Customer Service Lessons for Management to Understand

Operations, Customer Service

Customer Service Lessons for Management to Understand

If an owner or manager of a company were to sit down with an experienced customer service person, what would they want to know? Here are some things management or even new hires can learn as they work with customer service agents. Obviously, there is much to learn, but these are just a few starting point.

Not everyone fits the job
Do not assume anyone can do customer service - at least not in a way you want your company represented. This is especially true in the call center environment. Most new hires who have never done this work are gone within six months. That’s because it can be a thankless job, but it is also considered one of the most stressful jobs out there, frequently it is in the top 10 most stressful jobs.
Remember the people doing this job will be the face and voice of your company, so look for people who have customer service experience, because it takes a special person to handle the job. Call centers usually are set up in a group of cubicles, sometimes 20 or more of them in a large room (think echo chamber above the partition walls) and phones ringing 24/7.

New hires, should spend time with an existing CS employee
The protocol for new employees should allow them to spend at least a few days working with one of the other reps so they can learn the lingo of that company and develop some skills while under closer supervision. This job may not be the highest paying in the company, but again, it’s the first and possibly only actual contact customers will have with your company. The reps need to be good, and they need to know how to handle a variety of situations. Otherwise, someone higher up the food chain is going to have to clean up more problems. It's hard to get the full picture of the job if you don't understand what it involves.

Necessary skills
Major skills that will help any customer service agent include:

  1. The ability to listen, often that means don't just assume you understand what the customer is asking and rush them through to get them off the phone. Let them tell you the problem the repeat back to the customer in words like “what I heard you say this correct?” This tells the customer you are listening and makes them feel like you care about them. Sometimes that can almost solve the problem. Sometimes people just need to be heard.
  2. Patience - can anything be more useful than an agent who does not get upset? Agents who argue with clients do not help your business, they hurt you. Bullying a customer is not a good idea either you back them into a corner. They may back down and hang up, but they will also carry the bad news of how they’ve been wronged to others.
  3. Communications skills are the life's blood of the company in any level. It's important to be concise clear and easily understood keep it simple. If you bring in a call center from another country at lower cost, you may find it ends up costing you more in business. Almost everyone has had the experience of speaking with a rep that is difficult to understand and does not understand what the customer is saying. It just adds to frustration and makes it more likely that the customer walks away dissatisfied.
  4. Knowing your products. Who wants to get the agent who doesn't know your services or product, customers feel like they are getting nowhere fast. If an agent does not know how to resolve the issue, it's important to develop a chain of people they can go to for answers, by phone, email or live chat. And whenever possible for them to handle the problem without transferring - especially if the caller has already been transferred a time or two.

Don’t take it personally
Any long-time agent will tell you the ability to not take comments personally and keep upbeat are necessary job skills to cultivate. No matter how great or experienced the agent you are always going to run across the customer who is just not going to be happy, and that means sometimes the customer feels the need to make it personal. When someone screams abusive comments, it escalates the tension and can be easy to start yelling back. That will not help, nor will simply hanging up on that customer.
But, having just handled one of those calls, the ability to move on to the next customer without it affecting them negatively makes the job easier.

Most call centers have a time limit on calls, it's important to be aware of that time while still helping the customer get to a resolution. If you end up with a customer who just wants to ramble on, that adds to the tension as well.

Work ethic
Work Ethic is often underrated by many in today’s world, but it is important to any business. Being there on time and ready to work adds to an employee’s value to the company, and those who are not, need to change. You can be the greatest customer service agent, but without that work ethic - to focus mostly on doing the job during working hours - as a boss, you’re paying for something you aren’t getting, and as an employee, you are stealing - it’s that simple. Never be afraid to say, “I don't know that answer but let me find out.” Learn your job, it helps in the long run. Don't be afraid to share knowledge it shows others you will help them and you are a resource to them, and the company.

Management Skills
The job is hard. Find ways to reward your agents when they do something right, it doesn't have to be financial, it could be giving them time away from the phones doing a different task like working with a new agent. Balloons with a note complimenting them, everyone needs to feel valued. Rewarding a great employee goes a long way to keeping them and keeping an amazing CS rep is exactly what you want. You don’t want to work with them until they shine and have them leave to work for your competitor. Training is expensive, keeping skilled employees is to the company's benefit. And a happy agent goes a long way to keeping a loyal customer base.

And don’t forget to occasionally spend time training the other employees and leaders in your company on good customer service as well as how to back them up when needed. Though it may not be part of a job title, everyone working in a company provides customer service in some form or another.

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Business & Marketing Tips: Customer Service Lessons for Management to Understand
Customer Service Lessons for Management to Understand
Operations, Customer Service
Business & Marketing Tips
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