Tips to improve telephone customer service

10093700 - attractive young woman working in a call center“We value your call. Please hold for our next customer service representative to be available.”

Most of us cringe when we hear those words on the end of the line, yet we pretty much accept it as a part of modern life. So when customers call your line with questions or, worse, complaints, they may not be in the best of moods when your customer support representative connects the call.

Here are some tips to help make the customer’s experience as positive as possible, with ways to strengthen their relationship with your business.

Smile

Yes, smile as you speak into the phone. It sounds a bit cliché or maybe even silly, but a smile can be heard through the phone. Encourage customer service reps to smile when they first connect with a client on the phone, and begin the conversation with a friendly, cheerful tone.

Connect with the customer

A customer service representative should start every telephone conversation with their name, the company’s name and an offer of assistance. If the call has been transferred from another department or section, the rep should also state which department they’re with so the customer has the information they need.

Next, the representative should ask the caller’s name, and use it in the conversation. Don’t overdo it, though. Sincerity is essential for a positive exchange. Reps should answer the customer’s questions honestly and directly, and prompt the customer for information. Callers should be given adequate time to respond with a genuine answer, and to feel that they have truly been heard by the representative.

Answers should be worded in a positive way, avoiding phrases such as, “We can’t do that.” Rather, the representative should offer a truthful and calm explanation of why the customer’s request can not be fulfilled. Anticipate the customer’s request to escalate if they sound unhappy with your reasoning. If the representative doesn’t know the answer to a question or is not the appropriate party within the structure to address the concern or question, an appropriate response would be, “I’ll find that out for you” rather than, “That’s not my area” or “I don’t know.” Your customer is looking for a solution, and hearing that the person they called for help is of no help at all can cause additional frustration, if it isn’t handled carefully. The rep should communicate that they will facilitate the resolution as quickly as possible.

If the representative has to put the caller on hold, they should give an estimate of how long the hold will be. They should also get the customer’s phone number in case the call gets cut off accidentally.

Speak clearly

It may seem obvious, but good telephone communication takes skill and practice. Listen to your customer service representatives as they speak on the phone. Look out for those who speak too quickly. This can make them harder to understand, especially when dealing with technical issues. On the other hand, speaking too slowly can convey an impression of slowness, laziness, or lack of caring.

Encourage all representatives to use simpler words and shorter sentences, avoiding jargon and technical terminology as much as possible. Resist the temptation to use slang, however, as it sounds unprofessional.

Pitch and tone are also important. A high pitch can communicate lack of experience or authority, while a very low pitch can sound harsh or even threatening.

Encourage everyone who communicates over the phone to vary their pitch and inflection to sound interested in the conversation while still sounding natural.

Finish on a positive note

When the caller’s questions have been answered and issues resolved as far as possible, it’s important to end the conversation well. Make sure the caller understands the information provided and what any next steps will be. The representative should ask a wrap-up question, such as, “Is there anything else I can help you with?” allowing the customer to address any additional concerns or questions on the same call. If the customer has to call again, the representative should provide the best times to call based on call volume history, and whom to ask for.

Finally, end with a positive statement like, “It was nice talking with you” to leave the caller with a positive impression of your company. It’s little things like this that make big differences in business.

You can count on a positive experience whenever you call our customer support line. We practice what we preach here. We’re happy to provide excellent customer service!