Customer service and sales go together like peanut butter and jelly.
In Customer Service for Sales: How to Turn Happy Customers into Salespeople, I went into how Modern Marine used their customers’ knowledge of and passion for boating to sell more boats. And in Does Your Customer Service Have the Kitten Factor? Using Customer Service for Sales I used Uber as an example of a company who treats their customers exceptionally to boost sales.
For this post, I looked to sales expert Aja Frost’s 7 Ways to Permanently Ruin Your Prospect’s Opinion of You on the First Call to find tips that are as applicable to customer service as they are to sales teams. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Speak slowly
If your boss is looking at your average resolution time to evaluate your performance, and determine your pay, you’re probably tempted to speak (and type) quickly.
But doing so can actually make resolution take longer. First, speaking quickly is a sign of anxiety. People who are nervous tend to talk fast. You risk making your customer anxious by extension. You also risk making your customer afraid they can’t keep up.
Your best bet is to speak about as quickly as your customer is speaking.
2. Sit up straight
“Sitting upright makes it easier for your diaphragm to support your breathing, which in turn makes your voice sound fuller and richer,” Frost writes. Keeping your back straight, she says, “can make you appear more engaging, powerful, and charismatic.”
3. Go off script
The purpose of a customer service script is to be a life vest, not a straightjacket.
There’s no faster way to extend issue resolution time than to rigidly stick to a plan when the situation calls for flexibility. If someone clearly needs to be bumped up to the next level of support, don’t force them to jump through the hoops dictated by your plan first.
Instead, use your best judgement.
4. Get emotional
I could tell you to sound enthusiastic, happy, and upbeat. But that would be weird if your customer is angry, sad, and frustrated.
Empathy is the name of the game in customer service. And empathy requires emotion. That’s why, in my opinion, emotional intelligence is the skill that customer service agents should spend the most time developing.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, differentiate, and label your emotions and the emotions of others. It’s also the ability to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.
It’s pretty easy to see why emotional intelligence is so important for customer service agents. Recognizing when you’re feeling bored, disinterested, or annoyed, for instance, helps you avoid coming across that way in your interactions with customers. It also is vital for empathy to be able to recognize and appropriately label what your customers are feeling. When you’re in tune with your emotions and theirs, you can then react appropriately. Sometimes that means coming back to a difficult customer when you’re in a more positive emotional state. Sometimes that means matching your customer’s emotional tenor. If your customer is sad, show them that you’re sad for them.
Probably the only emotion you don’t want to match on behalf of your customer is anger. Unfortunately, this is often the easiest feeling to match. If your customer is angry, show them that you are frustrated with the situation on their behalf.
5. Let them finish
The most important thing to demonstrate to your customers is that you’re interested in them and their problems. People want solutions, yes. But more than that they want to feel like they matter. And they want to feel like they can trust you.
Time is a nonrenewable resource. Why should someone trust you with their time if they don’t think you care about finding them a solution?
Besides being flexible and empathizing, the best way to show you are interested in someone is to listen to them! This small, obvious step is often the hardest one to implement well. Time pressure (and the fact that most people are really boring) makes interrupting someone before they finish speaking (or typing if you’re on chat) very tempting.
Resist the urge to start asking questions or offering solutions right away. Remember that the most urgent problem to solve is your customer’s emotional state.
Keep the bigger picture in mind. The purpose of customer service isn’t to resolve tickets. That’s a tactic. The purpose is to retain customers. The best way to retain customers is to make sure they feel cared about and understood. Listening to a customer helps them feel this way.
Remember to always:
- Let them finish speaking or typing before speaking or typing yourself
- Repeat their statements back to them in your own words
- Ask follow-up questions to show interest and be sure you fully understand the problem
Not only will this help raise your NPS, but it can also help you resolve problems more quickly and waste less time on dead ends.
Sales and customer service are very emotion-driven enterprises that require good interpersonal skills to do well. They both work best when first impressions are positive.
These five tips should help you build the rapport you need to get your customers’ problems fixed quickly and increase your customer customer loyalty.
Any tips I missed? Let me know in the comments!
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