Sometimes customer service can get a little stale. Here’s a few tips on how to freshen up your customer service.
1. Clarify Customer Complaints
Sometimes customers aren’t clear when communicating a problem. They may be unsure of the problem, they may be frustrated about making the call and it is affecting their communication. To resolve the issue as quickly as possible, our own communication needs to be very efficient.
Open-ended questions – who, what, where, when and how – will always deliver information, while closed questions deliver confirmation. Use closed questions to help you control the conversation and allow you to proceed quickly to a resolution. When you need information use the open questions but include the word ‘exactly’. Example:
‘Can you please tell me when exactly did this problem start?’ as opposed to ‘Can you please tell me when this problem started?’
Adding the word ‘exactly’ will prompt your customer to be more exact with their response, which will allow you to resolve the problem more effectively.
2. Whatever You Tell Yourself – It’s True!
I once heard someone say that the more she told herself how lucky she was, the luckier she became. This simple act of telling yourself something and believing it delivers results.
Once we start to believe something, it manifests itself in body language, facial expressions and voice. This means that when you believe your next call is going to result in disappointment, your body language and the emotion in your voice will express disappointment.
Who wants to listen to someone who sounds disappointed on the phone? No one, so your customer doesn’t listen to you and as a result will refuse your invitation to buy.
The effect works in a positive way too. Start telling yourself your calls will improve. Believe it to make sure your body language, facial expressions and voice respond positively by being happier, optimistic and confident. That’s what your customer wants to listen to, so that they can make an informed decision to buy. If you believe in your abilities, you will be more successful.
3. Smash Your Negative Beliefs
It’s quite amazing how we can be really positive about a making an outbound sales call and just as we are about to dial, that little voice which sits on our shoulder says “Waste of time, they won’t be interested in buying’. Within seconds our motivation has disappeared and our brains go into overdrive to deliver reasons not to make the call.
Quite simply our belief system has kicked in and created a story which we choose to recognise as the truth. At this stage we have no evidence to back up our thought as fact, so how can we possibly know if someone we are about to call will buy or not?
Rather than focus on negative beliefs, focus on positive beliefs and train your little voice to say: “This could be the best sale of the day”. After all, one call does have to be the best sale of the day but until the day is over you won’t know which call it is!
Christine Knott MD at Beyond The Box
4. Be Fast – Consistently
Consistency is key, but no one wants to be consistently bad or consistently slow. Not having fast, simple access to accurate and up-to-date information is often the agent’s downfall when it comes to these two customer service blips.
It stands to reason that agents need one common knowledge base that works across all channels – from phone and email to social media.
But without a fast powerful search mechanism it could still mean a frustrating wait for the agent and customer. So, easy, fast access to relevant and accurate information will ensure more productive agents and in the long term, create ongoing customer loyalty.
Ian Rawlings, director of sales and marketing, eGain
5. Make Proactive Service Contacts
Effective customer life-cycle management isn’t just about responding to customers’ requests – it’s also about anticipating customers’ needs. Which is why proactive contact via phone or SMS at specific points in a customer’s contact history can be beneficial.
Traditionally, one of these points has been following customer registration, or when suppliers have identified that a high percentage of customers are churning to other suppliers.
Why stop there? Quiet periods could be used to contact customers and ask them if they were happy with their last service interaction – and if not, why? Get their ideas about how you could improve your product/service offering. Review their account usage and tell them about relevant special promotional deals. A proactive approach shows you’re prepared to go that extra mile.
Derrick Farley, Head of Sales and Marketing, Macfarlane
6. Automate “Seat Sharing” Planning
With office space a big budgetary item in contact centres, managers are naturally keen to find ways to minimise physical space requirements. ‘Seat sharing’ is one option.
The problem with seat sharing is that it can take agents anything from 5 minutes to 30 minutes to find their seats by themselves. It can take a workforce management planner hours to sort out seat-sharing arrangements – especially if there are complex requirements such as ‘team seating’ and ‘special needs’ seating.
There’s a better way. By applying new automated workforce management techniques, managers can match up specific seats and their attributes with agents and their requirements. Open seats can even be matched up with individuals who don’t yet have a seat.
Mark King, Senior VP Europe and Africa, Aspect
7. Remember Different Types of Customers
A lot of customers wanting a basic service are increasingly tolerant of an automated process – and indeed are happy with it. However, when customers reject this service and abandon the call – perhaps because they want a more complicated service than they are being offered, one that necessitates them actually speaking to somebody – then you need to take another look at your processes to ensure customers remain on the line long enough to resolve enquiries.
8. Make Sure Self-Service does not Mean Poor Service
Almost every customer-centric environment has some form of self-service. Operators need to be very aware of how user friendly it is and how user friendly it sounds. Very basic, but vital to customer satisfaction levels.
9. Make Sure You Have Enough Able Agents
Similarly, contact centre operators with complicated product offerings need to ensure that the option to speak to an actual person is high up the automated call agenda. If the number of callers requesting this service is correspondingly high, the operator will also have to make sure that there are adequate agents available to take the volume of calls – otherwise the service level expectation will fall, along with the reputation of the company.
