Providing exceptional customer service is vital toward
building customer loyalty.
More significantly, developing positive presentation
skills are essential to ensuring good communication and
rapport during each customer interaction, especially over
Customer service training for call center environments
must take a varied approach in teaching such skill sets.
Clear communication over the phone does not compare to a
face to face interaction.
The first thing to keep in mind when learning to speak
with customers over the phone is that they cannot see you.
Customers are not able to observe your eyes, facial
expressions, hand gestures or body language, all of which
are considered important to interpersonal communication.
With that in mind, how do customers respond to customer
service representatives over the phone? The answer depends
on the following variables.
1. Verbal presentation
This includes pitch, tone and vocal inflection. Customers
either respond in kind or react in accordance with the
quality or style of the presentation. Any voice sounding
monotone or robotic, uncaring, sarcastic, put off or rushed
will send a message to the customer about the quality of
service they are about to receive.
Customers appreciate being acknowledged from the
beginning of the call. This includes answering the phone
right away with an opening statement, identifying the
company, providing our name and offering to help.
3. Actively Listening
Listening is a skill which needs constant attention. I
always advise my staff that you listen to hear what the
customer is saying, and for any contextual cues on what is
not being said. You listen to hear and understand the nature
of the call. Listening is not allowing the conversation to
go in one ear and out the other. The customer will quickly
catch on that you did not hear them, especially when you
keep asking the same question repeatedly or ask them to
explain again. Look for the meaning in what they are saying
by paying attention.
4. Taking Interest
Paying attention to each customer and participating in
the conversation is one way to gain customer confidence.
Demonstrate a sense of care and get involved with their
situation. Simply letting the customer know that there is
interest in helping resolve their concern(s) leads to better
understanding of the situation and paves the way for a
satisfactory resolution. I like to think of this as a team
effort. You and the customer are working together toward a
5. Limit Dead Air and Hold time
Presentation includes not remaining silent on the line
while looking up information, inputting data or placing the
customer on hold. Representatives should limit silences and
hold times to a minimum. Always explain what you are doing
prior to a silence and/or placing them on hold. Otherwise,
customers may think you do not care, are not listening or
that you hung up on them. Apologize for their inconvenience
and thank them for waiting when you come back into the
6. Avoid negativity
Many times a customer will call in over a negative
experience. Therefore, it is wise not to return a negative
for a negative. Avoid profanity, raising your voice,
sarcasm, indifference, rudely interrupting the customer or
making any statement indicating that you cannot or will not
help the customer. More importantly, never create a
confrontational situation by blaming the customer and making
comments that lead to verbal
finger pointing. Take a deep breath when necessary and think
about what to say before you say it. Work diligently to
diffuse and reduce
Using positive word tracts will almost always generate
good customer relations. Turn the situation around and
create a successful outcome. Let the customer know that you
understand and are happy to help. Apologize for their
inconvenience and demonstrate initiative in finding a
resolution. Remember to take interest and acknowledge the
situation. Smiling helps convey a positive tone even while
speaking on the phone.
Customer service representatives need to remain calm,
cool and collected at all times. Be reminded that the
customer’s situation is not about you. Gain control by
asking questions, clarifying and verifying the nature of the
call. Provide audible cues that you are actively listening
and understand what the customer is saying. Another
important element of controlling the call is to never assume
that what the customer is saying is complete or accurate. In
other words, try not to accept what they say at face value
without getting more descriptive information. This will help
reduce any misunderstandings about what the customer’s needs
9. Sense of Urgency
Work quickly and efficiently. Being urgent does not mean
rushing through the call or taking short cuts, but it does
mean not wasting the customer’s time. Learn how to
multitask. Talk and type at the same time, conduct research
and ask questions as you go along. Avoid writing information
down and then going back later to input it into your
database. This will only cause further delays in resolving
10. Customer Appreciation
Keep in mind that the customer comes first. They are the
reason we are here. Demonstrate appreciation by thanking
them for their time and business. Exceed their expectations,
give them service they did not expect and do not forget to
always follow up and follow hrough. Customers expect that we
will do exactly what we say we are going to do.
Customers call in for a reason. Think of each call as on
opportunity to improve the process, satisfy the customer and
provide end-of-line resolution. The aforementioned
guidelines go hand in hand and will help customer service
representatives facilitate and handle customer concerns over
Generating successful outcomes with customers over the
phone does not have to be difficult, but it does take effort
and awareness on how to operate with a sense of care. Be
prepared to have general one line phrases that help you
communicate well with the customers. Practice keeping
conversation on the positive upswing. You can get the
customer on your side by letting them know you are on their
Remember, it is not practice that makes perfect, but
perfect practice that makes perfect.
About the Author
Allen Merritt is a member of the American Society for
Training and Development (ASTD) and has 12+ years experience in
working with customer service and the call center environment.
He develops tools, resources and e-curriculum for virtual
training programs which aide Customer Service team members in
better job performance. For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org.