The PhaseWare Files; Customer Support Blog

Articles, Observations, and Ideas about Customer Support

The PhaseWare Files blog
Your email:

Enter your email address below to subscribe to The PhaseWare Files

Your email:

Links and Websites

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

Halloween Special: A Customer Support Horror Story!

  
  
  
  
  

What could be more frightening than zombies, witches, and serial killers? For those who work in customer support, a single tricky caller can create a bone-chilling horror story to rival even the biggest Halloween blockbusters. Although it is true that you can't please everyone all the time, and there may always be that one customer who will just never be happy, there are some customer support problems that seem to repeat themselves. By learning to anticipate certain scenarios, you can help your team to head these issues off and avoid yet another customer support horror story.

To get you in the spirit of warding off the evils of common customer service mistakes, here's a look at two horror stories, and how to avoid allowing them to happen to you and your team:

Horror Story #1 - Night of the Livid Caller

The story: It was a dark, dark night when Jane Doe made the call to your customer support department. Upon being connected with a customer service representative, Jane provided all of her information, and explained (in detail), why it was that she was calling, and what type of help she needed. After a five minute schpeel, the customer service agent apologized for Jane's problem, but stated that he or she was unable to help her to find a resolution; instead, Jane would need to be transferred to someone else. After being put on hold and re-directed to another representative, Jane was forced to, once again, repeat the entire story. After attempting to assist Jane, the customer support agent was unable to find a suitable solution for the problem, and Jane asked to speak to a manager. By that point, Jane was extremely agitated, and upon being asked to repeat her story for the third time, she lost it.

The solution: Anyone would be livid after being required to repeat their information multiple times to different agents. In order to eliminate this issue, it's smart to invest in a reliable customer support software that can capture a caller's information, and track the details of the call. This helps to save time, and makes the customer feel more valued.

Horror Story #2 - Friday with the 13th Call About the Same Unresolved Problem
 

The story: Everything was going fine in the customer service center, but the day soon morphed into a real-life horror story, as the phones began to ring off their hooks with unhappy customers. At first, the problem seemed to be an isolated case. When a second and third customer called in with the same complaint, it still could have been a coincidence. But when more and more callers began phoning in with the exact same issue, it could no longer be ignored. Unfortunately, the calls weren't all directed to the same agents, and the problems weren't addressed consistently. This meant that the issue was more likely to haunt the call center into the future.

The solution: Once again, it's good customer service software to the rescue. The best programs not only have the ability to help you track calls and problems, but enable you to configure workflows, and customizable business rules to ensure that your customer support agents operate consistently, and regularly direct complaints to the right department. This ensures timely resolution, and a reduction of repeat calls. Finally, data and analytics reporting tools make it easy to spot trends or to identify potential areas where a product or service could be improved.


What is your worst customer service horror story, and how did you resolve it? How could a customer support software help you in the future?














The Overly Helpful Customer Service Rep

  
  
  
  
  
Have you ever been to a store or on the phone with a customer service line and had to deal with the one customer service rep that cares a bit too much? It happens, they do exist. While they are incredibly helpful, and the questions you have get answered, they can also be quite annoying and will not leave you alone. Keeping a customer happy through good service is a very important thing, but while terrible customer service can deter customers, too much customer service can also scare customers away. Neither is something a business wants to see. 

How should you deal with the overly assertive customer service rep? If you don't want to succumb to the pressure of this kind of rep, there are ways to be quick and not fall into their traps. You need to go into the store or call knowing exactly what you want, what your questions are, and that you need to be quick. If you use these three key suggestions you are golden, and will not fall into the "friendly trap". While customer service is their job, they are also supposed to keep you happy. Don't let them get too suggestive with their other products and services, but at the same time you don't want to be rude, because you have to remember that it is their job. In many businesses these representatives are supposed to suggest other products and services to you. If you know beforehand that you are not interested in these products or services simply say no thank you and move on, do not let yourself be drawn into their sales pitch, but be polite. If they ignore your disinterest mention that you are in sort of a rush or you need to get moving. The representatives do not want to make you late for anything, they want to keep you happy. Express your disinterest, and try your best to move to the end. While they may be overly assertive in their approaches, they will eventually have to give up, and you are free to go. You just have to know how to handle them, and not be drawn into their pitches and stories.

We have all had to deal with these types of reps, and surely we have not dealt with them for the last time. They are out there waiting to help us, and we cannot help that fact. We just have to make sure we are ready when we get to be the customer that they are helping. 



Why Automated Answering Service is Not Cool

  
  
  
  
  
Automated answering may just be considered the devil of the customer service industry. We have all called into a company's customer support line to receive help with a problem, sometimes something so small, and had to deal with the never ending loop of the automated answering system. Why do we have to deal with this terrible service?

Automated answering is a fine example of corporations not knowing how much of a difference there is between having quality customer service and having mechanical, impersonal, dissatisfying service. Automated systems can be helpful, but only up to a certain point. They are programmed to answer certain questions, but chances are a question will be asked that can only be answered by a human being. This is a major reason why customer service reps may be the better choice over automated systems. Surveys show that customer satisfaction with the customer support and service of companies that use automated answering systems are far lower than those who have actual customer service reps. It has even become noticeable in advertising. Companies that still use actual customer service reps make sure that their commercials tell you that, and this has definitely become a draw for those companies. No one wants to sit on the phone for an hour going through the various levels of recordings, or having to repeat themselves numerous times because the recording services doesn't understand them for reasons including: accent, volume, and more. It is nerve racking, and no one wants to deal with it. With these facts displayed, who can blame those other companies from throwing the fact that they use actual people in their customer service and support branches into their ads. I would if I was a decision maker in those companies. As a consumer, if I was trying to figure out what service or product to buy into, this is definitely something that would cross my mind. If reviews show that both products or services work about the same, but one of the companies uses an automated answering system, and the other uses actual customer service representatives, which would you choose? I know I would rather be able to speak to someone if my product or service decided to break or cause me problems. Chances are they can either help me resolve it or transfer me to someone who can, or even help me schedule a technician visit in the time it would take to get my account open with an automated system. 

Why must these companies make us sit through the pains of having to deal with their cheaper way of doing things? Again, they may not know how much of a difference there is, as they are not the ones calling into the lines for assistance. How can we get companies to stop using these systems, and hire actual representatives to help with consumer problems, thus providing better customer satisfaction, and more jobs. Switch to companies that use these representatives, or make complaints known. Maybe they will get the point, and stop using the automated services. I am sure we can all agree, automated answering services are not cool.



Quality Customer Service is the Key to Business Success

  
  
  
  
  

Today the wealthiest consumers and the largest marketing demographic are baby boomers. This portion of society remembers the good old days of personalized sales experiences and they demand quality customer service or they will take their money elsewhere.

What is Exceptional Customer Support?

  
  
  
  
  
Despite a wealth of books and courses on the subject available it continually amazes me how the advantages of exceptional customer support have passed many businesses by, and yet this is so often the case: online, on our high-street and even within our own businesses.

Last week I had to return a kettle I had bought a few days before; it didn't work. When I tried to return it I was unfortunately met with some less than satisfying customer support. The sales assistant initially tried to persuade me not to return it before admitting he didn't have the authority to authorize the return, he had to go fetch the assistant shop manager. Predictably the assistant shop manager was already dealing with another irate customer, probably another victim of their poor customer service, and I had to wait a further ten minutes. After testing the kettle multiple times it was decided I was being honest and I left with my refund, never to return to the shop in question again.

Clearly this was not exceptional customer support, so what is? How can we make sure each and every one of our employees maintains high standards of customer service and support? The following points are just a few ways you can increase the standard of your customer support which will lead to an increase in customer retention and customer satisfaction.

Exceptional training leads to exceptional customer support

The training processes that you put into place for your organization will dictate how good your customer support is. By training all your staff well you set the tone for the company culture. Most people in the world today (estimated 90%) do not have a 'learning mindset', they do not actively seek out ways to improve themselves and their abilities. These people will not improve what they know unless forced to do so as part of their job, and unless you have a very stringent hiring process designed only to take learners you will have a lot of these people on your staff. To instill good customer support in your whole staff you will need to put excellent training processes into place to make it part of your company culture.

Anticipating needs, improving experiences


Great customer support involves not just reacting to customers, but anticipating their needs in advance and being ready to fulfill them. Whatever you sell you are likely to get some returns, so put a process into place to deal with returns quickly and easily. Are you dealing with some more complicated items that a customer may need help installing or setting up? Train your staff to know how to do this, or if this is impossible (too many products) create a knowledgebase that staff and customers can refer to, invest in technical support where necessary. All of these problems can be anticipated and dealt with before they ever appear which will lead to a great experience for your customer when they do need support.

