This is part one in a two-part series. You can read part two here.

Customer service isn’t what it used to be and this isn’t just a conjecture.

It’s a sad fact backed by study after study. For example, American Express found that in 2014, 38 percent of customers believed that businesses paid less attention to providing good customer service, up from 32 percent the year prior. It’s gotten to be such a problem that 44 percent of customers have switched to a different company due to poor customer service according to a whitepaper by NewVoiceMedia.

It’s clear that you’re going to have to do better in order to make your customers feel truly appreciated, but sometimes it’s difficult to remember what it’s like to be in their shoes.

If you’re looking for ways to make your callers feel like you really care, give these tips a try:

Listen to the caller. Don’t just listen so you can interject, but really listen. Pay attention to what they say, and what they don’t say, then use that to create a deeper connection with them. Sometimes callers are flustered because they don’t really know what they need, but they also don’t know how to tell you that. By listening to what the caller is saying, you can figure out what how to help them. It’s a simple trick that can make you sound like you have all the answers.

Give them what they need, even if it’s not with you. It’s hard to admit to a caller that what they want isn’t something you can provide, but it’s a move that will earn you respect and appreciation. It’s one thing to tell the caller you can’t help them, but your competition can and another to call the place you’re going to refer your customer and verify that the item or service they need is, in fact, being offered there. It saves a lot of trouble for your callers and this is definitely the kind of thing they’ll tell their friends about.

Own your mistakes. Sometimes your customers call because there’s trouble after their order is placed or their service is performed. The worst thing you can do is go on the defensive. Problems happen, it’s part of the nature of owning a business. Instead of blaming the customer or making them feel like you think they’re lying, own that mistake. Say, “Absolutely, we know we messed up. But I’m willing to do this thing to correct it.” They’re hard words that sometimes taste bitter in your mouth, but the more diplomacy you practice, the more your customers will realize you’re only there to serve them.

Handling your own callers can be daunting, especially if your call volume is growing. If your customer service could benefit from more time spent with each person, you may want to consider hiring an answering service. They have the manpower you need to provide the individual care that your customers demand. All you have to do is arm them with some information about your company and they’ll function just like another department. 

In part two of this two-part series, we’ll look at more ways to be a better customer service provider.