10. Give the Right Call to the Right Agent
If the call is presented to the right person, they will take it in their stride. There is much talk in the industry around ‘automating the repetitive tasks’, i.e. using technology to provide the services that humans would have done and it is commonly assumed that all processes have to be automated, but that is not the case at all. The amount of ‘automation’ should be determined by the client , and can be increased or decreased depending upon the success threshold of the automation process.
Chris Harris, Managing Director, European Operations at Zeacom
9 Bonus Tips For 2020 and Beyond
In addition to the ten tips from our experts above, at the start of 2020 we went out to our readers and asked for their best tips for improving customer service in the modern contact centre.
Here is what our readers and industry expert Colin Shaw came up with:
1. Recognize the Importance of Memories
Customer loyalty is a function of memory. If we didn’t have memories, every experience that we ever had would be new and therefore we wouldn’t have remembered them.
Just consider this; you can’t be loyal to something that you don’t remember. So if we want to create loyal customers through great customer service, we need to be aware that loyalty is a function of memory.
Therefore, we should be asking; how can we make our customer experience memorable for customers.
2. Train Emotional Intelligence as a Key Skill
The human element to customer service is going to be the key and that’s where emotional intelligence comes in.
Emotional intelligence basically says how self aware are you:
- Are you aware of your emotions?
- Can you manage your own emotions?
- Can you see what other people’s emotions are like?
- Can you feel those emotions and understand those things?
If I’m feeling annoyed, I will use emotional intelligence, so that I don’t show that with the customer and that can be tough to do in the contact centre.
It all hinges on how socially aware you are and whether you know what good social skills look like.
If you think of the best customer service advisor that you’ve got, I would virtually guarantee that those people have high emotional intelligent.
The issue is that, while those people are great, then there’s a group of people that need a bit of guidance – but emotional intelligence can be a hard skill to train.
Thanks to Colin Shaw, the Founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy
To find out more from Colin on the topic of emotions within the customer experience, listen to to the following episode of The Contact Centre Podcast, entitled: “How can you use customer emotions to your advantage?”.
The Contact Centre Podcast – Episode 1:
How Can We Use Customer Emotions To Our Advantage?
For more information on this podcast visit Podcast: How Can You Use Customer Emotions to Your Advantage?
3. A Weekly Shout-Out
I send a weekly “shout-out” to all teammates listing positive feedback/comments from their CSAT results.
Teammates are inspired not only by the recognition, but the comments provided. It increases their pride in their work.
4. Offer Special Service to Veterans
We provide resources to Veterans and their families. We follow up with them to ensure they were successful obtaining the assistance they needed.
This experience reminds them that they are not forgotten, and that we are always here to help.
Thanks to Amber
5. Treat Contact Centre Interactions Like Face-to-Face Conversations
Remember to treat people on the phone the same as you would face-to-face and open the conversation with a smile – the customer will hear the difference.
Without these visual cues of face-to-face its easy to forget you’re talking to another person.
6. Make Active Listening a Key Contact Centre Focus
You must ensure your advisors are actively listening to your customers, asking team leaders to have informal conversations with the team to put the focus back on the customer.
If we do this, advisors may not be so keen to just answer/address and get off the phone.
7. Coach Your Coaches!
Quality Assurance (QA) managers and coaches should be trained prior to sitting with advisors.
Every interaction for advisors should be a coaching session or learning lesson, but those coaches and managers should be qualified and efficiently trained themselves.
Thanks to Dion
For more tips on how to boost your QA programme and improve customer experience, read our article: 30 Tips to Improve Your Call Quality Monitoring
8. Validate the Customer’s Feelings
I always tell my agents to make sure their customer not only feels valued, but that their feelings are valid.
Phrases like: “I would be upset if I was in this situation as well!” Or: “You did the right thing by reaching out to us, let’s solve this together,” are great.
Thanks to Sara
9. Make the Right Decisions for Your Customers
Don’t just go along with what other companies are doing before analysing your customer profile – make the right decision for your customers.
You don’t want to waste budget on new products and innovations if your customers won’t respond to it!
Thanks to Rosie
For more on improving customer service in the contact centre, visit:
This is really sound advice- several points that are worth printing off and reminding ourselves of every now and again.
Some very simple tips and ideas here. One thing that is absolutely vital to delivering great service is to have a real focus on First Time Resolution. Not only does it ensure the customer is satisfied but it also reduces demand.
I wonder why some managers neglect the importance of making aphone call or sms to there customers during the ‘dry’ periods and entice them to come back for apromotional offer. with improved customer care in the hospitality sector, such managers have aplace as terrorists.
Hi I have been reading your Tips and they are very useful. I am wondering does anyone out there have some suggestions on closing techiques for Inbound Sales advisors? Positive closing language? I am designing a refresher training programme and need some inspiration.
your tips where very tippy and the tippyness of your tips were tippity
Be nice to your customers. Use a nice Welcome, nice language and a very nice closure. Have a wonderful day.