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As people continue to shop from the comfort of their homes, businesses are trying to find that perfect formula to keep their customers’ online shopping experience top-notch.

Many essential elements all come down to this – website speed, user-friendly navigation, mobile compatibility, product photography and descriptions, seamless checkout process, and more. However, various issues still occur, and this is what makes good customer support a crucial component of that perfect formula.

Here’s where the questions arise – what do you call good customer support in today's competitive environment? What are the customer service standards that your agents should meet so that your business can retain customers and keep attracting new ones?

Continue reading to find the answers.

What are customer service standards?

Customer service standards are a set of basic requirements that define how businesses interact with customers in order to meet their expectations. It can be anything from prompt answers to well-handled returns, leading to the final (desired) result – customer satisfaction.

Why does meeting customer service standards matter?

The customer service team plays an equally important role as any other team in the company, regardless of what some might think. Support agents are a direct connection between a business and its customers, meaning that each interaction can significantly add up to the overall brand image.

Therefore, providing good customer service can lead to better customer retention, positive word-of-mouth, further product improvements, and increased sales, to mention a few. How so?

Customers now have nearly endless possibilities to choose one brand over the other, and they do not hesitate to do so even when the smallest things go wrong. In fact, about half of customers say they would switch to a competitor after just one bad experience, while in case of more than one poor interaction, the number snowballs to 80% of customers.

That’s why following customer service standards and, preferably, exceeding them is of utmost importance in today's business environment – good support experiences can (and likely will) be a determining factor for customers to choose you over your competitors and stay loyal.

7 customer service standards to guide your team

Keeping in mind today’s demanding consumers, let’s go through a customer service standards checklist that is crucial for achieving customer satisfaction.

1. Accessibility

Customer service accessibility - Taylor Stitch website

Just like you'd expect to find someone to help you in a physical store, being able to reach out to customer support quickly is as important when shopping online.

If anyone is facing trouble finding a “Contact us” button or any other way to connect with a business right away, it can only make them more frustrated. Being easily accessible to your clients should be one of your top priorities.

2. Availability

Availability stands somewhere between accessibility and speed. Let’s say contacting your business was a breeze, but what’s the point of this if no one is there to address customers’ concerns anyway?

Again, in such a fast-paced environment with so many possibilities, not being available means you’re handling customers an opportunity to find someone else somewhere else who is.  

That doesn’t necessarily mean human support 24/7. No one wants to feel that their requests go into the abyss, which can be solved with the help of chatbots or auto-responses. At least let the customers know you’ve got their inquiry and when they can expect to hear from you – this should keep them more at peace.

3. Speed

Quick issue resolution was one of the most important aspects of good customer service for more than 60% of customers in 2020. And that’s not really a surprise – quick replies mean convenience; therefore, the faster you reply, the more satisfied are your customers.

Most important aspects of good customer service - chart
Source: Zendesk

4. Accuracy

Accuracy is a no-brainer here. Anyone who gets in touch with customer support expects their issues to be resolved – that's their final goal of such interactions. If your answers to your store visitors or customers are incorrect or still lack a solution, it doesn’t matter how easy it is to reach out or how fast you reply. They will still be disappointed.

However, not all problems are created equal. In such cases when there’s no way to provide quick answers because of the complexity of an issue, prioritize accuracy over speed. You can still reply to customers saying that you have to take a closer look at the problem or discuss it with your colleagues – this will win you more time without leaving the customer waiting for your response for too long.

5. Efficiency

Efficiency is one of the customer service standards that can directly affect the perception of a business and customer satisfaction when gone wrong. It defines how well you use your resources – human, time, money, etc. – to provide resolutions to customers.  

In other words, efficient customer support means that you can fulfill your service goals by taking as few steps as possible and still do it right. This works well for both sides – customers get their issues fixed faster and enjoy a better experience, leading to higher satisfaction rates, inevitably putting a brand in a positive light.

6. Honesty

Honesty in customer service and business overall is one of the fastest ways to gain customer loyalty and earn their trust. When someone feels you’re being open about your products, how your business operates, or your capability of solving a specific issue, there’s no reason for them to think otherwise. Therefore, customers make easier purchase decisions as they feel more confident shopping with you.

7. Courtesy

Courtesy is probably one of the most obvious professional traits in customer service. It’s a set of qualities and actions, like politeness, tone of voice, friendliness, respect, and similar, that can help you create a positive experience and sometimes even calm down angry customers.

A successful problem resolution and pleasant communication can make you more likable in the eyes of a customer, for which you, as a business, will most likely be rewarded in the end.

How to improve customer service standards

Short answer: work towards meeting your customers’ needs.

Below you’ll find a slightly longer answer on how to achieve it.

Ask for feedback

Customer Effort Score survey example
Source: Groove

Asking for customer feedback can benefit your business in many different ways, like helping to improve products and services or giving data that you can use to make business decisions. It can also show customers that you value their opinions and want to involve them in shaping your business.

As for customer service specifically, sending a survey after the interaction with a customer can help evaluate their satisfaction level and provide your team with some valuable insights that you can use to improve your customer service standards.

For instance, Customer Effort Score (CES) is a type of survey that can help you learn how much effort customers should put before getting their issues resolved. Users usually get to rate their experience from 1 to 10. You can get your CES by dividing the sum of customers’ responses by the number of total responses you’ve got.

Empower your support team with the right tools

No matter how good your customer support team is, without the right tools, they can (and they will) face various obstacles daily, which will negatively impact their work quality.

Companies now have to work faster and more efficiently to be able to fulfill customers’ needs which makes tools like the help desk a crucial player in the customer service game.

By equipping your agents with proper software, you enable them to reach their full potential, simplifying their routine tasks, providing them with a clear view of each inquiry, which leads to more effective problem resolution.

Offer self-service

By enabling customer self-service, you empower your customers to find the answers to their questions themselves. This means they don’t have to reach out to your customer support agents and impatiently wait for someone to provide them with a solution.

In fact, 88% of customers in the US expect brands to have an online self-service portal that'd allow them to start resolving the issues themselves. From a business perspective, self-service options can reduce the workload on your customer support team while leaving your customers happier, so it’s a win-win situation!

FAQ page on Adidas website

Encourage teamwork

However big or small your customer service team is, you all have the same goal – provide excellent support so that you can end each conversation with the customer on a positive note.

Although individual goals and performance are important, working as a team is also something you should focus on for better results. When the work is evenly distributed, everyone knows what their teammates are onto or what help do they possibly need, agents usually feel more confident and can focus on more meaningful conversations with customers. Besides, the right spirit within the team can go a long way in terms of motivation and productivity, which won’t go amiss.

Invest in agent’s success

Continuing with motivation and productivity, this could not be stressed enough – customer support agents who are satisfied with their jobs are one of the most valuable aspects of your company. But for this to happen, you need to invest in their success.

Besides the right tools, it's beneficial to provide training and give customer service representatives the decision-making power to help them do their best. Agents who feel trusted and have the right tools to perform their daily tasks are much more likely to significantly add to overall customer satisfaction.

One word that unifies it all: quality

All of the aspects mentioned above add up to one word that you should be able to use when describing your customer service – QUALITY.

Everything from a contact form or a simple email address on your website to saying “Glad I could help!” should be streamlined to the maximum so that your customers can enjoy seamless problem resolution. This means always staying available, ready to listen and working efficiently to achieve the results that make both sides happy.