When you first started your business, your customer service department probably consisted of one person: you.
As you have grown, you may have been lucky enough to be able to hire agents who can manage the various channels through which you offer customer support. With a little extra luck, you may have been lucky enough to find agents who are trained, experienced, and dedicated to high performance, who just KNOW how to deliver personal customer service. Whether or not you found some of these hard-to-come-by professionals, making sure they stay personal when interacting with your customers can be a challenge.
Sometimes, agents with less experience stick close to personal interactions because they may not have the technical knowledge required to offer support for your specific product or service. And sometimes agents with more experience have been at it so long they’ve lost any interest in forming a personal connection with customers. If you’re super lucky, you’ve found a perfect mix.
But since that combination can be rare, here are some tips and tricks for training on how to deliver personal customer service as your company expands.
Cover basic psychology
You can tell your agents over and over again that you want them to be more personal.
You can remind them every day that your customers are people and need to be treated as such.
But some employees simply will not understand the gravity of that information until you back it up with concrete proof that their performance will improve if they pay attention to it. Training your staff on basic psychological principles, like varied perspectives, ethical dilemmas, and behavioral science, can give them a foundation of knowledge that will allow them to better understand their interactions and themselves.
Solidify the expected language
This can apply to both the actual words being spoken and the tone in which they are being spoken. An upbeat tone goes a long way, and is arguably crucial.
Some companies will use scripts for their customer service interactions. That is an easy way to ensure that language is normalized across the organization. But what about when things go off script?
Training on how to speak to customers is very important, as it can be surprisingly hard to come by folks who already know how.
Train your agents to use positive language, offer solutions instead of excuses, and call customers by name.
Additionally, make sure they are giving the customer their name at the beginning of the interaction, otherwise, you'll lose the personal touch and it can be harder for customers to follow up on their issues.
Let them specialize
Any agents will be more comfortable speaking to a customer about a subject they know well. Think about the successful customer service interactions you have had.
- Did most of them include a transfer to a subject matter expert or specific department?
- Was that person vastly more helpful than whoever you spoke to initially?
- Did they almost sound excited to be speaking to you?
When people specialize, they lean toward what they know well, which means that they can hold intelligent conversations (like customer support) while maintaining a level of casualness that keeps the customer feeling like there is a human on the other end.
Utilize social media as a support channel
Social media is arguably one of the best ways to find and assist your most disgruntled customers. Many people prefer to complain about customer service publicly instead of calling the company to actually work out a solution.
But what about the Facebook reviews and the Twitter bashes? Those can be seen by thousands in a very short amount of time. Someone needs to be educated on how to address them. Use social media.
It’s essentially reaching out to your customers on what is arguably the most personal platform they utilize. Just make sure you don’t get TOO personal.
Send people to seminars
There are undoubtedly seminars and conferences and external trainings on how to deliver personal customer service. Invest in sending your employees to these. Even sending one employee to a training can be effective - they can come back and teach the team everything they learned, and all you had to do was send one person!
Teach follow-up skills
Nothing makes a customer feel forgotten faster than having to wait for a response. Even if you have an automated response sent for every inquiry, you need to have your agents follow up again.
Think about being on hold on a call with a company’s customer service department. The music plays, but every few minutes, a voice recording comes on to remind you that you are still in the queue and have not been forgotten. This is great for phone support, but rare for online support.
Set specific Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for response time and train your agents to follow them closely. Even if they don’t have an answer yet, an email to a customer to let them know you’re still working on their issue would be ideal.
No one is saying it’s easy. Customer service is a demanding job that is oftentimes thankless. Agents can quickly lose sight of your company values when customers are rude, short, or extremely confused. The most important thing to do is train them on how to react appropriately when their interactions go astray. Empowering your employees to act on customer issues in an independent manner will save you time and frustration, as well as business.
Give your staff the tools to succeed, and they will have the confidence to do so. “Training” can seem like a vague term, but only if your employees don’t know what kinds of training are available to them. Make it known, make it accessible, and, the crucial thing, make it personal.