Last week, we tackled the top 5 customer peeves when it comes to customer service. The topic sparked a lively debate across couple of forums, with participants sharing their peeves and what to do to correct the situation.
Many agreed that being put on hold rankled them the most. No one likes to “hold the line” indefinitely. It sends out the message that the representative doesn’t value the caller’s time much. From then on, it becomes a slippery slope.
How to fix this? How to combat these oft-committed missteps that irk your customers? Is there a simple fix?
Why, yes, there is! In one word, it all boils down to common sense. Would you do X? Then why ask your customer to go through it? But getting to that point takes a little bit of extra something. Let’s break it down, shall we?
1. Training, training and more training. And not just for the agents.
No points for guessing the number 1 priority and it isn’t a major secret, either. But surprisingly, it is what is found lacking. When an agent puts you on an indeterminable hold, or refers you to some other person or you are so unsatisfied that you want to speak with their supervisor, it points to insufficient training. When the training has been less than thorough, with different topics covered perfunctorily, you end up with subpar agents.
Just because they are the first points of contact with a customer, it doesn’t mean that they should be the only ones that need to undergo training. “We are all each other’s customers” – never forget! So, everyone – line managers, supervisors, bottle washers – every one needs to be trained, and trained often.
2. Realistic goals & realistic promises
After the Comcast disaster hit the social media, plenty of hilarious things were written about the incident. Typically, Twitter went to town on it, coming up with some inventive phrases to describe the debacle. But what struck me the most was this comment by a reader that empathised with the agent. The commenter stated that it must be horrible to be in the agent’s shoes as it is clearly a case of unrealistic goals set by the team leader. This was echoed by a few, who also came up with their own incidents, citing cases wherein they were hounded by agents, who, in turn, were hounded by numbers. Others mentioned over-eager sales agents who promise heaven and earth in order to land a client but either fail to convey that to the support team or
in most cases, make promises that cannot be kept.
Thus, in many cases, the agents are left in an unfortunate situation not of their own making. The culprit? Unrealistic goals set by managers or unrealistic promises made by the sales team. Both boil down to the same factor, really: untenable goals set by the management. This causes nothing but stress to radiate down the line. It is better all round to scale the targets down a notch or two and give the team a bit of breathing room.
3. “The buck stops with me” attitude
When your queries are fobbed off on to some other person, it may well point to a lack of responsibility. When the agent’s goal is to just get off a difficult query and fob a tough client on to someone else, it points to a major flaw in the system. The internal culture should be one that fosters teamwork and promotes individual responsibility. When everyone is entrusted with a certain level of freedom and responsibility, it automatically inculcates a greater commitment. When this results in a “the buck stops with me” attitude, wherein every person takes ownership of their task, no longer will calls get forwarded or queries fobbed off.
4. Going off-script.
Day by day, it is becoming harder to get in touch with a living, breathing person. More often than not, a series of instructions are aimed at the customer, based on the numerical choices they make. Rarely do these multiple choice answers fit all of our customer issues, leaving a client feeling very frustrated. And when you finally get to speak to an agent, imagine you get one that speaks robot-ese, spouting stock phrases and quoting the company line, you cannot blame a customer for feeling churlish. Customers want agents that speak their language – by that, I don’t just mean their mother tongue. Instead of a lengthy bit of unhelpful advice with a “I understand, but..” tacked on to it, an agent that can empathise and offer a workable solution, one that results in the issue getting sorted, is the need of the hour. Not trite and tired phrases, not standard statements that infuriate and annoy as they are anything but helpful.
Amazon tops the customer support surveys year after year. Snippets of the conversation with their support staff get shared on social media frequently, as examples of stellar customer service. The secret? The agents never come across as robotic, reading off a common script. They use their nous, evaluating the situation and come up with the solution instantly. No “let me check and get back to you” or “I am not authorised to do that”. The only aim is to keep your customers happy and that goal must be reached by whatever means necessary.
There’s a lesson for everybody in this.