For any company, the support team is one of the best ways to build relationships with customers. These dedicated professionals are the literal name, face and voice of your company for your customers, so giving them the tools they need for successful conversations is mandatory for creating a healthy mutually-beneficial relationship. Without them, retaining customers and brand reputation is nearly impossible — according to American Express, 33% of customers say they’ll consider switching companies after just a single instance of poor service.
At Talkdesk, our world-class support team has an average CSAT rating of over 99%. Even more important, our support team is unique in that the people we support are themselves support professionals, so they need to be extra sharp. We’re always working to fine-tune our tools and processes and part of that commitment is a dedication to sharing our knowledge, both internally and externally.
Our team has collected the eight habits from our own outstanding internal professionals. We strive to help your team improve the way you operate and, in turn, help your customers get more out of your product.
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However your support team operates, your customers expect them to be the experts. Here’s the thing about experts – they don’t just solve the problem at hand – they are looking ahead and offering ways to prevent future problems. The best support teams proactively improve customer experience by knowing the tools you use inside and out, understanding the features of your product and the processes you use, and seeking information about emerging industry trends.
Keep in mind that you have two responsibilities: one to your company and another to your customers. You owe it to both to focus on resolving the present problem while doing all that you can to prevent future ones from happening.
Support professionals are the front line of business. They handle a high volume of customer conversations that start similarly. It’s always a good idea to build a knowledge base of previous instances and successful resolutions to solve future issues, but relying too heavily on your assumptions and past experiences rather than listening to information from a customer is a dangerous trap.
“When customers share their story, they’re not just sharing pain points. They’re actually teaching you how to make your product, service, and business better. Your customer service organization should be designed to effectively communicate those issues,” said Kristin Smaby, author of Being Human is Good Business and consultant for Talkdesk.
When a customer calls with an issue you’ve solved before, pinpointing what you have experienced in similar cases is a great way to start, but it doesn’t mean that you can omit other information or stop listening to the customer. They called you with a problem that they own. They have more information about the issues than you, so you need to listen to every caller with fresh ears instead of assuming that you know where the conversation is going. Even if you’re right most of the time, there will be instances where your assumption isn’t correct and you have to start all over again, costing the customer time and a lot of emotional energy.
Verifying your assumptions along the way to a solution is an easy way to keep the caller engaged and even illustrate your line of thinking and problem-solving process in the instance that they have a similar issue later. The ultimate goal of a good support team should be to personalize every interaction as much as possible. Part of that personalization is to let each customer fill you in on the details of their problem before you start providing a solution.
Your customer conversations are not a competition to determine who knows the most about your product, they’re a team effort to solve a common problem. Every support professional knows that they have a primary goal to solve customers’ problems and a secondary goal to ensure that the customer leaves the experience happier than they started on every call. The problem-solving element can be handled via deep product knowledge, but the emotional element is more an art than a science and takes a little bit of finesse.
The consequences of making a customer feel bad are real: in 2011, 86% of consumers quit doing business with a company because of bad customer experiences. An easy way to make a customer feel stupid is to assume that they have the same level of knowledge as you. If you move too fast or use terminology they aren’t familiar with, the customer will either entirely miss your solution or stomach the embarrassment of asking you to slow down or repeat yourself. To avoid those negative outcomes, let the customer drive. Move the conversation at their pace, try to match the language they use and check to make sure they are following when you give them directions.
Remember, as a support professional, you are the high-end outlier. Not everything you know is common knowledge. Your role is to complement their problem-solving efforts, not be a know-it-all. At the end of your interaction, the customer shouldn’t feel bad about needing to contact customer support, they should feel empowered to handle similar issues in the future.
As a support professional, your job is to learn your product inside and out then share your knowledge with customers who call in and need help. What gets overlooked in this process is how openly you share new learnings with your internal support team. Keeping the information flowing internally is a great way to maximize the overall production of your team. Sharing information with one customer is a great way to assist one person, but teaching a team member a new trick is an easy way to help all of the customers they assist.
Support professionals are always looking for new product ideas and uses, no matter how small. The most valuable support providers are equally passionate about spreading that information to their teammates. Their goal isn’t to just increase their own personal knowledge base, but to expand the entire team’s.
