Are you worried about the quality of your customer service? Wondering how to provide so stellar customer service that it leaves what your competitors are doing behind?
Good news, then – Below, you’ll find the ultimate customer service checklist that’s not only going to help you improve customer satisfaction and loyalty by a mile, but it will also help you create processes and procedures to add structure and predictability to every customer experience.
But let’s make something clear first…
What do I mean by a customer service checklist?
For most of us, this word – checklist – immediately sparks images of some sort of a process to follow.
That’s what a checklist is, after all, isn’t it? In his amazing book, The Checklist Manifesto, the author, Atul Gawande, outlines the three core principles of checklist-based processes:
- They protect us from failure.
- They establish standards for better performance.
- They aid decision-making.
Well, if that’s what you thought about it too then you’re very close to understanding the concept of a customer service checklist.
Because, ultimately, such a checklist is nothing else but a set of rules and guidelines that your entire company should follow to ensure stellar and consistent customer service.
I also like to think of the checklist as a guidebook or a reference point that helps the company:
- process customer inquiries (also through live chat support,)
- address complaints,
- provide assistance,
- offer information and advice,
- suggest new products or upgrades, etc.
Basically, the checklist assist you with doing everything you need to do to deliver a great experience and meet your customers’ service expectations.
But why would you even need a customer service checklist?
Fair question. As you’ll see shortly, many items the checklist defines are quite common sense. It almost feels as if your customer service staff should know them intuitively.
But that’s not true.
For one, you, probably, can’t expect everyone on your team to have the same understanding of what good customer service is.
It is the company’s responsibility to define the level of service they want to provide, and educate its staff on the exact ways and processes to deliver on that.
However, that’s just one reason to develop a customer service checklist. Other benefits of having one include:
- Greater consistency of every customer interaction. With the checklist, you’re leaving fewer things to chance, and as a result, ensure that customers receive a similar level of support and assistance along the entire customer journey. The checklist will also ensure that customer support teams will feel more confident about what they do, and have a reference point whenever they find themselves in doubt.
- Fewer mistakes in the process that could reflect negatively on the quality of your service. With the checklist, your staff will always be aware of your company’s rules and processes for delivering customer service.
- Faster onboarding of new customer service team members. This is because the checklist will also guide training of new hires, and serve as a reference point for them when in doubt about how to process customer inquiries.
- Solid benchmarks for monitoring the quality of your service, performance analysis, and setting up new targets to reach.
Are there any downsides of having such a checklist?
No, I really can’t think of any.
That said, I’m sure someone could make an argument that the checklist could be limiting creativity or restricting decision-making. I personally don’t adhere to such thinking, and see the checklist as the ultimate reference tool. However, for the sake of completeness of this discussion, it might only be fair to mention the opposite arguments.
What to include in your customer service checklist?
Unfortunately, I have to start with this – There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all customer service checklist.
Every organization would have its own customer service standards to which it wants to adhere. Your organizational structure, products or services you provide, and more will also affect the information you’ll include in your checklist.
This also means that the points I’ve included below are nothing but a guideline to help you develop your company’s own customer service checklist. Think about the items below as suggestions to what you should be considering when defining the checklist for yourself.
So, without any further ado, here are 12 elements I recommend you consider for your checklist.
#1. Customer service standards
By far, this often proves the most challenging aspect of defining the checklist. It is also what forms its foundation so please do not skip this step.
Customer service standards define (or outline) the quality of service that you want to provide to every single customer, at every touchpoint, and for their every inquiry or issue.
Your standards should make it clear how the customer should feel after each interaction, and that goes for everything from how they’ve been greeted, how their inquiry got handles, and so on.
In other words, these standards define what you want to be known for when it comes to your service:
- Your responsiveness
- Empathy towards customers
- Willingness to help and the level of assistance you provide
- Your attitude towards customers reaching support, etc.
TIP – If you look closely at the rest of the list below, you’ll notice that many of those items relate directly to the standards you’ve set up.
#2. Customer expectations
Just like your checklist should define the level of service you strive to provide, it should also list what customers should expect from you.
