Telephone customer service recently received a huge black eye, thanks to an audio recording that went viral. The recording was of a phone conversation between a Comcast customer retention service rep and a customer trying to cancel his account.
The gist is that Comcast’s rep continually asked why the customer wanted to discontinue service and then persistently pushed Comcast products. The recording is well worth a listen, as it’s a textbook example of how not to provide phone customer service.
I believe one reason the Comcast recording went viral is because it taps into the strong dissatisfaction many consumers have today with telephone customer service. Think about it. On a typical call to a business’s customer service today, we’re often subjected to endless voicemail menus. We’re asked to enter in our account numbers, phone numbers, mother’s maiden name, and more.
While this information is often used to route calls appropriately, it’s clear that many companies also want to make it as difficult as possible to actually speak to a human.
Once you finally get someone on the line, you’re often asked to repeat much of the information you already entered via the voicemail system. And then, when you’ve finally concluded your business, the service rep suddenly wants to prolong the call with questions, such as “Did I provide you with excellence customer service today today?” It’s nearly as difficult to get rid of the customer service rep as it is to reach them in the first place.
Here are eight ways to avoid delivering a frustrating telephone support experience to customers and prospects.
- Listen carefully. Actively listen to customers’ needs and questions. Repeat, if necessary, what the customer has said to be sure you understand why they’re calling.
- Put yourself in their shoes. If the customer reports a problem, acknowledge that “it must be frustrating for you,” or words along those lines. Apologize for any inconvenience. Offer to try and solve the problem right away.
- It’s OK to have a script — as long as the customer doesn’t “hear” it. Sometimes, it’s necessary for call center team members to follow scripted responses to customer service questions. But a script should only be used as a backup. And it should never be obvious to the customer that the rep is following a script.
- Don’t push your own agenda on the customer. The Comcast call was an epic fail because the customer service rep was focused only on meeting his needs (retaining customers).
- Minimize voicemail menus. The more layers you add to your voicemail menu, the more frustrated customers become.
- Answer calls promptly. Even if you’re a sole proprietor or a tiny business, you don’t have to send callers to voicemail. A virtual phone system can help you intelligently route calls to available team members. This helps you be available to customers and prospects.
- Provide multiple ways for customers to reach you. Not everyone wants to contact you by phone. For instance, Gen X and Gen Y consumers often prefer Web chat, Twitter, Facebook, or text message. Wherever your customers are, you should be there, too.
- Empower your call center support team. If you hire smart people, you should trust them to make smart decisions. Give them the ability to take actions on a customer’s behalf, especially if the customer is calling to complain.
Above all, be “Human”
We live in an age in which the pervasiveness of technology and constant connectivity can be dehumanizing. This is why it’s more important than ever for your phone support team to be “human” and empathetic. Show callers that you’re listening, you care about their questions and needs, and you’re going to do whatever you can to help. Being empathetic and “human” is good for your customers — and your business.