One of the core ambitions of a modern brand is to win lasting customer loyalty because it’s more important than ever before. The reason? Incredible levels of choice. Consumers today are inundated with options regarding the products they buy and the services they pay for. If you aim to get ahead through something like pricing, you’ll find it difficult to get much traction, because one of your competitors can match (or beat) your pricing in a heartbeat.
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This is why you need to focus on establishing the overall quality and utility of your brand. Even if you don’t have the lowest prices or the broadest range, you can still achieve exceptional customer retention if you excel in one specific area: customer service.
Companies that show they know how to treat customers well can generally keep them — after all, there are enough bad businesses around that it’s usually better to stick with a known quantity.
And when it comes to customer service, there are various skills required to achieve an outstanding level of quality. In this piece, we’re going to look at some that are distinctly underrated at a business level: customer service skills that affect companies far more significantly than they’re often thought to. Let’s begin:
Sincere Empathetic Investment
Empathy is a core part of great customer service. You need to be able to consider what it’s like to be on the other end of the call (or live chat) because only then will you appreciate why people get so frustrated and how you can best address their concerns. But empathy alone isn’t enough — there needs to be something more.
So what is it that’s missing in most cases? As I see it, there are 2 additional ingredients required to achieve exceptional customer service. Firstly, there’s sincerity: modern customers will see through insincerity, and considering an issue from an empathetic standpoint won’t achieve much if you’re evidently being manipulative with your tactics.
Secondly, there’s an investment. If you’re empathetic and sincere but the system doesn’t allow you to get invested in the issues you’re dealing with, then you’ll never be able to provide top-notch service. This is incredibly common due to an obsession with basic metrics.
Which is better: to send a caller away in 2 minutes even though you know they’ll dial back later with even more anger, or to resolve a caller’s issue in 20 minutes with the confidence that they’ll sing your company’s praises? The latter, clearly — but some brands just don’t notice it.
Formidable and Joyful Self-Discipline
Most people know that it’s tough to handle customer service. Customers will get angry and take it out on you, even if they don’t mean to, and getting berated for hours at a time about issues you didn’t create can really wear on your spirit. But when I talk of self-discipline here, I don’t just mean staying calm under pressure — I also mean being prepared for that pressure.
It’s the classic situation of needing to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. Someone who isn’t in a good place mentally can still provide great customer support, but it’ll wear on them and lead to burnout. The best customer support employees are on an even keel at all times — what’s more, they enjoy exercising their self-discipline.
Clear and Accurate Articulation
When talking about customer service, a lot of emphasis gets placed on formal procedure: how queries are received, what actions are taken, where it’s necessary to pursue escalation, etc. In the meantime, relatively little consideration is given to fundamental articulation: in this context, meaning how well a support agent is able to assemble and present their thoughts.
This is likely due to a couple of things: many companies rely on scripts and set processes to get through support calls, and just as many don’t hire very carefully when looking for service employees. Their main goals for customer service are to hit certain rational metrics (response time, resolution rate, etc.) without spending too much money. You can also maintain monthly reports for monitoring these rational metrics.
In general, though, I consider that a mistake. If you hire someone who can rapidly and accurately set out not only their side of an argument but also the customer’s side, it’ll help massively with defusing tension and getting things solved in a speedy manner. What’s more, that employee’s strong communication skills will prove useful internally, helping them motivate their colleagues and drive them to achieve better things.
Effective Crisis Management
From time to time, things are going to go very wrong. A customer’s rage will be so incendiary that you don’t know how to approach it, yet you know that leaving it unaddressed will only present more problems down the line. It’s at that time that a great customer support worker will be able and willing to shift gears — to move to plan B, then plans C through Z if needed. They’ll be helpful but also firm, and push towards a fair solution.
This part can get overlooked because there’s the assumption that anything complex should be passed to a manager who will inevitably try to settle the issue through complete capitulation. They’ll offer the customer a huge discount, apologize profusely, and tell them whatever they want to hear, all in the hope that it’ll resolve the issue.
It generally will resolve the issue, but not in an effective way. It’ll ultimately cost the company through losing both whatever compensation was offered and the respect of the appeased customer (and anyone who hears about the story, whatever they might claim to the contrary), because who would respect a company with a tendency to give up like that?
Each of these customer service skills is underrated in some way. If you empower sincere and empathetic support assistants to actually care about the issues they’re addressing, they’ll do fantastic work. If you hire people who take care of themselves exceptionally well, they’ll be rock-solid when dealing with others. If you look for people who are incredibly articulate, they’ll raise operational efficiency across the board. And if you bring in workers who are steady in crisis situations, they’ll find solutions that keep everyone happy. Invest in these skills, and you’ll soon see the benefits.
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