The task of contacting a customer service desk, particularly if there is a case of dissatisfaction involved, is usually considered an unpleasant one for many people. As a result, representatives at the other end must be capable of not only properly handling the problem to a full resolution, but also possess the necessary people skills to deal with a potentially angry customer.
Today, the playing field is so level, and barriers to competition are so low, that customers can and do demand satisfaction, quickly, and with the least possible hassle. Anyone answering the phone, therefore, must strike a perfect balance between knowledge of the product and people skills to be successful.
It doesn’t matter if you answer phones, emails or chats in-house, or you outsource to a call center. Whoever responds to the customer IS the company, as far as that customer is concerned. Those few minutes of interaction can determine much (or all) of that customer’s experience with your brand, regardless all the other parts of your business they experience without incident.
There are a number of ways that call centers and anyone who handles customer interactions can deliver excellent customer service in a productive, efficient manner:
● Identify and hire passionate workers with customer service experience who have what it takes to give clients the highest quality service. Being helpful and humble in the face of anger is difficult. Most people don’t like it, but there are those who thrive on saving the day, and understanding that although they didn’t cause the problem, it’s in their power to fix it and make people happy.
● Create a positive and productive work environment for call takers through coaching and continuous education programs to build top performing teams. Positive reinforcement for performance can motivate workers to be at their best, and so can honest, practical, constructive feedback when they’ve got something to learn. It’s important to value your front line people with a culture that supports them-- that’s the only way to ensure a culture of great customer support, too.
● Analyze processes to identify and eliminate inefficiencies and redundancies. This could involve anything from streamlining the actual call handling process to how information is input into a workstation during and after. For example, are service personnel asking customers for information that can be obtained from another source? Do they have information at their fingertips? Are they empowered to lead the resolution of customer cases, or do they have to pass everything off? Remember, every way you make things easier and faster for your front line, the better the customer will feel in the process.
● Have accurate performance measures including call response times, and ticket aging reports. More than anything else, these two metrics demonstrate how accessible and helpful your support is to customers. If your reps are thorough, but customers have to wait on hold, that’s a strike against you. On the other hand, if they can get someone on the phone, but resolution takes hours or days longer than it should, that’s even worse.
● Strive for high quality contact with the customer. This can be tracked with the use of call monitoring by management to look for proper greetings and other call scripts, courtesy, resolution of the problem, and accuracy in data entry. You can never underestimate the power of a smile, even over the phone. Everyone’s day is better for it.
Customer surveys can also help to pinpoint where there are strengths and weaknesses within the system. Many businesses survey the customer immediately following the encounter. This ensures that the quality of the contact is still fresh in the customer's mind. Immediate surveying is often done via e-mail or while the customer is still on the phone. While it’s important for the person who handled the case to ask the customer if their needs have been met, don’t expect the customer to give that person a critique-- it won’t happen.
Another great way to improve customer experiences is to simply offer callbacks rather than have the customer wait on hold for several minutes, in the event of a staff shortage or unexpected spike. An answering service is a great way to accomplish a callback with little hassle, while still giving the customer a live person to talk with and set an expectation about how and when the issue will be addressed.
An additional method of improving caller satisfaction is to prioritize calls. If a customer is outwardly angry and raising their voice, queuing the call for a faster pick up response prevents them from building up even more steam than if they were sitting on hold for an extended time. You may also have a second tier of support standing by to take such calls right away, by instructing your front line to politely pass the call to a more senior person-- if the angry customer understands this is happening to help them better, and more quickly, it can diffuse the situation fast, and relieve some of the psychological burden from your people who already do so much to keep customers happy.
Great customer service is a team sport, after all. The better you do it together, the happier everyone will be.