There are special challenges associated with conducting business of any kind over the telephone or other remote communication device. The physical remove between the customer service representative and the customer is no exception. When visual communication channels are absent, it is easy to become disconnected; a faceless voice on the phone is easier to ignore and easier to dismiss. Even if the agent is an empathetic and careful listener, it is easy to misjudge the situation because the customer’s voice and words are the only indication of what sort of person the customer is and how he is feeling.
Telephone customer service is no less important than face-to-face service. Always keep in mind that once the customer hangs up, he or she has formed an impression of you and your organization. If the call is handled properly, the customer should be satisfied and is more likely to return. If the call is handled poorly, you may lose contact with that customer forever. The continuing good will and reputation that you maintain with your customers depends upon your ability to satisfy the customer’s needs during that brief time you have him or her on the other end of the phone line.
There are specific ways to ensure that the quality of service you provide remains high, even over the phone.
5 Tips for Excellent Telephone Customer Service
1. Follow good telephone etiquette
This may seem obvious, but basic telephone etiquette goes a long way towards making the customer’s experience a positive one. Answer calls promptly, avoid long wait and hold times, and always ask the customer before you put them on hold or transfer them. Nothing is more frustrating to a customer on a service call than waiting in a long queue, getting shunted from place to place, or being place on infinite hold. These experiences immediately communicate the idea that you and your organization don’t care – and that is precisely the opposite of the impression you want to make.
2. Smile when you answer the phone, and maintain a pleasant expression when speaking
It almost seems like a cliché, but it really is true that your voice sounds different when you are smiling, and your customers can hear it. Not only that, you will feel different if you smile. The physical act of smiling releases endorphins that improve your mood, so you will be able to approach your job with a better attitude, and respond more positively and sympathetically. Both you and your customers will benefit!
3. Communicate competence and caring
The customer’s impression of you is going to be based not only on how you handle his issue, but also on what you say and how you say it. Make sure that you come across as both competent and sympathetic. A brusque, rude manner, unclear communication, or multiple botched transfers will cause serious damage to your image in the eyes of the customer. Conduct business smoothly, and ask the customer to hold if you need to ask questions or discuss matters with another person. Take the customer’s feelings into account, and let him know that you understand his frustration. He will feel better just knowing that someone has heard him and is doing something to help resolve his issue.
4. Use the 5 C’s
There are five basic components to good communication – it should be clear, complete, concise, concrete, and correct. Make sure that the customer understands your explanation or solution by stating it clearly, describing it briefly but completely, in terms that are specific – and, importantly, that you have all of your facts straight. Providing bad information, or information that the customer doesn’t understand, is both unhelpful and unlikely to leave a good impression.
This is the key to all customer service, but especially so in telephone service, because the sense of hearing is the only connection you have to the customer. By listening carefully and attentively, and asking good questions, you can determine what sort of person you are dealing with, what their emotional state is, what the underlying issues are, and how the customer would like their problem to be handled. Good listening is a skill that takes time and practice to develop, but it is an invaluable one for service agents.
When the principal contact you have with a customer is via telephone, there is a great deal of pressure on your conversation. The customer’s perception of you and your organization is formed completely from what is said and how it is said. Developing your telephone customer service skills will take practice – so practice! You may find great insight by recording yourself, listening to taped calls, or soliciting feedback from others. Make sure you’re conveying the impression you want to your customers!
Baker Communications offers leading edge Customer Service Training solutions that will help you address the goals and achieve the solutions addressed in this article. For more information about how your organization can achieve immediate and lasting behavior change that will increase customer loyalty and boost customer retention, click here.