Without a doubt one of the most important skills in business is the ability to communicate with customers by telephone.
Part of the reason the telephone continues to be a preferred communication channel is that it gives customers a quick way to make contact. For companies, it is an opportunity to express empathy and strengthen customer relationships.
According to Harvard Business Review it can cost anywhere from 5 to 25 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. This means it pays to invest in training your customer service employees or outsourcing to a professional call answering service.
Here are 12 ways to provide better telephone customer service.
Answer Calls Promptly
Make it a rule in your organization that all phone calls should be answered by the third ring whenever possible, and no customer should be asked to sit on hold indefinitely until someone is available to take the call. The longer a customer has to wait to talk to a person, the harder it will be to satisfy them once their request is finally made.
Create a Good First Impression
It’s important to get off to a positive start and you can do this by adopting an attentive tone. This will set the direction of the call and help achieve an agreeable outcome for both you and your client. Your manner should be professional but at the same time friendly. Start by greeting the customer according to the time of the day. For example, “Good afternoon, this is John from United Widgets, how may I help you?”
Acknowledge Your Customer
After introducing yourself and your company you can ask the customer for their details. Acknowledge the customer throughout the call by addressing them by name as well as repeating back any important points or comments for clarification. Express your gratitude that they took the time to contact you and assure them their issue is being taken seriously.
Always Be Polite
In today’s high-tech world of automation, chatbots and AI, contact with a live person is more important than ever. Be sure to represent your organization to the highest standard by being polite always. Speak clearly and at a pace that the customer can follow. Be careful with the words you use in case they convey unintended meanings. If you need to transfer your client to another department, always ask permission first. The same applies if you need to put the customer on hold.
Make Yourself Clear
As mentioned previously, to ensure the call goes smoothly always speak clearly. Take the time to pronounce your words correctly and avoid using jargon that only you and your colleagues understand. And It goes without saying that you should never, ever chew gum or eat lunch while on a call!
Monitor Phone Calls
You’ve probably heard the phrase “Your call may be recorded for quality purposes”. This method of monitoring customer service is widely used and can be extremely effective in helping employees develop better customer service techniques. When agents hear how they sound on a call, they can use that knowledge to make corrections to their calls in the future.
One thing you might like to try from time to time is standing up when you are on the phone. By taking to your feet and walking around you’ll get your blood flowing and increase oxygen to your brain. This physical act alone can have a positive effect on your mood, your ability to concentrate and ultimately the quality of the call.
By being sincere and showing empathy you will develop the trust of your client. The best customer service agents are compassionate and caring and, above all, genuine. You never know what problems the caller may be facing when they pick up the phone to speak with you. You have a unique opportunity to not only help solve the customer’s problem, but to make their day a better one. Emotional intelligence is a skill, and like any other it needs to be worked on.
Take the Blame
Part of being empathetic is taking responsibility when things go wrong. Don’t be afraid to say, “It’s our fault,” or “I’m sorry for the mistake,” to customers when the situation warrants. Sometimes these simple phrases are enough to completely take the anger out of a frustrated customer.
“I don’t know” should be three words never heard on a call unless they are quickly followed by, “But I’ll find out for you” Your telephone answering team may not have all the answers but they should know where to get them. If you need to take time to investigate further, give your customer a time frame for the call-back, and keep your word at all costs.
End on a Positive Note
Regardless of how the call goes, endeavour to end it in a positive way. Reconfirm your plan of action and what you will do for the customer in terms of resolution. The final words of your conversation are what will be remembered most, so keep it friendly and proactive at the end.
Close the Loop
Your relationship with the customer does not end the moment you hang up the call. Always follow up with them to make sure their questions have been answered fully and all issues have been resolved. This can of course be done by email, but a personal call is a powerful thing. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to gain feedback and offer new products and services they might be interested in.
Technology is an important element in today’s increasingly digital world but by maintaining the human touch on the telephone, companies will feel the effect of better customer service on their bottom line.