I recently joined Mitchel Forney, the Marketing Coordinator at Voiance Language Services, on a webinar to discuss the 5 Decisions that will help you fully understand the customer perspective, thus enabling your company to deliver excellent customer service, increase customer advocacy and loyalty, and improve profitability.
Here are the questions from webinar listeners and my answers:
Mitchel: Our first question, kind of a funny one: I work in a call center environment. Sometimes we get some very “interesting” callers, who are very clearly wrong. How can I or how can my staff “believe” in these people?
Jeanne: The most important thing is to first listen. This goes back to the example of WestJet. We get the attitude we give to our employees. If we have an environment of cynicism, (the customer is most wrong, don’t know what they’re talking about/uninformed), this permeates in how we listen and what we say back to a customer. In a world where customers feel they’re always right, there will be customers that tell a story or give information that doesn’t feel right to the person on the other end. But we need to honor the customer. We need to create a place where the attitude is to listen to the customer, repeat back to the customer what they heard, and then find a way to have a conversation that makes the customer feel whole, without making the customer feel misunderstood or not trusted or like someone is cynical of them on the other line. That’s the most important thing.
If you can do that, you can proceed in a more favorable and productive way in bringing that to a conclusion that makes sense for you and the customer.
Mitchel: Alright, next question: are there some companies/types of companies/industries this is easier for? I think they’re asking: is this the same for everyone?
Jeanne: You know what’s interesting about these 5 decisions…I don’t think they’re immune to any industry, and it’s the same for B2C and B2B. You want to believe your customers and employees. If you’re not clear about what you’re doing, every silo is going to do what they do based on their score card, their results, what’s on their task sheets and what they’re rewarded and recognized on. The level of being real depends on their business –not every company has to be Zappos or the Container Store – but what we’ve recognized even more in the downturn is that you need to have humanity – a very real and present human touch – in how you relate to customers. That’s making the difference in how companies keep customers with them, even with reduced spending. Customers are remembering how they are being treated – this is even more important in an economic downturn.
Being “there” is about reliability. Without that, customers question whether or not you or going to be there for them on a regular basis or if service will be good one day and bad another. Apologizing –we’ve seen tremendous examples in the marketplace recently about how important apologizing is in any industry. What I have observed is that after I give these speeches, people will approach me and tell me they are looking forward to applying these principles on a personal level, which I find very powerful.
Mitchel: Looks like we have another call center out there: our customer service is through a contact center. Is it possible to make these decisions and still keep call times short? The longer our calls, the higher our expenses.
Jeanne: You know, I think with call centers, be deliberate about a few things: brainstorm what the issues are. In all likelihood, you’ll have a set of repeatable things that happen over and over again. If you’re proactive about what those are, you’ll have tools at people’s fingertips where they can work through them. One thing we did at Land’s End (all we had was call centers in the mid to late 80s) was we anticipated every product that was having an issue, and on the call taker’s screens, we put information on what was going right or wrong. This was so they didn’t have to toggle around between 15 or 20 different screens. By being proactive, we reduced call times.
The other thing I want you to think about: the first decision, “Belief.” Are your customers an asset or cost center? We need to arm our call center folks with the value of our customers, and believe in them and train them, so that they can know whether it makes sense to stay on the phone longer. If you have a $100,000 customer on the line, doesn’t it make sense to spend a few more minutes to rescue that person?
Click here to listen to the webinar: 5 Decisions That Will Help You Become
a Beloved and Prosperous Company.