14 phone-based customer support best practices

Lidia Tavares Dias

By Lídia Dias

0 min read

Illustration of a female customer service agent talking with a customer through the phone

Landing a customer is only half the battle—keeping the customer is the other half. Providing top-notch customer support is the key to customer loyalty.

One of the most influential factors driving customer retention and loyalty is the quality of customer support companies provide. Having an issue solved upon first contact is a critical differentiating factor and the one with most impact on customers’ loyalty.

Self-service customer support has been a major part of companies’ customer support strategy, transforming the way customers and businesses interact. However, phone continues as a preferred channel for some conversations—only 3% of business leaders believe phone conversations will become obsolete in the contact center of the future and 85% believe all customers should have access to live voice agents.

The following are some recommendations to take your company’s  phone-based customer support to the top.

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14 phone-based customer service best practices.

1. Hire the best team.
Providing top-notch customer service starts with hiring the best team. When your agents are well educated, experienced, and love their job, they will be more effective at meeting the needs of the customer. Look for passionate, entrepreneurial people who always seek the best possible outcome.

2. Train your team well.
Providing amazing customer support doesn’t end with hiring the best team. You must also make sure that they are well trained and engaged. This includes making sure they are proficient with using all of your business tools and fully understand your policies and procedures. Onboarding can be extremely stressful and challenging for agents. Take a personalized training approach by providing alternatives, such as live sessions, knowledge bases, voice and screen recordings, and other learning formats that better account for different learning styles and preferences.

3. Invest in customer-focused technology.
Contact center software that is simple to use and integrates with all of your business systems can make a huge impact on the level of service that your agents provide to your customers. Integrations with customer relationship management (CRM) systems, helpdesk, back-office solutions, social media, and more will pull out contextual data so agents can personalize each interaction. They will also know the entire interaction history of the caller, such as email logs and a list of the customer’s cases, tickets, and events, enabling them to take the most appropriate actions.

4. Provide alternatives.
Providing excellent support means being available for your customers when they need it the most. This could mean providing 24/7 support but does not necessarily mean that you need to have agents working around the clock. Self-service channels such as FAQ pages, chatbots, and an intuitive interactive voice response (IVR) system can be easily implemented and allow your clients to resolve less urgent issues at a time that works for them. By providing such alternatives, you won’t only be more available for your customers, but you’ll also reduce call volume and increase agents’ efficiency.

5. Be timely.
The number one priority of customers when they call customer support is to have their problems solved quickly. The more capable your support team, the more effective they will be at answering support requests in a timely manner and the more satisfied your customers will be. Answering support requests quickly and sufficiently should be the overarching goal of any support team.

6. Give customers a direct line.
When a customer needs to call back your company for any reason, allow your support agents to give them a direct line. This will save them valuable time and reduce frustration as they won’t have to enter IVR prompts, wait in a queue, or talk with an agent that doesn’t know their history.

7. Be proactive.
When a customer is complaining over chat, sends an email that is pretty discouraging, or has given feedback on a survey that they are unhappy with your service, have your agents ask if they can call them. Making the effort to reach out and establish a personal connection shows that you care about them as a customer. Additionally, calling a customer over the phone will help to expedite and enhance the problem-solving process. Finally, when you don’t hear from a customer in a while, don’t assume that no news is good news. Reach out to them to see if there is anything your team can do to help meet and exceed their expectations.

8. Set appropriate expectations.
While your agents are discussing an issue with a customer, they should let the customer know how long they can expect it to take to be fully resolved (i.e. “I’m looking into this right now and it should only be a few minutes before it is fixed”, “I am submitting a support request to our engineers and it should be resolved by the end of the day”). If your team has not met the expected deadline, follow up with the customer to let them know why and give them their new estimated time of resolution. When you appropriately manage expectations, customers will appreciate being kept in the loop.

9. Follow up.
In complex customer service issues, you want to make sure that your agents are following up with the client. When doing so, they should ask to make sure their problem was adequately solved, ask if they continue to experience any issues, and allow the customer to ask any questions. When your product is in a vulnerable state and new issues arise, taking the time to make sure everything is running smoothly and proactively fixing any issues can go a long way to keeping your customers happy and loyal.

10. Escalate issues when necessary.
Some issues may seem simple, but once your agents dig a little deeper, they find that they are very complex. As soon as they realize that an issue is beyond their domain of expertise, they should think about whom on your team might be most capable of solving it, let the customer know that they are unable to solve their issue, explain that another team member is better trained to solve their issue, and transfer the caller to that person. Customers will appreciate the honesty and that they are being transferred to someone with more experience with their issue. The agent should also be sure to track the customer’s interactions to make sure that their issue was sufficiently resolved.

11. When in doubt, ask for help.
When one of your agents is truly stuck and doesn’t know what to do, they should contact a manager or a senior customer service representative immediately. They should have the capabilities to chat with them while they are still on the phone with the customer, conference them in on the call, or be coached throughout the call without the customer knowing. This will help to expedite the problem-solving process and enhance first call resolution.

12. Track performance.
You should always have an understanding of how your team is performing. To do this, you must use call center software that measures relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) such as average handle time, service level, average speed of answer, etc. You should also track first call resolution to make sure that your reps are sufficiently answering their customer’s questions the first time, without having to transfer the caller to another department. Tracking these metrics will go a long way in ensuring they are performing optimally.

13. Monitor and coach.
In addition to tracking performance metrics, your call center managers should also monitor calls for quality assurance and coach call center agents when necessary. With more advanced contact center software they can listen in on live calls without the agent or customer knowing, give advice to the agent without the customer hearing and join a conference call. This functionality makes it simple to provide amazing customer support in the most efficient means possible.

14. Gain customer insight.
In addition to measuring KPIs, you should also have procedures in place to survey the customers about your support process. Whether it is asking them to complete a survey after the call has finished, sending a follow-up email with a survey, having each rep to ask the customer how the process has been so far, or a combination of the 3, you must make sure there is a clear and practical process in place. Another good rule to follow is to always follow up with your most unhappy customers as well as your customers who have just tried to cancel your service. Because in the words of Bill Gates: “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”


To wrap up.

These phone-based customer service best practices will go a long way in making sure that your team is providing amazing customer service. They can also help to propel your company to the front of your industry as a customer-centric company that treats its customers like family. However, modern contact centers include much more than telephone support. They can make or break the whole customer experience (CX). That’s why companies should take contact centers as a fundamental part of the customer journey and prioritize CX investment to stand out from the competition.We suggest you investigate CX’s impact on customer satisfaction and retention in depth by taking a closer look at:

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Lidia Tavares Dias

Lídia Dias

Lídia is a marketing content writer that has been writing about banking and technology for the last few years. She believes in better, human-like digital experiences. When not writing, she’s probably cooking for her kids or reading crime books and thrillers.