This week on our Friends on Friday guest blog post my colleague, Mark Hastings gives us great tips for telephone customer service. Having good telephone skills helps build stronger relationships with everyone. – Shep Hyken
We may be living in an omni-channel age, where customers have more options than ever to reach your company with questions, praise and complaints. However, despite the popularity of using social media as a customer service cudgel, most customers still say that the phone is their preferred method of contacting customer service. That means that your phone customer service reps need to be sharp, courteous and effective – traits that are difficult to come by as American workers spend less time on the phone themselves. My family has been in the 24/7 phone customer service business since 1948 and in the ensuing 68 years, we’ve picked up quite a few tricks to make telephone customer service as smooth as possible. I won’t share all of our secrets, but here are five tips you can use to help your customer service reps sound like pros on the phone.
Exercise Call Control
If you work with telephone systems, you may be familiar with call control as a process relating to how calls are routed. On the customer service side, call control refers to how your rep sets the tone of each interaction. At the beginning of the call, find out what the customer’s needs are and set out a clear path for how to meet those needs. Try to ask open-ended questions. Take everything one step at a time and don’t allow yourself to get flustered or distracted. You can’t control the attitude of the person on the other end of the line, so the best way to make them happy is to get them the information they need as quickly as possible!
Scripts Are For Actors
Phone scripts may be tempting as a quality control mechanism, but they don’t exactly make your customer feel valued and important. The advantage to talking to a human being on the phone, as opposed to a robot, is that another person has autonomy and can actually solve problems – rather than just passing them on. According to a recent study, 57% of customers feel that customer service reps are clueless. Train your customer service reps to diagnose and solve problems and you’ll make your customers happy and free up management from having to constantly tag in on phone calls.
Use Old Fashioned Manners
One of the oldest charm tricks in the book is asking for and using someone’s name. Even if your rep already has the customer name on a computer in front of them, asking the caller their name reminds them that there’s another person on the line and sets the stage for a more human interaction. Please, thank you, yes sir and yes ma’am go a long way, as well.
“Um,” “uh” and “you know” don’t instill much confidence in consumers. These filler words can make your customer service reps seem unprofessional and they make calls take longer. Normally, you don’t think about using these common vocal tics, which is why one of the best ways to get rid of them is simply by being aware. During training, have your reps take a mock call and then listen back to it, counting all the times they use filler words. Simple awareness goes a long way toward resolving the issue. From there, train your reps to speak complete thoughts and then rest and compose their next thought. Brief pauses are less noticeable than filler words and the pauses give your customer opportunities to give you more information.
Invest In Your Reps
Customer service reps get a bad rap, but it’s usually because they don’t get a lot of support. Typically, customer service reps get some basic training and are thrown into the fire. This doesn’t make much sense – especially when a customer service experience could be the difference between a sale and the customer telling all of their friends to never do business with you again. If your phone customer service is going to be your business’ primary point of contact for the majority of your customers, you want it to be a sales tool. Take the time to give your customer service reps a level of training that will allow them to resolve customer issues. You’ll get a nice return on that time spent when your customers start talking up your customer service to their family and friends.
Telephone customer service isn’t easy, and the fact that people think it is can be a major hindrance to your business. Use these tips to create a more pleasant, efficient and effective customer service experience.
Mark Hastings is the CEO of Hastings Humans, an Austin, TX based 24/7 call center that’s been providing around-the-clock customer service for businesses of all size since 1948.
For more articles from Shep Hyken and his guest contributors go to customerserviceblog.com. Read Shep’s latest Forbes Article: