Customer service is the backbone of any business. As the front line of contact with your audience, it is paramount in representing your company’s image and brand.
At my company, we cater to service providers in various industries who use our tools to provide a premium client experience to their clientele. Moreover, we communicate with our customers through a multitude of channels, including online chat, email, phone and in person.
With so many customer touch points daily, getting the most out of every conversation is imperative, and no matter how we communicate, we follow a strict set of rules that ensures each customer conversation is consistent, professional and smooth.
Here are 10 proven methods we use in our business that can swiftly improve your conversations with customers.
1. Stay positive. Even when a customer conversation seems to be turning negative (or maybe it started that way), remember: You are there to help, and there is a solution. The conversation is taking place to get both parties on the same page, which means at least one of you should remain positive and be willing to advance the agenda. Make sure that is you.
2. Avoid profanity and slang. Being socially aware of your customer’s diction and use of slang can give you latitude here, but in general, you are better off avoiding profanity, slang and euphemisms. Be courteous and personable, but in your customer conversations, use a more reserved lexicon. This is not to say you should only use officious or sterile language. Just put your best language forward, as if you were writing something down and wanted to use your best penmanship.
3. Say please and thank you. It might seem trite to say or write, but “please” and “thank you” are pound-for-pound the most powerful expressions in any language. Showing gratitude has been proven to garner better results. So say “please” and “thank you” whenever appropriate, and even say it when it’s not. It’ll never hurt!
4. Remember the customer’s name and use it. People are used to hearing their name. No sound is more ingratiating to us. As soon as you learn someone’s name, repeat it back to him or her. Picture it spelled out in your mind and use it throughout the conversation. It is the one word you know will get their attention every time.
5. Actively listen. No matter how trivial something might seem, do not let the customer think you are just waiting for them to finish before you return to some script. 99 percent of customer conversations are allowing them to be heard. When people feel that their message has been received, they almost always leave satisfied. Breakdown happens when customers feel as if they were not heard, or even ignored.
6. Bring the conversation to an action point. Sometimes conversations can have a life of their own; they can jump from topic to topic or start circling. It is important to bring conversations to action points, whereby an instruction is given or a decision taken. Provide the customer with an option that leads to a positive action. For example, “OK, let us look at the order form and see what information we can get filled out right away.” Then bridge the customer’s comment back to an action.
7. Summarize information to ensure it is correct. We write numbers and letters down quickly and with confidence, but all too often, we have recorded them reversed. It was not 1,560, it was 1,650! After taking down information, like proper spelling, addresses, telephone numbers or orders, read all of the information back to the customer. It takes just a brief moment and reduces those pesky transposition errors to a virtual nullity.
8. Respect the customer’s time. Be quick and succinct when the desire to do so is demonstrated by the customer; be socially aware of the customer’s mood and needs. If a customer speaks slowly, languidly and like they are on vacation, then it makes sense to use a reduced pace in conversation. However, if the customer is speaking in a clipped and/or hurried way, then respect that and be quick in reply.
9. Never respond to questions with questions. There will be opportunities for humor and repartee outside of answering questions. If a customer has asked you a question, get him/her the answer they are seeking as fast as possible. The decision to transact can be a split-second one, and if a lack of information is preventing the transaction, then bridge that gap as quickly as possible.
10. Smile. It might not sound like a piece of advice for non-face-to-face conversation, but even over the phone, smiles are loud and clear and can be felt if not seen.
Nothing is more important than making sure your customers are satisfied. Your customer conversations are key to your business’ success. So start having better conversations with your customers today!
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Image credit: CC by Didriks