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Savvy Customer Service Pays Off

Savvy customer service representatives generate referrals, repeat business and positive company promoters.  Beyond the basics of answering phones, taking the extra step and being h

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Helpful, excellent customer service means listening, maintaining control of the call and following-through so the next person can pick up where you left off.  Customer service is demanding and draining, but when done well can be the difference between losing a customer or saving one that buys more.

A lot has been written about Customer Service and its impact on both large and small businesses.    But savvy customer service requires more than answering phones, being helpful, courteous and knowledgeable, and offering something more.  Susan Ward provides additional insight in her blog about 8 Rules for Good Customer Service.  Excellent customer service involves listening, maintaining control of the conversation, and follow-through to ensure the matter is completed on the first call.

Getting Past the Technology

We all know how technology has affected customer service help lines.  Your call is answered an interactive voice response (IVR) system asking questions about why you called so it can direct the call to the right caller queue.  You may be directed to a queue where an automated voice answers frequently asked questions (FAQ).  If you want to talk to a live operator it may take several minutes to get through to another queue where you wait until an operator becomes available.  Or, you may find that no live operators are available; you must call another number, send an email or use an online chat for a reply.  Even the most patient customer can become infuriated if you are in a hurry, frustrated over an account issue, or have a simple question for a live person.

This is where true customer service kicks in to either save or repel a customer.  When the caller finally reaches a live person, it is up to the customer service representative to maintain control of the call, calm the customer, hear the issue, and use whatever means available or authorized to resolve the angry customer’s issue.  Regardless of whom you are, this is a huge challenge on both sides of the customer service coin.

Maintaining Control of the Call

Angry customers can easily become unreasonable, demanding and rude.  Calming the customer is essential to maintaining control.  Even when you cannot calm the customer, maintaining control is imperative to resolving the issue and saving the customer.  Good customer service training will teach you to remain calm and understand the customer’s anger is directed at the company; don’t take the complaint personally.  With practice, it will become easier.  If profanity or insults come at you, either politely tell the caller you don’t allow customers to talk to you that way, or escalate the call to your supervisor who is paid to handle more irate clients.

Actively Listen

Ask probing questions about the issue.  Openly listen to what the caller is saying. Allow the customer to vent for a reasonable time, but then try to pinpoint the cause of the issue and the reason for the call. Repeat back to the customer what you hear as the issue. This ensures you are both working together toward a common goal.  Once confirmed, offer options that resolve the problem.  Customers want to know they are being heard, when you listen and offer a solution that is relayed to the customer and helps overcome the aggravation of the issue.  Disclose honest methods of resolution, be up front, but work with the caller to end the problem with the first call.

Follow-through

If the need requires a follow-up, make sure to notate the account and call when you say you will. It is important to do as you say because your actions reflect upon your company. Make the customer feel special about the attention received to resolve the issue.  But always notate the account so co-workers can pick-up where you left off if the customer calls back.

These are essential pieces of customer service. Holding your own with an angry customer is draining and difficult, but when done well will save the customer, generate repeat business, and improve your company’s reputation.  In today’s global business world, it makes the difference between customers dreading a call to customer service or reducing the number of calls received.  Happy customers are positive company promoters who bring referrals and confirm a company’s business foundation.  Providing good customer service is demanding and difficult, but it could be the difference between a company that grows and one that lays-off due to lost business.