How to Always Tell Your Customers ‘Yes’

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

As a customer care leader, you do your best to give your Communicators the necessary tools to successfully navigate almost every situation they will encounter. Oftentimes, there is simply no adequate solution to a problem a customer is facing.

During these rare situations, it’s of the utmost importance that Communicators never tell a customer ‘no.’ Rather, Communicators must have the appropriate problem-solving skills to think on their feet and find a solution even if the remedy is not immediately evident.

Below are several ways in which Communicators can steer the conversation to ensure that they always tell a customer ‘yes.’

Offer alternatives: There is almost always an alternative solution to every problem. Unless, of course, a customer is making an outrageous claim that you simply can’t accept. Give the customer a few alternative routes in which they can take. Allowing him or her to choose makes him or her feel like he or she is in control.

Listen intently: Don’t try to talk over the customer or argue with him or her. Let the customer say his or her peace, even if you know what he or she is saying is incorrect. Oftentimes, customers just want to vent to another human being—don’t take it personally. Rather, listen intently to what he or she has to say. In doing so, you’ll build a good rapport and get down to the real problem at hand.

Go get help: If you don’t have an answer to a question, chances are there is someone who does. When you’re confronted with a situation in which you don’t know how to handle, enlist the help of your supervisor. He or she will be able to take over the call, and you won’t have to disappoint the customer by telling him or her “no.”

There is always a solution to a problem; even it doesn’t seem immediately clear. Always make sure you’re doing the best you can to please your customers.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Positive Attitude Makes Up for Lack of Experience in Customer Care

Customer care experts have been touting the importance of hiring Communicators with technology skills, as more contact centers are implementing technology to improve productivity and increase efficiency. What experts are forgetting, however, is the importance of a positive attitude.

When it comes to the customer care industry, communication and interpersonal skills are everything. After all, researchers found that the number one reason customers would abandon a brand was due to poor quality and rude customer service, according to a Customer Experience Report by RightNow.

When looking for qualified Communicators to join your team, forget technological prowess or business savvy and consider their attitude as the most important asset they can bring to table. You might interview someone who looks good on paper, but in person their demeanor could be dismal.

Below are a few interpersonal skills to keep in mind when bringing a new Communicator onto your team.

  • Empathy: When a customer contacts your business, there’s a good chance that he or she is frustrated or upset about something. Rather than come off as stand-offish or uninterested in their problem, Communicators must display empathy. This will put the customer at ease and help to build a good rapport.
  • Listening: There’s nothing more frustrating for a customer than trying to communicate with a Communicator who doesn’t listen. Don’t try to talk over a customer, as this will just upset them more. Instead, listen carefully to what he or she is saying so that you can clearly understand his or her problem. Intently listening to your customers will make them feel like they’re not just another ticket they need to complete.
  • Friendly: If a customer has a problem, focus on what you can do to help him or her. While you don’t want to seem overly happy when a customer is upset, being friendly can help a customer stay positive under not so great circumstances.

So next time you bring a new employee on board consider their personality more than what their skills look like on paper.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Contact Center Employees: Congratulate Yourselves!

All too often, business leaders will forget to commend their employees for the excellent jobs they are doing. Between the endless meetings and phones calls, it can be difficult to remember to take time out of their busy schedules to say “thank you.”

Nonetheless, it’s extremely important to make employees feel appreciated and important. According to a survey from Kronos, when asked what gives employees a high sense of satisfaction at work, respondents said receiving a “thank you” from their direct manager.

In the contact center, it’s especially important to congratulate and recognize success in order to boost team morale and incite more productive, positive behavior. Below are a few ways in which contact center leaders can ensure that their Communicators are acknowledged and appreciated for their hard work.

  • Create a “wall of fame”: Chances are you have an empty wall somewhere in your office. Turn that empty space into a “wall of fame” which consists of positive customer feedback and praise from fellow employees. This wall can act as tangible evidence of the great work employees are producing of which they should feel proud.
  • Conduct private one-on-ones: Each month or quarter, make a point of meeting with each Communicator to discuss his or her great work and thank him or her. According to the aforementioned survey, private, one-on-one communication is preferred over receiving positive recognition with others present or copied on a group email (59 percent vs. 26 percent).
  • Share positive feedback: Make sure you share any positive feedback that you get from customers or upper management with your team of Communicators. There’s nothing more fulfilling than knowing that you’re actually making a difference within the company and helping customers.

