Managing customer relations has significantly changed over the years, with the emergence of numerous communication channels and the development of multi-channel retail: SMS, private messages on social media, chatbot, internal messaging systems… That said, when they come across a more delicate issue, customer prefer to seek help over the phone, to be able to talk directly with an advisor. According to the by Zendesk, more than 90% of the organisations surveyed offered phone assistance. So, how can you turn your customer services phone lines into the key to customer satisfaction?
Phone support, the pillar of customer satisfaction
A company's brand image is probably its most precious asset. In order to maintain and develop it, customer relations need to be actively managed, particularly over the phone. Effectively, the phone remains one of the leading vectors for your company's image. It's therefore essential that you give customers an excellent impression when they call. Otherwise, you risk seeing them going elsewhere, as well as the risk of tarnishing your reputation. When you know how much investment and energy is needed to get a new customer, it seems pretty logical to out more effort into keeping current customers in the first place.
According to a study carried out by Ovum, “84% of customers said they'd be ready to stop using a brand after just one negative experience with a call centre”. So, what can you do to make sure you offer a satisfactory customer experience over the phone? Of course, the tools you select and use can make a huge difference, especially when paired with competent agents, well trained and informed of the latest developments from your company.
A certain number of qualitative and quantitative indicators can give you precious insights into how you caller perceives your customer services: The wait time, response quality, request resolution, etc. The call queue is a critical element too, and is particularly important to perfect. Make sure you inform you callers of the estimated wait time and the various options they have (IVR, email, call-back option, etc.).
Lastly, the human factor is key: Share your expectations for customer service over the phone with your agents and train them in the golden rules valued by your company.
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The golden rules for effective & efficient customer service
These golden rules will transform your customer services into an essential factor for the growth of your company:
- Offer a multi-channel customer service, not forgetting the phones, which are still the channel most preferred for customer relations.
- Enhance wait management: Wait and hold music, customised message, call queues sorted by request type, etc.
- Invest in agent training: Make sure that information is communicated well to everyone involved (new products/features, stock shortages, technical issues, etc.) and that everyone is able to respond to requests or at least pass on the case to someone more able to help if needed.
- Offer a free-call number, and display it clearly on your website and on all customer communication elements.
Display these golden rules clearly in your customer services workspace, and consider getting your team's feedback on them, as well as regularly updating them to reflect your (and your customers') expectations accurately.
Tips for improving agent efficiency
We've already covered this a little, but it's so important that we felt we had to develop on it further: The human factor is key for efficient customer services over the phone that have a positive impact for your company. Beyond training and supporting your agents, these tips can make all the difference for your team:
- Stand up - this can help give off a more energetic impression over the phone
If your agents are working in a shared office, you could furnish it with height-adjustable desks, so they can vary their position over the day. Calls which require more energy are more effective when they're taken standing up.
- Close your eyes - This helps you fully focus on what the caller is saying.
Some of the information shared during a discussion is visual. Yet, in the case of a phone call, agents can only get information from the voice of their callers: Phrases, intonation, silences and onomatopoeias. It's really tempting to look at your screen while on the phone, reading an email or a notification, which inevitably means you're probably going to lose track of the conversation at hand, or at least lose out on some of the finer details. To make sure that you're fully paying attention to your caller, closing your eyes to listen exclusively is a good technique whilst they explain their situation to you. There'll always be time to open them afterwards to take notes or look for solutions.
- Smile - Tadd warmth and a welcoming tone to your voice.
As we said earlier, the voice communicates much more than just words. by the University of Portsmouth found that you can hear whether someone's smiling through their voice. Put it to the test: If you smile while on the phone, you're tone will seem much warmer and your caller will feel like they're much more welcome than if you keep a neutral expression.
- Don't go over the top with your enthusiasm
In the opposite sense, being overly enthusiastic can seem off-putting and insincere to your caller, especially if they're calling about an issue or making a claim. It's recommended that you adopt a calm and efficient tone to start the conversation, and to keep your warmth and enthusiasm for when you know the caller a little better and have a solution to offer them.
- Use the customer's name to catch their attention
Having to call any phone support service isn't always a caller's favourite moment in their day. They may be impatient or lack attention, especially if you're asking them to wait while you pull up information. Using the customer's name from time to time in the conversation is a good way of pulling their attention back and will add a sign of friendliness.
- Speak with good structures to make conversations smoother
Calling customer services can lead to a relatively technical conversation, including a certain amount of information and elements to process. If that's the case, your agents' role is to structure the conversation and frame response elements to improve the fluidity of conversations, satisfying the caller's demand as best they can.
To help your agents adopt the right attitude over the phone, coaching can be a great help. Check out this article on .
The essential tools and technologies for optimal customer services over the phone
To turn your agents into customer phone experience champions, give them the right tools! Technologies have certainly changed a lot over the past few years, and call centre softwares now offer countless features which are essential in ensuring you offer optimal customer relations management. Here's some of our top must-have features:
- A to answer simple and recurrent questions or requests from callers
- Automatic screen pop, so that your agents have the caller context in front of them within seconds of starting the call.
- Simplified call transfer, directly or after your introduction of a second agent who'll take over the call.
- Telephony system connection with other business channels, and particularly with your CRM, automatically syncing call data in each customer record.
and KPIs for your phone activity, to regain control over your call centre activity./b