Last Updated on April 21, 2020 by James McAllister

By: James McAllister

12 Comments

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One of the easiest ways to differentiate your business from others in your industry is to make customer service a priority.

Every business likes to think that they have good customer service, but there is an enormous difference between good customer service, and truly exceptional customer service. And your customers can clearly tell the difference.

Fortunately, crafting an exceptional customer service strategy is not all that difficult. The simple fact that you even care enough to read an article like this one shows that you’re likely to do well with the information I’m about to share with you.

There are a number of customer service principles that help buyers at all stages of the sales cycle feel valued and cared for. In this article, I intend to cover each one of these in detail.

Without further ado, here are the 7 pillars of exceptional customer service, and some information on how to implement them into your business.

1. Prevention

Customer service starts before you ever interact with the customer.

In fact, the best thing you could do is deliver every part of the buying experience so perfectly, not a single customer would ever need to contact you in the first place.

Of course, we all know that’s not realistic.

Still, you should seek to solve problems before it ever reaches the point where a customer would need to contact you.

Pay attention to the messages that you do receive, and look for patterns. Are there common questions being asked? Common complaints that you’re receiving? What issues seem to pop up over and over again?

It’s worth investing in solving these repeat problems, and squashing them before they ever arise. Even something as simple as making a piece of information more clear can do wonders to clear up complaints.

When you make excellence a core port of your business in all aspects, problems become rare. You can then afford to go above and beyond for the customers that still have genuine problems, as these cases will become increasingly rare.

When you make excellence a core port of your business in all aspects, problems become rare. You can then afford to go above and beyond for the customers that still have genuine problems. Click to Tweet

2. Proactivity

When problems do arise, or you know that they’re about to, be proactive in helping the customer.

Start solving their problem before they even know that they have one. Be upfront and honest with them, and explain what you’re doing to fix it.

For example, my employees occasionally get two orders mixed up, and send the wrong item to the wrong person, due to the wrong shipping label being put on the box. When we get a message from one buyer notifying us of this issue, we contact the other customer straight away. We explain to them that they’re about to receive the wrong package, which they’re welcome to keep and use for whatever purpose they desire. We also let them know that we’re overnighting their correct item, and giving them extra store credit for the trouble.

Being proactive shows the customer that you care about making things right, and puts them in a much better mood. They would rather have the facts than be surprised with a negative experience – and then have to contact you to fix it!

3. Convenience

When customers do need to contact you, it’s vital that they’re able to do so easily.

Customers shouldn’t need to search for a method of contacting you. Include contact information in all of your emails, and give clear instructions on how to get in touch.

Ideally, you’ll have multiple methods of contact, to adhere to the customer’s preferences.

While email is always a bare minimum, having a phone number or live chat option available is a huge plus (and will likely lead to higher conversions as well.)

Live chat in particular is growing in popularity, and you should seek to implement it on your website as soon as possible!

4. Speed

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If you want to impress a customer, get back to them quickly.

Anything longer than a day is a problem. The best companies can respond to an email in a matter of minutes.

Seriously, use response time as a metric to track the quality of your customer service, and actively seek to improve it.

People often feel better from a customer service interaction if they receive an unwanted response quickly, than the response they wanted to hear, if it takes a long time to be delivered.

The use of pre-written templates for common customer inquiries can be a great way to improve response time. Just be sure when you’re using templates however that you take the time to make them personal for each customer contacting you!

Which brings me to my next point…

5. Personalization

Never make the customer feel like you’re reading off a script.

Your customer is a real person that took the time out of their busy lives to contact you, with the faith that you’ll care enough to solve their problem.

Customers will appreciate the feeling of having another real human from your company take their issue into consideration, think about it, and do their best to help them.

This does not mean that you shouldn’t use templates, or that you have to write every response from scratch. It simply means that you should take the time to address customers by name, respond thoughtfully to their inquiries, and let some of your own personality shine through as you write back to them.

6. Respect

It’s easy to quickly become bitter and hostile towards customers, especially when they seem to be acting unreasonably.

I understand it – people can be jerks. And it can be very hard to be respectful towards somebody who is acting like a jerk – especially when the issue isn’t even your company’s fault.

However, it’s important to respect the customer’s feelings, and try to see things from their point of view. You may think it’s unreasonable that the customer is yelling at you because the postal carrier delivered late, but the customer genuinely feels like this shouldn’t have happened. They legitimately felt like they needed the package to arrive.

Even in the most bizarre of cases, their feelings are real. They may not be rational, but that is how the customer truly feels.

Try to be empathetic when dealing with emotional customers, and consider how they may interpret things. This does not mean that you have to make exceptions or bend your company policies, but that you always interact with them in a respectful manner – even if they aren’t being respectful to you.

7. Delivery

Finally, you must actually be able to deliver on the promises that you make to the customer.

This means setting realistic expectations from the very beginning, and following through with them at all costs.

Be consistent with your solutions. Never leave customers doubting whether or not you’ll actually deliver.

It is bad enough to disappoint a customer once with some sort of problem. It becomes exponentially more drastic if customers are let down a second or third time.

If you want people to recognize your brand has having great customer support, it’s vital that they trust you’ll make things right when problems arise.

Conclusion

Exceptional customer service isn’t hard, but it does require both a well-crafted strategy, and a leader that actually cares about their customers.

