Call centers traditionally play a significant role in customer service strategies because they're one of the first ways customers were able to contact a business without having to walk into its stores. The convenience of calling from the comfort of their home saved the customer hours of travel and got them answers to their questions almost immediately.
Nowadays, many companies build their customer service strategy around their call centers and use it as their primary way to support customers. Take HubSpot, for example, which has an excellent phone support service that acts as its foundation for its other support channels. The stronger its call center is, the better its other service mediums become.
To learn how HubSpot mastered this approach, we asked its support team to give us some pointers. Below is a list of tips your team can use to provide fantastic customer service at your call center.
Call Center Customer Service Tips
Work Towards a Collaborative Solution.
Become an Expert at Starting and Ending Conversations.
Keep Organized Case Notes.
Establish a Daily Routine.
Ask Meaningful Questions.
Get Up and Move Around.
Solve for the Customer — Even When It Takes More Time.
Use Holds Strategically.
Encourage Customers to Call Support.
Empathize With the Customer.
Audit Your Support Arsenal.
Offer to Follow Up Via Another Channel.
1. Work Towards a Collaborative Solution. - Nick Klotz
When a customer calls your support team, you never know what that person may be going through. They may be pressed up against a deadline, dealing with a pushy boss, or just having an overall bad day. Just because they seem a little flustered when they first start speaking doesn't mean they're angry or upset with you. It's more likely they're dealing with some external factors that are causing them to act impatient or assertive.
In these situations, it's important to align yourself with the customer's needs. Prove to them that you're on the same side of the issue, and they'll be less likely to direct their emotions towards you. This helps both parties stay focused on the task at hand and keeps you working towards a collaborative solution.
2. Become an Expert at Starting and Ending Conversations.
If you haven't worked in a call center before, then it can be a little daunting talking to complete strangers and solving their problems. Typically, the most awkward exchanges during a support call will be the beginning and end as both affect the tone and feel of the conversation. Mastering these aspects of the call will ensure smoother interactions with customers and usually more positive outcomes.
3. Keep Organized Case Notes. - Molly King
You can cut down on case resolution time by keeping your notes organized in folders that are easy to find. If you don't solve a problem during the first call with the customer, be sure to write detailed notes outlining the problem, the steps you've already taken to troubleshoot, and what you plan to do while off call. That way, when you return to the case later, you'll know exactly where you left off and won't miss any details that you may have forgotten since.
4. Establish a Daily Routine.
Most reps that work in call centers are tasked with fielding a certain number of calls each day. The stakes are high because if reps don't meet these expectations, customer satisfaction begins to slide and people start to lose faith in your support team. Like with any job, establishing an effective routine is the key to time management and accomplishing your goals by their deadline.
It's important to note that not everyone's routine will be exactly the same. While management will likely train reps on what they feel is the best workflow, everyone works a little differently and some may be more productive when taking a unique approach. So long as you're staying consistent with your brand's tone and values, don't be afraid to zig when your colleagues choose to zag.
5. Ask Meaningful Questions. - Marta Gonzalez-Hidalgo
If you don't have access to a screen-recording software or a screen-sharing tool, then you'll have to rely on critical thinking to diagnose and solve problems. This means you'll need to ask meaningful questions during the call if you want to fully understand issues and provide effective solutions.
One trick that can help you get more information from customers is explaining why you're asking them a question in the first place. By offering this context around your inquiry, you may help them remember specific details that are important to your troubleshooting process. Additionally, customers won't feel like you're wasting their time by asking questions that are seemingly irrelevant to their case.
6. Get Up and Move Around.
Did you know that only 53% of adults meet the CDC's recommendation for daily cardio activity?
When you're working in a call center, it's easy to fall into the trap of sitting at your desk all day without getting up to move around. Not only is that unhealthy, but it can cause you to go on "autopilot" and focus more on getting through calls rather than listening and learning about the customer's situation.
If you can, get up between calls take a quick walk to the water cooler, or say hi to a friend. If you don't have that much time, just stand up and do some stationary stretches to keep your body and mind loose. You'll be surprised how refreshed you'll feel when taking your next call.
7. Solve for the Customer — Even When It Takes More Time. - Sam Hastings
Customer service teams spend a lot of time focusing on speed. In fact, just two sections ago we were highlighting the importance of time management and how reps should be solving cases quickly. But, when you put so much emphasis on how fast you can solve a problem, you can easily overlook an opportunity to add more value to the customer experience.
Customers aren't only looking for speed. As the chart outlines below, speed is just one of many factors that customers consider when evaluating their experience with your company.
Solving for the customer should be your team's top priority. If this means taking a little longer on a phone call to clarify an explanation or troubleshooting another small problem, then so be it. In the end, that extra five minutes that you spend helping the customer makes a major impact on their long-term relationship with your business.
8. Use Holds Strategically.
Putting customers on hold is a taboo that many service representatives will try to avoid. But, there are some cases where you simply need to briefly step away from the phone and track down a resource or colleague that can help. Holds shouldn't be more than a few minutes long and you should use them strategically to your advantage. If leveraged correctly, they can help you improve your first call resolution rates without burdening your customers.
9. Encourage Customers to Call Support. - M. Frank Johnson
Some businesses are cautious to promote their customer support teams because they worry that it might reflect negatively on their product or service. They don't want customers to feel like they're constantly having problems and need to reach out to your team for help all the time.
While your support team shouldn't pose as a bottleneck for decision-making, it should act as more of an advisory role than a cleanup crew. Customers should want to reach out to your team and ask them for their opinion on how to best use your product or service. After all, service representatives are usually product experts and can provide honest feedback since they're not trying to close a deal or promote a product like a marketing or sales rep. And, if you encourage customers to reach out to support, this creates an active relationship with them where you can learn more about their needs, goals, and opinions.
10. Empathize With the Customer. - Ed Yealu
Below is one of my favorite customer service quotes, provided by HubSpot's Ed Yealu.
"Customers are not calling support for you to take the journey with them. They're calling in so you can provide the destination." - Ed Yealu, HubSpot Customer Support Manager
Empathizing with the customer not only means understanding why they're frustrated, but also taking the steps to effectively reconcile the situation. Whether you agree with how the customer is feeling or not, it's your job as the support rep to validate those feelings and remove any further friction that could potentially escalate the situation.
11. Audit Your Support Arsenal.
When I worked for HubSpot Customer Support, I coined the term "support arsenal" — and by coined I mean it had as much popularity as the term "fetch."
Your support arsenal is your set of skills and resources that can be used to support customers on a call. One of them is the hold, which we talked about earlier, another one is technology, like a screen-sharing tool or product diagnostic report. By keeping track of all the resources you have at your disposal, you'll always have an option to lean back on if your first approach doesn't work.
12. Embrace Curiosity. - Jason Ong
Curiosity is a valuable characteristic to possess in customer service because it shows the caller you're genuinely interested in their case. Reps should want to know why a problem occurred with a product or service and what they can do to best support the customer both now and in the future. A big part of this means asking for feedback, whether that's through Net Promoter Scores or customer feedback surveys.
13. Offer to Follow Up Via Another Channel. - Katie Cort
If you can't resolve a case on the first call, you should always offer to follow up with a customer via another channel. Even if you know what they're asking you to do is impossible, offer to look into the problem more in case there's any chance you can help them. Again, that extra two minutes you take to offer help can go a long way in improving the customer experience. And, who knows, you might just find there is a solution to the problem after all.