The only customer service audit checklist you’ll ever need: 30+ skills & tools any business should optimize.

Overhead shot of hands at a bust work desk

When did customer service become so complicated? 

Maybe when the world got complicated. We live in a dizzyingly elaborate, interconnected global society teeming with people, technology, organizations, and their various competing interests. An action as simple as finding a plumber to fix a leaky sink can bring someone into contact with multiple channels, opinions, advertisers, and behind-the-scenes systems. From Google to Yelp to Aunt Irene, everyone and everything has an influence over a customer’s thoughts and behavior.

As a result, customer service is more challenging—and more important—than ever. It’s the key differentiating factor between businesses that succeed and grow and businesses that drown in the noise. Customers expect better, more personalized service within minutes of reaching out to a business. That means you need to remain available and ready to be friendly, professional, and responsive at all times. This is particularly true for small businesses, whose best shot at outperforming the big guys is through customer service.

With all this in mind, many business owners get lost in calculating the customer service equation:

What should you invest in?

What are the most important customer service skills?

What do your customers actually care about?

It doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t need to compromise on quality or drive yourself crazy answering phone calls and emails at all hours of the day and night. Any business, regardless of size or industry, can provide excellent customer service right now—whether in-house, through outsourcing, or with a combination of the two; virtually or in-person.

At Ruby, we know this from experience. Over 10,000 companies have trusted our team to deliver top-quality, meaningful customer service online and over the phone. Having started as a four-person studio in 2003, we’ve gone through the gauntlet ourselves. And we’ve learned a ton from our customers and the businesses we admire along the way. Today, Ruby is a recognized leader in customer service—but we haven’t lost touch with our small business roots. Although we’ve grown significantly since the early days, our humble beginnings continue to shape every aspect of how we run our business and deliver our services. 

To help you succeed and grow in today’s business environment, we’ve distilled everything we’ve learned and consolidated the most important best practices into the only customer service checklist you’ll ever need. 

Use this resource when monitoring your customer service to audit your approach and optimize your customers’ experiences. We’ve also included a wealth of information about the most important customer service skills, from the basics to the advanced.


Your customer service audit checklist.


Start with the basics.

Make sure your business has a solid foundation that enables you to deliver on the promise of your service before you start worrying about more sophisticated customer experience protocols.

1. A robust, flexible customer service infrastructure is in place.

Every business needs to serve its customers where they actually are. That means having a multichannel (or, better yet, omnichannel) presence: customer service is available in-person and via phone, email, live website chat, social media—anywhere customers are active and looking to reach out. Some form of customer service also needs to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year. Keep in mind that not every customer makes contact within the confines of business hours, and product and service issues don’t take days off. For many businesses, this isn’t feasible or cost-effective to manage in-house, which is where on-demand virtual receptionist services come in.

2. All customer service team members are fully trained. 

Your receptionist(s) and other customer service staff shouldn’t be making things up as they go along. People who welcome visitors, answer phones, and respond online need to know how to greet customers properly, deal with challenging situations, route inquiries to the right person at your organization, and more

3. Customer service training is ongoing.

Training isn’t something that only happens once.

Customer service team members need to take refresher courses periodically, learn about new practices and technologies as they’re introduced in your business, and engage in continuous education and continual improvement. Learn six tips anyone can use to sharpen their customer service skills.

4. Customer service is available by phone.

You need to have a business phone number. And whenever possible, when someone calls that number, a human being should answer. Customers don’t want to reach voicemail or deal with an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. The phone is more important than ever, and every missed call is a missed opportunity.

5. Your phone number is easy to find.

Your customers shouldn’t be spending time digging through business listings to find your phone number or trying to determine which of multiple numbers is the correct one. Make sure your business’s phone number is available in a prominent location on your website, social media profiles, and any marketing and sales materials. Ideally, it should come up in the title or meta description when someone performs a web search for your company.

6. Customer service is available through live chat.

Don’t think you need to offer chat on your website? Consider the facts

  • 42% of all customers prefer chat over other communication channels.
  • 73% of consumers are satisfied with their experiences on live chat—the highest level of all customer service channels.
  • Chat prospects are 4.6 times more likely than other prospects to convert into customers.

Read more about how live chat can benefit your business—and how to do it right.

7. Customer service is available through email.

Not every customer service question can be answered through chat, and not every visitor to your website wants to communicate with someone live. You also need to be ready to accept and respond to emails to your business. You should be checking the inbox regularly (at least once a day, if not more often) and replying to most emails within 24 hours. As with your phone number, your business’s email address should be displayed prominently.

8. Customer service is available via social media.

An increasing number of customers are turning to social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to connect with brands. If your business is unavailable to respond to their posts, tweets, comments, and direct messages, those customers will turn to your competitors. No matter your company’s size, location, or industry, you need a social media customer service plan.