Your Communicators are your most important asset. Therefore, make sure that they feel appreciated by implementing any one of these suggestions above.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

This One Simple Tip Helps Keep Customers Coming Back For More

 

Customer retention is cited as a major pain point for many businesses. Nonetheless, it’s an important aspect to running a successful business and gaining optimal contact center services ROI. After all, numerous studies have shown that it’s more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to maintain an existing one. In addition, repeat customers often spend more over their lifetime.

In fact, the average repeat customer spent 67 percent more in months 31-36 of his or her shopping relationship than in months zero to-six, according to research from Bain and Co. What’s more, repeat customers spent 23 percent more in months 31-36 than in months zero-to-six.

If you’re struggling to improve your customer retention levels, there’s no need to fret because there’s one simple tip that you can implement to keep customers coming back for more. And that simple tip is to ensure that your Communicators end every conversation having gained a new friend.

That is, Communicators ought to perceive their customers as friends, in order to exude more empathy, authenticity and lightheartedness over the phone. In doing so, customers may soften their outlook toward customer care representatives and thereby enjoy a more personalized, friendlier experience.

So what are some things Communicators can do to make their interactions with customers friendlier? Below are some easy tips and tricks:

  • Make it personal: Customers don’t want to be treated like just another consumer; rather, they want a unique and personalized experience. Leverage the data you have about your customers to make every interaction more personal.
  • Listen intently: Part of being a good friend is really listening; the same goes with providing good customer care. Be sure that your Communicators are intently listening to customers’ questions.

While it’s true that Communicators must go through extensive training and continue to receive professional development throughout their careers, treating customers as they would a dear friend can help them improve their interactions with customers right away.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

 

Does Too Much Technology Disrupt Interpersonal Communications?

Have you ever gone out to lunch or dinner and noticed that nearly everyone in the restaurant is using his or her smartphones? There’s a good chance that you’ve experienced this exact same situation, as we’ve all been guilty of being a little too attached to technology at some time or another.

But, with that said, technology has become an important part of our lives, helping us connect with others and work more efficiently. But is our addiction to technology disrupting interpersonal communication? According to a recent Harris survey, the answer is “yes.”

According to the survey results, 71 percent of respondents believe technology has improved their quality of their life. However, almost three-quarters of U.S. adults also believe that technology has become too distracting, even millennials (18-35) seem to agree according to the survey.

What’s more, a strong majority of respondents agree that technology is corrupting interpersonal communications (69 percent) and having a negative impact on literacy (59 percent) with these figures highest among baby boomers.

So what do these survey findings mean for contact centers? It’s quite simple; businesses must ensure that they’re maintaining a healthy balance between technology and human interaction.

While self-service technology is great for certain situations—for example, when a customer needs to check on their bill or status of a delivery—others situations call for communication with a live Communicator.

It’s for this reason why it’s extremely important that businesses offer various different communication channels to cater to consumers needs, such as live chat, social media, and telephone service.

While technology has certainly changed the customer care industry, it hasn’t lessened the need for Communicators. There are certain situations in which technology just can’t offer the same quality of customer care and, in these scenarios consumers need the help of a live, experienced Communicator to help solve their problem.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

The Impact of Language In Customer Care, Part Two

In a recent blog post, I explored the power of language in the customer care space by dissecting the impact of negative transition words. I’d like to continue this conversation by exploring the impact of the phrases we use when closing conversations with customers.

After all, no matter whether we’re speaking over the phone, writing emails, or addressing customer care inquiries on social media, our use of language is constantly being scrutinized. If a phrase is seen as negative or a message is misconstrued, we risk damaging the relationships we’ve worked so hard to build with our consumers.