One step further

For truly great customer service you should always go one step further than the customer expects, exceeding their expectations. For example a customer rings up with a problem with a good they have purchased from you. The action they actually need to take is to speak to the manufacturer for help, however rather than just telling them this you can explain the situation to them, put them on hold while you call the manufacturer and lay out the problem and then pass them over to the correct person to speak to at the manufacturers company. Just taking the time to go that little bit further can make a world of difference.















Happy Employees = Happy Customers

  
  
  
  
  
What could be considered the number one reason for a business' customer loss? The answer is unhappy employees. Think about it. If the employee is not happy with his employer chances are he will not perform as he should be performing which may have direct effect on customer satisfaction. If the employee is unhappy, he may act rude, sarcastic, or in some other negative manner towards the customer. I don't know about you, but if I experience these types of employees on a regular basis at any business that I go to as a customer, I may just find somewhere else to spend my money. Sure there are bad days with some employees, everyone has bad days, but if it becomes a regular thing it will surely act as a deterrent to your customers. Regular customers will know the difference. If a customer frequently visits a business they get to know the employees, and how they act. These are the customers that any business does not want to lose. These are also the customers who will be able to tell the difference between an employee having a bad day, and an employee who is just unhappy with his job or employer. If the unhappiness becomes a habit, the regular customer might just find somewhere else to be a regular customer, thus taking their frequent spending elsewhere. This is not something your business can afford. How does the business prevent this? High employee morale

Business owners and managers do not often consider their employees and their need, which can ultimately be the end of their business if they are not careful. Customers like to spend their money in a positive environment. They like to be treated kindly when they are spending money. The key to this is happy employees. Happy employees lead to higher customer satisfaction. Customers are much more likely to keep coming back to a business where they feel they are given VIP treatment by friendly, happy, positive workers. This is the key factor to any business that wants to thrive. 

How does a business keep employee morale high? With a positive, motivating, family-style work environment. Employees need to feel happy and content in their workplace. Employees that dread coming to work are not what any manager or business wants. Employee happiness is very dependent on their work environment. Employees do not want to work for managers that condescend them, micromanage, or yell at them at every opportunity. Studies show that just talking to someone proves to be much more productive in the end than yelling at them. Another thing that can make employees enjoy their time at work is incentives. Competition is something that naturally drives human beings, so why not incorporate it into the workplace? Set prizes of some sort... the employees will be more driven to work happily and productively with competition, and it may even make them look more forward to work. Incorporating incentives in the workplace is but one of many ways to keep a high customer morale. Happy employees are a necessity to any successful business.



5 Customer Service Essentials

  
  
  
  
  
Customer service is one of, if not the most important aspect of keeping customers happy and loyal. While a great product is an essential part of a business, in the eyes of the customer, customer service agents represent the company. If customer service is poorly handled, and friendly resolve is not provided, customers will be left unsatisfied and seeking out a competitor. High quality interpersonal two-way customer service will set a company above competition and create long-lasting customer loyalty. The following are five essential customer service skills to be mindful of:

1) Listen and Relate

When a customer voices what they want, or their concerns over a product, service, or experience, they expect to be accurately heard without having to endlessly repeat themselves. A non-attentive employee who lacks listening skills will frustrate a customer and leave them thinking that the company hires incompetent employees who can't understand their concerns. Most of all, don't assume to already know what the customer wants. Even if it's obvious, allow the customer to finish speaking before interrupting. Also be sure to gather all necessary information and research data before completing the interaction.

Listen and try to relate to an angry customer's frustration. Offering excuses or belittling their concerns does little to resolve the situation. Customers expect real solutions and real empathy. While issue resolution should be a top priority, building a rapport with the customer comes in at a close second.

2) Don't Argue and Don't Take it Personally

If the customer is screaming at the top of their lungs, respond politely and with patience. Reject the temptation to go on the argumentative defense, and offer a sincere apology and desire to help fix the situation. Arguing with a customer does absolutely nothing to repair the problem. Remember that nine times out of ten, the customer isn't actually mad at the employee personally, but mad at the situation or experience. If the customer is too out of control, politely ask if they would like to speak with a supervisor or inform them that the call will be terminated if the behavior continues.
 