In this article, I’ve shared the 7 pillars of building a truly exceptional customer service strategy. I hope you enjoyed this list, and you’ll remain conscious of these customer service tips as you build your small business.

I’d love to hear how you plan to implement one (or all!) of these within your company. And of course, if you have any tips of your own that you’d like to share, please do us all a favor and leave them in a comment below.

Here’s to our customers!

– James McAllister

About the author 

James McAllister

James is the owner of JamesMcAllisterOnline.com. He started his first blog at the age of 11, and has since gone on to start several successful businesses. In total, these businesses have sold hundreds of thousands of units and have touched millions of lives. Here on JamesMcAllisterOnline.com, he shares his knowledge that brought him to where he is today. If you want to connect with James, follow him on your favorite social networks!

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  1. Hi James, Very well written blog post. Now a days entrepreneurs and business owners put a lot of emphasis on product, however they fail realize the importance of the customer. The key to success of any business depends on customers. How your customers feel about your business. Offering a great customer service is not a one time process it is a continuous process.

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  2. Hi James, I always try to reply to someone within 24 hours but usually do so within an hour. You are right about facing problems before they contact you! I had worked in print media for many years and if I knew a mistake could not be fixed as the presses were run, I would let them know before they saw it and work out a solution prior to instead of after the fact. It really helped my relationship with them.
    I try to do that today in digital and social marketing as well.
    Great tips James!

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    Lisa Sicard recently posted…Creative Keyword Research- How to Find New and Exciting Topics to Write About (Easily)My Profile

    1. That’s definitely the way to do it! It’s one thing to let the customer know about the problem, it’s another to get working on their preferred solution quickly. It’s uncomfortable to admit that something’s wrong, but we have to be willing to have those uncomfortable interactions if we want to provide the best possible customer experience.

      As you rightly point out this is something that can be applied to all types of businesses, whether offline or digital.

      Thanks Lisa!

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      James McAllister recently posted…7 Tactics To Foster More Engagement On Social MediaMy Profile

  3. Hi James,

    This Christmas has provided 3 examples when the service I received fell short of what I expected:

    1) I ordered some drinks, expecting them to arrive in time for Christmas. The courier turned up while I was out, made no attempt to leave them with a neighbour (which is usual round here), returned the goods to the depot and no-one from the supplier even contacted me. I was disappointed because I didn’t notice until it was too late to receive them for Christmas.

    2) I organised the Christmas party for a group of friends at one of my favorite restaurants, but the service was poor and they completely forgot my pre-ordered main course.

    3) Another supplier delivered some special chocolates in time for Christmas, but long after promised, so I had to post the gifts out (at considerable expense) instead of handing them to people as they visited.

    Here’s what happened:
    1) The drinks supplier responded as soon as they could with an apology, expedited delivery of my order and 15% discount code to apply to my next order. We ended up joking about my ‘deprivation’. I’m a happy customer again, they retain my goodwill and get another order from me on which they’ll still make a profit!

    2) In the restaurant we complained on the day to the waiter – free bottle of wine and two main courses free. Then as we were going out the manager had the misfortune to ask if we’d enjoyed the meal, so we told our story of woe again – she invited the whole party back for a free meal. I have taken two other sets of friends to this restaurant since then, confident that if it doesn’t work out, they’ll put it right.

    3) I emailed the chocolate supplier, expecting an apology and a discount against my next order. Not even a reply! I waited three weeks and unsubscribed from their list. What a waste of goodwill and future orders for the sake of a few pounds.

    My Dad, serving the public for 60+ years, always says it’s not the mistake that matters, it’s how you handle it! He drummed that business ethic into me too.

    Sorry for long ramble, but good customer service is something I feel very strongly about.

    Joy Healey – Blogging After Dark

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    1. Hi Joy! Thanks for sharing your experiences here.

      These paint a clear example on how small acts can make an enormous difference in how customers feel about different companies – and the financial results of this! The chocolate supplier is obviously so short-term focused, they would jeopardize long-term repeat orders to save a few dollars.

      Unfortunately, they’ll surely pay the price for this in time.

      We’re so fortunate to know better!

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      James McAllister recently posted…8 Gadgets That Will Make Your Entrepreneurial Life More EnjoyableMy Profile

  4. Hi James,

    Customer service is the backbone of customer satisfaction. Without a quality customer service a brand or business cannot ensure the satisfaction among it’s customers.

    We all like to be heard and customer service make the customers feel that there is someone who is listening to them.

    Customer service also helps to build trust and earn respect.

    One should strictly follow your points to make the customer service effective.

    Thanks!

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    Gaurav Kumar recently posted…10 Good Reasons to Invest in Peer to Peer LendingMy Profile

  5. Sometimes great service means getting out of your customer’s way, and giving them the tools they have to unravel their own dilemmas. Empowering employees to return up with solutions to problems, and take creative action, reflects back on great customer service. Great customer service doesn’t just happen overnight. It builds from a corporation culture. In such a culture, service to customers may be a way of life, a default position, something that's relentlessly pursued and refined.

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    1. "…. Empowering employees to return up with solutions to problems…" is good advice. Motivating them and getting to see what's in it for them is even more important. You're spot on… excellent service has to be built as a culture in your business.

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