In today’s virtual world, call centers are the front door to many businesses. Customers may never have the opportunity to deal with organizations face-to face. If companies want to keep loyal customers – and gain new ones – it’s essential that their call centers deliver outstanding customer service with every single customer interaction.
How should a company be managing customer service to ensure that it’s consistently providing exceptional care that goes beyond the ordinary to turn its customers into loyal fans? Here are a few simple ways for companies to increase their call center’s customer service skills:
Don’t Keep Them Waiting
No one enjoys being kept on hold. While it’s a reality that busy call centers handle a huge volume of calls on any given day, the goal of an exceptional company should be to make every customer feel as if he or she is their most important customer. That process of customer service improvement begins as soon as an existing or potential customer picks up the phone and dials a company.
From the moment their call connects, a call center’s initial goal should be minimizing wait times. There are many simple ways to do this, including ensuring that all incoming calls are directed to and through a call system that quickly determines what they need and moves them to the proper line. While some automation is necessary to sort and route calls quickly, companies should avoid having a system so complex that it leaves the customer feeling frustrated. Always give callers an option to speak to a real, live human being at critical steps in the routing process.
Remember, communication is key. If a phone system can guess how long a customer will be on hold or to make them aware of what number they are in line, let them know! This gives the customer control by allowing them to make an informed decision about whether to remain on hold or to call back at a less busy time. (Some systems allow customers to enter a callback number so that a customer service and/or sales rep can call them back when they are free.) These simple steps take the guesswork out of wait times and convince customers that a company is focused on providing outstanding customer service.
Use Technology to Manage the Flow
It goes almost without saying that the best way to handle calls quickly and with aplomb is by making use of appropriate technology. Successful companies have the software and hardware systems in place to effectively manage the volume of calls they receive.
However, the most successful organizations take technology to the next level with a Customer Relationship Management system. There are myriad options out there from which to choose, but they all share common characteristics. These systems measure customers’ experiences and satisfaction at every step in their path along a company’s workflow. These systems then use that critical information to predict what customers are likely to need, and when they will require it. From there, they track how well employees are performing against baselines and allow customer service and sales teams to identify areas that can be meaningfully improved.
Listen to Their Concerns
Once a customer reaches a call center rep or a sales rep, the most important thing a staff member can do is to listen to the customer’s concerns. Whether the customer is upset about a situation that is not going well, has called because they have heard wonderful things about the company and want to purchase its product, or somewhere in between, what they want most is to be heard.
That’s where a call center team’s customer service skills can really shine. While time is naturally of the essence in handling calls, taking a few moments on the front end to understand the challenge or opportunity each customer represents actually will allow a team member to serve them better – and ultimately, much more quickly. A rep won’t have to waste time addressing objections the customer doesn’t have or offering solutions that are not viable in their case.
Effectively Address Issues
Once a customer service or sales representative understands exactly what the customer needs, they must be empowered to solve the challenge or provide a solution. Endless transfers to other departments (such as technical service, billing, or sales departments) or to escalating levels of employees (such as a supervisor, then a manager, etc.) only serve to frustrate customers – particularly if they feel as if they have been placed on hold for an unreasonable amount of time.
Giving employees the tools they need to make a decision will go a long way toward making a customer feel good about their decision to do business with a company. Once they feel they can trust any employee they may be dealing with, customer loyalty will soar. (It goes without saying that customer service managers should provide employees with tight protocols to ensure that they don’t under-serve or over-compensate customers.)
Serve Customers Where They Require
The world is changing, and technology is changing with it. To stay on the cutting edge, companies need to understand that the way many customers want to interact with them has evolved. While some demographics still prefer to talk on the phone, many customers, particularly millennials, rarely pick up their cell phones to place a call. That means companies need to be available to communicate with customers in the manner they prefer.
For many companies, that means offering customers the ability to take full advantage of talking with company representatives via online chat from their desktop or cell phone. This immediate connection with someone online allows customers the added advantage of being able to conduct their personal business from any location at any time – whether that’s from a computer in the middle of their workday or while they are hanging out with friends over the weekend. Other companies find that customers prefer to interact via email because it allows them to send a quick message at their convenience and get a response when they need it. No matter how customers interact with a company, the same rules of managing customer service and providing outstanding customer service, apply. Customers don’t want to feel as if they are being kept waiting; they want to be treated with respect and feel as if they are being heard; and they want effective resolution of their issues delivered by someone adept at providing exceptional customer service.
Keep Employees Satisfied
Perhaps the best way that an organization can ensure it’s effectively managing customer service is to make certain that the people who are directly responsible for interacting with the customer are happy with what they do. Providing outstanding customer service is difficult if an employee does not feel as if they are equipped to properly do so.
- First, a company must hire good people who understand its mission and buy into its success – because they understand that their professional success is directly linked to the organization’s success.
- Then, make certain that each and every employee receives proper training on how to perform his or her job correctly and efficiently.
- Next, ensure that each employee feels empowered to solve problems, make decisions and to offer incentives within a range of acceptable options.
- Finally, stand behind employees when they take the initiative to make such decisions on their own.
- Most importantly – treat them well! Satisfied employees who love their jobs will treat their customers well.
Employee satisfaction is tied to a wide variety of issues that are as diverse as an organization’s employees. For some, educational opportunities are key, others want to feel appreciated, some focus on working conditions and flexibility, many prefer options on how and where they work, while others are completely focused on compensation. The key is finding supervisors who are adept at managing customer service facilities and the professionals who work within them.
Customer service improvement isn’t as challenging a task as it may initially seem. Companies that excel at managing customer service employ simple but focused tactics that emphasize putting the customer first, using technology wisely, and taking care of their staff. Companies that apply these simple rules will deliver the superior customer service experience that today’s savvy consumer is craving. The end result will be an outstanding customer experience that wins new clients and retains existing customers.
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