The 8 Golden Rules of Customer Service

People often ask, what makes great firms stand out from the crowd; what differentiates them from the competition? The answer is as simple as it is complex – great customer service.

In this article, we’ll cover 8 golden rules for good customer service that will help you tackle any challenging scenario thrown your way.

1. Every interaction matters. Every. Single. One.

It’s late. You’re tired. Hungry, too. And you’re just about ready to call it quits for the day. That’s when the notification pops up: another email. A support ticket from one of your customers. You’re tempted to phone it in. To just go through the motions, send a few-word reply, and not give the email the same level of attention, personalization, and enthusiasm that you normally strive to deliver.

Stop. Breathe. And take a moment to remember that every interaction matters. Think about all of the times you’ve heard a friend, a coworker or even just a random person on social media say something like “[company] doesn’t care about its customers.”

That’s why it’s so important to put in your best effort to make every interaction—every single one—a great one.


2. Customer service screw-ups aren’t outcomes, they’re opportunities.

It’s easy to let angry customers walk out the door after you—or someone in your business—make a mistake. And sometimes, they’re going to leave no matter what you do to try and keep them.

But successful businesses know that customer service recovery is one of the most important elements in customer retention. By following these few simple steps, you can turn upset customers into loyal, happy ones:

  • Hear: let the customer tell their entire story without interruption. Sometimes, we just want someone to listen.

  • Empathize: Convey that you deeply understand how the customer feels. Use phrases like “I’d be frustrated, too.”

  • Apologize: As long as it’s sincere, you can’t apologize enough. Even if you didn’t do whatever made them upset, you can still genuinely be apologetic for the way your customer feels (e.g., I’m always sorry that a customer feels upset).

  • Resolve: Resolve the issue quickly, or make sure that your employees are empowered to do so. Don’t be afraid to ask the customer: “what can I do to make this right?”

  • Diagnose: Get to the bottom of why the mistake occurred, without blaming anyone; focus on fixing the process so that it doesn’t happen again.

3. You are responsible for the growth of the business.

Your customers—all customers—have a choice. They can choose to do nothing at all. They can choose to do business with you. Or they can choose one of your competitors.

Perhaps the most under-appreciated customer service rule is that great customer service adds real value to your business, and it’s not enough to just support your customers. You have to help them win. If you do that, then your business wins, too.

4. Give people the benefit of the doubt.

There’s an important thing to understand about people’s behavior: we all have bad days. On those bad days, some of us might tend to take our frustrations out on other people, whether we mean to or not.

I’ve certainly been guilty of it, and I’d be willing to bet that you have, too. A customer who behaves badly once (within reason) is simply a customer behaving badly. Give them the benefit of the doubt, and employ your best customer service techniques to help them get back to normal.

5. There are things more important than speed.

While speed matters, there are things that matter more. One survey by Gallup measured how engaged customers felt after getting service at a bank. While customers who felt that the bank offered speedy service were six times more likely to be highly engaged, customers who gave the bank high ratings on “people” factors (like the tellers’ courtesy and willingness to help) were nine times more likely to be fully engaged. Focus on great support before fast support.

6. Make things easy.

Contrary to the conventional advice that loyalty is built on “WOW’ing the customer,” research suggests that the critical goal should be reducing customer effort. Always be thinking about how you can make life easier for your customers, and they’ll have a great reason to stick around.


7. Your customers are under your protection.

What exactly does “under your protection” mean? In this case, it means that you don’t sell people a product or service just so you can make a large one-time profit.

Instead of thinking about the value of a given transaction, think about the value of your customer being with you for a lifetime. Remember this when you’re considering what to upsell, downsell or recommend. Keeping your customers happy and loyal by taking the long-term view and placing them under your protection can pay off in a big way.

8. If you want to treat your customers well, treat your employees well.

The final customer service rule is about your employees, rather than your customers. Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.

Improving employee happiness doesn’t just increase customer satisfaction, but it also nearly doubles the customer’s plans to purchase again at that store.

Great Customer Service Starts With Thinking the Right Way

As valuable as the right tactics and techniques are, mastering your customer service skills comes down to thinking about support the right way. That’s what will give you the tools you need to handle any support scenario, whether you’ve planned for it or not. Bookmark these rules and refer back to them from time to time; your customers will appreciate it.

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