A Comcast customer retention service rep recently showed the world how not to talk to customers on the phone. The recorded conversation between the Comcast customer and service rep went viral partly because so many people have had miserable customer service calls. And as we all know, misery loves company.
There’s no magic in providing a positive customer experience over the phone. But it does require some patience, empathy, and common sense. Here are my top 10 customer service tips for being at your best during a call.
- Be personable. Tell customers your name. Ask how they’re doing. Be as informal and friendly as the occasion warrants without being overly chatty.
- Be brief. Your customer is just as busy as you are (if not more so), so always respect his or her time.
- Don’t talk too fast. Being brief is one thing; being unintelligible is quite another. Never rush through what you’re saying. Enunciate clearly. Give the customer time to understand what you’ve said, especially if you’re giving them information they’ve requested.
- Invite questions. Ask customers if they have any questions. Give them an opportunity to have you repeat something they may have missed.
- Stay focused. The customer may start to digress into irrelevant details when explaining something to you. Be patient. But always guide the focus back to the objective behind the phone conversation: to provide the caller with excellent service.
- Listen attentively. In our busy lives, it’s tempting to, say, quickly check email while the customer is talking. Don’t. If you’re not listening closely, you may miss subtleties (such a slight shift in the customer’s tone of voice) that could be important. Also, more astute callers may sense your disinterest.
- Avoid answering a question with a simple “”I don’t know.” Maybe you don’t know the answer to a customer’s question. If that’s the case, don’t make a guess; you could give the customer incorrect information. Instead, be honest that you can’t answer the question but quickly add that you’ll find the answer as soon as possible. Give the customer the option to hold, receive a callback, or to get their question answered in an email or text message.
- On a sales call, don’t push. Prospects and customers universally dislike feeling pressured on a sales call. The “soft” sell is more effective. Approach a sales call in the spirit of sharing information the other person might want to know.
- Treat every call as if it’s being monitored. Some companies, especially large organizations, selectively and routinely record customer service agent calls for “quality control.” This helps ensure that service reps give customers the desired service. Even if your company doesn’t monitor calls, treat the customer on the phone as if you are being recorded.
- Don’t let an angry customer get to you. The last thing you want to do is anger an already irate customer. When a dissatisfied customer calls to complain, be patient. Practice empathy. Don’t take it personally. Offer to do whatever is reasonable to satisfy the customer. If the caller continues to be abusive, escalate the call to a manager or supervisor.
For more ideas and tips, check out “How Small Businesses Can Deliver Great Customer Experience” and “How Small Businesses Can Offer Proactive Customer Service”.