There are many different types of customer service. All over the world of business, customer service jobs vary. But at its core, the fundamental building blocks that make up customer service jobs remain the same.
Let me share some of them with you. In fact, they are the same strategies we employ with our clients who hire our outsourced customer service management services over at Workaholics4Hire.com.
For one, being a good CSR (customer service representative) takes a certain set of skills. One needs to be able to listen carefully. But it takes more than that.
Don't Just Listen, Relate
So much of good customer service is about relating to the customer or client in a way that lets them know that you’ve been in their shoes.
You could tell them a story about how you’ve been at the raw end of a bad deal, or let them know that you too have purchased the same product they are buying.
It’s a classic sales tactic!
As a matter of fact, I was in a Wal-Mart electronics department just this last Saturday, when the sales clerk told me he had recently bought the same flat screen he was selling me.
How many times have you seen this? If the top salesman in many industries are using this simple technique, shouldn’t your customer service team use it, too?
Identify Needs, and Fulfill Them Before They Ask
A fantastic customer service agent will always try to go beyond the call of duty. You’ll probably be able to name a few instances in your life when a CSR has done this.
Maybe they talked to their manager and got you a better deal. Maybe they made your refund fast and easy when you expected it to be long and difficult. Or maybe they just made you laugh when you had a terrible day.
In all three cases, one thing is clear: the CSR figured out what you needed, and gave it to you before you asked.
That’s one of the biggest secrets in customer service, and as a matter of fact, all of life.
How do you become a better employee? A better spouse? A better leader? You figure out your beneficiary’s needs, and perform them before they have a chance to ask.
How do you do this? Surely it’s easier said than done?
Well, just look at the signs.
Often times your customers will exude a certain confidence or insecurity when dealing with a problem. They will tell you in so many words what they need, but it takes just that little bit of foresight (usually taken from experience) to make educated guesses and assure them that you’ve got the situation under control. It’s that easy.
Make Them Feel Special
This one may seem obvious, and you’ve probably heard it over and over again in different ways, but it’s a necessary step when it comes to making your customer’s experience truly satisfying.
Make them feel like they’re the only person in the world. It’s romance, really. Just treat them like you’ve known them your whole life.
Not only should you go above and beyond, but you should make sure to reward them for good behavior.
For example; a customer emails in to your support desk and asks a question with a message tone that suggests that he’s annoyed, and the CSR thanks them for the question and says that it’s a great question to ask.
This sounds simple, but it may not necessarily be your first inclination when dealing with especially angry or dissatisfied customers. It will go a long way towards making the rest of that conversation both pleasant and polite.
Remember, the fewer angry customers you have, the happier you’ll be by extension.
Say Yes First, Figure Out How Later
This one I learned from being in retail. Whenever a patron would ask for something that I knew we didn’t have in stock, I would always make the effort to go check in the back anyways, if only to make them feel like there was effort going into their problem.
When someone walks into a store to buy something, they have already begun preparing their life with this item in hand. The less effort you put into finding that item, the more insulting it is to the customer purchasing it.
In their mind, the time they took getting ready, driving over, the gas spent, the decisions made, were all for nothing if you tell them it’s not in stock.
But if you simply assure them you’ll be right back, you just have to go check in the stock room, even if you return with nothing, they’ll be that much more satisfied that at least you gave it a good try.
This applies to customer service in other fields as well.
Let’s say a client asks you to refund a six-month-old purchase, and you know it’s not going to fly. Tell them you will ask anyways! It’ll go a long way towards making the customer feel as though some effort went into their issue, and they'll be happier with you as a result.
Record Your Praise
This one is more for yourself and your business. When a customer gives you a glowing accolade, or simply thanks you for a job well done, copy it! Copy and paste it into a special folder, and do it before the conversation continues and you forget to capture the positive feedback.
Near the end of your interaction, make sure to ask their permission in quoting them. Nine times out of 10, you’ll get a yes. Asking them makes them feel like not only did you do something for them, but they are returning the favor.
The reality is that this makes people feel better than anything else. More so than the fact that you helped them out, they will tell their friends about how they were able to provide you with a glowing testimonial on your service.
Transferring is Dismissing the Issue
Nothing irritates me more than being transferred many times from person to person, nobody knowing what to do. It is worse than one person trying to help me for an hour, unsuccessfully.
Take that as a lesson from someone on the receiving end of many bad customer service calls: DO NOT transfer a client to another representative until there is truly no other option.
If they emailed the wrong department, try to answer their question anyways! Selectively, of course. Use your own discretion in handling this matter.
If it is in your power to help someone, always try. It will make their experience that much more meaningful. Remember, the worst workers are almost always the ones who refuse a task because it’s “not their job”.
In short, when you receive a support request, own it. Tell the customer that it will be your pleasure to help them today. This alone will go a long way.
Adapt to Their Personality
The salesman’s greatest tool is the ability to gauge a customer’s personality, and adapt to it. Now, that could mean matching a client’s energy and excitement level, or it could mean using a more expansive vocabulary with someone who uses an affluence of words.
This is no different when it comes to customer service.
I used to work with a salesman who could instantly tell what kind of person each customer was, and use that in his sales tactics. It was fantastic to watch! He would walk up, say hello, and from the first couple sentences, pull someone’s attention completely away from what they were doing, and onto the item he wanted them to buy — usually the items that granted the most commission!
It was because he knew how to appeal to their personality.
All it takes to become like that is to pay attention. Be observant. Watch for the cues. Become the Sherlock Holmes of customer service, and use the science of induction to mold yourself into whatever the customer wants you to be. You will see results nearly immediately.
Put a Positive Spin On It
Surely there is no skill more valuable to a CSR than the ability to make light of a bad situation. Some of us know people who are known for their skills in creating a silver lining, where there was previously none.
We could all learn to be better in emulating this. Look on the bright side. For example:
“Mr. Johnson, unfortunately this item is no longer in stock, and it’s also on backorder. You will have to wait up to two weeks for it to come in.”
“Alright Mr. Johnson, I will order that item for you, to be delivered in only 14 days or less, and we will give you a call the moment it arrives!”
Know how to take a negative situation, and turn it into a positive. Where they will expect you to tell them bad news, simply be honest, but in a positive way.
Of course they may still react negatively, as all situations prove possible. But again, it could have been a lot worse had you put a negative spin on it.
Know Your Resources and Use Them
There is no better way to serve customers than to use all your available resources.
Many CSRs, when first starting out in customer service, get a manual to learn. Keep it with you at all times when dealing with your customers. You never know when it will prove useful.
We live in a world of endless, instant information. Use that, too! There have been plenty of times where a customer has asked me a question easily researched, but I will do the research every time because I know that if they asked me, they simply are not willing or able to do it themselves.
It may be a very simple question, but try to use your available resources to answer any question, and solve any problem. It may help you in ways you hadn’t thought of.
Plus, when you find additional resources, make sure to add it to your customer service manual for future reference.
In the end, apply these tips when handling client requests and questions, or teach your customer support staff (like we do with our customer advocates at Workaholics4hire.com), and you'll see a dramatic increase in sales, reduce in refunds, boost in repeat and referral sales, and glowing feedback and praise you can use in your marketing.