Stay true to your word.

Once you’ve laid the groundwork, maintain consistency and continue to meet client expectations.

9. You’ve created a comfortable, welcoming environment—physically, virtually, or both.

One of the most important—and most frequently overlooked—elements of customer experience is the customer’s first interaction in the business’s space. We’re talking about physical spaces, such as lobbies, offices, and waiting rooms, as well as websites and other digital spaces. In terms of the former, you need to consider fundamental questions like the following:

How do guests feel when they enter your business?

What’s the first thing they see? 

Is there a comfortable place to sit?

Learn how to charm new clients from the moment they walk in through your front door.

In terms of your website, it should be fast, easy to navigate, and optimized for any device. It should also contain any information you want customers to know about your company before they get in touch with you, and help customers take the next step—whether it’s making a purchase or signing up for a mailing list. Here are some basic considerations for creating a good business website.

10. You have support for off-hours and after-hours service.

As we laid out in tip #1, customer service can’t really go dark or take days off. You need to have a solution in place for people who contact you when you’re closed or too busy to respond immediately. Outsourcing is your friend here. Ruby’s virtual receptionist services ensure no call or chat goes unanswered.

11. Customer service wait times are minimal.

Whenever and however they contact your business, your customers don’t want to wait. The majority of consumers (approximately 80%) expect service within an hour of reaching out, and most of those people (75%) expect it within just five minutes. The more time they have to wait—the more rings they have to sit through—the higher the chances they’ll look elsewhere.

Foster happiness.

12. Calls are screened and transferred efficiently.

Excellent customer service starts before anyone says “hello.” Smart businesses have systems in place to automatically route callers to the right people—e.g. to connect customers in specific areas to the appropriate regional offices or to ensure callers during a busy period don’t reach a busy line. When technology isn’t available, human customer service professionals should be trained to seamlessly transfer calls by asking the right questions and acting quickly.

13. Team members are greeting people in a professional, friendly manner.

There are right ways and wrong ways to greet customers. Here’s how we do it at Ruby:

  1. Start with a greeting. It could be “Hello,” or “Thank you for calling,” or “Good morning/afternoon,” or a combination of all three.
  2. Say the company’s name. A plain “Hello” can be confusing to callers; they want to know that they’ve called the right place.
  3. Offer assistance. You can say “How may I help you?” or “How may I assist you?” or—when you’re routing calls rather than addressing questions directly—“How may I direct your call?” If there’s a question you need to ask every customer (“What’s your account number?”), this is the time to ask it—again, in a professional friendly way (“May I have your account number, please?”).

14. You offer customer service in more than one language.

With the United States on track to become the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, this one grows more important with each passing day. Businesses can no longer afford to be completely monolingual. You should be delivering the same quality of service to everyone you do business with, regardless of which language they speak. Learn how to overcome the language barrier.

15. Team members practice active listening.

Customer service is about the customer. Your business needs to show you care about the people you serve by truly being present in customer conversations. That means listening attentively and never assuming what a customer wants or needs. You can practice active listening by taking notes, offering small verbal cues (“yep,” “that’s right,” “mm-hmm”), reiterating what you’ve heard, and responding in ways that indicate you’ve been paying close attention. It’s an art, but it’s one that’s easy to learn and master.

16. Team members demonstrate knowledge of your products and/or services.

Your customer service workers should know what they’re talking about. They may not be able to provide information about your products or services in as much depth as your salespeople could, but they should be able to answer basic questions and demonstrate some level of expertise in your industry or niche—the issues, concerns, jargon, technology, news, and trends specific to your line of business.

17. Team members keep conversations positive, personal, and quick.

Again, customer service needs to be customer-centric. Your customers aren’t looking to waste time engaging in idle chatter, but they also don’t want to be treated in a gruff or impersonal manner. Customer service professionals can achieve the right balance by responding as quickly as possible, greeting customers graciously, personalizing every interaction (e.g. using a caller’s name), minding their manners, and remaining calm. It’s equally important to eliminate unnecessary obstacles, avoid dead ends, and not obsess over mistakes. Learn conversational dos and don’ts.

18. Team members are aware of and comply with all relevant rules and regulations.

Your customer service team members need to be trained in any laws and regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), that might apply to your business. This isn’t just about following the rules and avoiding fines and jail time; it’s also about treating customers ethically and with respect. Keep in mind that your customer service staff represent your business—their words and actions are your words and actions, and without proper training, they can get you into trouble. 

