The manner in which your agents close their inbound calls can significantly affect the caller’s impression of your company, and greatly influence the future of your business relationships.
Keep your customers coming back for more with this helpful guide to closing inbound calls…
“When it comes to building on business-client relations,” says Marie Thomas, Marketing & Quality Specialist for one of the UK’s best-known TV shopping outfits, “The VAC call-ending method is one of the most effective ways to hoover up your customers’ loyalty for a mutually prolific future.”
Standing for Vibrancy, Appreciation and Courtesy, the system works by encouraging your callers to feel highly valued through an blend of enthusiasm, congeniality and good old-fashioned manners.
Here, Marie recommends a useful assortment of VAC-inspired endings, each of which can be used in conjunction with a variety of typical end-of-call situations.
The Amicable Ending
Where the call has gone largely to plan and the customer has been presented with an agreeable resolution, try reinforcing the caller’s positive perception of your company using these easy techniques…
- Offer a final apology.
- Recommend a relevant, discounted up-sell.
- Summarise your next steps.
- Give thanks for the valuable feedback provided.
- Promise that you will be in touch with an update.
- If the customer is elderly, sign off with an emphasised corporate close.
The Neutral Wrap-up
So, the caller has accepted your apology and is willing to go along with the resolution procedure you’ve proposed. But whilst he or she may seem fairly happy, subdued cooperation on the part of the customer can be a warning sign that the experience has quietly shaken their confidence in your company. Use these tactics to dispel any doubts and ensure the retention of wavering clients…
- Analyse the customer’s trading history, and remind him or her of a relevant, company-exclusive product which might be of interest.
- Build personal rapport by referring to a subject the customer has mentioned during the call. If your client has indicated that she’ll soon be off to collect the kids, allow your agents to suffix the corporate close with an amicable “And good luck on that school run, Mrs Smith!” This will help form a bond, and show just how much attention the agent has paid throughout the call.
- Demonstrate the company’s dedication to outstanding customer service by comparing your resolution SLAs to those of your closest competitor.
- Show gratitude for the feedback raised, and remind the caller of the widespread effort that will now be invested in resolving the query and preventing a repetition in the future.
- Ask the customer for the most convenient way to make contact for a follow-up.
The Quarrelsome Ending
It’s unrealistic to imagine that every complaint can be resolved at the first point of contact. Some queries call for considerable background investigation – an idea your more irritable customers may not take kindly to. In such cases, try using these persuasive closing devices to make amends and to salvage some of the initial attraction that drew the caller to you in the first place…
- Re-articulate the reasons behind the mishap – without passing the blame to a third party.
- Emphasise your company’s commitment to client satisfaction, and give a final rundown of the resolution plan which has already been agreed upon.
- If the call at hand is of the out-and-out “complaint” variety, underline your acknowledgement of responsibility for the problem and assure the customer that you will be in contact as the investigation progresses. No matter how dubious they may sound, consider the customer’s claims as the gospel truth for the time being, and arrange the department’s next steps accordingly.
- Apologise once more for the inconvenience caused, expressing an understanding of, and empathy with, the customer’s circumstances.
- Remind the caller of any compensation package that management has authorised.
- Give your assurance that the feedback provided will help to ensure a better experience next time around.
Marie’s Top Tip:
“Have your agents keep an eye on the calendar and the caller’s registration details. Unless the current call has been particularly heated, it won’t do any harm to wish your customers a happy Easter, birthday or bank holiday weekend.”
“Depending on the content and tone of the call at hand,” says Marlon Parkinson, a London-based supervisor of more than 200 offshore contact centre representatives, “there are a number of call-closing mannerisms you’ll most definitely want to avoid. Generally speaking, agents should match the vocal tone and speed of the caller. Speak too quickly, and customers will sense that they’re being ‘fobbed off’ in favour of the next caller. Too slowly, and they’ll suspect that they’re being deliberately strung along for increased hotline revenue.”