3) Smile

Interacting with a smiling employee completely alters the customer's perception of the business and overall situation. A smile is one of the first interactions with a customer, as well as the first step in establishing positive communication. Because an employee's tone of voice is an indicator of their mood, when smiling (even on the phone), an employee's tone of voice changes to a more uplifting and warm tone, which will impact the customers mood and view of the business. It's been scientifically shown that smiling improves the mood, and it's also known that moods are contagious. When in a positive mood, both the customer and employee are more likely to resolve issues.

4) Interact on Social Media

When a customer initiates contact on a social media platform, be sure to respond, making them aware that their contact was received an appreciated, and do so in a timely fashion. Publicly state a followup to their question and be sure to thank them once it's resolved. If a customer simply voices their love for a product, forward them to marketing for customer out reach.

5) Ensure the Customer is Satisfied and Happy

Nearing the close of the customer interaction, it's vital to ensure that the customer's problems have been fully resolved. Before closing the interaction, ask if there are any other lingering concerns. If the customer is still unhappy, inquire as to what can be done to fix their unhappiness. Double checking with the customer guarantees their complete satisfaction and improves company reputations with these customers.

























Why Customers Get Angry

  
  
  
  
  

There are various reasons why customers become angry. Your product or service isn't always what is specifically upsetting to them. Angry customers could be under great stress, having trouble at work, experiencing family issues or be facing some other life challenge. Perhaps your product or service failed them at the wrong time when they were already having other problems. Unfortunately, that sometimes means that your company has become an easy target and outlet for their anger.

The key to dealing with angry customers is to remember that they're not mad at you directly. You can't take it personally. They don't know anything about you and you don't understand their entire situation. Patience is vital when dealing with irate customers. The customer service field is a challenging one and often misunderstood by those who have never worked in it. Angry customers can often believe that they're the only person who has ever experienced the issue they're having. They feel that it's somehow a personal attack on them. Great customer support leads to customer retention and taking a deep breath before tackling the customer's problem goes a long way toward diffusing the situation.

If this is the first time the upset customer has reported the problem to your company, utilize your customer support software from PhaseWare fully by taking as many notes as possible. It doesn't hurt to mention in your report that the customer was angry at the time of the call. This insures that future customer service representatives have a full understanding of the mood of the call. Empathize with the customer and express that you understand how frustrated they are. Everyone has had to deal with problems of some kind and drawing on your ability to put yourself in the customer's shoes is a great help here. What would you want the company to do to resolve the issue? What would you want customer support to tell you? Think about these things as you find a solution for the issues angry customers have.

For a customer who has reported the problem in the past and it still isn't resolved, access the full knowledgebase of your customer support software and read into the details as the angry customers are on the phone. See what step customer service representatives already took with issue tracking and trouble tickets. This requires some multi-tasking as you continue to communicate with the customer so they know you're not ignoring them. 

Working quickly under these circumstances shows any angry customers that you care about their satisfaction and with quality comprehensive customer support software from Phaseware, that's an easy task to do. Convenient menus in the software set everything out in a logical manner and you can quickly see the steps followed in the process so far. Sharing what you find about the issue with the customer tells them that your company is serious about customer satisfaction and issue resolution.

Be kind with angry customers, even if they're not using their best manners with you. Exuding calm and courtesy during all your customer support communications gives you the peace of mind that you've done the best you can. Hopefully the customers will appreciate your kindness by relaxing and diffusing their own anger. Quite often, a call that started out with angry words can end with laughter and an easy back and forth. Remember that each customer deserves your individual attention and that you're in the business of making sure people continue to be pleased with your products and services. With customer support software from Phaseware, you're never alone and you always have reinforcements if you need them.











Customer Service With a Smile

  
  
  
  
  
Customer Service, an industry, a mentality, and a necessity. Customer service is a very important part of many industries. Have you ever heard the phrase, 'The Customer is always right'? This phrase is something that is untrue while being true. The customer could have a story full of holes, or a complaint that makes you wonder how they even manage to get out of bed in the morning, but they are right, and they will get their way. Why is this? The customer is the reason the business is functioning. Without the customer, there is no income, with no income the business dies. The goal of the business owner is to keep that customer coming back to their business, no matter how troublesome they are. In the world of business money speaks louder than anything else. That is where customer service comes in. The role of a customer service representative or professional is to cater to the customer, and keep them happy, thus keeping them coming back to spend more money. Making sure the customer leaves with the intention of returning or even just the thought of returning at another time is the goal of anyone in the industry.

