The Most Crushing Mistake Most Customer Service People Make: Not Being Friendly o_O

shocked customer service representative

On the way into my office this morning I stopped to get coffee and breakfast for my team. I don’t do this often enough. When I managed a call center, I would regularly pick up donuts or pastries. I have to do better in my own company. Do you bring treats in for your team? If so, how often do you do it? I need the motivation to get back in gear.

I wanted to treat my small team today for working so hard over the weekend and yesterday into the evening on the big project of moving our entire eLearning roster and training modules to a new hosting site.

My first stop was at a fast food restaurant. I pulled up to the window, and this is what I heard. “Welcome to _____. Order when you’re ready.” The welcome, if you can call it that, was delivered loudly, matter-of-factly, and it even suggested that I needed to hurry up and order, and not wait until I was ready.

I placed my first order. I barely finished my sentence when the person said; “Your total is $5.12 at the first window.” I still had several more items to order! When I awkwardly said, “I actually have more things I’d like to pick up today.” the lady said, “Go ahead when you’re ready.”

I finished up this tedious ordering process, and 10 minutes later I was in the drive-thru at Starbucks, which is next door to the fast food place.

I pull up to the Starbucks drive-thru, and I am greeted with: Continue reading “The Most Crushing Mistake Most Customer Service People Make: Not Being Friendly o_O”

Here’s How to Respond to the Customer Who Asks to Speak to Your Supervisor

Women with headsets working at a call center

Thanks to the Internet and social media, customers are savvier now than ever before.  Although this sounds like a good thing, the net result is an increase in stress for customer service professionals.

According to Newsweek magazine, the stress level of customer service representatives is comparable to that of air-traffic controllers and police officers.  To be clear, the role of customer service now ranks as one of the 10 most stressful jobs in the U.S.

One of the things I’m working on right now is how to find ways to relieve the stress contact center agents face on a daily basis. It’s hard to get verbally abused daily and to have to deal with constant phone calls and emails all day.

Dealing with the customer who demands to speak to your supervisor is stressful. The right approach to this customer will result in a less stressful situation for you.

Continue reading “Here’s How to Respond to the Customer Who Asks to Speak to Your Supervisor”

The Psychology of Customer Anger (Flashback Friday)

Flashback Friday! My kids used to post Throwback Thursday and Flashback Friday photos on Instagram. They don’t  do that anymore. In fact, they spend more time on Snapchat than on Instagram.

Well, I’m doing a Flashback post of my own – even if flashback posts are out of style.

I joined YouTube in 2007 and one of the first videos I published was “The Psychology of Customer Anger.”

That cheesy video has gotten over 60,000 views. I cringe when I look at the quality of the video and my style in front of the camera. My son laughed out loud when he came into my office last night and I had the video up.

I look so different from back then, nearly 10 years ago. I’ve lost weight, like 30 pounds. I wear my hair kinky curly. I like to think I’m more controlled and poised in front of the camera.

But my strategies haven’t changed. Not much anyway. I’m taking a risk and posting this Flashback Friday video because one, some or all of these tips just may help you get an angry customer to back down.

Try not to laugh too hard.

Continue reading “The Psychology of Customer Anger (Flashback Friday)”

New Training Teaches Conversational Aikido to Help Those Handling Difficult Customers

Creating calm with difficult customers is not a matter of using aggressive tactics. It’s also not about letting the customer vent until they cool off or you being a doormat. There are definite tactics, deployed strategically, that will position any customer service professional to create calm, defuse anger and assertively control conversations.

Aikido

Introducing…

How to Handle Difficult Customers Using Verbal Aikido

5 Aikido Principles for Creating Calm, Defusing Anger and Moving to Closure with Difficult Customers

In this special online workshop Myra reveals the 5 Conversational Aikido principles she has adapted from her 15-year study of the martial art Aikido. Employees will walk away from this workshop with specific Aikido techniques and tactics to create calm, take control of the call, defuse anger and move the call to closure. Myra’s Aikido principles have earned rave reviews from such clients as Johnson & Johnson, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Ally Financial, Nationwide, the Insurance Consumer Affairs Exchange and more. Continue reading “New Training Teaches Conversational Aikido to Help Those Handling Difficult Customers”

4 Things Your Agents Can Do To Preempt an Escalation

Your escalations have gotten out of hand. Agents are frustrated and are sometimes happy to give calls over to supervisors. Customers feel that the only way to get the answers they seek is to speak to a supervisor. Meanwhile, supervisors are frustrated, backlogged and overwhelmed because all they do is handle escalated calls.

Sound familiar? Yeah, I know it does. Well, I have help for you.

Customers escalate to supervisors for 4 reasons:

  • They think they’ll get help faster/better if they speak with a supervisor.
  • The customer does not feel the agent is knowledgeable or capable of helping them.
  • Customers feel the agent isn’t listening or doesn’t understand the problem.
  • Agents lack the confidence to assertively control the call by being direct.

