The key elements of good customer service

Manoj Palanikumar
January 18, 2021

The key elements of good customer service

January 18, 2021
by Manoj Palanikumar

Time for an anecdote.

7-year old Luka Apps was a longtime Lego fan, and he lost a Christmas present – a Jay ZX Lego character. Losing a toy is devastating for any child, and Luka was no exception. He bought the toy while on a shopping trip and lost it promptly as his father had predicted. 

Luka was so upset about his new toy’s loss that he wanted to write a letter to Lego explaining his predicament. 

This is what he wrote to Lego’s customer service:

Hello. My name is Luka, and I am seven years old. With all my money I got for Christmas, I bought the Ninjago kit of the Ultrasonic Raider. The number is 9449. It is really good. 

My daddy just took me to Sainsbury’s and told me to leave the people at home, but I took them, and I lost Jay ZX at the shop as it fell out of my coat. I am really upset I have lost him. Daddy said to send you an email to see if you will send me another one. 

I promise I won’t take him to the shop again if you can. Thank you.

The response he received from Richard, a customer service representative at LEGO, was terrific. Richard told Luka that he spoke to his boss, Sensei Wu (a Ninjago character), and wrote:

Thanks for sending us an email!

We are very sorry to hear about you losing your Jay Minifigure; it sounds like your dad might have been right about leaving it at home. It sounds like you are very sad about it too. 

Normally we would ask that you pay for a new one if you lose one of your Minifigures and need it replaced. My bosses told me I could not send you one out for free because you lost it, but I decided to put a call to Sensei Wu to see if he could help me.

Luka, I told Sensei Wu that losing your Jay Minifigure was purely an accident and that you would never let it happen again. He told me to tell you, “Luka, your father seems like a very wise man. You must always protect your Ninjago minifigures like the dragons protect the Weapons of Spinjitzu!.” Sensei Wu also told me it was okay to send you a new Jay and include something extra for you because anyone who saves their Christmas money to buy the Ultrasonic Raider must be a huge Ninjago fan.

So, I hope you enjoy your Jay Minifigure with all his weapons. You will actually have the only Jay Minifigure that combines three different Jays into one! I am also going to send you a bad guy for him to fight!

Just remember what Sensei Wu said: Keep your minifigures protected like the Weapons of Spinjitzu! And of course, always listen to your dad. 

You will see an envelope from Lego within the next two weeks with your new Minifigures. Please take good care of them, Luka. Remember that you promised to always leave them at home.

Happy building!

Richard, LEGO consumer services

What are the elements of customer service that help you provide a great experience like above? Keeping the example in mind, let’s break down the key elements that go into the customer experience.

The key elements of good customer service are:

  1. Respect your customers
  2. Listen to your customers
  3. Empathize with your customer’s problems
  4. Respond to your customers
  5. Serve – Go above and beyond for your customers
  6. Always give customers more than what they need

Respect your customers

It is essential to respect your customer, as they are the ones that ultimately help your business to thrive. The above scenario is a prime example of this. 

Relationships are built on respect, and it is no different when it comes to customer service.

Luka is a 7-year old, and Richard is a customer service rep with LEGO. When Richard addresses Luka, he ensures that he directly addresses Luka, not Luka’s father, even though the email id may belong to Luka’s father. This sends out a message that no matter who your customer might be, it is important for reps to understand who they are talking to and respond accordingly.

Listen to your customers

Being a good listener is a critical trait for someone in customer service. It is important to keep your ears – and eyes – open to be a good listener. Identify customer needs by listening to them and asking questions to understand what their problem is about.

This helps your customers understand that they’re being heard and their problem is being looked into. 

Listening is often the only thing you could do to help someone.

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In Luka’s case, Richard reads his email and tries to understand his customer’s issue. When it comes to providing customer support through live chat or the phone channel, listening is even more critical as customers derive conclusions from your tone of voice and response speed. 

With most transactions happening online now, there is no way for the customer to know if they are being heard. As a customer service rep, you must ensure to put your customers at ease and acknowledge their problems by the way you speak. 

