- Elon Musk, Investor & Entrepreneur
Customer service is an integral part of just about every company regardless of industry. But it’s also one of the trickiest spheres to master, particularly if you aren’t already excellent with people or don’t enjoy customer service in and of itself. However, even those who aren’t particularly good at customer service can get better with the right conscious practice and the right tips.
These are the top five tips for getting better customer service – apply these to your own behavior or dole them out to your employees and you should see rapid improvement across the board.
COMMUNICATE CLEARLY WITH CUSTOMERS
The first thing to remember to do with all your customer service interactions is to communicate clearly. This is true even if you have to tell a customer something they may not want to hear. Always remember that honesty is better in the long run, even if it causes you to lose a customer or have to deal with an aggressive conversation.
The fact is that customers – like all people – appreciate honesty and directness much more than they do faux-sweet language meant to simmer them down. When a customer contacts an organization’s customer service team, they aren’t necessarily looking to be placated (although some are). Most of them are looking for a solution.
Communicate clearly and honestly and tell them what you can and can’t do to handle their problem at this time. You should also extend this practice to any customer service employees on your team. Making sure that everyone gives out the same information is crucial if you don’t want customers to bounce angrily around from rep to rep, hearing different stories and getting angrier and angrier.
PRACTICE YOUR POSITIVE LANGUAGE
Speaking of anger, it often helps to practice your positive language skills if you plan to communicate with customers relatively frequently. Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean lying or not speaking clearly. But it always helps to be the positive half of the conversation, even if the customer in question seems to be furious or frustrated.
Positivity can help direct the flow of the conversation toward a more productive end. While many customers just want to vent when they contact a rep, the rep in question has the opportunity to eventually funnel the customer toward an actual resolution.
This could eventually turn the conversation into a positive experience for both parties. Consider an example where a customer calls a phone company to complain about their bill, but the customer service rep is positive and ends up hooking them up with a discount and several other bonuses for their trouble.
It’s much more likely that the customer in this interaction will come away from the experience with a more positive feeling all because the rep didn’t respond back with more negativity or frustration.
Use words that emphasize positive feelings and resolution, and always be gracious and accommodating.
LEARN TO LISTEN
Perhaps the most important lesson to learn to become better at customer service is that you need to listen more than you need to speak. As touched on above, lots of customers only contact a company’s customer service rep department when they want to vent about something they don’t like. They may not necessarily be looking for a solution.
While you should still endeavor to fix their problem if possible, you’ll almost always do better over the long term if you and your team are adept listeners. Not only is this good so that the calling customer in question feels heard, but it’s also important because you can collect valuable feedback that you can use to improve your company later down the line.
This may involve listening and taking detailed notes about what customers say about your company and what they call to discuss. Over time, you might be able to see repeated patterns or pain points where constant frustration or customer dissatisfaction tend to crop up.
Any manager worth his or her salt should be able to look at that data and come up with actionable plans to improve the customer experience.
KEEP RESPONSE TIMES LOW
It’s absolutely critical that you always keep response times low when you run a customer service team. Nothing drives frustration and anger more on the customer side of things than being told to wait over and over. This is especially true when it comes to phone conversations. We’ve all had a bad experience when we were told to “Please hold” by an unhelpful customer service rep, only to be left hanging for an hour or more.
Never let this happen under your watch. In fact, it’s almost always a better idea to repeatedly check in with the same customer over and over even if it takes a long time to get a resolution for their complaint.
In many cases, customers will have a better experience with your customer service team if you respond to them and check in now and again. Even if all you can say is that you’re still working on the problem, letting them know that you’re still engaged in the conversation and haven’t just left them on hold will go a long way toward building goodwill.
LEARN WHEN TO CLOSE A CONVERSATION
Lastly, learn how to exit or close a conversation. This is particularly important with belligerent customers or those who aren’t interested in treating you or your employees fairly. While it’s your job to deal with their complaints as best as possible, you should still practice exiting a conversation with grace and politeness before things get out of hand.
Similarly, learn when a customer just wants to complain and when it’s appropriate to disengage the conversation after they have finished. As before, it’s a good idea to tack on some bonuses or consolation gifts as a parting gesture in many cases.
Regardless, learn not to drag the conversation on for too long, particularly if the customer stresses that they don’t have a lot of time to spend working on the problem. You can always get their information and call them back later if you eventually find a resolution for a problem that takes some time to solve.
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Thought leaders & celebrities share their tactics for success on the Lisnic podcast by Lisa Teh & Nick Bell