Did you know that 73% of customers end a relationship with a company because of bad service?
More than any other employees, customer service team members face an onslaught of complaints at a critical time in a company’s relationship with its customers.
They represent the last opportunity to save a clientele from moving to a competitor or sharing their negative experience online or in-person.
It’s vital that you invest in building an all-star customer service team. By fostering these five factors, you can radically improve your company’s relationship with your best customers:
Have you ever been to a restaurant that, after a lot of great meals, really didn’t live up to your expectations? One terrible experience, and it’s not your favorite neighborhood spot anymore. Just like restaurants, customer service teams can make or break their relationships with customers in just one interaction.
That’s why consistency is one of the key factors of an all-star customer service team. As the international consulting firm, McKinsey & Company summarized, consistency drives trust between a company and a customer.
Not only does a business need to provide a consistently top-notch service to customers, it also needs to consistently implement communication and policies.
For example, if a business that’s known for its forgiving return policy radically changes its stance — or individual employees vary in how they implement the policies — it depletes the sense of trust between customers and the company.
However, when customer services teams consistently give amazing service and adhere to a brand’s character and policies, they create loyal relationships that sustain a business.
Speed makes a remarkable difference in the success of an all-star social media team. Only when working efficiently can team members make a positive impact on their customers.
One study by Edison Research suggests that 42% of individuals who reach out to a business through social media expect a response within one hour. Likewise, a speedy response to a phone call — with no or little time left on hold — brings ease to an otherwise frustrating situation for customers.
When HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) had a wait time of 47 minutes, 11,500 people complained on Twitter. Not only do these long wait lines cost customers money, they irreparably damage the sense of trust between a customer and an organisation. In the case of HMRC, it had such a negative impact that BBC wrote a story about it.
To decrease wait times, make sure to have streamlined systems in place for answering phone calls, emails, and complaints made through social media. Some startups, such as Zendesk, TeamSupport, and Freshdesk, can help companies increase their efficiency.
3. Active Listening
Customer service team members can’t make a difference in the life of customers unless they can listen to the issue. Some ineffective representatives interrupt clients or fail to pay attention to the problem.
Instead, practice active listening. These four steps can help all-star teams break through the noise and identify their customers’ complaints:
1. Focus on the Customer
Active listening requires that the listener is engaged. Top-performing customer-service agents don’t browse the internet or look at their smartphones when they’re on a call. Instead, all of their energy is focused on the customer.
2. Listen for Essential Information
When customers are upset — angry, sad, or genuinely dismayed — the conversation can focus on their feelings rather than the actual issue. While listening, try to identify the key moments when things went wrong for this customer. It’s this kind of understanding that informs a solution.
3. Mirror Back the Problem
Show customers that you understand the problem by explaining it back to them. For example, if your company delivered a broken good, a service team member would say, “The item showed up seriously broken and unusable. The box was damaged, which suggests it was broken during shipment.” This approach shows customers you understand.
Even if a customer-service agent doesn’t believe that the company made a mistake, it still helps to sincerely apologize. Once you have offered a clear “I’m sorry,” you can move on to solving the issue.
Empathy is the key differentiator between all-star customer service teams and their sub-par counterparts. More than any other skill, empathy creates a shift in the relationship between a company and a disgruntled customer by making people feel heard, supported and cared for.
The company InsightSquared perfectly captured the importance of empathy:
… when a customer reaches out for service, she wants to be heard and feel like the person on the other end of the conversation truly understands what she’s going through. Customer service can’t always deliver solutions, but it can always deliver empathy.
Customer service agents can express empathy by recognizing the feelings behind an individual’s words.
“I understand why you would feel frustrated by that,” you could say. Or “Wow! That’s certainly a trying experience. Thank you for calling up so we can fix that for you.”
Especially at the end of the conversation, validating and supporting a person’s feelings makes a customer service team stand out.
5. Creative Problem-Solving
Outstanding customer service teams build on creative problem-solving skills rather than relying on formulaic responses. They empower agents to work toward solving complex problems that help customers.
This kind of above-and-beyond approach not only repairs relationships with unsatisfied clients, it actually builds a strong emotional connection. Sainsbury’s, for example, took advice from a 3-year-old customer who thought their “zebra bread” actually looked more like “giraffe bread.” A customer service manager responded to her inquiry with a letter and gift card. But he didn’t stop there: He also successfully managed a campaign to change the name of the item.
Now there are signs all over the store, in honor of the customer. When you give your employees permission to delight their customers, these professionals can turn average complaints into an opportunity to impress.
These five factors turn any customer service team into one of the most powerful assets of a company. These all-stars transform even the most difficult complaints into positive experiences by consistently and efficiently practicing active listening, empathy, and creative problem solving.