Do you want to call customer service for me? No? I can't say I'm shocked. What is it about customer service and customer experience that makes us as customers so crazy? We know we will have to fumble through a maze of automated presets before ever getting to a person.
And those automated menus are already annoying enough, right? When (or if) you finally manage to connect with an actual human, sometimes you still feel like you are speaking with a robot. At this point, most of us are growing increasingly frustrated, especially if the person immediately says you have the wrong department and need to transfer you. You know you'll have to repeat the information you just gave (because the knowledge wasn't transferred).
However, once you do get and keep a person on the phone more frustration is likely to occur. The culprit? The Customer Service Script.
Now, I'm not suggesting that customer service representatives should be left to their own devices and knowledge. That approach will most likely lead to failure as well. But taking the humanity out of customer service and experience is completely misguided.
Instead, Do This:
- Actively Listen - Train your customer service representatives to listen to the entirety of the customer's issue (without interrupting). Letting the customer first explain their issue without interruption helps ensure they are able to give you their complete thoughts while they are fresh. As appropriate, acknowledge that you are listening either by affirming (e.g. Yes, I understand) or by repeating what the customer has said.
- Authentically Empathize - After the customer has finished vocalizing their issues, respond respectfully. What is clear to you, may not be clear to them. Think about how you would feel if you were experiencing the same issue or something similar. How would you want someone to respond and resolve the issue?
- Expertly Inform - This is dependent on good training and experience with your products and services. After empathizing you need to give ready to share actionable knowledge in a manner that the customer can understand. Be sure to annunciate clearly and explain any terms that are unfamiliar to the customer. Also, let customers know when you personally do not have the answer they need. If you need to take a few minutes to look something up or get someone else on the call, do it.
- Timely Transparency - This step is directly tied to 'Expertly Inform'. If you do not have the necessary information for the customer, let them know what will happen next. Set clear timelines and expectations for resolving their problem. Perhaps it's a follow up call within the next 24 hours from a superior or an email with more documentation within the next business day. The customer may not be completely satisfied at the moment, but they will appreciate it more than a call back that never happens (or don't know when to expect) or an email that sends a generic automatic response that clearly doesn't seem associated to their previous communication with your company.
So how do you prepare your customer service representatives to handle the ambiguity of calls of various natures? An ongoing and engaging training process. In your training you should have realistic scenarios and talk about best practices and emerging trends to ensure you keep your staff up to date. Should you equip each representative with a call script? No. You should give them a set of Preparedness Guidelines. How is this different? This approach gives them appropriate examples, but empowers them to make each call engaging and human, not stiff and robotic.
I previously published this article on LinkedIn.