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10 elements of excellent customer service you must know

How can you deliver first-class customer service? With expectations constantly on the rise, it’s crucial to understand a few key elements of customer service common to every interaction.

As stated in our Customer Service Trends Report 2023, 83% of support teams have seen customer expectations increase.¹ However, only 40% of them are confident they can meet those heightened expectations.

Customers demand faster response times, more personalized assistance, and convenient resolution options. To meet these demands, it's more important than ever to know what makes a good customer service. Self-service, proactive support, and an omnichannel strategy are just a few examples of how customer service departments can vault themselves into the highest tier. 

In this article, you’ll learn more about core elements of customer service, and what you can do when facing inefficient practices. First, let’s address what, exactly, customer service is.

What is customer service?

Customer service is the support you offer to your clients at all stages of their journey. The goal is to meet your customers’ needs by solving problems, addressing issues, and helping them maximize the value of your product or service.

Although it’s frequently associated with the support team, providing excellent service is a collective effort that involves everyone who interacts with customers, ranging from sales to customer success departments. 

What is good customer service?

Good customer service stands out by tailoring its approach to each customer's unique needs and preferences. This involves a series of best practices like using automation and chatbots to provide fast support; reaching out through their preferred channels; and making sure customers always get personalized, empathetic service.

What are the 10 main elements of good customer service?

1. Customer service personalization

Intercom’s Customer Service Trends Report 2023 report found that 89% of support leaders see personalization as a competitive differentiator in today's market. 

The report also shows that personalized support brings tangible benefits: teams are twice as likely to observe a rise in customer satisfaction and nearly twice as likely to notice improvements in retention and loyalty.

Customers expect support teams to already understand who they are, what issues they've faced in the past, and how they use your product on a day-to-day basis. So it’s time to get to know them inside and out. 

Companies that have a thorough understanding of every possible situation their customers could face, and personalize support accordingly, gain an undeniable edge. McKinsey & Company research found that, for 78% of customers, personalized communication made them more likely to repurchase.²

2. Frictionless processes

The key to winning a customer’s loyalty lies in your ability to streamline processes by eliminating unnecessary obstacles and letting them achieve their goals with your products.

This means offering straightforward access to your products and services, ensuring convenience, and delivering relevant information. Make their experience as seamless and efficient as it can be.

Here's how you can guarantee your customers experience effortlessly streamlined processes with your product: 

  • Give the precise information customers need when they reach out.

  • Manage and reduce your customer service wait times.

  • Explain the customer’s next steps clearly in their journey.

  • Offer an experience that makes their time investment feel worthwhile.

  • Provide options that suit your customer’s preferences.

3. Fast and efficient replies

How quickly do you respond to your customers? This is absolutely critical: 90% of customers feel that an immediate response to their inquiries is either important or very important to them.³ 

This need for speed reflects the on-demand mentality of many or even most of today's customers. Making them wait even just a few minutes simply doesn't cut it anymore. To meet this era’s sky-high expectations for responsiveness, you can leverage automated customer service and chatbots to provide instant answers to simpler questions.

4. Self-service options

Another element of excellent customer service is enabling robust self-service options. By offering tools like FAQs and knowledge base articles, businesses empower customers to help themselves quickly and easily.

According to McKinsey’s The State of Customer Care in 2022, 65% of customer care leaders identified improved self-service as a major factor in decreasing call volume.⁴

Another benefit of self-service is that your support team faces fewer tickets flooding in. After all, if you've thoroughly covered the common questions on your self-service platform, customers don’t reach out with problems they can resolve independently.

Consequently, your reps can focus their time on more complex queries that demand critical thinking and expertise.

5. Omnichannel support

Customers don't want to repeat themselves across different support channels. Having to re-explain their issues and needs to multiple support reps is frustrating. Rather, they expect a consistent experience that instantly recognizes them and their specific query across multiple channels. 

Omnichannel support is an element of customer service that views every interaction point as part of one continuous experience. The idea is to make it as simple as possible for your customers to reach you through whatever channel they prefer, thereby allowing  them to seamlessly toggle between text, phone, chat, and other mediums depending on their situation and availability.

By maintaining a unified view of each customer's full history and preferences, omnichannel support can also deliver personalized assistance tailored for individuals. Representatives get the full context no matter the channel, allowing quicker issue resolution.

With Intercom customer service solution, you can deliver omnichannel support and keep all of your communications in one place.

6. Proactive support

According to Forrester Consulting’s 2021 study, Drive Conversational Experiences For A Future-Ready Customer Support Strategy, 59% of support leaders and decision-makers identify the lack of proactive support as a significant obstacle to achieving conversational support at scale.⁵

Proactive support is an element of a successful customer service strategy that essentially gives customers the support they need, before they need it. Rather than passively waiting for inquiries, proactive support uses strategic insights to anticipate questions and offer targeted help.

Through the use of tools such as outbound messages, product tours, and onboarding processes, proactive support allows you to tackle potential issues before customers even become aware of them.

7. Support tailored to market and customer needs

Delivering excellent customer service starts with understanding your clients and their needs. A great support team doesn't just know the ins and outs of your product – they see how your customers are using it and the problems they encounter with it. 

Teams must become experts on the customer journey. That is, they need to be able to walk in their customers’ shoes, and know their needs and pain points at each stage, from initial research to onboarding and adoption. As a result, informed support reps can quickly troubleshoot issues as they arise.

