Is the customer always right? No--not always, at least. There are many classic customer service rules and tips that need a makeover because they just don't make sense in today's digital environment and global markets. Service in a digital landscape is vastly different from ringing up a customer in a local boutique. Plus, protecting your employees from customer abuse (it happens) is now equally important as catering to a customer's demands.

Here's the new list of customer service best practices for the modern era. Remember, as an employer you have to please your workers and your customers, but don't worry. You often can make everyone happy.

1. Diversify Connection Options

"Banker's hours?" That's still a good option to offer your customers--assuming you're emulating a bank with 24-hour service. It's a global market now. And many people are telecommuting, overworked, and don't have time to work around your office hours. If you can't be physically open 24/7, you need to at least offer a way to reach a live person (phone, email, etc.) after hours.

2. Respect Your Customer's Time

Customer service automation can work in certain industries, assuming it's truly designed to expedite the process. In real life, showing respect for your customer's time by having more workers during peak hours and offering self-checkouts helps build your reputation and make your customers happy. Many customers today are all about getting in and out as quickly as possible, not hanging around to chat.

3. Embrace Mobile Readiness

In 2014, there are officially more people using mobile devices than desktop. Mobile readiness is two-fold. You need a separate mobile website or an app, or both. You can have one or both of these options depending on what suits your customers. You should also make sure your site provides similar user experiences across different devices. Not sure of the best approach? Ask. A survey can reveal incredible things. Also remember that your customers are using their mobile devices to talk about your product on social media platforms. Here's a good roundup of "social listening" platforms that will help you respond to them.

4. Hire More Multilingual Workers

This is an increasingly worldwide market. If you can't communicate with potential customers and clients around the globe (or even in your own neighborhood), you're opting out of what is potentially the majority of your market. Having multilingual staff on hand can instantly expand your demographic reach.

5. Be an Educator

Don't assume anything about your clients because they're scrambling to keep up with digital changes just as much (if not more) than you. Like it or not, it's your job to educate your customers about changes to your business because they'll likely be tech-centric. Maybe the changes involve a new way to process payments, offering live chat, or a new means of placing orders.

6. Drop the Sales Pitches

Pitches, hard sells, and upsells are obvious, annoying, and a waste your customer's time. These days, consumers, especially Millennials, can easily sniff out a pitch and often run in the other direction. While marketing tactics are still important, focus on providing customers what they want--the best solution at a competitive price.

7. Genuinely Welcome Feedback

Feedback is big data gold, but many companies don't welcome it as well as they should or, if they do, they let it collect dust. Welcome your customers' opinions, process them, and follow up if necessary. There's only one way to get better at business, and that's understanding faults, gaps, and criticisms.

8. Stop Scripting

It's very apparent when you call a customer service line and the person has strict orders to not sway from the script. This is customer service at its worst, and an attempt at efficiency gone wrong. Instead, focus on training employees to actually pinpoint issues and address them. This will be costlier and more time-consuming up front, but pays off handsomely in the grand scheme of things.

9. Reward Satisfaction, Not (Just) Sales Figures

If you really want to build a thriving business, reward your customer service reps who achieve the highest satisfaction ratings--not necessarily (or just) the highest sales. There are many ways to gauge this, from satisfaction surveys to positive comments on social media.

10. Protect Your Employees

Sometimes the customer is wrong. Your employees deserve to feel safe, comfortable, and protected from abuse while on the clock. Make that a priority, have SOPs in place, and ensure that your workers know it.

Customer service is one of the toughest jobs out there, and it's only getting more challenging because it changes so much. Are you up for the task?

Published on: Sep 25, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.