The Ever Pressing Need for Customer Service Excellence
There are so many business axioms regarding the importance of customer service excellence that it’s almost a cliché of sorts. That said, it can still be easy to overlook the need to do it better, every single time; easy to assume that your entire team gets it without necessary effort; easy to assume that you’re doing absolutely everything. Of course you are, why wouldn’t you be? But knowing how to talk to customers isn’t necessarily something that can be programmed into your team, or an innate underlying skill that they will default to in every situation.
It cannot be overstated that the way you communicate with your customers has a tremendous impact on the perception of your brand. When your team doesn’t get it right, it can have acute, yet devastating consequences. Additionally, when your team is consistently operating “just slightly off” of best practices, it can have a compounding effect, that overtime, may drive away customers. But when you get it right, when you consistently deliver a “wow” level of customer service, it almost always pays dividends.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate—Consistently
Be nice; sometimes it takes some effort, and sometimes it doesn’t. Ironically, it often becomes increasingly important to be nice the harder it is to do so. But, consistent communication and maintaining a consistent tone is one of the key points you should communicate to your team when dealing with customers.
One of the key aspects of understanding how to talk to customers lies in maintaining a consistent professional, but friendly, tone. Much of this has to do with keeping the language of the conversation positive, and avoiding words such as “no,” “not,” and any contractions there-of—”can’t,” “won’t,” “isn’t,” etc. But positive language will not make up for an unfriendly tone or even an overly-saccharin (fake-nice) tone.
Mastering the Difficult
Let’s face it – very rarely does anyone call the help desk looking to extol the virtues of your product or service. Typically they call in with problems, and teaching your team how to talk to customers about the problems that they are having in a positive, friendly, and professional manner is paramount to your customers having a positive customer experience.
One of the best ways to practice mastering the difficult conversations can be to role-play them out in training exercises. Any challenging situations that come up, or could conceivably come, are worth preparing for by acting out those customer interactions. Rehearsing how to communicate with customers may be the best way to prepare for excellence when it really counts, in real time.
The Process, and How to Walk Your Customer Through It
Many customers call in following a stressful or frustrating experience. Stress and frustration are very challenging for many people to navigate without feeling confused or even vulnerable. Your customers have called you for answers and for help, but what they may need most from you is confidence and leadership.
They need to understand that your organization not only understands the situation, incident, problem, or issue, but can also calmly guide them through a process, including next steps and follow ups, which will get them to a solution that works for their needs.
Taking Service Beyond What’s Expected
Everything we’ve talked about thus far in this guide—use a professional, yet friendly tone; communicating consistently; and walking your customers through a process toward a workable solution in a professional and confident manner—establishes only the bare minimum of what’s expected in terms of customer service.
These days, customers are expecting service that goes above and beyond the bare minimum standard of professional and friendly troubleshooting; they expect something a little extra, something that shows you are dedicated to helping their case.
That something extra can be a personal touch in communication, a follow-up email, chat message, or phone call to see how the situation or solution worked out, or any one of a number of other gestures. The key is to always look for ways to take your level of service beyond the bare minimum, and to do so in an authentic way that will feel sincere to the customer.
The World’s Most Trusted Marketing—Word of Mouth
It is very difficult to overemphasize the importance of good word-of-mouth marketing. No singular form of advertising is as trusted, as effective, or as good as word of mouth (and it’s free, too!). This has always been true, and if anything, has only become more true as the first generation of customers who grew up with the Internet has come of age in the business world.
When your customers talk about your IT help desk (and they most likely will), what do you want them to say? What do you want them to tell people in other companies that might be investigating your products and services? Whatever they say will most likely be believed. So what do you want it to be? The small ways that your team goes ‘above and beyond’ will likely be the first thing in a customer’s mind. Focusing on small ways in which your company can personalize its service offering will often pay big dividends in the long run.
About Nathan Riley
Nathan Riley is a Sales Director, ITSM at SolarWinds. He has nine years experience in the industry, and has had a front row seat for the evolution of service management as a platform for the entire organization. He helps organizations ranging from SMB to Fortune 500 bring customized service to employees. Nathan proudly served the United States Armed Forces in the United States Marine Corps.
Read more articles by Nathan