To build real connections, your team must understand customers not as numbers, but as people with lives and circumstances that reach far beyond any single transaction or interaction. Take time to identify specific needs, and demonstrate your company truly cares.

8. Automation and AI tools adoption

Customer service is evolving fast. Are your tools keeping pace? 

As our trends report shows, 81% of support leaders are confident that the adoption of technology, including automated support tools, will have a positive impact on both employee engagement and attrition rates within their support teams in 2023.

Let's look at two prime examples: AI-powered chatbots and help desk. The use of both technologies works as an element of good customer service. 

While a chatbot resolves issues instantly and increases team efficiency, a help desk empowers your team to achieve more in less time, fostering enhanced productivity and streamlining operations.

Everything you need to know before choosing an AI chatbot: Download The AI Chatbot Buyer’s Checklist.

9. Feedback

Customer feedback is extremely valuable for any business that wants to succeed in the long-term. Understanding what your customers really think about your products and services provides key insights that guide consequential business decisions.

A feedback survey can help you find out important things, including the most requested features for product development, gaps in the customer experience, and overall satisfaction levels.

Gathering feedback is just the first step, though. A proper analysis transforms feedback into insights you can act on, guiding improvements and enhancing overall service.

Read more: 6 keys to getting high-quality and useful customer feedback

10. Employee satisfaction

Gartner research shows that people crave deeper purpose and meaning: 82% of employees say it's important that their company sees them as a person and not just an employee.⁶ However, only 45% believe they are actually seen that way.

As a support leader, prioritizing the well-being of your support team is essential to creating a happier, more motivated team. When they feel their own needs are being addressed and accounted for, team members will provide more consistent, empathetic service to your customers. 

Elements of bad customer service

We’ve spent some time talking about what constitutes good and excellent customer service. Now, let’s take a look at some elements of bad customer service.

Forcing customers to repeat themselves to multiple support reps

No customer wants to feel like they're stuck on a never-ending loop, recounting the same details over and over. They reach out for support and explain the issue to rep A. But that person can't resolve it, so they transfer the call. Rep B picks up, lacking any context or details, and the customer is forced to explain every facet of their situation all over again.

Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common when support tools aren't set up to create  continuity within your team. Sometimes, customers get passed between departments and have to explain their specific issue and situation from scratch.

💡 What you can do: use a platform to integrate customer data in one place and share the knowledge, so your team can collaborate and always access every customer’s history.

Disconnected experiences

Customers expect frictionless transitions between channels throughout their journey with a brand. They should never feel like they're suddenly starting at square one simply because they switched from social media to your live chat. 

Nevertheless, many companies fail in this crucial element of customer service strategy, and their various customer touchpoints remain fragmented

A customer may have a great experience resolving an issue via email, only to face a completely different experience the next time they contact the call center. Or they receive helpful information from a support rep but are left frustrated by the self-service options on the company's website.

💡 What you can do: the solution lies in adopting an omnichannel customer service approach, integrating your different communication channels onto a single platform.

Slow response times

Nothing kills the customer's experience faster than slow response times. They reach out with an urgent question, only to land in a virtual queue. The clock ticks – and ticks – as they watch their place in line ever-so-gradually advance.

Speed and convenience are essential to staying competitive. Because of this, companies must invest in solutions that deliver real-time support, such as the use of automation and AI for customer service

💡 What you can do: an AI chatbot can fill these gaps and provide instant answers. For instance, Intercom’s AI chatbot, Fin, can resolve up to 50% of requests on the first contact.

Empower your team to empower your customers

Putting customers first has to start from behind the scenes. If you want your customer-facing team to consistently deliver amazing, loyalty-winning experiences, they need to feel empowered and supported in their roles.

According to our Customer Support Trends 2023 Report, these are the top ways support leaders are retaining agents and maintaining morale::

  • 64% are allowing flexible working conditions.

  • 54% are adjusting the team's workloads.

  • 52% are investing in technology that helps with workload.

"When you want to provide every customer with a luxurious, best-in-class experience, efficiency and speed are critical. And they’re not only critical for our customers but also for our employees. The happier our team is, the easier it is for them to delight our customers. So, Intercom was that one platform that tied all of those pieces together for us. We fell in love with it.” Geronimo Chala. Chief Consumer Officer at Rebag.

To help you master the main elements of customer service, Intercom offers a platform that allows you to:

  • Implement workflows that automate manual tasks.

  • Build personalized journeys that deliver real value for your customers.

  • Connect your inbox, tickets, and help center into one central, AI-enhanced workspace.

  • Solve customer issues with safe, accurate, conversational answers thanks to Fin, our AI-powered chatbot.

Are you ready to set your front line up for success? Start your free trial or ask for a demo today.


1. Intercom, Customer Service Trends Report 2023. We surveyed 1,700 global support leaders and decision makers.

2. McKinsey & Company, Next in Personalization 2021 Report. McKinsey surveyed 1,013 people, sampled and weighed to match the US general population 18+ years.

3. Hubspot, Hubspot Research Consumer Customer Support Survey. Huspot surveyed 1,000 consumers in the US, UK, Australia, and Singapore.

4. McKinsey & Company, State of Customer Care Survey 2022. McKinsey surveyed more than 160 industry leaders and experts to find out how their operations have been affected over the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

5. Forrester Consulting, Drive Conversational Experiences For A Future-Ready Customer Support Strategy 2021. Forrester conducted an online survey with 523 global customer support decision-makers with responsibility for strategy and technology purchasing decisions.

6. Gartner, Employees Seek Personal Value and Purpose at Work.