions (body language, tone, etc.) have been stripped down significantly. It’s essential for brands to go the extra mile by emphasizing care and patience when interacting with every customer.

4. Personalized Customer Service 

In a world that’s so heavily focused on utilizing digital technology and social media to create convenient experiences for consumers, making your customer service communication lines simple, seamless, and tailored to specific members of your audience is a must. A personalized customer service strategy is just one way to make a measurable impression on consumers. Today’s consumer uses an average of 10 different channels when engaging with a brand. As a result, it’s essential that companies harness data from every platform to store information on every customer to be re-utilized for streamlined interactions in the future.

5. Proactive Customer Service

Many organizations base their understanding of customer service on reactive interactions — those that take place after the customer has reached out to the brand for support. But every business offers this service in one form or another, and companies are in need of opportunities with which to stand out in a saturated market. By initiating support conversations with customers — proactive CS — businesses can not only solve otherwise undetected purchase problems but also differentiate themselves with proactive customer service practices.

6. Transactional vs Conversational Customer Service 

It’s time to stop treating your customers like a number and provide more human-oriented interaction. The ideal way to do so is through conversational support. Behind your support tickets are real people, each with their own set of needs, frustrations and history with your company. Even when utilizing digital CS channels, businesses can still offer conversational support by integrating both the personalization and compassion elements discussed above.

7. Customer Service Automation        

Customer service automation utilizes CS technology to automate certain tasks that don’t require human input to complete. This not only prevents human error, but it also frees up agents to attend to more complicated requests that require human-to-customer interaction. This also gives representatives the necessary bandwidth to provide personalized service to your customers. CS automation through AI can help solve a core problem when your organization experiences hyper-growth and your customers need answers to their problems quickly. Businesses that prioritize a personalized customer experience are the ones that are succeeding in this fast-paced environment. By introducing automation into some of your core systems and processes, you can provide an even more personalized touch within your customer service department.

Complete Guide: What Is Personalized Customer Service

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6 Metrics for Measuring Customer Service 

It’s no secret that today’s customer is guided by collective hyper-connectivity. Our instantaneous, digital world means that brands have to stay one step ahead of interactions that happen in less than one second. To thrive in the modern era, companies must be able to analyze customer engagement constantly, effectively, and without interruption. 

Your CS strategy is not a set-it-and-forget-it process — it requires constant re-evaluation as the needs of the modern customer evolve. Analyzing behavior, trends, and data across all touchpoints provide invaluable insights for getting the most out of your CS practices, as well as effectively scaling your support according to seasonal and growth fluctuations. Collecting and measuring customer service data provides the insights necessary to perpetually improve your CS and CX strategies and make informed business decisions with the customer in mind.

1. Real-Time Customer Service Feedback

Put simply, real-time customer feedback refers to the ongoing contact between a customer and organization that transcends the “transactional” events of customer service platforms and processes. In order to encourage opportunities for real-time feedback from customers, feedback processes need to be lightweight and non-disruptive — no big surveys or elaborate forms. That’s why, as a basic default, Kustomer offers four responses for feedback, so you can route accordingly: gold star, green smile, orange deadpan, and red frown.

2. Voice of the Customer 

Voice of the Customer (VoC) is the process for analyzing customer needs and using them to better inform your customer service strategy. VoC is a process for listening to customers to create a better product or service and CX. This includes collecting and compiling common data  from different feedback sources, including live chat, surveys, reviews, and social media. All data from customers can be used in a variety of ways to make business decisions better suited to your customer base. Understanding VoC can help you improve products, create new marketing strategies, uplevel your advertising, and even rebrand your company.

3. Customer Sentiment Analysis

To deliver the most empathetic customer service experience, an organization must understand customer sentiment across all channels. KM World defines customer sentiment analysis as the processing of information to determine the opinion of a customer. The time consumers take to ask questions, resolve issues, and share both positive and negative experiences can be used to help an organization evolve. Implementing a calculated sentiment scoring system can help better gauge customers’ opinions of products and services, information with which companies can adjust their strategies accordingly.

4. Customer Satisfaction Score

A customer satisfaction (CSAT) score is one of the most insightful customer service metrics. It’s used to measure an individual customer’s feelings about a specific interaction with your support team. One of the primary benefits of CSAT surveys is that you can gather feedback from customers immediately after an interaction with your team. By posing well-crafted questions geared toward gaining real insight from customer opinion, CS teams can better understand customers’ experiences in real-time. You can segment the results by agent, team, and — most importantly — channel to evaluate your strategies through every lens.

5. Customer Complaints 

While it can be frustrating and disheartening to receive customer complaints, businesses should view an unsatisfied customer as an opportunity for improvement. Very few businesses truly know how to handle customer complaints in a manner that is both respectful to the customer and also applies the complaint to the overarching CS strategy. Customer complaints, when analyzed appropriately, are a gold mine of essential customer opinion data that can insightfully inform company strategies.

6. Customer Service Conversations

While we’d all like to think that visits to our websites all hold positive intentions, some customers may come to complain or discuss their negative experience with a product or service you’ve provided. These tricky situations may require having a customer service conversation, one in which your agents can turn what started as a discussion with a dissatisfied customer into a positive result. With the right skills and resources, you can train your customer service agents to record and analyze important customer opinion information for later application, as well as engage in highly effective conversations that leave your brand with a positive reputation.

Think of your customer service software as the spine of your company. It provides the structure from which all movement originates. If one region of the spine is compromised or limited, the whole entity is impacted. In a world of customer-facing service, creating and maintaining an effective confluence of all areas requires the right infrastructure where your technologies are seamlessly integrated. But, what does that mean in today’s terms? It means having a platform in place that is delivering a personalized, seamless customer experience across all of your brand’s channels. 

While there are a number of important qualities and features that make up an excellent CS software, here are some of the ones we believe to be most important:

  • Offers a holistic customer view
  • Operates on a customer-centric approach, rather than ticket-centric
  • Provides powerful automation
  • Integrates thoroughly for a true omnichannel experience
  • Understands and scores customer sentiment accurately
  • Is fully customizable and flexible to your business

Kustomer Software and Solutions: Make the Switch to Modern Customer Service

For robust company health, regardless of industry, it is vital that your customer service is effectively capturing, embodying, and conveying all the skills and qualities expected in the ongoing evolution of our new normal. It’s imperative that your brand and service departments are equipped to leverage the full potential of this transformed, more human customer climate. 

Kustomer harnesses cutting-edge CS and CX technology to ensure you remain connected with your customers and agents, as well as any emerging technologies within our still-evolving new service landscape. New trends in customer service will continue to change the landscape, so now is the time to prepare by implementing highly sophisticated customer service software. Kustomer is here to maximize your digital strategies helping you provide the absolute best brand culture for customer engagement. To learn more, schedule your demo today. 

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