Most customer service gurus who participate in our Total Customer Focus™ workshops come from a distinct type. Quiet. Focused. Observant. On the nerdy side back in school, they grew wings at telecommunication, technology or quality testing firms as they solved one puzzling problem after another on time, within budget. Some of them are veritable geniuses in the server room or testing lab, and their attitude shows they know it. Yet, when their firms try to differentiate themselves among intensifying global competition, such keen-eyed problem-solvers often attend to every technical detail but overlook the most essential big-picture requirements.
Take typical customer service meetings in the telecoms sector. Most of them are about solving specific problems, to which the representative presents specific options. The client requests and the rep counteroffers until they find a mutually acceptable solution. If technically possible, the rep gets down to installing or upgrading. If not, the minute work goes to a specialist team. Since techies are seldom that talker type, not much else gets discussed. The rep says goodbye and What did he leave behind?
In our experience, a thick wallet and an unimpressed client. At Total Customer Focus™ workshops, the same reps can tell us with clarity what differentiates competitors from each other in their industry: exceeding rather than meeting expectations. Nobody thanks them for a quick problem-solving in-and-out, the way nobody thanks airlines for boarding passes, wings, engines and life vests under the seats. And yet, in the rush of an average Tuesday, moving on to the next fire-fighting task takes priority over asking follow-up questions.
But leaving in a rush can result in leaving cash on the table, if not literally then figuratively, because customer service reps are not supposed to act like repairmen. (There are repairmen for that.) They should solve problems for clients, yes, but also observe them, give them reasons to further engage with the company and work with the organisation to make the next trip better. Not making that happen is like leaving a thick wallet behind, which doesn’t only make the company some cash and cards short—it also inconveniences the customer. Remembering that one more thing you wanted to ask your service provider ten minutes after they left is an awkward feeling, though usually not awkward enough to call them.
Is there a better way? It’s often hard to imagine, because hard-nosed techies are not the easiest people to mentor. On the positive side, they are focused and analytical, which means they will follow methods that make sense and bring demonstrable results. Decades of research and practice reveals three simple but necessary upgrades from acceptable to great customer service.
Listen and repeat: Few clients comprehend everything they hear from a specialist, but even fewer admit that and ask questions. People always feel awkward when they present their problems to a stranger. Asking for clarifications makes that feeling worse, and technical specialists must know that. Of course, reps cannot answer unasked questions, but they can observe the client’s verbal and non-verbal clues: a puzzled tone of voice, frowning and fidgeting. And when they notice such clues, they can jump in with the right open questions. “How comfortable are you with this approach?” “What else would you like to know on this subject?”
Offer more details: There is a reason why well-drilled call centres ask whether there is anything else they can do for you. Even the best solutions can leave unresolved issues behind. But discussions with a specialist can be overwhelming, and many clients are eager to close the conversation. In such cases, customer service reps must find ways to be politely insistent, especially if they sense some confusion regarding specific issues. “We still have some time and this stuff can be heavy,” the rep might say with a chuckle. “If we wanted to look deeper into this solution, which part of the explanation would you like to recap?”
Mirror emotions: Anyone who has ever called a technical specialist knows how much emotional baggage comes with such communication. Frustration with the problem itself, anxiety whether it will be fixed and how much it will cost—it can feel like a roller-coaster ride. Although technical specialists would much rather deal with calm and rational clients, they cannot wish the emotions away. They can, however, acknowledge the client’s frustration without judgement. “Yes, this error can be very annoying,” the rep may say, and even empathically ‘mirror’ the client’s body language of irritation. Of course, he must go beyond that: “I will do everything I can to get things back on track as soon as possible.”
By taking these three simple steps you will see things changing. More trust, stronger relationships, better dialogues with your customer will not only increased your self-confidence but make you say proudly to yourself: Customer visit done, no “wallet” left behind!
Now one question left: How fat was this famous wallet? Is it worth the effort?
If you want to know enroll in our next free public webinar: Unleashing the revenue generating power of your service organization, where you will learn about the economics of the service business and estimate the revenue generation potential of your organization. Bring your data!