When you learn something new, no matter how small, there should be a formal process to share with your team. Maybe you need to allow time in a regular meeting or create an email thread of Slack channel. If your team is small enough, it could be as easy as standing up and making an announcement at your desk. However your team circulates information, make sure you’re always spreading product knowledge as far as possible.
If your product releases frequent updates or has a high degree of complexity, there will always be something new that your team needs to learn. You need to stay aware of the product roadmap and train agents to be one step ahead of the updates. As soon as your product updates, you’ll start receiving support inquiries about it and your team can’t be learning on the fly. You’ll get the most inquiries about a feature the first month or so that it is available, so your team needs to be 100% knowledgeable on day one.
Luckily, these updates decisions aren’t coming out of anywhere. Your product team should be regularly communicating with the support team, providing information about new and upcoming releases. It’s good to know how the product works, but it’s even better to understand the logic behind the new updates so you can provide a more complete picture of your offering when speaking with customers.
Better yet, establishing communication lines between support and product teams is a great way to make sure the customer’s voice is heard in roadmap planning sessions. The support team can learn the product on time and the product team can use feedback from the support team to build a more customer-friendly product; it’s a win-win.
There’s an understandable knowledge gap between support agents and the customers they serve. That should be expected. The quickest way to bridge that gap, to educate callers and increase their product usage and also their overall satisfaction, is to empathize with them. An easy way to do this is to listen thoroughly before you start problem-solving. They will likely tell you not only the problem they are experiencing but also why it is important for them to get it solved.
The mindset of the great support specialists is not that the customer is coming from a position of naivety, requesting the assistance of a more knowledgeable expert, rather it is that the agent and the customer are on the same team, working together to solve the same problem. There is no hierarchy in the agent-customer relationship, just a bond to achieve a common goal.
When customers feel like they’re being understood and treated as an equal, they’re more likely to be receptive to an agent and more likely to enjoy their support experience. Remember that positive support interactions aren’t just the ones that solve a customer problem, you should also be making the caller feeling empowered to solve similar problems in the future. Brilliant support professionals are as intelligent about the product as they are about caller emotions.
Support professionals put in their most valuable time talking on the phone, so it’s really important that they speak clearly and confidently. Even if you have a ton of ideas rushing through your head when you listen to a customer, the best way to respond is always to slow down, simplify your message and make sure your customer understands what you are saying.
Speaking slowly is an easy way to guarantee you are understood and it also shows a little empathy for the customer on the other end of the call. They might be trying to fix a problem on the fly while simultaneously dealing with the fallout from that problem. They might also be trying to take notes on what they are doing so they can fix the problem if it occurs again later. They might not even speak the same language as you natively, so a slower pace and more basic vocabulary might be the only way to communicate clearly.
Any way you look at it, your customer probably has more going on than just your phone call. The only thing you can be sure of is that they have an urgent problem that needs fixing. The last thing they need is to worry about understanding the expert on the other end of their call.
It’s important to remember that you aren’t receiving calls from customers who are totally satisfied with the way their product is working. People are calling you with at least a minor confusion and at most a major outage or product failure. They’re likely not going to be thrilled that they needed to contact you in the first place.
It might be easy to get caught up in the emotions of your worried caller, but that isn’t going to help solve the problem any faster and it’s going to take a serious emotional toll on your satisfaction at work. The occasional bit of rush can be a healthy thing, but a routine habit of panicking to meet caller emotions is an easy way to burn out quickly.
No matter how much the customer is panicking, support professionals need to stay calm. Not only does it help them think clearer and solve problems faster, but it also cools the customer down and gives them the confidence that their problem is going to be fixed. It’s important to remember that emotional control is very important in customer support and displaying a calm attitude will encourage the same in your customers.
A good support team is more than just a collection of people armed with a handful of habits. The right team is built of individuals who have a commitment to ongoing education and the emotional ability to both handle upset callers and collaborate to solve problems with them. The technical and emotional knowledge is something that takes years to master and is irreplaceable in terms of building a personal connection between a brand and its customers.
Using these habits, start a conversation with your support team and see if there are any ways you can improve. Your customers will thank you.