We know that bad customer support can cost you, even with your most loyal customers. While maintaining a well-trained customer support team is costly, the payoff in customer retention and brand reputation is worth the investment. And as more companies turn to subscription products, creating positive encounters, even in the context of a customer support call, adds value to the customer relationship. But how do you keep and maintain a world class standard of excellence in customer support?
The team at cleverbridge developed the Five Fundamentals of World Class Customer Support. These five simple actions allow representatives to provide efficient and polite support that leave customers overwhelmingly satisfied. The Five Fundamentals also free customer support representatives from formally scripted interactions, which customers will spot from a mile away. As long as each of these Five Fundamentals is kept in mind, the representative can be assured their call will go over well.
Shirin Caiola, head Quality Analyst for cleverbridge Customer Support, points out that the Five Fundamentals not only improve quality for customers in one part of the world, but they translate beyond borders, ensuring that, “[we] can guarantee that we’re providing World Class service to our customers, whether we’re speaking to a British customer calling in Cologne or a Canadian customer calling us in Chicago.” We reviewed the Five Fundamentals, along with some comments from the cleverbridge Customer Support Team below.
First Fundamental of World Class Customer Support
Be courteous and professional
This First Fundamental may seem like a no-brainer. Then again, think of your past interactions with customer service. It is certainly possible that one or more of your experiences was neither courteous nor professional. So the First Fundamental is to show courtesy to your customer and to be professional. The best way to show this is no mystery — say please and thank you.
Even the best support professional is no mind reader. Your support team cannot assist customers without their cooperation. Saying please when requesting relevant information shows respect to your customers, and saying thank you upon receipt of their information invites them into the process of resolving their difficulty. Your representatives can establish a base line of communication supporting a polite and courteous tone.
Second Fundamental of World Class Customer Support
Use the customer’s name
Dale Carnegie‘s famous admonition to, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language,” remains as true today as when it was first published. This is why the Second Fundamental is so important. Caiola says, “[using the customer’s name] is a great way to build rapport with the customer throughout the call.” When added to the courtesy and professionalism displayed in the First Fundamental, using a customer’s name helps to build understanding between the representative and the caller on a personal level.
Using the customer’s name is also an excellent call control tactic. When a customer hears you use their name, it can grab their attention away from the frustration they might be experiencing. Unfortunately, most customers have had such negative customer service experiences, they often meet a customer support representative ready to speak to a robot or girded for an epic fight. When a live human representative uses a customer’s name, it helps them disengage from the fight they were expecting to have, and can often help to turn a contentious call into a successful one.
“The greeting should set the tone for the entire call and have the same impact as a firm handshake.” — Shirin Caiola
Third Fundamental of World Class Customer Support
Have an energized tone
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Because of this reason, the greeting should set the tone for the entire call and have the same impact as a firm handshake.” says Caiola. If your representatives show an energized tone and start strong with a confident greeting, it is easier to get the customer’s relevant information and keep an upbeat tone no matter the disposition of your caller. Your representatives’ energized tone can be the difference between a good call and a World Class call.
Of course, the inverse is true as well. We have all been in a room where one person’s bad attitude can destroy the group’s otherwise positive energy. This can happen on a customer service phone call as well. The last thing a customer service representative should do is suck the life out of a caller, or compound an already negative tone with low energy or zero enthusiasm. Keeping an energized tone can actually be infectious, inspiring an upbeat attitude in your caller as well.
Fourth Fundamental of World Class Customer Support
Restate the problem
Once the customer has described their problem to the representative, he or she should find a way to restate the problem back to the customer. Caiola emphasized this Fundamental builds rapport with customers by, “demonstrating active listening. The customer knows we understand the issue and are committed to resolving it.”
Representatives can ensure customers feel heard especially by using phrases like, “I heard you say you were looking for…, is that right?” or “I want to be sure I understand your challenge correctly…” and then detailing the issue the customer described. Besides building rapport with the customer, the other benefit of this fundamental is that the representative can ensure they truly understand what they need to do before moving further. If there is a misunderstanding, restating the problem allows the customer to clarify their inquiry before precious time is wasted tracking down the wrong task. Going back to the First Fundamental, representatives should remember to say ‘thank you’ after the customer has confirmed the nature of the challenge.
Fifth Fundamental of World Class Customer Support
Explain what you have done and any next steps
Shirin noted that, “By following this step, we are insuring the customer understands the resolution process for their request and what has been done so far.”
Once you have completed the task at hand, be sure to review what has been done. This way, if a customer has forgotten anything, you will have a chance to resolve it in the same call, keeping your contact to order ratio low. Reviewing the next steps for the customer helps them feel like they accomplished something, and they know how to move forward.
Do not skip this step. Even if there are no further actions that the customer must take, there’s nothing a customer likes to hear more than, “You don’t need to do anything else; it’s all taken care of.” Of course, this will also help to keep your contact rates down, as customers will not need to call back and check what they need to do next.
The Fifth Fundamental also helps your representatives control the call. By recapitulating what has been done, and explaining what, if any, steps remain for the customer, they are signaling that the call is concluding. The customer has a chance to ask questions and will not feel like they were rushed off the phone. If the customer is satisfied, they may take the pacing cue to end the call. In either case, the representative can easily pivot to meet the customer’s expectation.
The Five Fundamentals of World Class Customer Support are more than guidelines for your support team. When employed consistently, their positive effects on customer satisfaction can be easily tracked. By using the Five Fundamentals, the cleverbridge support team regularly garners customer satisfaction ratings above 90 percent. In addition to increasing customer satisfaction and reducing costs, providing World Class Customer Support increases customer lifetime value by extending the lifetime of a customer’s relationship with your business.
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