Dealing with unhappy, frustrated, and even angry people over the phone is part of the daily life of a customer service adviser, but things can get even trickier if they are a little more down in the dumps than usual.
Blue Monday is reported to be the most depressing day of the year, and in 2017 it lands on Monday 16th January. Whilst many have dismissed the concept as pseudoscience, it is understandable why people might feel a little ‘blue’ on this day. Tightened purse strings, a come down from the Christmas festivities and the return to the daily grind; it isn’t hard to see why some people may be low.
Whether the concept of Blue Monday is real or not, as a business, your priority should always be to ensure that the customer is as happy as possible, whether they contact you with a question, a compliment, or a complaint. And the responsibility for ensuring that this happens lies primarily with your customer service team.
So to help you out this Blue Monday, and indeed for the rest of the year, CALLCARE has conducted research into the biggest frustrations that people experience when calling customer service lines. We’ve also spoken to industry experts in order to get their top tips on how to combat these pain points and keep your customers happy on the phone all year round.
“Could you hold the line, please?”
It will likely come as no surprise that long wait times were cited as the top annoyance when speaking to customer service teams, with more than half of people (51%) surveyed selecting this option. Anyone who has ever called a customer service line can probably attest to this.
Long wait times don’t just mean irate and impatient customers. Depending on the sector you specialise in it could mean lost sales, service issues cropping up further down the line if problems don’t get solved, and seeing your customers switch to a competitor.
Gemma Harding, Head of Corporate Services at CALLCARE gives her advice on how businesses can work around long customer wait times:
“Many customers end up waiting for a long time on the phone because they are in the wrong place. Are there instructions on the website to explain where customers should call for a particular problem? Do you have processes in place for your staff so that they are able to identify the issue and direct the customer quickly?
“Another of the biggest roadblocks to fast and effective customer service lies with the people who answer the phones. Whilst they may be friendly and helpful, if there are too many calls coming in at once then it is going to be impossible for them to get to everyone; and some could be left waiting for a very long time. Dig into your data or ask your staff about when they are at their busiest and ensure your phones are adequately staffed during those hours. If you get particularly busy, do you have contingency plans in place to ensure all your calls are answered? As your business expands it is essential that you can deal with every customer in an efficient and friendly manner.”
Linguistic and cultural barriers
Offshore call centres are popular among many companies across the UK, particularly as they start to grow. For many businesses it is cheaper for them to send their calls to another country, however this doesn’t always work out for the best from a customer’s perspective.
CALLCARE’s research discovered that not being able to understand the customer service adviser that they are speaking to was the second most common frustration, with 20% of survey respondents saying it was their biggest annoyance.
Ultimately this issue is a battle between wanting to cut costs in a business and free up staff time in order to deal with other tasks, and making the customer experience as smooth and painless as possible. And it is the latter that should always win out.
If you do have to outsource your call centre, it’s often worthwhile exploring options for UK call centres as there is a good chance that they have the cultural knowledge, language fluency and the adaptable communication skills that are required to provide a consistently high level of support.
Is there such a thing as being too personal?
Would you rather a customer service adviser call you by your first name and strike up a friendly conversation? Or would you prefer them to be blunt and to the point in order to get through the call as soon as possible?
The research conducted by CALLCARE revealed that there was almost an even split between a customer’s annoyance at an adviser being too friendly, and a distinct lack of personal interaction. 10% of respondents selected “being over familiar or too much small talk” as their biggest frustration on the phone, whilst 8% selected a lack of personal interaction.
It can be a difficult balance to get right. No one wants to speak to a robot who doesn’t care about them as a person; but customers have also called for a specific reason or with a problem that they want solved as quickly and painlessly as possible.
“It’s tough as a customer-centric business to find the right balance between being friendly and being intrusive,” said Rachel Carrell, CEO of Koru Kids.
“What one person thinks is a caring, personal conversation, another will think is over-familiar and time-consuming. What you have to do is train your customer service people to always take the lead from the customer. We all have moments when we’re too busy to chit-chat, and times in our life when we really need human contact and reassurance. The best customer service people can tell the difference and react accordingly. This is one reason why it’s really worth investing in great, smart, emotionally-intelligent customer service people and not tying them to a script.”
Shontel Reed, Customer Relations Manager at Tombola, was in agreement: “Customer service agents should strive to be comprehensive and to have an excellent telephone manner. This can be beneficial for the company as well as the customer. Whilst a well-spoken adviser will assist with client satisfaction, it can also result in a more timely and efficient service, which is more important for business.
“It is important to make customers feel welcome when engaging in communications. We personally aim to have a friendly and fun rapport with our customers, particularly as this is a core value of our brand, however, we still maintain professional and helpful qualities. We believe interactions should be handled based on the query and appreciate that some may take longer to resolve than others. Customer service team members should be confident in gauging an appropriate tone based on the customer and their enquiry.”
Choices, choices, choices
In order for customer service calls to be handled well and efficiently, it’s essential that people are directed to the right department and the right person, otherwise everyone’s time is going to be wasted. But again there is a delicate balance between segmenting callers well and bombarding them with so many options that by the time they are through to an adviser, they have forgotten why they called in the first place.
Having to sift through too many options gained 10% of the vote in the biggest customer service frustrations poll, which is still significant enough that companies should be taking notice. For smaller businesses it can be easier to solve, whereas larger corporations will struggle a little more because of higher call volumes. And that’s where clarity and efficiency need to become priorities.
“Automated options are arguably one of the most frustrating aspects of modern life,” said Shontel Reed from Tombola.
“However, they are often necessary for time management and efficiency within customer service teams. It’s important to keep automated options to a minimum to uphold customer relationships and ensure satisfaction. A clear and concise service from initial automated options to contact with an adviser is essential for a positive customer experience. A well-organised customer service team is vital for retention.”
What are your thoughts? Let us know which customer pain points you are working hard to address!
Here at CALLCARE, our passion lies in all things business. Whether that’s helping you improve efficiency or saving you money on your customer service, we love to help businesses of all shapes and sizes. Get in touch with us today for your complimentary consultation!