By the way, the two things – service standards and customer expectations – might seem similar but they’re not.
- Standards define what you aim to achieve.
- Expectations define who you’re going to do it.
For example, you may aim to always resolve customer inquiries quickly. That’s your standard. But the reality is that customers will have to wait at least some time for the resolution. So, your expectation might be to limit that time to X minutes when it comes to phone, and X seconds for live chat.
What’s more, expectations are something that you can (and should) communicate with customers. This way, you manage their expectations, and build a foundation for great customer service experience.
(An example of a company clearly communicating expectations on their website.)
#3. All the ways for customers to reach you
This is a frustrating, and also, quite common scenario for many customers – They have an issue with the product. It may not be something overly dramatic, yet still, they’d like to talk to someone about it.
But try as they might, they can’t find customer service contact information anywhere.
Here’s a quick proof. I checked how often customers google terms like “Microsoft customer service number” each month.
The results are in thousands each month. Thousands.
And that’s just US data alone.
Granted, some of these customers might be lazy and don’t feel like looking for the number of the company’s site. But in many instances, such numbers are well hidden, buried deep in the site’s navigation.
(I’ll give Microsoft credit that, in their case, the Support item is clearly visible in the main navigation.)
But that’s not the only problem here. Sometimes even customer service teams don’t know the full scope of the different ways that customers could ask for support.
So, as another item on the checklist, define every single support channel you offer. Then, ensure that all these are clearly communicated to customers, be it on the website but also, product information and more.
#4. Ways to reduce context switching
While customers sometimes struggle to figure out how to reach your support, your teams face another challenge:
They often have to switch between tools to process customer inquiries.
This, typically, occurs with live chat support.
Your teams communicate internally with one tool – Slack, MS Teams, Webex, etc. – but use a different interface to chat with customers.
Unfortunately, that creates several points of friction:
- Your teams need to learn and operate several interfaces.
- The disconnect between live chat and communication tools results in losing connection with other teams while processing customer inquiries.
- Customer service teams cannot get other experts in the company directly involved to process customer queries faster.
TIP: To eliminate the friction completely, consider using a live chat tool that integrates with your internal communication tools.
For example, my tool, Social Intents allows you to chat with customers and website visitors directly from Slack, MS Teams, Zoom, or Webex.
With Social Intents:
- You don’t have to use an external interface for live chat. You will receive chat conversations in whatever communication tool you use.
- Your team can work together to process customer inquiries.
- You can also speed up responding with the most common shortcuts and canned responses from your internal communications tool.
(A screenshot of a live chat conversation happening in MS Teams thanks to Social Intents integration.)
Here is just some of the feedback Social Intents receives from happy customers:
Rápida configuração e fácil de implementar. Escolhemos a versão para Microsoft Teams que já utilizávamos para que o pessoal pudesse começar a trabalhar imediatamente.
Russell L. – Web Developer, 1001-5000 employees
Social Intents powered our COVID-19 Success Story. Our college was given less than a week’s notice that we needed to close our campuses due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The live chat technology is so easy to learn, that within a week, we had more than 110 staff trained and answering hundreds of student’s questions every day
Joshua S. – Education Management, 1001-5000 employees
#5. Company’s voice
Since every single customer interaction represents your company, these conversations should happen with the company voice (alternatively called the brand voice.) The voice defines your brand personality, that unique way you sound to the world.
As a result, your checklist should clearly define such a voice – how your company wants to sound like to its customers.
This will guide your customer service team and show them how to respond to any customer communications.
#6. Ideal response times
A response time is the length of time it takes for your company (or an individual agent) to respond to a customer’s initial inquiry.
Naturally, response times will differ between channels. Email response rate will naturally be longer than the time it takes your agents to pick up a live chat conversation.
Nonetheless, in either case, it should be pretty quick. That’s because response times can be a significant factor in affecting the overall customer experience with your support.
Your checklist should define ideal response times per channel. Naturally, these times need to be realistic. If you operate with a small team of support agents, then don’t challenge them to respond to all emails within a couple of minutes from inquiry. Such approach will eventually create a backlog, and result in backlash from customers.