A great customer experience usually starts with an enthusiastic greeting. Reps should express their interest while listening and convey a positive attitude when dealing with customers. Pay attention to your tone, and if you’re providing support through the phone, smiling can often help portray a positive attitude.

Empathize with your customer’s problems

Empathizing enables you to become the customer and see the problem from their point of view. When you empathize with the customer, you see your product/service through their eyes and explain the issue to them based on their knowledge. Without empathy, you might see their problem, but you might be unable to explain it to them to match their level of understanding. 

Customers don’t just buy products or services anymore; they buy solutions to their problems. 

The better you know your customers, the better you can solve their problems. Empathy helps you see the situation from their shoes, and you can tweak your product/service accordingly to provide a solution to their problem. 

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In Luka’s case, Richard empathized with him and reinforced his father’s words. He was able to provide a great experience due to his ability to empathize. Richard could relate to 7-year old Luka’s problem because he could see and feel what Luka felt due to losing his Jay Minifigure. And that helped him connect to Luka’s situation, and Richard even went so far as to ask Sensei Wu (another character) to replace Luka’s lost figurine. This shows the level of empathy and dedication Richard had; he wanted Luka to learn his lesson while keeping him happy.

Customer support members are the representatives of customers, and you must fulfill that requirement. Empathy is often understood as an emotion, but it is a trait and something to be acted on when it comes to customer service. Richard understood Luka’s problem and offered a solution for it, and that is how empathy works in customer service.

Respond to your customers

As a customer service/support rep, your primary responsibility is to provide a solution to your customers’ problems. 

Look for ways to make it easy for your customers to do business with you. 

Let’s say a customer came to you with a relatively simple problem that you may immediately know the answer to. In your perspective, the problem and the solution to it may be simple. But it may not be the same for the customer. Instead of sending out a help document, offer to help them resolve the issue on their own if they would prefer it. 

Some customers may not like hand-holding and may prefer to solve the issue independently with a help article. So always ask questions, and try to understand your customers’ preferences. If they’d like a support document, then respond accordingly. Or if they would like you to resolve it for them, then set up a time to work out the solution over a call.

It is always important to respond, even if you may not immediately have a solution to the problem. Even if some requests appear unreasonable, offer to look into them and get back to them within a period. 

In Luka’s situation, Richard responded by initially empathizing with Luka’s problem. This immediately helped Luka understand that they acknowledge his problem, and they will respond to it, even if he may not find a solution.

In most cases, requests will be fairly straightforward and achievable. Even if they are unreasonable or appear impossible to fulfill, offer to look into the matter and promise to come back with an answer within a specified period.

Serve – Go above and beyond for your customers

This essentially means that you have to strive to fix your customers’ problems. Your product/service may be good at solving issues, but if your customers don’t understand how it’s done, they may end up being frustrated. 

Always try to go above and beyond; don’t just stop with providing a solution, but go one step ahead and offer them something that would turn a support ticket into a support experience.

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In Luka’s case, Richard did precisely that. He could have stopped at replacing the lost Jay Minifigure. But he wanted Luka to remember their service, so he went one step forward and offered Luka another Minifigure for Jay to fight. 

This is not required, but a gesture like this helps cement your brand image in your customers’ minds. Seeing and serving beyond what is just needed helps elevate customer experience to a whole new level, and this is the point at which your customers start advocating for your brand.

Learn to give customer experiences rather than solutions. Offer them something that goes beyond the expected – something that gives them the ‘wow’ factor. Personalization is one way you could achieve this; it lifts customer support into the more holistic customer experience space.

Always give customers more than what they need

“We’re not competitor obsessed, we’re customer-obsessed,” says Jeff Bezos. “We start with what the customer needs, and we work backwards.”

This is how you win customers for life. Rather than acquiring new customers, focus on retaining customers and making them your brand advocates. 

Invest in marketing, and you can sell anything to anyone. Invest in good customer service, and you can not only sell to the same customers, but your customers will sell your products for you.

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