When we talk about customer service, many team leaders have very vague ideas about what is going to create success. A great personality, or a people person, or someone who excels at persuasion are very vague descriptions. But great businesses need great customer service teams to keep their customers; after all, almost 90 percent of customers started doing business with a competitor after a customer service experience. So what skills should you look for, or look to develop, in your customer service teams?
Patience is absolutely key. There are days when customers try our patience, days when none of the systems work properly, and days when things just don’t seem to be going our way. Customer service agents need to appear totally unflappable, showing patience when things aren’t going right on their end. A calm customer service agent is more likely to have a calm customer than one who is demonstrating their frustration.
Customer service experts absolutely must have the ability to communicate clearly and well. They are often the staff that customers speak to the most, and they are likely to leave a lasting impression. More than a quarter of satisfied customers recommend a business to their friends. To be satisfied at the end of a call, customers need to understand what is happening at each step of the way. Customer service agents may also pick up on problem trends long before it would be noticed in other departments; their ability to clearly communicate this to management can help solve problems before they become much worse.
It seems obvious that customer service agents need to have product knowledge, and many companies give agents scripts to share with customers about problems. But scripts only go so far; customer service agents need to be able to improvise based on their own knowledge of the product. Good companies need to give their service staff the chance to interact with the product and adequately train them on how it works.
The difference between “We can’t get that for you until next month” and “That will be in the warehouse next month, and I can make sure it’s shipped out to you right away” is phenomenal from a customer service perspective. Research has shown that positive language is vastly more effective in creating a positive mindset. This helps create satisfied customers at the end of the experience.
In a perfect world, agents could spend as long as necessary with every customer. In the real world of budgets and incoming call goals, agents need to be able to solve problems efficiently without making customers seem rushed. They should be able to watch out for secondary problems to prevent future callbacks without digging deep into every case. The ability to balance these goals is a skill that not everyone has; training it into someone can be difficult.
As a business, the best way to manage this is to give agents goals for how long an average call should take. Make sure this is based on the speed with which the best agents are able to complete calls and not just a division of how many calls are coming in. If you have more calls than your agents can handle, you need to hire more staff, not demand more from the staff you have.
Customer service agents need to be able to take what comes at them without getting flustered. The world of phone service is intense; one call might be a simple request for an address, and the next can identify an incredibly complex problem. The agent must handle both without showing signs of irritation, confusion, or fear. The most successful agents can handle things they’ve never seen while projecting confidence at the customer. They have an unshakeable attitude of “We’re going to figure this out.”
Willingness to learn
When things are rapidly changing in the world of business, customer service agents take the brunt of customer service frustration. When the company commits a public faux pas or has an unpopular policy, or something important breaks, it’s customer service agents who take the calls and do their best to fix the problems. Great customer service agents have to be able to take direction on the fly, sometimes changing direction once or twice a day, depending on what the business needs.
Great customer service can make a mediocre business soar. Customers are most excited about doing business with companies that are willing to serve their needs.
By hiring and training great customer service staff, businesses are doing themselves an incredible service.
Sam Meenasian is the Operations Director of USA Business Insurance and BISU Insurance and an expert in commercial lines insurance products. With over 10 years of experience and knowledge in the commercial insurance industry, Meenasian contributes his level of expertise as a leader and an agent to educate and secure online business insurance for thousands of clients within the Insurance family.