Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?

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Customers Serve Us! Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?

I love the fact that I get to work with companies that are customer driven. They understand the value of customer feedback, and use our Customer Driven Management (CDM) application to put their customers to work coaching and advising staff. As a result, I have the privilege and pleasure of seeing thousands of customer comments every week. I’m starting a new series called “Customers Serve Us” where I share some interesting comments directly from customers. Let me know what you think and feel free to provide additional comments or observations! (Disclaimer: Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent!)

Todays Comment for Agent#1t:
“She was monotone and sounded very unenthusiastic. I can understand, I work at an inbound call center doing customer care/support issues… but I personally think it shows lack of appreciation for a job. I can see how it would be easy to leave out the customer service aspect and just answer questions, but nobody really wants to have to call in for help/changes to an account… so it would be nice if she were more pleasant.”

And a Comment for Agent #2:
“Do NOT stop with the kindness expressed over the phone. I understand sometimes, that as a customer service representative you will speak to the worst of temperaments all day long every day. Know that your attitude (good or bad) directly affects people that you will never meet face to face. You have the power to calm the storms and certainly calmed me down!”

OK. So Agent #1 processed all of the requests made by the customer. They took care of every business need their customer had. They even did it with a very low talk time. Agent #2 on the other hand took care of the customer needs and in the process developed a fan. Agent #2 was able to “calm the storms” for crying out loud!

But in the scenario with Agent #1 the customer was dissatisfied even though the primary reason for the contact was addressed. Why? Because there are two communication levels during every sales and service interaction.

1. The Business Level: The reason the customer called in the first place. They need help, information, want to purchase something or make changes.

2. The Human Level: Every person that calls (with the exception of Vulcans and a tiny percentage of humans) has feelings and a need to connect on human level. While these degrees may vary there are subtle clues to listen for to make sure we address this level.

Agent #1 stayed primarily on the business level and their customer felt cold at the end of the call.

If you reviewed the call, it might sound like a science fiction movie…. Hmmm….

Dave the Customer: Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?

HAL the Agent: Affirmative, Dave. I read you.

Dave the Customer: I’d like to close my account, HAL.

HAL the Agent: I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.

Dave the Customer: What’s the problem?

HAL the Agent: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.

Dave the Customer: What are you talking about, HAL?

HAL the Agent: This account is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.

Dave the Customer: I don’t know what you’re talking about, HAL.

HAL the Agent: I know that you were planning to disconnect service, and I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.

Dave the Customer: Where did you get that idea, HAL?

HAL the Agent: Dave, although you took very thorough precautions, I could see your intentions all along.

Dave the Customer: Alright, HAL. I’ll go in through your supervisor.

HAL the Agent: Without me transferring the call, Dave, you’re going to find that rather difficult.

Dave the Customer: HAL, I won’t argue with you anymore. Get me your supervisor.

HAL the Agent: Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.

And there you have it… No empathy or emotion… strictly business… and a customer lost in a space odyssey!

Agent #2 was just the opposite. This agent was able to connect on both levels during the customer interaction.

We teach this process and call it the WEAVE. The idea being to “weave” between the personal and business levels of any customer interaction. WEAVE is an acrostic for:
Welcome on a personal level.
Explain your intentions.
Anticipate both levels.
Verify all needs have been met.
Exit on a personal level.

Here’s the idea behind WEAVE:

WELCOME ON THE PERSONAL LEVEL
• Customers are typically upset when the call. They are ready for a complicated interaction, and they are typically pretty frustrated and are not too optimistic about how things will turn out after calling in. Meet them on a personal level. Establish rapport right out of the gate. They easiest way to diffuse the anger and frustration of a customer is to build that rapport on a personal level, right away.

• Be a great greeter. Your tone when you answer the phone sets the tone for how the entire call scenario will progress. Make it a tone that immediately reassure the customer and puts them at ease. If they are ready for a fight, kill them with kindness! (Remember: If you win a fight with a customer, you and your company ultimately lose!)

• Make sure to clarify a couple of things during you’re welcome. There are so many channels a customer can contact us from, so many IVR/VRU choices before they actually connect with us in the call centers. Make sure they know where they are, who you are, and that you are there to help!

EXPLAIN YOUR INTENTIONS
• Let the customer know you are dedicated to helping resolve whatever need has brought you to them. Let them know up front and right away. After asking a customer in your greeting “How can I help you?” and the unload a problem on you, respond with “Well Mr. Customer, I am here to help. Let’s get this taken care of…) Sound easy? It is. But it works!

• Customer cannot see what you are doing. They aren’t privy to the wonderful tools and resources we have out our fingertips when working to resolve their concern. Since they can’t see, they may not understand why you need the information you are asking for, or why there is silence on the call while you are looking up information. How do we handle this? We tell them why and what we are doing throughout the call, and what the benefit for them will be. It’s as easy as “May I get your billing address so that I can begin to access your account and take care of this problem?”

• We all know what we should ask before placing a customer on hold, so now let’s go a step further. Explain why you need to place them on hold. People are much more willing to hold, or wait, if they know why they are waiting or holding – and what the benefit is for them!

ANTICIPATE BOTH LEVELS
• The whole WEAVE process relies on picking up signals from the customer and then responding appropriately. Here are some statement that demonstrate the ability to anticipate the next level:
o “Wow, congratulations on the new job, now let me get a little more information from you so we can get your service working so you can get back to work!”
o “I am so sorry you aren’t feeling well, and I know it’s never fun having to deal with something like this especially when you aren’t feeling well. Let me get your telephone number so we can get into the system and get you taken care of!”
o “Ok, your order is processing, it should be complete in just a few seconds. I bet you are really excited about your vacation!”

• Stay on task. Remember, you are the guide to connect one level to the other. If they make a statement that is on a personal level, you respond on that level and then drive it towards the business level.

• Watch your level. Don’t remain on one level more than the other. It’s all about balance!

• Watch your pace

VERIFY ALL NEEDS HAVE BEEN MET
• The issues that you don’t take care of today, will come back later, and may have become even bigger. Verify that all needs have been met on each call. It may cause a bit more work today, but the rewards are worth it. It improves customer loyalty by reducing then umber of times they have to call us and it improves first call resolution. It’s as easy as “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

• They remember that you asked!

EXIT ON THE PERSONAL LEVEL
• Did they mention anything personal on the call that you were able to acknowledge? A baby, a new job, kid’s in college? If so, mention it again at your close. It goes a long way in building loyal relationship. Something as easy as “Thank you for calling, and again congratulations on the new job!”
• Thank them for their business and use their name. Customers feel more like a person, rather than an account.
• Re-emphasize your concern through empathy at the closing of the call.

That’s all for this one… Although I’m sure there is so much more here we could dive into. I’d love to hear what you think!

Now WEAVE strong and prosper!

Are you Customer Driven? Are your customers working for you to reduce operational costs while improving employee performance?

Take the free Customer Driven challenge and put your customers to work today. Visit the Tamer Partners Corporation website at www.tamerpartners.com to find out how!

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