Dec 12, 2019 9:23:00 AM
Cheat sheet: 10 Best customer service techniques for your team
People will always be needed in customer service. Even if modern self-service solutions like chatbots resolve the majority of repetitive questions, there will always be special cases that require empathy, judgement, or human problem solving skills.
The quality of a service experience can be affected by everything from bad hold music to the tone of voice of the service agent - because, in the eyes and emotions of the customer, even the small things can make all the difference.
It’s also not uncommon for service leads to feel that there isn’t much they can do to make things better for the customers. There are budget restrictions, lengthy hiring processes, and persistent problems with the service or product. But there are customer service techniques that can improve your service experience without requiring a single penny of investment - and it comes down to empathy and giving attention to single customers where needed.
To put these techniques to practise, service leaders should run trainings and role playing exercises to foster these skills across teams and departments.
1. Listen, listen, listen
In phone service, active listening is a key component of successful and effective communication. For a superior service experience, it’s not just that you help - but how you help. Attentive listening helps you really understand the customers’ needs. Let the customer talk and explain their problem without interruptions until they have gotten it “off their chest”.
In many cases the customer is confused and frustrated - simply listening and letting them “vent” clears the table so your team can step in with appropriate solutions and bring the interaction to a successful end.
2. Empathise & apologise
Empathy is perhaps not so much a technique as a “trait” - but communicating empathy is definitely a skill that can be practised. A great way to show empathy and understanding - both in writing and in spoken word - is apologising when things have gone wrong. This should be done by service representatives regardless of who is at fault, if anyone. The customer is contacting you because they have a problem and need help - their request should not be met with snarky comments or blaming of a third-party (such as a shipping company or contractor), but rather with sincerity and empathy.
Train your service agents to show understanding and empathy by reviewing situations where the outcome of the interaction was not ideal, or where the customer was asking for something impossible - such as cancelling an order that has already been shipped. Learning to navigate these situations is challenging, but will help your service agents bring their empathy skills to the next level.
3. “Tune in” to the language and the mood of the customer
Encourage your team to match their tone to the customer’s “mood” or “energy”. If the customer seems happy, they should reflect that joy; on the other hand, if they are angry or impatient, they should try a calm but firm approach rather than mirroring their mood directly.
Mirroring customers will make your service team seem familiar, customers are more likely to understand them, and it will help build a bond and strengthen the customer relationship, however brief the encounter.
4. Repeat, summarise, and outline next steps
It’s one thing to listen attentively, another to show you’ve been listening. Recapping the main points of the conversation before suggesting solutions or taking action is important for efficient communication.
It will demonstrate to the customer that your team is on top of things and it will make it easier to reach a satisfying resolution. In our experience, it might even help when service representatives say something along the lines of “Let’s find a solution together.”
The same strategy applies for wrapping up the call; there should always be an explanation and a recap before the call ends. What was discussed, what was done, and what is the ultimate outcome? If any next steps or follow-ups are necessary, those need to be summarised.
Your customers will appreciate the care, clarity, and professionalism.
5. Show your personality
When customers get in touch with your support team, it’s because they want to interact with a person - not a company.
Just because you’re the frontline of the company doesn’t mean that your team needs to hide their personality. Quite the opposite! Trust your team to “be themselves” without losing their professionalism - and the customers will love you for it.
This “technique” (really, it’s more of a habit) will make your customers feel special, since they are not just getting impersonal canned replies. Personalising messages and scripts provides customers with a unique experience, that applies specifically to them. That’s exactly the “human touch” they want from a customer service agent.
6. Call the customer by their name
Following the previous technique, make sure customers get addressed by their name. This communicates respect for them and lets them know that they are important.
Providing a memorable, superior service experience sometimes comes down to very minute details - and it doesn’t get simpler than this!
7. Match the tone of the channel the customer is using
In today’s omnichannel universe, customer contacts come through a variety of avenues. For a great service experience, it’s critical to find an appropriate tone for each one.
The way the customers expect to interact vary greatly depending on the channel - be it phone, social media, messaging platforms, discussion forums, or email. For example, phone interactions are traditionally very courteous, but also tend to be forgiving, as any misunderstandings can be easily clarified on the spot.
Social media and messaging platforms, on the other hand, have introduced a much less formal style of conversing. Make sure your social media presence matches this informal tone - it’s awkward for the customer to write colloquially as is native to the channel, and receive things such as “Dear Mr.” or “Cordially” in response. Most casual channels do not even require a signoff and can get away with a simple greeting, such as “Hey <customername>”. Discussion forums providing support, which generally are the least formal ones of the bunch, often require no salutation nor a signoff.
It’s recommended to set some tonality guidelines for your service team to ensure they know how to adapt their output when the channel switches.
8 . Educate & Share information
Your team can pro-actively educate the customers regarding your policies and the product or service in question so that they can make informed decisions. When there are options, each available alternative should be thoroughly described.
Service agents shouldn’t hesitate to nudge them towards self-service, either. If your service chatbot could have solved the problem in a few seconds, or if there is a thorough tutorial in your Help Center on the topic, your team should tell the customer! Your customers will be happy to know that there are other ways to get help, f.ex. outside business hours. However, they shouldn’t forget to tell the customer that you’re always there for them if the self-service channels don’t pan out.
9. Use plain language
Train your team to avoid technical terms, jargon, and acronyms. You can even have a list of “forbidden words”, if needed. Especially if working in a company for a longer period of time, jargon has a tendency to seep into your vocabulary. Using company-specific jargon with your customers can be unhelpful and confusing at best, arrogant at worst.
SPECIAL HOT TIP: When onboarding and training new service employees, ask them to write down which topics, policies, terms, or product components were most confusing to them during their training. Those tend to be exactly the same as the words that confuse your customers. So, you can use this list to give you an idea of which words you should be explaining more clearly. As we stay longer in companies and gain more tacit knowledge, we tend to forget how things look like “from the outside”.
10. Control the event throughout
Encourage your service team to be confident and in-control. It’s okay not to know everything, but your service reps are the experts on the product and service that you’re offering. The customer should always feel that they are in helpful, capable hands, and that you have things under control.
Applying these customer service techniques will make your customer service department more professional and increase the effectiveness of your customer interactions. It comes down to fostering empathetic and empowering techniques that make every single one of your customers feel cared for. If due training and guidance is given to all service employees, these tips and techniques will significantly improve the overall customer service experience.
Sara is a brand & content strategist at Solvemate. She’s really into chatbots, and improving customer experience. When she’s not writing about customer service automation, she’s an Italo-disco singer and a devoted housekeeping nerd. Hailing originally from snowy Finland, the Berlin winters leave her cold (pardon the pun).