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What is 'Customer Service'

Customer service is the process of ensuring customer satisfaction with a product or service. Often, customer service takes place while performing a transaction for the customer, such as making a sale or returning an item. Customer service can take the form of an in-person interaction, a phone call, self-service systems, or by other means.

BREAKING DOWN 'Customer Service'

Customer service is an important part of maintaining ongoing client relationships, which is key to continuing revenue. For this reason, many companies have worked hard to increase their customer satisfaction levels. Although many people may work behind the scenes at a company, it is primarily the personnel that interact directly with customers that form customers' perceptions of the company as a whole.

Keys to Excellent Customer Service

Most successful businesses recognize the importance of providing outstanding customer service. A courteous and empathetic interaction with a trained customer service representative can mean the difference between losing or retaining a customer. When problems arise, customers should receive timely attention to the issue. Prompt attention to emails and phone calls is critical to maintaining good relations. Requiring customers to stand in long lines or sit on hold can sour an interaction before it begins.

Ideally, customer service should be a one-stop endeavor for the consumer. For example, if a customer calls a helpline regarding a problem with a product, the customer service representative should follow through with the customer until the issue is fully resolved. This may entail scheduling appointments with in-person repair personnel if the problem cannot be resolved on the phone, or transferring a call to skilled technicians in another department. Proactively following up with the customer to ensure that he or she is fully satisfied is another smart move.

Attributes of Successful Customer Service Representatives

Customer service representatives must be accessible, knowledgeable and courteous. They require excellent listening skills and a willingness to compromise to reach a resolution. Training in conflict resolution can be very beneficial in fostering those skills. Strong speaking skills are another important attribute of a successful customer service representative. For phone staff, this means speaking clearly and slowly while maintaining a calm demeanor, even if the customer becomes upset.

Companies must make a commitment to providing up-to-date information to customer service representatives. To avoid complicating an existing problem, employees need to have the latest and most accurate information about products and company policies. Periodic assessment of customer service is essential to running a successful company. Surveys allow customers to provide feedback about the service they receive and to suggest areas for improvement.

Trends in Customer Service

With the proliferation of smartphones, customer service will increasingly be centered on the mobile experience. The key to meeting the evolving needs of customers will be customer service-centric mobile apps. This means that a customer need not leave an app to contact customer service. It also means accessing support via whatever channel the customer uses on their mobile device, such as telephone, social media, text or live chat. And it's important to not only respond quickly to customer service requests (measured in seconds rather than minutes), but to make sure responses and help are personalized. It's also essential to offer customers a way to solve their own issues by utilizing self-service customer support that offers 'how-to' content and additional online self-help resources. And finally, companies should be proactive in engaging with potentially dissatisfied customers. This can be done by contacting customers via live chat to discuss known problem areas and/or by using data analytics to identify potentially dissatisfied or low-engagement customers.

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