19. Team members clearly communicate brand values.

Representing a business means communicating in a way that aligns with everything that business stands for. Your customer service team needs to live and breathe your company’s mission, purpose, and values. From the moment they get in contact with a business representative, your customers should have a sense of what’s special about your company.

Create experiences.

Be the kind of company that keeps people (literally) calling back for more. Personalize your interactions, go the extra mile, and make sure your customers are having an experience with your business, not just an interaction.

20. Team members personalize customer service interactions.

If you want to build trust with your customers (and trust us, you do), you need to focus on forging and nurturing relationships. If your customers see your company as a cherished resource or friend, rather than simply a service they require, they become loyal supporters and enthusiastic advocates. Here are a few of our tried-and-true strategies for personalizing service:

Remember—and use!—every customer’s name.

Send customers forms of communication, such as birthday notes, that aren’t (explicitly) “sales-y.”

Keep track of milestones in regular customers’ lives and businesses (new offices, marriages, babies, etc).

Ensure you’re providing every customer with service that matches their particular need.

21. Team members are able to effectively handle difficult questions.

No one wants to hear “I don’t know.” Great customer service professionals know that it’s not about having the answer to every question, but about knowing what to say when you don’t know. Instead of saying “I don’t know,” they should emphasize what they can do. Think: “Let me find out for you,” or “Let me connect you with the best person to help you.” 

Here is a quick video about why the phrase “I don’t know” is actually the worst:

22. Team members are empowered to solve customers’ problems and go the extra mile.

If you give your frontline customer service team members the tools and freedom they need, they’ll provide extraordinary service. Ruby’s entire staff has access to a prepaid Amazon account, and when a team member feels moved to send something special to a customer, they’re free to make it happen—no questions asked. Employees feel respected, trusted, and valued through this empowerment—and customers are delighted by their thoughtful gestures.

23. Customer inquiries and issues are escalated when necessary.

When the customer service team can’t provide a customer with the help that person needs, there should be a process in place to connect the customer to someone who can serve them. And when a customer has a problem with a member of the customer service team, they should know how to and be able to easily file a complaint and resolve the issue with a supervisor.

Anticipate needs.

From your customers to your staff members, being tuned in to your people enough to anticipate what they might need before they even have the chance to speak it is absolutely critical to building a culture and a company worthy of loyalty.

24. Team members anticipate customers’ needs.

Excellent customer service professionals seem like psychics—they know what a customer wants and needs before the person even thinks to ask. This isn’t as difficult as it may sound. It often takes the form of reading cues and taking small actions. Examples include…

  • sending a care package to a client who missed a meeting due to a personal loss
  • not scheduling an appointment for a patient’s birthday
  • interpreting a hesitant “sure” as a signal to offer an alternative solution
  • keeping dog treats handy 

Discover how to WOW customers by delivering the unexpected.

25. Team members foster connections with customers.

This is the big one. Connection is at the core of good customer service. It’s the secret ingredient among brands that establish passionate followings and robust books of business without ever spending a dollar on advertising. All of these tips can ultimately help you foster connections with customers, but if you’re looking for quick, actionable tips you can put into practice today, we’ve got you covered.

For a more thorough exploration of this topic, download our free ebook, The ROI of Business Connections: A Business Guide.

Make meaningful connections.

The apex of customer service, take the connections we mentioned above, and bring them to another level: make them meaningful. Make them actionable. Go above and beyond to ensure that your connections with your customers create a ripple effect with real travel power.

26. Team members follow up with customers after conversations.

The work doesn’t end when the customer hangs up the phone or closes the chat window. Your business can and should keep the conversation going by following up (in a useful and welcome way, of course): send an email thanking the customer for calling, perhaps including a summary of what was discussed along with any applicable informational resources or perhaps a bonus discount code—anything that shows you’re thinking about the customer and care.

27. Team members are engaged and happy at work.

Your customer service representatives can’t make customers happy if they aren’t happy themselves. Study after study demonstrates the link between employee engagement and customer satisfaction. Learn how to improve your bottom line by fostering happiness.

28. You have developed a positive, inclusive organizational culture.

Culture and employee engagement are closely linked—and both drive business success. According to Daniel Coyle, author of The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, healthy organizational cultures tend to exist where people feel safe, are willing to be vulnerable, and share a purpose. Organizational culture also needs to be diverse and inclusive; when you leave people out, you leave out their ideas, perspectives, and talents. These are the elements that bind together any strong community, but they don’t arise out of nowhere. As a business leader, you need to build and nurture culture. How? At Ruby, we do it by encouraging employees to work together, help one another, share in each other’s successes, and contribute to something bigger than themselves.

