People perceive customer service as a monotonous job routine; a customer comes in with a query, gets a response from the team, and goes his/her way after that. It is like that unless it isn’t.
Anybody who has worked in customer service wishes it would be as simple as that, but it isn’t. On most days, customer service representatives get stuck in challenging scenarios and unprecedented situations.
To minimize the confusion and delay in resolving customer issues, supervisors provide call center executives with scripts. It does help in going-by-the-book when resolving customer issues and can maintain a certain index of customer satisfaction, but it cannot resolve every type of issue and comes with its own limitations.
Personalization is what a customer craves; if agents start sounding monotonous in conversations, it takes the joy out of the equation for customers. Scripts also suppress the critical faculties that the representatives need to use in challenging situations. It means that going off the book might very well work in favor of the support representative.
Going off-the-script shouldn’t mean using methods that put more pressure on workers or a process that the customer finds confusing. Let’s try to understand how representatives can deal with unprecedented situations. Tried and tested successfully by our customer service outsourcing agents, we believe you will find them useful.
1. Crisis situations
In emergency situations, we ask customer service representatives to spearhead customer satisfaction initiatives and hold them accountable to keep the customers happy. But, we don’t always equip them with the tools or allow them to use their creativity in order to resolve atypical issues.
The problems might range from technical faults to security lapses leaving the customer service representatives to think on their feet. They are required to help alleviate the frustration of agitated customers and retain their trust without losing their own composure in emergency situations.
To start off, what should the representative do in case of a crisis?
- Give a heartfelt apology- When a situation turns for worse, the first matter, of course, would be to apologize empathetically. Frustrated customers must know that you accept your fault and have an honest intent to resolve the whole issue. If you try to provide solace to the customer by going straight to the resolution without apologizing, it will look bad on your company’s professional standards.
- Be clear about time limits- If customers are stuck in a case and are panicking, you have no option but to be as transparent as you can. You have to tell them the path you are taking to resolve the problem and the time it will take. This will help calm down the customer by providing them clarity into the process.
- Putting in contingency plans- Placing an emergency resolution procedure into the company system will work wonders for the customer satisfaction index. When agents are empowered with a process that lets them deal with the unprecedented, they are likely to be headstrong while resolving issues. To enable representatives in handling emergency situations, ask every team to collaborate and build a program, which allows for faster resolutions.
What should a customer service representative convey to the customer in an emergency? Something to the effect of “We sincerely apologize for the trouble from our end- the technical team integrated an update into the software which seems to have crashed important features of it. Our team is working right at this moment on resolving the issue. Our estimate is that it will be resolved within three hours. Please bear with us for the while. I will contact you as soon as it is done by any medium you prefer.”
2. Tricky situations where the answer is unknown
It so happens that a customer service representative doesn’t know the answer to a technical question. While it may reflect badly on the customer service standards on the company or on the agent him/herself, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to handle the case smoothly. It comes as a shock to customers when representatives go, “I am unaware of the resolution to this problem” or “I don’t know how to help you here”. It puts forward the impression that your company doesn’t focus on customer happiness and doesn’t care about it at all.
Customer support representatives can find themselves in these situations a few times, so how do you go about it? Instead of taking recourse to excuses like ‘I have not been trained on this’ or ‘I am new at this’, which further puts the company in a bad light, it is best that the rep just goes ahead and apologize for what they are lacking. If he/she doesn’t know the resolution to the problem, they should explain to the customers how and when they can get them the resolution. It means you can tell the customer who you are going to approach for the issue and the time it will take to resolve the whole matter.
It will better if the representative says something on the lines of, “I am afraid that I am not the right person to answer that. I will connect you with my manager and come up with a resolution by [suitable timeline]”. If a customer catches you on back foot with little resources to help the customer, your extra efforts in providing help to the customers will make them feel valued.
3. When you know you messed up
If you or your company has made a mistake, admit it, period! While it is not easy, sincere apologies and empathetic resolutions are your only alternative if you wish to retain and regain customers’ loyalty and trust. Glossing over your mistakes would only expose you more as a dishonest company. At moments when a customer is angry and the service delivered is of poor standards, the right thing to do is apologize for the experience at once.
Some representatives blame it on other people or cumbersome processes, which does more harm than good and reflects poorly on the whole company.
The question arises is this, how to respond in a situation like this?
“(Customer’s name), I am sincerely sorry for the experience this time. We made a mistake without taking into account the issue it might cause. We are already working on the problem and will resolve the issue by (time). Meanwhile, please let us know if we can of assistance any other way.”
If the agent begins with an “I”, it not only shows ownership that bodes well for the company but it also assures customers that the agent is taking personal responsibility to resolve their issue. Focus on providing closure to the customers, which is essential to them trusting you again.
4. Tiptoeing Around A Customer’s Fault
It isn’t for certain that the problem is on your side; chances are that a customer is stuck with an issue because of his/her own fault. These situations require careful treading in order to not offend a customer and show them their fault clearly. Moreover, it’s a brilliant chance to hone your customer-servicing skills.
