The standard job description for front-line customer service personnel is to resolve problems, make sure people are where they’re supposed to be and make sure customers are happy. I say you’d be hard-pressed to meet those standards if you didn’t know a lot about your products or customers.
When calling a customer service line, the difference between them and your typical call center is that they only deal with one thing. You might be able to get an irate customer off the phone in 10 seconds if you know a lot about your product.
You probably can’t.
Be analytical and knowledgeable
The work of a customer service representative is extremely analytical and requires considerable prior knowledge. Because of this, it requires great expertise in the field.
It’s not enough to know a lot about your products. It’s necessary to know how to communicate with those who use your products and for whom your products are critical to their livelihoods.
Successful customer service people are capable of listening well, empathizing with the concerns of their customers, and providing clear and easy-to-understand guidance. They also know how to be difficult.
A customer service representative needs to be able to say to someone, “Let’s get back to you in about two minutes and let’s talk about this over the phone. I need you to relax and tell me how this will go down for you.”
Of course, just knowing how to be difficult isn’t enough. Many customer service representatives do this, and that is still not enough.
They can’t explain what’s wrong with your product or why you’re unreasonable. For a representative to do this, they need to understand what’s wrong with the product.
As the person who lives and breathes your products, you, as a product’s owner, need to be able to communicate with them so they can tell you what’s wrong and why.
Again, if you don’t know what’s wrong with your products, it’s hard to have a conversation with a customer service representative that makes their job easier. You also can’t be condescending or rude.
The best response to a question from a customer service representative is “Okay.” As in, “Okay. Tell me. I’ll take a look at it and get back to you.”
In this way, customer service representatives make your products a success. When you listen to the conversation and follow the rep’s instructions, customers will also appreciate you. It’s true.
Customers appreciate service in general, and when it’s provided well, they will tell their friends. They will tell their friends about their great service.
They will tell their friends about the great service of their competitors. And if the customer service rep fails in their job, and customer service is the most important part of your product, they’ll tell the people they know who can help.
A big mistake people make is to think they can turn customer service into a budget line item. The customer service rep, who is the face of your brand, is the product in many ways.
Treat them like the entire product. They can’t live or die based on the number of customers you have.
The best example of this is Ferrari. The whole point of it being a sports car company is because Ferrari made a sports car to race against other sports cars.
But Ferrari also makes money on making the whole family of Ferraris a product share with their friends and loved ones. Not on selling to the few customers who can afford to buy one.
Set your priorities straight
Business leaders need to make sure they understand this and set priorities accordingly. You can’t afford to have a customer service rep “replace” the need for sales.
If you do, you’ll be spending twice as much on customer service as you would on sales. But the best customer service representatives make the success of your company a priority.
Just as with sales, you need to have reps available to answer the phone at all times. Customer service reps are in contact with thousands of customers a week.
But not everyone is in a position to give a representative an immediate answer. So remember, your customer service reps can’t take your product off the market when you need them to.
A poorly handled product recall can mean a great loss of business and cost you a lot of money. When I see a company like this, I believe the product is bad, not the customer service rep.
When the product is bad, it’s the customer service rep’s job to fix it. But it’s their job to fix it for your benefit, not their own.
Since you need a rep to answer the phone and talk to customers, you need to train them. A trainer, also, is more expensive than having a “sub-contractor” do the job, which might be less expensive. But training is far more effective.
Training creates a culture of excellence. A culture of excellence requires an investment in people and processes. Without training, you’re just running off labor.
For me, training comes in the form of a quality control system. It’s one thing to find a way to improve service. It’s another to get the results you want and to do it effectively.
My company was recently involved in a huge recall of some of our product. The recall was sparked by someone claiming the product had to poison in it.
The claim was turned over to a customer service rep, who, obviously, had no training. The employee knew nothing about the product and had no information to respond to the customer.
A more skilled rep would have learned that the product was not dangerous. He would have said that he would have to refer the customer to the manufacturer.
He would have then taken the complaint to the manufacturer. And it would have been corrected.
But since the product didn’t need a recall, and because it wasn’t defective, it wasn’t fixed in time. So, yes, I felt the customer service rep had a problem with their training.
But that’s the big secret to great customer service. You need to get the results you want and be done with it.
Training is expensive. And your customer service reps shouldn’t have to pay for it.