Not Getting Any Easier – 4 New Challenges in Customer Service


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Customer service has gotten more difficult in the last few years.

The reason: That technology offers an alternative to picking up the phone. If customers need an answer to a simple question and want to avoid human interaction, they just go online.

As a result, customer service reps who follow a script and handle simple transactions aren’t really needed anymore.

Instead, reps need to be able to make decisions in complicated situations.
How do you give reps freedom and flexibility – and keep customer service quality high?

Here are three keys to adapt to the challenge:

1. Hiring people who will make decisions

It all starts by hiring the right people. But they may not be the same ones you would have hired 10 years ago.

Instead of hiring people with extensive call-center experience, consider looking for those without direct customer service backgrounds.

The reason: Many call-center employees have been trained to follow a script and strict procedures. As a result, they’re not always comfortable being flexible in making decisions and solving problems.

Instead look for those with pure service backgrounds – such as people who have worked in retail sales.

During interviews, ask behavior-based questions on how they’d handle specific situations. It’ll help you find people who are thoughtful and willing to go out of their way to help customers.

2. Training reps to think

Before giving employees more leeway in making decisions, it’s critical to prepare them.

One training idea: Have new reps shadow veterans while they take calls and help customers. Encourage the experienced employees to explain why they did what they did for customers.

Next, ease reps into the process by having veterans sit next to them ready with help, coaching and encouragement.

As reps become comfortable on their own, the veterans can take a more hands-off mentoring role, meeting regularly with the new reps to keep them on track.

3. Refining their roles

One training tool that’s worth keeping is the tape recorder (or its high-tech equivalent).

Screening calls can help pinpoint areas that could bring service up a notch. For example, are reps consistently using jargon customers don’t understand? Are they giving employees too many benefits – such as discounts?

Have reps listen to calls, too – but only the good ones. It’s easier for people to learn what they should do, than what they shouldn’t do.

4. Making the most of reps’ perspectives

Since reps have the ability to hear customer feedback right from the source, they have a unique perspective on the company overall. And they likely have good ideas that can create more customer loyalty.

To harness those ideas, arrange monthly roundtables to discuss current issues.

Ask reps to come ready with suggestions for improvement – in their department and throughout the company.

Not only does this take advantage of the close contact reps have with customers, it’s also a morale-builder.

Employees who feel they’re listened to and taken seriously will feel more valued – and they’ll work harder and be more likely to stay with their company long-term.


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