Have you ever experienced the following scenario?
You have a problem with a big company and need to call customer support. You call, punch in numbers according to automated prompts, wait on the line, and finally get connected to a human. You are relieved to be speaking to someone; however, he or she can’t answer your question, nor transfer you to anyone who can help. They take your information, but you don’t hear from them again… Until you call back, sit through the automated prompts, and the cycle begins all over. Frustrated, you see no resolution in sight, and you are no closer to finding one than when you began.
How does this make you feel, as a paying customer? It doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) be this way. Let’s look at a second scenario…
An associate of ours recently visited a local antiques shop run primarily by volunteers. It was a large facility, with dozens of stands containing endless trinkets, oddities, and treasures. He wanted to purchase a vintage fondue set he’d found – however, he couldn’t figure out how to get the fuel canister open. He was approached by an elderly gentleman, a volunteer, who attempted to help, but got them both even more befuddled than when they started! Determined to help, the volunteer got his wife and other staff members, cracking jokes the whole time. After about ten minutes, they figured out how to get the pot open and sent our associate on his way, along with a business card for the owners of the stand, should he have any further difficulties. Our associate was truly touched by the excellent customer service experience.
How different from the phone call we can all relate to from the first example! Though he was just a volunteer, the elderly man in the antiques shop succeeded where so many businesses fail – he exhibited the 3 C’s: Care, Compassion, and Character. Let’s explore each of these pillars of customer service and how they can impact one’s business.
Care has a very large impact on business, and those who care get more out of themselves and their clients. Here are a few ways you can influence a support individual’s ability to express care:
Help the employee understand his/her place in the organization
The first factor in developing care in a support individual is giving the employee as much knowledge as possible about how customer support fits into your organization’s mission and goals. If the customer support individual does not have access to information about the moving parts of the company, his or her care will be lower: that employee will look at themselves as just another grain of sand on the beach. Show that employee why they matter, how their work influences other departments, and where their work goes after they have completed some of their daily tasks. This will give that employee an internal sense of responsibility knowing their work impacts others, as well as the customer, and will help keep standards high.
Minimize repetitive tasks
Another reason for lack of care could be due to repetitive work. Customer support work is, by nature, somewhat repetitive; however, the boredom and displeasure associated with repetition becomes amplified if unrealistic metrics are in place, or if the type of support is high-stress. You’ll have difficulty retaining employees who are gifted in customer service if he or she feels locked into repetitive motions: They are not being utilized to their fullest, and they know it.
Provide opportunities to learn new skills or work with new software
If you work at a company where there are multiple types of support (chat, email, phone, sales support, in person consultations, etc.), try to give all employees exposure to the different environments. Providing more opportunities to serve customers in new ways will allow those who are not task-oriented to find more enjoyment in their new-found tasks. This management style also creates an environment for conversation. Since the entire team will have a chance to engage in all the support tasks, the team can voice their likes, dislikes, and needs for change and optimization – instead of just having a few perspectives at the table, you’ll have many. For some additional tips on support with care, check out Forbes’ informative article about customer service vs. customer care.
Compassion is the second of the 3 C’s. Compassion is the second step to caring – once you feel like you have a good sense of being able to care for the customer, take your customer support to the next level with compassion. Let’s examine the difference between care and compassion….
In our example above with the fondue pot, the elderly gentleman cared, which ultimately led him to finding a solution to the customer’s needs. After a solution was found, he produced the owner’s business cards, in case our associate needed anything once he left the store. This is an excellent example of someone who is showing compassion in the moment. Although the gentleman ultimately produced, a solution, he went above and beyond. Perhaps he thought, “What happens if they go home and can’t make this thing work?” He provided an additional solution (in this case an emotional, “compassionate” solution) that gave the customer solace and let him know he would have support if he needed it. For some additional tips on compassion, check out SBNOnline’s take on delivering empathy.
The last C is for Character, and this may be the most important C of them all. Character is the last C to be attained after getting comfortable with care and compassion. Character is individual to every employee, and the summarization of all characteristics that make up that employee. Some traits include style, tone, quality, responsiveness, and etiquette. Everyone has a different character, and you should embrace that character in customer support, while still using care and compassion as a foundation. Let us highlight how character can influence decision making and ultimately client retention at a business:
In our first example with the big company, many of these individuals read from scripted responses. These responses are in a workflow setup where if the customer answers no, say this, and if they answer yes, say that. These types of procedures are the opposite of allowing a customer support individual to express his or her character in every way. Although the antiques shop volunteer was not as polished, he clearly was not using any type of scripted conversation, and his personality shone through and helped make light of a frustrating situation.
Individuals who embrace their character have enough confidence and comfort with themselves that they can speak on most any subject and realize when they are outside the scope of their expertise. While companies undoubtedly need to train customer support individuals about how to express company policies, using scripts without helping an employee develop his or her character leaves the customer support individual in a hopeless situation if confronted with complex issues or concerns.
Instead of locking employees into certain standards for communicating, teach him or her how utilize their personal attributes to connect with customers. Maybe your customer support individual has a sunny outlook; or knack of making people laugh. Or, perhaps he or she is very data-driven, and enjoys sharing numbers and analytics. Help them understand that these characteristics are opportunities to create a relationship with a client. For additional tips on character, we recommend checking out Nancy Depcik’s “The Character of Customer Service.
In summary – The first basic step of customer support is caring about someone. If you do not care about a customer’s complaint or issue, you cannot expect to deliver a quality experience. Second, be compassionate when speaking to others, knowing that they wouldn’t be calling or reaching out if they weren’t confused, upset, angry, or frustrated. Look at yourself as the expert, and trust that you can facilitate solutions and mitigate a customer’s distress. Last, show people your true character – don’t be afraid to laugh, to commiserate, to ask questions, or to be honest. When you combine the 3 C’s, you’ll begin to build a rapport with the customer, which results in meaningful relationships for both you and your company. For more information about how Request Tracker Pro can help you develop the 3 C’s, visit our informational page at https://www.requesttrackerpro.com/about/
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