If the goal is to reduce escalations, and certainly it is, we have to position agents as confident, attentive listeners who are knowledgeable and capable of serving customers. In this article I have 4 ways your agents can do just that.

1. Reflect the Brand Promise

I was working with a client recently where agents are put in the position to have to occasionally deny claims. Customers don’t want to hear that their claim shall be rejected and denials are one of the key reasons calls escalate in this call center. I encouraged the agents in a recent training session to start the denial discussion off by explaining what the protection plan does cover and to convey to the customer just how valuable their security plan is.

Instructing the agents to start off by discussing what the plan does cover and reiterating the plan value ensures agents reflect the brand promise. In order to de-escalate calls, agents have to establish trust with the customer. Reflecting the brand promise helps agents build trust.

2. Don’t Push

Last week at a Leadership Retreat I asked all participants to choose a partner. I had one person be Partner A and one was designated as Partner B. I instructed partner A to push their palm against the palm of partner B. I did not give partner B instruction to push their palm.

After a few seconds, I asked, “How many of you who were Partner B pushed against Partner A’s palm?” Nearly 100% of the people who had the role of Partner B said they “pushed against Partner B.” Then I said, “I asked A to push, not B. Why did you push?” The unanimous answer was, “Because A Pushed.”

Here’s the thing. When we are pushed, the natural response is to push back. As customer service professionals, we have to make sure we don’t push in any way, because if we do, customers will push back. Customers often push back by escalating to a supervisor. That, or they yell, cuss, etc.

How might you be perceived as pushing?

  • Saying “There’s nothing else I can do for you.” This builds resistance, and the customer feels they have to push to speak to anyone who can help them.
  • Speaking with a tone that comes across as defensive, irritated or unhelpful is a push for customers. They’ll push right around you to talk to someone they think will be more helpful and pleasant to deal with.
  • A statement like “Look, a supervisor will just tell you the same thing.” This sounds defensive and it is another form of pushing. Not only that, but you’ve planted the seed in the customer’s mind that a supervisor is standing by. The customer will often push back and just request to speak to a supervisor because the agent has mentioned the word “supervisor.”

3. Be Regretful and Direct

People respect confident people. If a customer respects an agent, the agent is perceived as believable and credible and the call is less likely to escalate. When you have to refuse a customer’s request, do so confidently. Denying a request directly and with an expression of regret helps you come across as both confident and credible.

Don’t waste time or words, get right to the point, and yet be gentle in your communication. Here’s how I encouraged my client to deny claims directly and with regret:

“I know this is upsetting for you. [pause] I wish there was something we could do. We have to honor the terms of your protection plan. There’s simply no way around this.”

4. Demonstrate That You Are Listening

When customers feel misunderstood or that the agent is simply not listening, they will nearly always attempt to escalate. Be careful not to cut the customer off mid-sentence to tell them what you can’t do or to ask questions. Interrupting customers shows you are not listening. Customers need to be heard and to feel understood. Allow customers to explain their situation to you. When it’s your turn to speak, demonstrate that you are listening.

Here’s an example of not demonstrating that you are listening.

Customer: “I sent in documentation and evidence to prove my case in the dispute, but then today I got a letter in the mail saying you are moving forward with the charge in favor of the merchant!”

Employee: “What’s the claim number associated with this charge on your debit card?”

In this example the employee fails to acknowledge the customer’s emotion, gives no evidence that she’s listening and she jumps right to questioning. The statement is rote and robotic. This pattern of response makes it very difficult for the agent to establish rapport, build trust and to control the call. If customers don’t feel a sense of rapport and confidence with agents, they are more likely to escalate. Listening helps agents create rapport and trust.

Here’s a perfect example of demonstrating that you are listening.

Customer: “I sent in documentation and evidence to prove my case in the dispute, but then today I got a letter in the mail saying you are moving forward with the charge in favor of the merchant!”

Employee: “I realize that must be frustrating for you. Let me take a look to see what’s going on here. Do you happen to know the claim number associated with this charge?”

Here the agent uses a statement to acknowledge the customer’s frustration. It’s quick and straightforward. This acknowledgment allows the agent to begin establishing rapport and it positions the agent as confident and empowered. The customer is more likely to trust the agent and in turn, the agent will have much more control over the call, reducing the risk of escalation.

The Bottom Line

Position your agents to reflect your brand promise, ensure they don’t inadvertently push customers, coach them to speak directly and with regret and get them on their A-Game when it comes to listening. When you do, you will find that they are preempting escalations and your supervisors will love you for this.

Escalations are time-consuming and frustrating for everybody, even for customers. I know you don’t want your customers to escalate. Join me for my “How to De-escalate”  on-demand video training, and your people will walk away knowing exactly how to pre-empt an escalation.