How do you show the customer that they are in the wrong?
Quite simply, never go on the ‘it’s your fault’ rant or try to hold a higher moral authority by blaming them for the issue. Don’t show them their mistake, but attribute it to an aspect, which caused the confusion. Initially, your customer service representatives could have been more thorough with providing information about the product. The issue might have also arisen because of the less-than-friendly product design and features.
Remember, your motive here is to make the customer aware of the product specifications and teach them to use it on their own. Here is an example of what to say in a situation like this:
“We see that the situation is arising because of the (a mistake they are making). Actually, it should be (the right way to do it). I apologize for the confusion caused by us; it is a common issue that can be resolved quickly. We are working on uprooting this problem and fixing it for good. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance. Thank You.”
5. Angry-To-My-Bones Customer
Every customer service professional understands the patience it takes to deal with an angry customer. It is a tough experience for any professional to handle a deeply frustrated customer. They might be angry because of your service standards or just because of the bad day they are having. What will you do if you have just started with a warm “hello” and the customer starts shouting at you?
No matter the level of anger, your aim is to maintain emotional composure and bring them down to meet your emotional stability rather than rise up to theirs. Any customer service professional will tell you how important it is to let an angry customer vent it out for a while. Meanwhile, you can plan to resolve their issue accordingly.
What will you say if the customer is frustrated?
Something along the lines of, “I realize that we have caused you to be angry. I sincerely apologize for the issue you are facing. We are working right this moment to resolve this issue completely.”
Emotional quotient is of paramount importance here; be empathetic and keep your tone as calm as possible. Soon, the customer will calm down and start talking in a less-angry voice. First off, apologies are necessary in these situations. Give them your listening ear and offer any assistance you can. The moment you placate them, you can start working on resolving the issue quickly.
What to do if the customer crosses all limits?
Call center outsourcing companies understand the level of abuse their workers have to face from customers of another company; they take it as part of the job and do everything in their power to help resolve a customer issue. But, sometimes a customer goes too far the limits and abuses the customer service representatives just because he/she can. If the agent feels uncomfortable at such times, they have the right to refuse further engagement with the customer.
A simple message like, “We exist to serve. I am more than willing to help resolve the issue and listen to your problems. But, if you keep on using abusive language, I am warning you that I will have to end the call.”
If the customer is still using the same language, ask them to call once they are ready to converse respectfully and terminate the call for now.
6. Unreasonable Demand Or Expectations
Some customers don’t know the limits of services you provide. They might ask for a product replacement after many days which the company’s policy states against, they might ask for a feature that you don’t add without charges, or they simply ask for discount that you just can’t provide. These customer requests land you in a tricky situation where you just don’t know how to refuse. Your refusal might become their disappointment, which can make them feel like you only care about making money and not about the customers.
How to tell a customer what they are asking for can’t be provided?
The answer to this lies in your communication skills and the way you are able refuse without making them turn away. You have to make it sound positive, even when it is really not. If you don’t do that, the customer will feel disappointed in your services.
What do you say when you can’t meet unreasonable expectations?
Depending on the situation, you can say something on the lines of, “Our technical team hasn’t yet added that feature into the product, it will be released within three months. Meanwhile, you can use this technique to have the same effect as the feature you asked for.”
“I am sorry but we don’t have the product in our stock at this moment. I see that it is going to arrive in 45 days. Shall I contact you when it is available?”
“We are really sorry but we can’t generate the refund for this order. Being a startup, we have very skeletal margins. To give you some relief, I can provide a discount coupon for the next time you place an order.”
The bottom-line is- don’t just put out an unbent “No”, give them a reason behind your refusal and provide them alternatives to achieve the same level of effect. It should be a compromise rather than a case of I-asked-and-you-refused; you make it sound like a compromise and the customer will come to you again.
7. Customers Who Don’t Want To Use Your Services Anymore
Much like angry customers, clients who don’t want to use your services anymore are part-and-parcel of the business model. Most companies try to convince the customers to stay when they call up to cancel their subscription.
What will you do if a customer calls up to cancel their subscription?
Don’t go the I-will-save-this-order at any cost mode by doing exactly what they want but try to meet the customer halfway if you must. You can provide discounts and persuade them to stay a little while longer but think of this; they don’t want your services now, how likely are they to stay when the discounts have ended?
It is better to end the matter once and for all. In cases like this, it can be harmful if the representative keeps pushing the customer; they will simply get irritated and ask for the manager Instead, if you provide them a questionnaire or ask insightful questions; that will help you improve upon your services and retain customers in the coming times.
What will you say if a customer calls up with such a demand?
“It is saddening that our product just wasn’t the right one for you. Please do provide us with your feedback regarding our services and what we can do to improve the standards. It will help us in furnishing a much better product for our customers.”
Be gracious in your response and thank the customers for their time. Be sure to leave a great impression on the customer, which goes above the professional standards and convinces them of your excellence in customer service.