Customer service is a critical part of any business. According to Forbes, consumers trust and spend more money on brands because of better customer service. On the other hand, a bad experience will cost you; almost one in three consumers (32 percent) will leave a brand they love after just one bad customer experience.
What do customer service superstars have that others don't? Based on my several years of working with customer service teams, I see patience as their No. 1 quality – no matter how difficult customers can be, they never lose their cool and always take their time to understand the big picture so they can provide their best service. This leads to the following additional qualities:
- Quality No. 2: They are excellent listeners.
- Quality No. 3: They are encyclopedias of knowledge.
- Quality No. 4: They care about their job.
What happens when your customer service team does not have these qualities? Your bottom line will likely be affected due to unhappy customers taking their business elsewhere or damaging your reputation with a negative online review/spreading negative things about your company to people they know. Encouraging excellent customer service is key.
[Looking to improve communication? Here are 4 Ways to Improve Communication With Customers]
As a naturally impatient person, I believe achieving patience takes time, practice and a whole lot of mindfulness. What has helped me overcome impatient moments is doing self-check-ins in two simple steps, which you can encourage your team to follow.
- Step 1: Evaluate the situation. Assess what's going on and ask yourself why you're feeling so impatient. Understand that in most cases, you have to control your own impatience, because you can't control anyone else and can't speed up a situation that is causing impatience in the first place.
- Step 2: Inhale deeply for a count of three then slowly exhale for another count of three. This simple form of practicing mindfulness is helpful in all kinds of stressful situations when impatience occurs, such as an unhappy customer who is not clearly communicating what they need from you.
As part of encouraging patience in customer service, teach your staff to always put themselves in the shoes of your customers – you never know what kind of day they are having and a friendly patient person on the other side of the line could make their day.
Encourage good listening
Some people have the tendency of thinking about what their reply will be before the person they are talking to has finished speaking. According to the Huffington Post, research shows that the average person listens with only 25 percent efficiency.
Good listeners, the article states:
- Are present in the moment, focusing on the person in front of them
- Are empathetic, putting themselves in the position of the person in front of them
- Realize their shortcomings
- Have an open mind
- Are aware of their emotions and the emotions of the people around them
- Ask appropriate follow-up questions
- Are not defensive, blocking out negative criticism
- Are okay with being uncomfortable
- Are good leaders
Equip your team with knowledge
Philosopher Francis Bacon once said, "Knowledge is power."
Think about it: Without knowledge you really can't do anything in life, from choosing a place to live to acing a job interview to helping customers, knowledge is the tool that can make you successful.
While some workers take it upon themselves to learn as much as they can on the job, as their leader, it's up to you equip them with that power from day one. Equip them with everything from what they can expect to information on the latest product updates.
Customer service expert Nancy Friedman said it best when she advised preparing your employees with a "mental" suit of armor.
"Make sure [your customer service reps] are aware all clients or customers won't be so nice and some will be difficult,” she said. "Your employees will be on the front lines of occasional abuse. Warn them in advance and make sure that when those incidents happen that your employees will still treat the customer with politeness and respect."
Friedman also suggests having a customer service training plan in place, but if you don't have time for a detailed training, "Remind your employees that 'thank you for your business' goes a long way, costs nothing and leaves a positive lasting impression."
Foster an encouraging work environment
Everyone wants to feel like they are valued, so showing employees your appreciation along with motivating them can improve business performance and retention. Calling them out for a job well done on a specific project or even thanking them can go a long way.
I've also found that the mood of leaders has an impact on the team. Happy, positive, upbeat moods are contagious. If a leader is always negative, they can create a sour work environment.
Beyond what you say and how you act, office ambiance also plays a vital role in a work environment. Improve your office's work environment by improving lighting and making the office comfortable.