Below, Marlon shares a number of call-ending phrases to avoid at all costs.
The Amicable Ending
The last thirty seconds of any given call are likely to leave a lasting impression on the customer, regardless of how well the preceding conversation may have gone. Use the following techniques to keep momentum on a high and prevent a catastrophic last-minute bungle…
- Never overestimate the caller’s patience. While he or she may seem agreeable enough, the tides could quickly turn if your agent insists on suffixing the call with a survey or untimely special offer.
- Remember, not all good-humoured customers have a good sense of humour. An impromptu quip or joke, however innocently intended, has the potential to sever relations beyond reprieve. If in doubt, leave it out.
- Don’t patronise your caller with a long-winded summary of the conversation at hand. Instead, offer to email the customer with an outline of the query and the actions to be taken.
The Neutral Wrap-up
As previously mentioned, a subdued caller demeanour can indicate an imminent (and permanent) departure from your services. Follow these simple tips…
- Should you sense that the caller is bordering on frustration, refrain from giving the full corporate close. This will only depersonalise any rapport you’ve managed to rekindle. An abbreviated version will do fine.
- Even if the conversation is winding down, don’t presume that the call is coming to a close. For all you know, the customer may yet have a number of queries to bring to your attention. A premature close on the agent’s part will come across as just plain rude.
- If you choose to summarise the complaint at the end of the call, don’t skirt over the areas of concern. Through tone of voice and rate of speech, pay each aspect of the query the attention it deserves, acknowledging all the while the customer’s desire for a swift resolution.
The Quarrelsome Ending
Just as an under-par ending can positively ruin an otherwise pleasant call, a conscientious disposition on the part of the agent can help pacify an unhappy customer and anaesthetise the whole affair with some much-needed cordiality. To swing the tables in your favour, try using these techniques as the call comes to a close…
- Refrain from offering the caller an up-sell, unless it’s closely related to the customer’s query. An irrelevant offer will likely be seen as an expression of flagrant disregard of the complaint itself.
- Don’t wish the customer a good day as the call ends. In his or her exasperation, the customer may imagine a streak of sarcasm in your tone. Instead, set the caller’s mind at ease with a promise to action the query as quickly as possible.
- Where the customer’s call escalates into a full-blown complaint, don’t stray far from your corporate formalities. Refer to the customer only by title and surname, and resist being drawn into a discussion on the emotional side of the complaint. By lapsing into informality, you’ll only provide the caller with additional ammunition to further his or her grievance.
- Avoid repeating the customer’s name or apologising ad nauseam. Such behaviour will only imply guilt on the agent’s part, and reinforce the caller’s self-justification for grievance.
- Resist a final temptation to exaggerate the expedience of the caller’s resolution. If immediate action can’t be taken, let the customer know – or risk exacerbating the issue still further.
Marlon’s Top Tip:
“Never hang up before the caller. By waiting until the customer has gone before disconnecting the call, you’ll lay out the subtle implication that you’re in no rush to end the conversation and that, even when it comes to resolving the most drawn-out of complaints, time is no foe of yours.”
- Without sounding desperate, remind the customer of the tangible benefits of selecting your product or service over that of a competitor.
- Match the customer’s rate of speech as closely as possible. If you speak too quickly, the caller will suspect foul play. Too slowly, and they will sense that the agent is not altogether familiar with the product on offer.
- Don’t exaggerate the product’s uses. If you fail to give a realistic description of the item at hand, the customer may not only return it straight back to you; they’ll think long and hard before making another purchase, too.
- Don’t presume the deal is done until the call is officially over; last-minute mind changes are not uncommon by any stretch of the imagination. To avoid causing yourself disappointment, take a moment to reflect on that old proverb concerning assumptions.
- If the customer proves indecisive, never push for an immediate yes or no. Under too much pressure, the customer will likely opt for the latter.
George Dixon is a regular contributor to Call Centre Helper.