Customer service is a challenging field to work in. It takes the right balance of communication skills and technical product knowledge to deliver a delightful customer experience. And, if I’ve learned anything during my time in HubSpot Support, it’s that there’s no such thing as perfect customer service.
There’s always something your support team can be doing to improve your customers’ experience. Just like professional athletes practice every day, support reps should work with the company’s products every day and learn everything they can about your business and its customers. Even the most seasoned reps must routinely practice their skills to keep them sharp and prepared to handle any type of interaction.
Admittedly, “practicing customer service” does seem a bit far-fetched. It’s hard to imagine your customer support team will be excited about attending extra training outside their normal work hours — especially if they’re reps who are experienced in their role. However, you don’t need to create a formal training process to keep your support team on its toes. Instead, engaging your reps with thought-provoking professional tips can be a more effective way of motivating your employees.
If you’re looking for some interesting content to pass along to your customer support team, here are tips they can use to improve customer experience at your business.
- Solve for the customer.
- Leverage emotional intelligence.
- Avoid apologies and excuses.
- Use positive language.
- Adopt the right customer service tools.
- Open and close the conversation.
- Provide a clear and concise response.
- Master your daily workflow.
1. Solve for the customer.
At HubSpot Support, we have the saying, “solve for the customer’s needs, not your own.” This mantra leads our support team and reminds our reps how to approach each interaction with our customers. Rather than looking for shortcuts or handing the case off to another rep, our team is expected to be as invested in the situation as the customer. This means looking for long-term solutions that foster customer success, not quick fixes that will require more attention later.
2. Leverage emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is an important skill that customer support reps must develop in their careers. It refers to one’s ability to interpret and decipher other people’s emotions and respond to them in a constructive manner. Perfecting this skill will help your customer support reps quell frustrated or impatient customers and prevent escalations to your customer success team.
For example, as you’ve probably experienced, some customers are less patient than others. These customers can sometimes seem pushy or over-demanding, but someone with strong emotional intelligence would recognize that these customers have immediate needs. Customers don’t want to off-put your support team, but they will prioritize time-sensitive needs over being patient with an indifferent support rep. Leveraging emotional intelligence in these cases will help your team focus on fulfilling the customer’s goals rather than on the customer’s behavior.
3. Avoid making apologies.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but some of the best advice I ever received in support was to stop apologizing for roadblocks I had no control over. No matter how sincere I tried to be, customers didn’t really care about my apology, they just wanted their problem fixed. So, rather than apathetically apologizing time and time again, I began thanking customers for their patience instead.
It was during this experiment I learned how powerful avoiding apologies can be in a customer service setting. I realized that every time I apologized I was openly admitting to the customer that there was a problem. Even if it was a minor mistake, I was giving the customer permission to be upset with me because I was acknowledging the flaw in my customer service.
By thanking customers, I was still taking responsibility for the mistake but I was flattering the customer rather than instigating them. If the customer was still frustrated with the issue, my response appeared more confident which made it easier for me to de-escalate the interaction. It’s much easier to convince customers that you’re in control of the situation when you’re not apologizing every few moments.
4. Use positive language.
The vocabulary and tone your team uses can steer the course of the conversation with a customer. So, it’s important to focus on using positive language because it encourages a better customer experience. By using positive language, your team can prevent escalations by demonstrating their confidence in resolving the customer’s issue.
For example, let’s say your rep is working with a customer on the phone and they just can’t seem to figure out the problem they’re facing. After 10 minutes of back-and-forth questions, the customer tells them they’re getting “a little annoyed” with how long the call is taking. If your rep responds with, “I understand this is very frustrating,” they’re escalating the issue in the eyes of the customer. They were just “a little annoyed,” to start but now they know that they can be “very frustrated” if the call continues this way.
Instead, have your rep use the customer’s own language in their response. Try saying, “I understand this can be a little tricky,” as that uses the same positive language the customer did. The word “little” in this instance minimizes the complexity of the issue and reminds the customer they’re still the best option for help. If your reps see the problem as small or easy to overcome, customers will rally behind that confidence and be more willing to collaborate.
5. Adopt the right customer service tools.
As your support team grows and develops, you’ll need to adopt customer service tools that can handle the increase in customer demand. These tools include help desks, automation, and ticketing systems that help manage incoming service requests and distribute them to your support reps. That way reps spend more time working with your customers rather than performing menial tasks that can be automated.
One customer service tool that you should consider adopting is a help desk. Help desks are customer service platforms that organize your team’s open cases with customers. The best help desk software can set up workflows for your reps, provide pre-written email templates, and trigger automated alerts to follow up on open cases.
6. Open and close the conversation.
First impressions are imperative to customer service, and while starting and finishing a conversation might seem easy, in practice it can be a lot more awkward than it sounds. After all, it’s not like your reps are getting a call from their best friends. They’re potentially picking up the phone to an angry stranger who’s about to bark commands at them.
It’s important to remind your reps that they’re not getting a call from a customer, they’re getting a call from a person who needs your team’s help. Have your team practice their intro statement every day until it becomes a natural reflex whenever they pick up the phone. Reps should start with a warm greeting, introduce themselves, and ask for the customer’s name. This formally introduces your rep to the customer and makes the experience feel more human.
Additionally, it’s just as important to learn how to close the conversation. You’d be surprised how many spur-of-the-moment thoughts your customers will have, and your reps can lose valuable time answering these aimless questions. While you certainly don’t want to cut your customers off, it’s important to keep in mind that other customers may be waiting for help, too. So, when your reps do solve a problem, ask the customer directly if they need any more assistance and if not, move on to the next case.
7. Provide a clear and concise response.
Customer support reps not only need to possess an expert-level of product knowledge, but they also need to be able to explain it to customers who are beginners. It doesn’t matter how in-depth and accurate your rep’s explanation is, it does no good if the customer can’t make any sense of it.
Your customers may love your products and services but they will never be as technically sound with them as your support reps are. So, it’s important to respond to every service request like you’re talking to someone who’s brand new to your company. Reps should begin with the fundamental explanation of your troubleshooting then elaborate further if the customer wants more details. This will save your reps time from explaining complex information to customers who aren’t really interested.
8. Master your daily workflow.
To be considered as an experienced customer support rep, your reps need to master their daily tasks and functions until they become second nature. This is one of the hardest things for new reps to do because there’s no training you can provide to help them master their workflow. Every rep has their own workflow preferences and they need to discover them on their own by working with customers.
While the type of cases they take may vary, your reps’ daily workflow should remain relatively consistent. Of course there will be some days where abnormal cases will throw them off pace, but overall, having a consistent daily workflow demonstrates they’re capable of meeting your customer’s expectations.
If you’re still looking for more tips to improve your customer service team, read about the most important customer support skills.
Originally published May 30, 2019 9:50:00 AM, updated May 30 2019