Given the high profile nature of some recent customer service snafus (who knew “snafus” could be company policy), it makes sense that everyone with a computer, typewriter, or quill has written articles about how to rebuild the customer service industry.
The brainstorming, coverage, and awareness are important because there are some key ideas that will lay the foundation for customer service as the rebuilding begins. At Help.com, we’ve published articles on this topic as well, but there are things that can be done immediately that have been less covered. Here are seven ways to improve customer service now.
Demand tips sheets: At jobs where I have had to follow multi-step processes, the best way I’ve found to optimize speed is tip sheets. By putting them where I can see them when I’m on the phone, I’m able to quickly do what I need to without any real thought, while still engaging who I’m on the phone with. We actually do this at Help.com with our initial interviews because it helps keep things consistent and fair.
Be human: You’re a real person, with real likes, thoughts, opinions, and so on. Make that clear on the phone. Modify your script to have your personality, tell me it’s early but you have coffee so you’re okay, do something that makes me feel like I’m not talking to a robot that has machine learned boredom and indifference.
Don’t Pass the Buck: Sometimes it helps to just let a customer vent briefly. Listen, I get it, if I answered the phone and a guy was breathing heavily into the phone and snarling before I even said hello, I would absolutely want to transfer him to Timbuktu if that was an option. By not doing that though, you immediately diffuse the situation. Consumers have come to expect “department ping pong” with a lot of industries, so if you don’t pass the buck and you knuckle down and help me, the snarling, foaming at the mouth, raging bull that was on the phone at first will end up being a gracious, appreciative, happy customer. That’s a pretty cool thing.
Listen: The single most important skill a rep can have is listening. Hear what my problem is, not what I’m saying necessarily, and fix the problem.
Let the customer in on "the inside track:" When a customer is frustrated, they often ask questions that “let me google that for you” would be an appropriate response for. No one is suggesting that you insider trade with an angry customer, but give them some “insider info” and it will go a long way. “I’m so sorry to hear about your problem, I’m not supposed to say anything because it hasn’t been officially announced yet, but we’re rolling out plug in to fix that next month, let me see what I can do in the meantime though.” Who cares if it was leaked to social media and one bajillion people saw it last week. The feeling of being commiserated with and having someone tell you a secret is a great feeling, and it will make customers far friendlier.
If you didn’t solve my issue, tell me next steps: No matter how much smoke is coming out of my ears, I understand that you may not be able to fix everything automatically. If that’s the case, give me concrete, verifiable next steps. Don’t tell me “someone” will follow up with me “in the next day or so.” I’m frustrated, don’t ask me to put my faith in a solution with a nebulous being at an indefinite time. As a company, it’s important to give tools to agents so they can offer these kind of assurances to customers.
Track your customers like your sales team tracks pipeline: I have never been able to understand why customer service isn’t seen as a blend of sales and marketing. It’s both. Reps should be given regional responsibilities and expected to track “events” (customer issues) in a Salesforce-like tracker from registration to close. That would make follow ups, outcomes, and next steps formulaic from the standpoint of having measurable metrics, would improve customer service, and would allow customer service reps an easy way to be tracked as far as their effectiveness in customer retention (basically sales tracking with new metrics).
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