Published on 24th February 2017
The 7 Customer Service Skills Customers want Most from Businesses
If there are two subjects that are hot topics in any industry it is customer service and staff satisfaction. While there is a lot of information online about ways to improve things for your staff, there is less information available about what the customers themselves actually want from a business.
Although most people in business understand that a happy staff member is more able to deal with a customer service inquiry, the happiness level of the staff member answering the phone isn’t the number one priority for the customer on the other end of the line.
At CALLCARE we fully endorse any policy that improves staff wellbeing, but once that high level of staff satisfaction is achieved its easy to forget that there is still the important job of providing customer service left to do. That’s why we’ve compiled this guide to the 7 things customers want most from customer answering services.
This might seem like an obvious one but you cannot underestimate the importance of communications skills when it comes to providing excellent customer service. Often people will contact customer services because they have had a negative experience with a transaction, whether that is a mildly negative experience such as chasing a delayed parcel, through to a serious incident that has caused them to raise a complaint. Either way, these conversations can often be emotionally charged and require strong communication skills to managed them effectively.
In this context “communications skills” means more than just understanding questions and giving a correct answer. It is about understanding all the non-verbal communication that a customer is providing like tone of voice or long pauses. It is this non-verbal communication that provides the early warning signals of when a customer is unhappy about the level of service they are receiving. Someone with good communications skills will understand when someone isn’t happy very early in the conversation. This allows them to quickly and effectively offer a solution that calms the customer down so the operator can manage the conversation.
The importance of these communication skills can be seen in the fact that studies have shown 90% of adults said that communication skills are the most important thing any child should learn, and employers have said 60% of candidates don’t have sufficient communication skills to be considered for jobs. If you want to provide your customers with a positive customer service experience, ensure your staff have strong communication skills.
You might think that listening should come under communications skills, and to a point you’d be right. Listening is a vital part of communicating effectively. However listening is such a distinct skill, and is something that is so important to providing a positive customer service experience, that it’s worth discussing separately.
Today, technological advances mean that there are more ways than ever for customers to get in touch with businesses. Assets like websites, email, and live chat mean that customer service can be offered quickly and effectively when customers require rapid solutions to basic problems. An interesting fact though is that when it comes to important conversations like making a complaint or getting a quote, people still turn to real person to person interaction like a phone call to engage with businesses.
One reason for this is that when it comes to important conversations people want to feel like they’re being listened to. When a customer raises a complaint, as well as getting the actual problem resolved a large part of why they phone in is so they feel like their grievance has been heard. Having staff who understand how to listen properly, and provide signals so that aggrieved customers feel they have been listened to can be the first step towards turning that customer’s experience around.
Amazingly, less than 2% of people have had any formal training on how to listen, despite it being a valuable skill that we use every day. By providing your staff with the skills they need to listen and let customers know they are being listened to, you can provide a greatly improved customer service experience.
A long time ago, customers would dutifully wait until the weekend when they could go into a shop and speak to a branch manager to get their customer service issue resolved. Today people are far less patient. Thanks to the advent of the internet, people expect to be able to interact with businesses at their convenience when they are out of work. Because they were able to buy your product at night via your website, customers believe you should hold up your end of the bargain and provide excellent customer service in the same way. This is the logic of the consumer in 2017.
We’ve gathered data that shows customer service lines now start to get busy as early as 7am as people try and get their customer service issues resolved before they go into work. Similarly between 2014 and 2016 we have seen a 45% increase in calls coming in between 6pm and 8pm. This data shows that the general public want to see greater availability from customer service departments so they can have their inquiry managed at a time convenient to them.
Reading the needs of the customer
As we’ve already covered, there is a wide number of ways that people can get in touch with a business. What many business don’t consider is that the method of communication a customer chooses illustrates a lot about the kind of outcome they want to receive from the conversation.
Data collected for the UK Customer Satisfaction Index 2017 shows that when asked if they would choose a customer service experience that is fast and efficient, or one that is more proactive but may take longer to achieve, 29.3% of people chose the fast service, 30.7% of people chose the longer proactive service, with the remaining 40.1% landing somewhere in the middle.
This data shows that not everybody wants the same experience. Someone may choose to use live chat as they want a quick answer to their inquiry rather than a comprehensive but long response. Similarly when someone picks up the phone it may show they want to have that longer conversation where they get all the information possible.
By reading the customer, you can provide them with the kind of customer service experience they want. This will go a long way to creating more satisfied customers for your business.
This might seem like an obvious one but when people phone into a company they want the person who picks up the phone to know about what that company does. However, it’s amazing how often this core business skill is overlooked. Of course, anyone manning a customer service line will have better product knowledge than the general public, but will they truly know the entire product range inside out?
Research has shown that expert product knowledge is what 73% of people are looking for when they engage with a company, so you need to make sure your staff have the answers to any questions they receive.
When it comes to managing these inquiries over the phone an effective way to ensure your staff have the knowledge they need is to create a comprehensive framework for them to follow while taking the call. These frameworks provide staff with the support they need to handle any phone call, and ensure the caller gets the experience they want when they phone into your business.
When a customer is getting in touch with your business there is nothing more annoying than being met with an operator who clearly isn’t taking the job seriously. Anyone who has worked in a customer service environment knows that it is a hard job with long hours that requires a high level of attention. However, none of that matters to the caller. To the caller it may as well be the very first call of the operator’s shift.
The need for a strong work ethic is only accentuated when it comes to handling complaint calls. If a customer is already annoyed, the slightest hint that their call isn’t being taken seriously or isn’t the operators number one priority is enough to send the caller over the edge.
A good way to ensure that staff have a strong work ethic is to employ staff with a good employment background and industry experience. Just because anyone can do customer service doesn’t mean everyone should do customer service. Providing customer service to the highest level requires a special breed of resilient person who can handle the complaints and still be the smiling face of your business. Finding these staff is the key to providing a positive experience for your customers.
The ability to take feedback
As we discussed with listening, customers want to feel like their point has been heard, especially when it comes to complaints. The ability to take feedback takes this skill to the next level. Being able to take feedback isn’t just about taking complaints on the chin, it’s about making sure your customers feel comfortable to leave feedback when they have experienced an issue.
We’ve all been in situations where we’ve not been happy with the level of service we’ve received but we haven’t said anything. Often this is because we don’t want to cause a fuss, or because we don’t think anything will be done about our issue.
It is estimated that for every complaint that is received, there are 26 customers who have remained silent. That means there are 26 people who will probably never use your business again, and haven’t given you the opportunity to change their mind. Creating an environment that makes customers feel confident about giving feedback allows you more opportunity to change their minds and keep them as customers.
78% of surveyed customers feel that competent representatives are responsible for a happy experience. Part of that competency is being able to take feedback.
Improve the customer service in your business
At CALLCARE we practice what we preach. We specialise in creating dedicated outsourced customer service teams to provide our clients with the staff they need to provide excellent customer service. Our highly trained staff all have strong customer service backgrounds, and are dedicated to working to the highest standards.
We create custom frameworks for every business we work with to ensure their operators can provide expert product knowledge, and we have tried and tested procedures to handle complaints that ensure that everyone calling in feels like their issue has been taken seriously.
To find out more about how CALLCARE can help your business, get in touch with us today on 0345 055 8444.