The situation is no different with live chat. Even though, thanks to canned responses, your team can process such inquiries quickly, the response time may still be longer if several customers try to chat with an agent.
TIP: Keep customers informed about typical response times per channel. Also, if possible, specify average time-frames for support issues resolution.
#7. Knowledge base and resources
One of the most sure-fire ways to ensure fast issue resolution is by creating a knowledge base. Not only will this provide agents with all the necessary materials and product information but will also allow customers to solve their issues on their own.
This company, for example, brilliantly integrates access to the knowledge base into their contact page.
Customers can use the page to reach the company for support. But naturally, they can also access information about the most common issues and potentially, solve their problem, directly on the page.
But is knowledge base really that important? Yes. In fact, according to various studies, as many as 70% of customers expect your company to provide them with a way to research and solve the problem on their own.
#8. Processes for reducing agent’s stress and burnout
Burnout is something every company has to deal with at one time or another. In fact, when it comes to customer service teams, research suggests that as many as 74% of agents are at risk.
- Loss of energy to perform the tasks at hand
- Apathy towards responsibilities at work
- Negative attitude towards the job,
- Mistakes, absenteeism, and more.
In short, when your agents are burnt out, your customer service suffers.
To prevent that, use the checklist to also define strategies and processes for combating prolonged stress and burnout.
#9. Canned responses and automation
FACT: Canned responses are a true lifesaver for any live chat agent.
With these pre-written replies for frequent live chat queries or conversation scenarios, agents can answer customer queries almost immediately, without the person having to wait for the agent to type their reply. Instead, the agent just needs to trigger a canned response with a dedicated shortcut.
Here’s a quick example of an agent typing a shortcut to trigger a canned response:
Your customer service checklist should also define:
- What most frequent questions and service scenarios you experience in live chat
- What are the most common replies that you could offer to those scenarios
Based on that, you’ll be able to quickly generate a list of canned responses, and set them up in your live chat software.
NEED INSPIRATION? We’ve collected 20+ most frequently used canned responses for live chat support.
#10. Pre-chat surveys to direct customers better
This element of the checklist directly relates to response times. You already know how important the time it takes for agents to respond and resolve a customer’s query is to the overall satisfaction with your service.
Pre-chat surveys are one way to ensure that this time is the shortest possible.
Pre-chat surveys are short questionnaires you trigger BEFORE the person gets to talk to your support agents. The idea behind those surveys is to identify the reason someone’s contacting you, and immediately direct them to the best person they should be talking to.
In other words, if the person has a pre-sale question, they shouldn’t be talking to a customer support person, then. Because if that happens, they’ll need to be redirected to sales, and such redirects never make a good impression on the customer.
By asking about the nature of their query before initiating the chat conversation, you can ensure that their live chat request gets picked up by the sales person immediately.
It’s that simple.
TIP: Most live chat products like Social Intents offer the ability to set up custom pre-chat surveys, and direct inquiries to relevant people.
#11. Proactive customer service
Did you know that proactive customer service is directly linked to higher customer satisfaction?
Yup, it’s true. By anticipating customers’ queries and answering them even before the customer feels the need to reach out for an answer you can ensure they’re even more satisfied with your support.
Include some of the ways by which you’ll try to be more proactive with your support as part of your customer service checklist.
NEED INSPIRATION? We’ve created a complete guide to offering proactive customer service. Check it out to learn more about taking a proactive approach to customer support.
Chatbots offer an amazing opportunity to boost your customer service. For one, these computer programs can pick up live chat requests immediately, and process customer requests, even if only at a basic level.
Even a simple chatbot can make customers feel as if their request is already being handled, cutting the response time to practically zero!
And needless to say, your checklist should also cover how you intend to use chatbots to scale the customer support.
NEED INSPIRATION? Check out our guide to how chatbots improve customer experience.
And that’s it…
Now you know the core elements your customer service checklist should include. Naturally, not all of them might be applicable to your business or products. However, I imagine that most of them would, and I recommend defining them for your support team.