29. You’ve specified and are monitoring customer service KPIs.

If you don’t know what your goals are or how to track them, you’ll have a hard time reaching them. And if you haven’t connected your customer service efforts to your larger business objectives, you have no way to improve your approach, let alone ensure customers are being treated right. You need to specify, monitor, and measure key performance indicators (KPIs). Common customer service metrics include customer satisfaction (CSAT) score, net promoter score (NPS), customer effort score (CES), churn rate, retention rate, response time, and resolution time.

30. You keep track of all conversations with customers and leads.

Customer service team members should not be starting completely fresh when speaking with someone who’s previously contacted your business. People tend to get frustrated and feel mistreated when they need to repeat information or reintroduce themselves. Be sure to maintain a database of customers and leads so your team can keep track of who’s getting in touch, when, and why. There are plenty of customer relationship management (CRM) applications out there—check out your options and implement a system at your organization if you haven’t already.

31. You regularly collect feedback from customers—outside of transactional conversations.

Be sure to ask your customers what you can do to improve their experiences. This means more than simply soliciting product reviews or business ratings. Get to know your customers and what you could do to serve them better. What aspects of your business do they care about the most? What frustrates them? What would they improve?

32. You incorporate feedback into your customer service approach and business model.

Don’t just listen to what your customers tell you; implement it in your business. Show that you care about your customers by tailoring your products and services to their needs—starting with your customer service approach. After all, if your customer service doesn’t serve customers, what’s the point?

And that’s our customer service audit checklist! 

How did you do? 

What areas of customer service do you have under control? 

What needs improvement? 

Wherever your business stands today, you don’t have to manage the complexities of customer service by yourself. Ruby’s team of customer engagement specialists can help you…

  • grow your business,
  • deliver personalized experiences,
  • build customer loyalty,
  • stay connected anywhere, anytime.


Want to take this checklist offline? 

Additional reads you may find interesting...

View All
Content marketing and social media tips: side view of photo editor working in a creative office
Small Business Tips

Content marketing & social media: 4 easy tips for getting started

A single pine tree on a rocky summit
Small Business Tips

Meeting customer expectations during a holiday season like no other

Person at desk in front of computer waiting on phone
Receptionist Tips

Have trouble handling the emotional weight of phone calls? You’re not alone.

Choosing a business number: overhead view of faded yellow vintage telephone with notebook and numbers on monochrome background
Small Business Tips

What your phone number says about your business

How to find and analyze your website traffic: two people look at a computer in a bright office space
Small Business Tips

How to find and analyze your website traffic

Using virtual receptionists for part-time answering - Ruby

Using virtual receptionists for part-time answering

What is a conversation worth: illustration of a confused person with complicated calculations hovering above their head
Small Business Tips

What is a conversation really worth? We calculated the exact dollar amount.

Top 3 legal marketing strategies for 2022: man looks at laptop
Legal Practice Tips

Top 3 legal marketing strategies for 2022

24/7 live chat: a Ruby chat specialist and a potential new client use computers in split screen with a live chat window between them
About Ruby

How Ruby’s 24/7 live chat solution grows your business and saves you time

Why empathy matters for your business: person listening to another person in cafe with laptop, papers, and coffee
Small Business Tips

Why empathy matters for your business

SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers—an illustration of two people with crowns surrounded by flowers
Small Business Tips

SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers

Title card: Authentic small business marketing with Jamie Adams of Scorpion

Ruby partner feature: Authentic small business marketing with Scorpion

Using chat as a sales tool: hands using laptop
Small Business Tips

4 ways to leverage live chat as a sales tool

How to attract more law firm leads: smiling woman in professional attire talks on phone while using laptop
Legal Practice Tips

Treading water? Here’s how to attract more law firm leads.

Needs-based selling: woman using laptop in well-lit office next to large window.
Small Business Tips

Needs-based selling 101

Try Ruby Risk Free

Call to talk to a live virtual receptionist and hear why 10,000+ companies Ruby.

Call Ruby Sign Up
Sales Support

Customer service audit checklist: 30+ skills & tools any business should optimize.

Customer service is more challenging—and more important—than ever. It’s the key differentiating factor between businesses that succeed and grow and businesses that drown in the noise.

Already a Ruby customer?

Let’s get started.

Ready to turn more callers into customers?

Missed connections translate to lost revenue. With Ruby, you have a partner in gaining and retaining customers. Plus, we’re so confident you’ll love our service, we offer a 21 day money-back guarantee*.

*Ruby is delighted to offer a money-back guarantee to first time users of both our virtual receptionist service and our chat service. To cancel your service and obtain a full refund for the canceled service (less any multi-service discount), please notify us of the service you wish to cancel either within 21 days of your purchase of that service or before your usage exceeds 500 receptionist minutes/50 billable chats, as applicable, whichever occurs sooner. Some restrictions may apply.