No matter what business we think we’re in, the fact remains that we’re all in the people business.
How your customers feel about the service they get from your organisation – particularly from your customer service team – has a big influence on whether they stay with you, or go to a competitor (and we all know the adage of how much it costs to get a new customer versus keeping an existing one). Technology plays a big part in delivering a smooth and frictionless customer experience, but your staff play the main part.
Here’s some helpful tips on how your customer service staff can build a rapport that will keep your customers coming back (and even looking forward to the call).
What it takes to build rapport
First impressions count, so it’s important to train your staff in how to put people at their ease from the get-go – whatever their needs, mood, or circumstances.
Your customers may talk to a different team member each time they call, but that’s no reason they shouldn’t get the same level of understanding and familiarity with their business. Your customers will assume your business knows what they’ve purchased, what they discussed on the last call; in fact, their whole history with you. You need to have systems in place that make it easy for your staff to capture important relevant information about the customer so any team member has a full record during a call. Next time your customer calls, they’ll expect to pick up the conversation where they left off – regardless of who they’ve reached – and get straight to the business at hand.
Communication skills are key
Communication is nuanced and customer service staff need a level of skill and empathy to interact with what can be a very broad scope of personalities and circumstances. There is a psychological principle known as “mirroring”, based on people’s tendency to like and trust those most like themselves. In a phone conversation, this mirroring might include matching the customer’s language – for instance, if they’re more tech-savvy, your staff can engage with them on their level; if the customer is jovial and upbeat, your staff can interact in a similar style – as long as it remains authentic.
Having said this, remember to stay professional at all times. You wouldn’t want to mirror a cranky customer, but rather, empathise and seek ways to help them find a resolution (read our article “Handling customer complaints with grace” for more insights into how to deal with these situations).
Communication is also about managing your customers’ expectations. If your staff can’t resolve a matter in the initial call, it’s very important that they tell the customer what will happen next, and when. Make sure you have systems and processes in place that your staff can use to remind them to delegate or follow up on a particular case, and that they report any progress or change to the customer when they said they would.
Most important of all: respect. Always be sincere, patient, and never patronising.
“Hire for attitude, train for skill”
It’s an oldie but a goodie. There are so many jobs, professions, callings: however you like to phrase it, each takes a certain mindset to really transform a role on an org chart into a vital part of your business’s success.
Granted, you’ll still want people who are clearly capable of managing the technical and critical thinking aspects of the work, but these capabilities aren’t necessarily the exclusive remit of your industry. In his article, “Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill” in the Harvard Business Review, Bill Taylor recounts how one health practice leader doesn’t recruit people from the same industry, because “health care trains people to say ‘no’ to patients”.
And with technology changing faster and faster, the one constant we’ll be able to hone in on when we’re building a customer service excellence team is “Can they take good care of our customers?”