In fact, a recent article from Forbes.com explores this exact notion. The article, titled “Customer Service Experts Say ‘No Problem’ Is A Big Customer Service Problem–Here’s Why,” claims that the seemingly innocent two-word phrase Communicators often use when ending a conversation—“no problem”—is actually, well, a problem.

The author goes onto explain that when a Communicator says to a customer “no problem” it’s essentially insinuating that they’re causing a “problem”—and no customer wants to cause an unnecessary commotion; rather, he or she just wants to find an answer to a questions or receive help with a product or service.

To ensure that you’re Communicators aren’t offending customers, try to eliminate this phrase from their vocabulary and replace it with phrases, such as “you’re welcome,” or “my pleasure.” In doing so, you can end the conversation on a good note, as “welcome” and “pleasure” have positive connotations.

While letting “no problem” slip from time to time isn’t exactly terrible, the real takeaway here is in ensuring that Communicators are always using encouraging language. That is, controlling their language so that they can deliver messages, good or bad, in a way that won’t negatively impact the conversation.

Take the time to review and monitor your Communicators calls to ensure that they are making a concerted effort to speak optimistically to customers to ensure the utmost quality of customer care.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Make Strategic Thinking Communicators’ Top Priority

“What makes a good Communicator?” This is the most critical question that’s on many contact center leaders’ minds, as customer care becomes increasingly important to their company’s viability.

While being a superb conversationalist and possessing a pleasant disposition are both very important characteristics, these traits aren’t what separate a good Communicator from an outstanding Communicator.

The one characteristic that makes a Communicator truly stand apart from the rest is strategic thinking. Strategic thinking focuses on finding and developing opportunities to create value for the customer and the company.

A trait often found in great leaders and business owners, strategic thinkers are able to act on their feet during dire situations, thinking both with the left and right sides of their brains.

What’s more, these individuals are extremely aware and perceptive, using external and internal clues to help guide their decision-making. And finally, strategic thinkers are great problem solvers, always conceptualizing solutions that benefit both the customer and the business.

When it comes to the customer care realm, being a strategic thinker is critical. One has to be able to effectively serve the customer’s needs, while also keeping in line with the business’ vision and goals.

While strategic thinking isn’t easy to teach—as many individuals are often born with this trait—it’s not entirely impossible.  Below are various ways you can help your Communicators become better strategic thinkers.

  • Create teaching moments: Chances are you already record your Communicators interactions with customers. Take those interactions and turn them into valuable teaching moments. For example, discuss ways in which a Communicator could have thought more strategically in a certain situation with a customer. Pointing out these “moments” will help them identify areas in which they can think more strategically next time they’re interacting with a customer.
  • Always ask questions: During your evaluations with your Communicators, choose one particular call they had with a customer. Walk through the call with them, asking questions as to why they went a particular route. Was there an opportunity where they could have thought more strategically? Oftentimes, Communicators will come up with the conclusion on their own without you even having to point it out.
  • Encourage thinking outside the box: In the customer care industry, Communicators will often stick to the script. However, there are certain situations that aren’t so black and white. Encourage your Communicators to think outside the box. While it’s important to adhere to certain protocol, there are situations that call for a little creativity. Reward those who are truly thinking, rather than simply reacting to a customer. Praising such behavior will promote strategic thinking.

The more Communicators you have that think strategically, the more improved your quality of customer care will become. While not every single one of your Communicators will embody this trait, there are things that you can do to help them become more proactive. Use the tips and tricks above to help your Communicators think more strategically and become more well-rounded individuals.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Three Customer Care Practices That Drive Consumers Crazy

The contact center is one of the most important arms of a business. After all, contact centers are responsible for managing customer care and maintaining consumer retention. But, identifying what makes a customer tick, however, isn’t always easy for contact center employees. After all, no two customers are the same.

To help businesses understand what practices tend to drive consumers crazy, Consumer Reports National Research Center recently conducted a survey of 1,016 adults. In the survey, the company asked respondents to rate certain pain points on a scale from 0 to 10, 0 being “not annoying at all” to 10 being “tremendously irritating.”

