What to avoid in telephone customer service?
Prompt and professional phone customer service is key to client acquisition and retention. Shortcomings in this field lead to loss of customers and a decrease in revenues. That is why call centers can no longer be seen as a cost center but as a source of building customer loyalty.
The numbers speak for themselves. According to the Uniphore studies, as many as 80% of respondents prefer talking to a call center agent as opposed to electronic communication. They are accompanied by high expectations. According to the report "CX Trends 2022" prepared by Zendesk:
- 76% of respondents expect to engage with someone immediately when contacting a company;
- 71% of respondents expect a company to share information so they don’t have to repeat themselves;
- 76% of respondents claim they would switch to a company’s competitor due to multiple bad customer service experiences.
And how the reality looks like? Coming back to the Uniphore studies:
- over 33% of respondents waited over half an hour to be connected to service agents (5% admitted that the waiting period was up to 2 hours);
- 37% of respondents had to wait for a callback or had to connect twice or more to get connected to customer service agents;
- over 25% of respondents who successfully connected had to spend over 20 minutes or more to obtain the necessary information or to solve a problem.
Since the reality is far from what the customers expected, profound changes in the area of phone customer service are required. Below is a summary of what customer service agents should avoid in their job and how customer calls should look like.
No 1: Answer the phone, quickly!
The main sin of call centers is not being responsive. Customers expect prompt and constant contact. Transferring calls or putting them on hold only generates angry customers. This is the shortest way to start losing them. What can be done about it? Having in mind that 70% of respondents expect a company to have a self-service portal (Zendesk), implementing solutions like FAQ or video manuals can be of assistance and can lead to a situation when the client solves his/her issue individually. The other idea is to implement chatbots that will relieve the hotline. If you don't want to frustrate your clients, investment in automatization and omnichannel communication will definitely pay off.
No 2: Customer service phrases
Another very important aspect of customer calls is etiquette. It may sound trivial at first glance, but in many cases, it is the real challenge of call centers. From the perspective of building a positive customer experience, the question "How does the customer feel during the telephone call?" is crucial.
It's very important that the conversation is led in a positive way and friendly manner. The agents should use appropriate service phrases and make the customer feel like they really listen. The tone of voice should be a positive one, right words, no chewing gum, just drawing the full attention to the customer's questions.
Etiquette should be the subject of training during which the agents have the opportunity to practice customer service phrases as well as organize role-plays where they can practice skills related to listening to the customers, answering calls, and dealing with the client's request.
No 3: Competences of service agents
To do their job well, employees of call centers must be well prepared for it. They need to understand not only the offer but also the processes as well as the mission of the company.
As the quality of the conversation is very important, service agents may need support to address the clients' issues effectively. Technology solutions such as our BOTWISE may be very useful. They can integrate knowledge platforms and provide access to the distributed company knowledge through one intelligent bot window. For example, in case the agent is answering the calls from clients who want to learn more about the services and the agent doesn't know all the details (and it's hard to expect that every employee will know all the details), he doesn't have to put them on hold or transfer to another department. Support of the right tools helps to find the required information quickly and explain the details to the client.
But in call centers, it is not only hard skills that matter. According to Salesforce Research, "66% of customers say they're extremely or somewhat likely to switch brands if they feel like they're treated like a number rather than an individual". This leads to the conclusion that agents cannot apply a uniform approach to all clients. Personalization and customization are becoming more and more important. In order to be able to meet customer expectations in this area, it is necessary to develop soft skills, such as the ability to talk and listen actively as well as how to be a sensitive and empathetic interlocutor to the callers. You can learn more about trends in customer service on our blog -> How will customer service change in the future?
No 4: Telephone call scenario
Professional customer service is a mix of etiquette, responsiveness, and competencies. If you want to make it a competitive advantage of your business, it's worth considering applying rules and standards for the employees. They should be put in writing and widely communicated within the customer service department, especially during the onboarding. Here are the exemplary tips for such rules:
- listen first, then speak;
- respond quickly;
- avoid putting the client on hold or transferring to another department;
- understand what is the real issue of the customer's questions;
- treat the client as an individual;
- communicate your message in a clear way;
- make sure that the customer fully understands your recommendation;
- take responsibility for your advice - in case of mistake, be honest, plead guilty, and fix the problem.
The standards for call centers have to be adjusted to the specific nature of the business. The bottom line is that they have to be set as the customer service agents simply need guidelines.
One aspect that is often overlooked is the customer satisfaction survey. Meanwhile, asking for feedback is the best way to improve the quality of service. While establishing guidelines for customer service agents, it's good to instruct them to collect feedback and simply ask the client if he/she is satisfied with the outcome of the call or what the agent can do better next time.
No 5: Emotions on the side
We can talk about excellent phone service once the frustrated or rude client finishes the call satisfied. But how to do it? It's definitely not easy as the call center agents can't even use neither their body language nor mimicry to manage the conflict. They have to be prepared not to take the frustrations of the client personally and try to remove the emotions from the call. This is the only way to put the conversation on the constructive track.
Although it is easy to lose temper when talking to frustrated or rude clients - it simply cannot happen. Each client, even the most demanding one, requires professional service and respect. Also arguing with the client or imposing one's position should absolutely be avoided. Such an approach can only escalate the conflict, and it is only a step away from losing a client.
So? Do you want to deliver better phone service to your callers? You can start right now. You already know what are the biggest mistakes to avoid and what are the main tips that can turn the caller into a happy customer.
Remember that the telephone call is the first contact with your business. It's not less important than face-to-face communication and at the same time more difficult. As the body language is completely excluded, very much depends on the tone of voice and positive attitude.
The impression with which the client ends the conversation will decide whether he/she will stay with your company or go to the competition. And this leads to multiple consequences impacting i.a. customer loyalty and the level of revenues.
If you want to learn more about how customer service affects businesses have a look at the BOTWISE blog: How customer service affects the success of the organization?