What is great customer service? Think about the last time you called a vendor for help.
When the conversation was over, how did you FEEL? Great customer service is all about feelings. Did you end the call with positive emotions like satisfaction, gratitude or confidence? Or, did you end up confused, frustrated or even angry.
All that really counts is the customer perception of quality. This is dependent on 6 simple steps:
- Offer Prompt Attention: Everyone wants prompt attention. The longer a caller has to hold, get passed between departments, wait for someone to find information or have to leave a voice mail message, waiting in limbo for a response, the more impatient they become. You need a documented process to ensure callers are routed to a person who can assist them from the get-go. You also need a way to monitor your service levels so you can take decisive action if you are seeing delays. The public has been subjected to such awful service levels during most of their interactions that they are genuinely grateful to receive good service.
- Have a Helpful Patient Attitude: If your caller thinks that someone doesn’t really want to help them and can’t wait to get rid of them, they can go from 0 to 100 on the angry scale in about one second flat. Genuine caring and patience are the only ways to create a real sense of satisfaction. Regularly coaching the personnel who handle your calls on how to project the right attitude and then monitoring their progress is a must.
- Listen and Acknowledge: This is second only to food and shelter in the human hierarchy of needs. We have an overwhelming desire to be understood. It is a great relief when someone has acknowledged our needs. It is deeply frustrating when you feel that isn’t happening. Good active listening skills require training and practice.
- Resolve Problems Rather than Placing Blame: We seem to be allergic to blame and our instant reflex is to come up with lots of excuses for why a situation isn’t our fault. Throwing blame back in a caller’s lap is sure to provoke the same reaction in them. Then things start to escalate. Focus your personnel on resolving problems during calls rather than finding fault. Recording calls is a great teaching tool. You can share best practices and give specific coaching to representatives with weaker skills.
- Set Accurate Expectations: If you don’t set accurate expectations, you have guaranteed that you are going to disappoint a customer. One of your most important goals during every call should be to instill confidence in callers. You may not be able to give them everything they might have liked, but the focus of your conversations should be about what you can do for them and specifically how and when important things will happen. This will only occur if you have trained your employees on how your internal processes actually work and the time frames they operate within.
- Show Appreciation: An attitude of genuine appreciation instantly makes a caller more cooperative and helpful. The key word here is genuine. Phony will never fly. Do your employees understand how your clients are contributing to your company and their individual success? Do they know who your top 20 accounts are? Have you explained that small accounts can often be more profitable than large ones? Have you told them why your company has survived the recession when many have not?
A simple gauge of success: When your callers hang up the phone, do they feel they have accomplished something positive with their call? What do you need to do differently to have a beneficial impact on your customer’s perception of quality?
This blog was written by Laurie Leonard, the President of SUITE 1000, a U.S. based national telephone answering service, inbound call center and outsourced call center service. Her company has specialized in handling legal intake, sales leads, email lead response, appointment scheduling, customer service and help desk calls for over 20 years.