So what practices frustrate customers the most?

Survey results found that 75 percent of respondents are irritated when they can’t get a live person on the phone and when a customer service representative is rude or condescending. What’s more, 74 percent of those polled said that they become highly aggravated when they are disconnected, while 71 percent said they’re frustrated when they are disconnected and unable to reach the same representative again.

For contact center leaders, it’s important that they make sure that their Communicators aren’t “annoying” customers by participating in these practices. Below are various ways in which contact center leaders can avoid making these mistakes:

  • Preserve human interaction: Many companies make the mistake of replacing human interaction with interactive voice response (IVR) technology. However, the majority of customers prefer to speak to an actual human being. Therefore, make sure that you give customers the option to speak to a qualified Communicator.
  • Train Communicators: As stated above, customers want to speak to a Communicator who’s not only knowledgeable about the company’s product or service, but who’s also empathetic and positive. Communicators should always use positive language in all situations no matter how frustrated a person may be at the start of the call.

Be sure to employ a strong customer care strategy so that you can  provide consumers the service to make them happy and retain their business.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Improving Your Customer Care Strategy-It’s Easier Said Than Done

Let’s face it; airlines don’t have the best reputations in the customer care space. One airline, however, is hoping to turn things around. According to a recent Forbes article, United Airlines is admitting that their customer care hasn’t been the greatest over the past several years. In fact, it ranks at the bottom of the list of all U.S. carriers.

Nonetheless, the hopeful airline is embarking on a campaign to improve its customer care and give travelers a better overall customer experience. While the airline is only looking to improve its customer care score by 12 percent, it’s company’s willingness to improve that’s impressed consumers.

So what can your contact center take away from this positive news story? It’s simple, there’s always room for improvement whether you’re customer care score is through the roof or down in the dumps. Below are several tips and tricks you can implement to affect a noticeable improvement in your customer care.

  1. Employ the right Communicators: You can have the newest and most expensive contact center technology, but without the right Communicators it won’t do you any good. At the end of the day, it’s your Communicators who are going to make the biggest impact on your customers, so make sure that you hire emotionally intuitive individuals.
  2. Utilize technology: Technology has fundamentally changed the contact center. From predictive analytics to big data analysis, businesses now have access to tools they can use to gather and interpret valuable data, which can then be used to improve customers’ experiences.
  3. Never settle for satisfactory: While your customer care score might not rank at the very bottom like United Airlines, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement. Never settle for satisfactory, as there is always something you can be doing better to give your consumers the best experience.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

The Impact of Language In Customer Care

If you could sum up the main objective of customer care in one phrase it would be high quality communication. It’s the quality of communication between the Communicator and the customer that makes or breaks the interaction. As well, Communicators must be malleable with their conversational skills as every new customer will be different from the last and therefore must be communicated with differently.

A major element at play in Communicators’ conversations with customers is the manipulation of language. Communicators must strategically choose their words so that they can deliver their messages in the most professional and empathetic way. As such, making even the slightest adjustments to vocabulary can change the way their messages are received.

In fact, a recent article authored by Carolyn Kopprasch from Bufferopen discusses the importance of word choice when it comes to quality of customer care. In the article Kopprasch discusses how she decided to eliminate words that tend to imply that a negative answer is forthcoming. For example, when a customer is on the line with a Communicator hoping for a positive answer to his or her inquiry and they are greeted with a response such as, “We would love to take care of this for you, but…” the interaction takes a negative turn. The word “but” lets the customer know the Communicator either cannot solve the problem or is about to offer a less convenient solution.

However, by controlling their language Communicators can learn how to deliver bad news in a way that won’t negatively impact the conversation. By eliminating “but” and saying something like “Unfortunately, we do not offer that solution. Try this one instead!” the Communicator is more straightforward and positive in his or her response. As well, they eliminate the moment that allows the customer to anticipate bad news and thereby turns from hopeful to disappointed or angry.

Communicators must be present at all times when speaking customers so that they can actively control their use of language to change the tone and direction of the conversation.

Try it out and let us know how it works for you in the comments section below!

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.