Working in the field of customer service may not be quite as happy and full of smiles as you see it from the customer perspective. While you may be a nice and easy to deal with customer, there are those who think that the world is theirs to rule, and everyone should do everything they demand. As you can imagine this can add to the stress of the employee who is also very likely highly underpaid and overworked. Working in this field is no easy task, and takes a tremendous acting and performance ability, because no matter what is going on in the employee's life, whether they are having a good day or a trying one. They could be exhausted, or even ill, but they must put on a smile to assist even the worst type of person because they are the customer. There are things to keep in mind when you are a customer dealing with such employees. The employee likely is not responsible for anything that goes wrong at the time of your visit, nor are they responsible for potentially overpriced items that they are in charge of selling. With these things being the case, you should remember that when you become upset by something that yelling at the employee will not do anything except maybe ruin their day. While nobody wants to have a bad experience anywhere, keeping your cool will make your future experiences in that location even better because while you may not think of it, the employees are more likely to remember you as a good customer, and will be glad to help you next time you visit.

Customer service is a very important part of any industry. It keeps businesses running, and it keeps people employed. While again 'The Customer is always right', one should remember that while this is the case from the business owner and managements perspective, there is no reason to go out of one's way to test that stance.



Turning Anger into Customer Satisfaction

  
  
  
  
  
 For talented customer service representatives, angry customers truly offer some of the most rewarding professional opportunities to fully utilize their skills in cultivating customer loyalty. Here are some key practices used by highly-skilled customer service professionals in approaching the concerns of angry customers.

Assume that the angry customer has a reasonable complaint. Most people just want to be treated fairly. Most issues can be resolved by earnest efforts to help obtain fair solutions.

Express empathy. The customer support representative (CSR) should ask herself how it probably feels to be in her customer's position, and she should convey to him that she relates to the way he's feeling.

Listen very carefully. The CSR should not interrupt the customer as he tells his story. She should make notes as he explains his concern, go over the points of his complaint with him afterward, and ensure that he is comfortable with her interpretation of his issue. Feeling that he is being fully heard and understood reassures the customer that his complaint is being met in good faith.

Express agreement. The CSR should partner with the customer to manage the process of clarifying the issue, determining an acceptable solution, and communicating about the steps that the CSR will undertake to implement the solution and to follow up on it.

Remember that it's about the customer. Customer support employees who use a robotic persona or excessively acquiescent treatment do not inspire trust. These are disingenuous personas that project disrespectful attitudes. The CSR must not decide at any point that the customer is being too unfair to her and act defensively in attempt to persuade the customer to modify his attitude. The CSR's challenge is to concentrate all of her resourcefulness on helping the upset customer get through the difficulty to a satisfying solution.

Focus on solutions. Through the customer's expression of emotions, the CSR should be working to process the facts of the problem and determine what business actions should be taken to rectify the specific issues that have made the customer angry. She should communicate resolutely to the customer exactly what steps she is initiating to resolve the problem for him. She may also explain relevant steps of the company's customer service workflow management and issue tracking processes if this information can be helpful to assure him of the professionalism with which his issue will be addressed. The CSR should ask the customer if the resolution makes sense to him and if he believes that the proposed solution will resolve the problem appropriately for him.

Express appreciation. The CSR should sincerely thank the customer for his willingness to allow the company to resolve the problem and emphasize to him how much he is valued as a customer.

Offer another contact. In some cases, the CSR may do everything right and yet be unable to alleviate the angry emotions that the customer is experiencing. Hearing similar information from a new person can offer relief for the customer by knowing that by obtaining input from a second representative he has done everything that he can reasonably do to ensure that he's receiving the best available solution.

A bad customer is the one who just goes away unhappy without ever giving the company a chance to resolve his concern, taking his business elsewhere and telling other people about his negative experience. Angry or not, an unhappy customer who contacts customer service is a great customer. Achieving customer satisfaction in interactions these valuable angry customers is a critical business mission to be undertaken only by those representatives with the professional maturity to be effective with it.



















All Posts