I remember exactly how I felt during my first customer support call. When I heard the incoming call jingle play on my computer, my heart nearly stopped. I was suddenly terrified to pick up the phone and at that moment, I nearly let the call pass to the next available rep.
The call wasn't my greatest. I fumbled over words, forgot where products were on our software, and felt really disappointed that I provided a poor customer experience. Though I still believed I could excel in this role, I needed to develop the professional skills required for success.
Fast forward two months, now I roll my eyes at the sound of the incoming call jingle. Not because I'm afraid to talk to customers, but because I've heard it so many times now I just want to write a letter to Cisco requesting my own custom call tones. At this point, I overcame my anxiety because I put in the time and effort to develop my customer service skills.
In this post, let's review some of the ways your reps can improve their service skills and provide a better experience for your customers.
To help you hone in on what skills are needed for this job, work with your manager to outline your role expectations for your first three months on the job with our Customer Support Training Template. This free featured resource will help you align your skills with your customer needs and help you excel at your job faster.
1. Become an expert in product knowledge.
Being a product expert is like being a good hitter in baseball. Fielding and pitching are important, but if you can hit, you can always play.
The same goes for product knowledge in customer service. If you know your product and company inside and out, you'll always have something of value for your customer. Even if you're not the best communicator, solving the customer's problem will always generate delight.
2. Review your customers' feedback.
If you work on a service or support team, chances are that you're evaluated on customer satisfaction. While you might fear a negative review, this is actually a blessing in disguise as it's live feedback on how you performed during your service interaction. You know exactly how your customers felt about their experience and can take notes on where you can improve it for next time.
At HubSpot, we use Net Promoter Score, or NPS®, to measure customer satisfaction. This was great for developing my skills as I would receive scores almost immediately after closing a ticket. I could quickly see if the interaction was positive, negative, or passive, and read a brief explanation as to why the customer scored me this way. Not only did this system continuously improve my service skills, but it did so in a format that fit my fast-paced workflow.
3. Develop your emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence refers to your ability to read and react to other people's emotions. This is incredibly important in customer service as you never know how the customer will be feeling when they pick up the phone or walk into your store. They may be friendly at first, but lose their patience at the first roadblock. Or, they can start the conversation upset and escalate or de-escalate from there.
Developing your emotional intelligence takes practice. You have to willingly approach confrontations and find a common ground between all parties. At the very least, you should be able to reduce the tension in a situation so that each person can freely express their needs and wants. This takes time to master, but once you do, it's a priceless tool to have in your customer service arsenal.
4. Practice active listening.
Have you ever felt like you really understood a customer's issue, but couldn't convince them that your solution was best for their goals? If you're new to this role, this happens more than you think, and it often has nothing do with the solution your providing. Instead, it has to do with your ability to listen.
While you may feel that you consistently listen to customers, active listening takes the exercise one step further. Instead of just hearing what your customers are saying, you can proactively demonstrate your understanding by repeating the problem back to them and using body language that shows you're deeply engaged in the conversation. This will build rapport with your customers and make them more to trust your advice.
5. Define your role in the customer journey.
One way to really connect with customers is to find out where they are in the customer journey and determine the role you'll play to progress them. This helps you identify customer needs and establish what they need to do to achieve their goals. Once you can see what your customer is trying to accomplish, it becomes much easier to help them do it.
6. Adopt customer service tools.
It's hard to develop your skills if you're constantly struggling to meet customer demand. After all, the customer should come first, so it makes sense that you would put training aside when your phones are ringing off the hook. But, as your company grows its customer base, you may find fewer and fewer chances to get employees together for formal training.
This is where customer service tools can step in and save your service team time. These platforms automate repetitive and inefficient functions that cost your team time every day. By adopting these tools, you can streamline your team's workflow and create more opportunities to conduct onsite training.
7. Simulate common customer issues with coworkers.
If you're struggling during your first few weeks in a customer service role, start to look for patterns in your customers' questions. More often than not, customers will usually ask similar, if not the same, questions. Know this information can significantly improve the bulk of your service interactions.
If your team has a knowledge base, leverage it to learn about common customer issues. Find out which pages are most visited, and study the troubleshooting steps that your team recommends. You should also scan your company's community forum for popular ideas and complaints that your customers are posting. That's a great way to get ahead of problems where your company may not have a formal solution.
8. Conduct call shadowing.
Call shadowing is like getting game film on your calls. A manager or mentor uses a headphone splitter to listen to your phone call with a customer. This way, they can see how the interaction plays out, along with the troubleshooting steps being taken on your end. With this complete picture of the customer interaction, management can provide more accurate and effective feedback.
This can work in reverse as well. The rep can shadow a mentor or a more-experienced rep to see how they act on their calls. This is a great approach when a rep is having trouble understanding specific feedback.
At HubSpot, many of my peers would write these words down on a Post-it Note then stick them right on their monitor to remember during calls. For email, tools like Grammarly have built-in sentiment analysis features that can assess your writing and determine the tone behind the message. These pro-tips helped me fine-tune my vocabulary so that I consistently sounded optimistic to my customers.
10. Find a peer mentor.
A peer mentor program is a great way to share information between experienced reps and new hires. They can prepare your new agents for common customer inquiries, review customer feedback with them, and discuss productivity tips to improve their workflow.
If your company doesn't have a peer mentor program, consider asking your manager to assign you one. Or, you can reach out to a coworker directly to see if they'll meet with you a couple of times each month to discuss complex or notable cases. Talking with your peers regularly will teach you more skills and information that will help you succeed.
For more ways to improve your customer service skills, read about customer obsession next.
Originally published Dec 13, 2019 8:00:00 AM, updated December 13 2019