2015 saw some of the best and worst examples of customer service as brands distinguished themselves in a crowded market, and not always for the right reasons.

But hindsight is a wonderful thing, and it’s what you do with the learnings that matters. So how do you make 2016 the year of the customer? Here are my top tips for customer service this year.

  1. Learn from your mistakes – none of us is perfect, so reflect and learn from your mistakes, successes and customer feedback. Try to release marginal improvements throughout the year, and introduce something new and significant every few months.
  2. Keep it real – set yourself targets, use the last year as a baseline from which you can look to improve. If you can find out what your competitors are doing, do so. Speak to your customers to set realistic goals for development.
  3. Invest in staff – your customer service team is the first point of contact for most of your customers. They are your shop window and directly reflect on the business, so make sure they are prepared for the worst case/ trickiest of situations.
  4. Compassion - take the time to understand your customers and the problems they face – this will allow you to engage with them in a positive way.
  5. Get mobile - sort your mobile and tablet optimisation. There are no excuses and there is nothing more annoying than trying to access non-mobile optimised content on the go.
  6. Get external recognition – celebrate your customer service success with awards, audits and accreditations that boost your company’s profile and your customer service team’s morale.
  7. Be proactive in communication – when you spot an issue, get to the customer as soon as possible. No one likes to be blind sided!
  8. Resolve don’t respond – don’t just respond to an individual problem. Think about wider resolution – how can I stop this happening again? What would happen if it affected other customers? Resolve the root cause, not the symptoms.
  9. 8. Be honest - be upfront about what you can do for your customers and when they can expect as a result. Make their experiences impactful and manage expectations.
  10. Put yourself in their shoes – for any sort of customer engagement, at any level, treat customers how you would wish to be treated yourself. Empathy is vital – their success is your success and their problems are your problems so get insightful quick and mind your Ps and Qs.
  11. Know your stuff– build on your strengths; if you know what you are good at develop this, don’t try and be a jack of all trades.
  12. Congratulate –reward staff noisily for delivering great customer experiences and improvements.
  13. Be social – Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are powerful tools to publicly demonstrate your attitude to customer service (for better or worse!).
  14. Exceed your commitments – if you commit to responding to or completing something for a customer within a deadline, do it faster. If this is unachievable, manage your customer’s expectations ahead of time.
  15. Be aware – understand what is going on in the world around you, especially within your sector. If something dramatic occurs within your industry, such as data breaches or cyber crime, make sure you have the knowledge to deal with any questions.
  16. Personalise - don’t be generic. Customers respond to personalisation. Ensure your service desk and customer relationship management (CRM) systems contain current and accurate information - and talk to each other so there’s only ever one version of the truth. This will allow staff to speak with knowledge, understanding and authority when talking to customers. Nobody wants to feel like a number.
  17. Always follow up - check to make sure customer issues are resolved and that their questions have been addressed. Only close a customer interaction when everyone is happy.

By Tom Needs, Chief Operating Officer, Adapt