Customers expect a certain level of service. If they don’t get it from you, they’ll find another company that will. They want to feel cared about, and not merely viewed as a number in a database.
Often, customer service calls are one of the only opportunities customers have to speak one-to-one with a company – and vice versa. This means that these interactions should leave them feeling happier and more valued than they were before. Even when they start the call angry or upset, the way you speak to them and deal with their situation can switch it from a negative experience into a positive, loyalty creating moment.
Below, we have outlined some easy ways to drastically improve the level of customer service you offer. From understanding their experience, listening to their needs and offering real solutions, you can turn every interaction with your customers into a chance to become the hero of their story.
1. Understand the customer experience
Before you speak to any customers, you need to understand their experience and journey through dealing with you. Creating a customer journey map will let you track the end-to-end experience with your company across the entire process and through all possible touchpoints, identifying points of ease, frustration, difficulties and more. This lets you pre-emptively fix issues, have solutions ready and understand the major complaints you’re going to hear.
For example, an online store needs to understand their customer experience from identifying the need or want for the item, searching for it online, finding the website, going through the online payment system and waiting for delivery. This means that when customers get in touch to say that their payment hasn’t worked or their parcel hasn’t arrived yet, their customer service team understands the issue and can have helpful answers already prepared.
2. Listen to your customers’ needs
Even after recognising any points of weakness in the customer experience, you should still listen carefully when a customer gets in touch, in order to understand their unique situation and exact needs. One of the biggest causes of miscommunication is making assumptions rather than focusing properly on what’s being said. You should ensure you’re using active listening to hear and understand what they’re asking for, without judgement or expectation.
Show them real empathy, making them feel heard and respected. You can do this by acknowledging their feelings and making them feel valued. We’ve all experienced a recorded message telling us that “your call is important,” but we know the recording doesn’t care. As a human, capable of showing real emotions, you can care – and you should.
This lets you build trust and a rapport with the customer. Whether they’re upset, angry or frustrated, by showing them respect and taking care to understand their needs and wants, you start the conversation in a positive way.
When dealing with especially upset or angry customers, you must always remain calm. Even when they’re shouting at you, remember not to take it personally and never raise your voice back at them – it will only make them more upset and make it much harder to make them happy again afterwards. Whether you’re the cause of their frustration or not, apologise and work together to find a workable solution. Your company should have a policy for how to handle these sorts of calls. Some frustration may occasionally be expected, but you shouldn’t have to deal with abuse.
3. Provide the right solutions
Listening and recognising the customer’s issue is only half of your job. They’re getting in touch because they expect you to provide a solution to their problems. They want action. Let the customer know as early into the conversation as possible what you’re able to do. If you can’t do what they need, let them know what you will do instead – such as passing it to someone else who can help, or directing them to another place to look.
When presenting them with the next steps, you must always refer it back to their specific needs and wants. Explain the benefits, while keeping it directly relevant to them. This is especially true when suggesting a solution they weren’t expecting or may not like.
You should be able to find a way forward that’s right for them and right for your company. For example, offering a discount might be a better option than losing the customer altogether. However, you need to have the right knowledge and authority to make those judgements. If not, you need to know who you can ask, or pass the customer on to.
Even if there’s nothing you can do for them, you should continue speaking with confidence and empathy. If you don’t sound in control, or you say you don’t know what to do, you’ll quickly lose the trust you’ve been building, undermining any advice you give.
4. Check their needs have been met
When finishing the conversation, you want to leave them feeling happy and confident about the next steps. Before ending the call, summarise and confirm your conversation with them. This will ensure you’re both on the same page about what’s been agreed, so there’s no confusion later on. This includes what both sides need to do next, time scales, contact details, prices and any other details that were discussed.
Managing expectations is a key skill in customer service. Again, this comes back to having listened to their problem, knowing what you can offer and engaging in a clear, respectful dialogue.
Establish realistic time scales for your next steps. This will further boost your credibility and trustworthiness more than if you offer vague promises. This is particularly important if you later discover that something you said can’t or won’t happen. In this scenario, you should notify the customer straight away, and inform them of what you’re going to do instead. At every stage, you should be educating, informing and communicating.
Whether it was an enjoyable conversation or a particularly stressful one, say goodbye in a friendly way and don’t sound like you’re rushing to get off the call. Even if you have a lot more to do after the call is over, taking an extra moment to end on a friendlier note will help give a more positive lasting impression of the call.
By taking the time to carefully listen to your customers, understand what they need and take the time to build a friendly, helpful relationship with them, you can give them a much more positive experience of your customer service.