The Role of Consistency in Professional Support — Part 3: Communication Skills


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One of the most impor­tant com­po­nents of supe­rior cus­tomer sup­port is hav­ing a team of tech­ni­cians with con­sis­tent com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills. All tech­ni­cians must be skilled at deter­min­ing a customer’s rea­son for call­ing, con­trol­ling the call with open and closed ques­tions, and effi­ciently trou­bleshoot­ing and solv­ing prob­lems. Hav­ing a com­mon approach to cus­tomer ser­vice, and tech­ni­cians with out­stand­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills, will enable a cen­ter to pro­vide con­sis­tent, world-class cus­tomer service.

Costs of Incon­sis­tent Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Skills

Indi­vid­ual tech­ni­cians with incon­sis­tent com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills are detri­men­tal to sup­port cen­ter suc­cess. And teams and depart­ments com­prised of skilled and unskilled tech­ni­cians will pro­vide incon­sis­tent ser­vice that affects all mea­sur­able ele­ments of sup­port. The costs of incon­sis­tent com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills are:

  • Increased time-to-resolution
  • Decreased cus­tomer satisfaction
  • Decreased cus­tomer retention
  • Increased employee turnover

A suc­cess­ful com­pany must have employ­ees who com­mu­ni­cate with cus­tomers in a con­sis­tent man­ner. Cus­tomers may not remem­ber the steps a tech­ni­cian took to resolve their issue, but they’ll cer­tainly remem­ber how the tech­ni­cian made them feel. Con­sis­tent com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills will ensure that all tech­ni­cians con­vey an atti­tude of will­ing­ness and professionalism.

The impor­tance of com­mu­ni­ca­tion is not sur­pris­ing when you con­sider the stag­ger­ing amount of time peo­ple spend com­mu­ni­cat­ing on the job. One study, pub­lished in Busi­ness Out­look, based on responses from over 1000 employ­ers at For­tune 1000 com­pa­nies found that work­ers send and receive an aver­age of 1798 mes­sages each day via tele­phone, email, faxes, papers, and face-to-face com­mu­ni­ca­tions.The Impor­tance of Strong Busi­ness Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Skills, Uni­ver­sity of Washington

Keep­ing the above excerpt in mind, think about how many cus­tomers your employ­ees com­mu­ni­cate with every day. How would you rate the com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills of your employees?

Ele­ments of Con­sis­tent Service

A sup­port tech­ni­cian with exem­plary com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills will con­trol the call and expertly guide the cus­tomer to a happy res­o­lu­tion. The three skills which follow—Question, Lis­ten, and Con­firm Your Understanding–will pro­vide tech­ni­cians with a con­sis­tent approach to resolv­ing cus­tomer prob­lems quickly. Share these tips with your team.

1. Ques­tion to deter­mine cus­tomer needs.

  • Suc­cess­ful trou­bleshoot­ing or prob­lem solv­ing depends on the strate­gic use of open and closed questions.
    • Open ques­tions aim to get cus­tomers speak­ing freely and are use­ful to acquire gen­eral information.
    • Closed ques­tions are use­ful when a “yes” or “no” response is desired or when spe­cific infor­ma­tion is needed.
  • Begin with an open ques­tion to get cus­tomers speak­ing freely, then help them nar­row down the issue by ask­ing a series of closed questions.

2. Lis­ten to the customer.

  • Care­ful, active lis­ten­ing, enables tech­ni­cians to iden­tify key facts and feel­ings about each customer’s situation.
  • In order to effec­tively serve cus­tomers, tech­ni­cians must give their full atten­tion from the start of the call to the end.
  • Some cus­tomers will give far more infor­ma­tion than needed; it’s the technician’s job to deter­mine what’s impor­tant, and take note of key facts.
  • In addi­tion to key facts, tech­ni­cians must deter­mine the state of mind (atti­tude) skill level (apti­tude) of the cus­tomer. To iden­tify atti­tude and apti­tude, lis­ten care­fully to the customer’s words and to the tone, pitch, rate, and vol­ume of their speech.

3. Con­firm understanding.

  • After ques­tion­ing and lis­ten­ing, tech­ni­cians should con­firm their under­stand­ing by ver­bally sum­ma­riz­ing the customer’s issue with a prob­lem state­ment, and ask­ing if the state­ment is correct.
  • Con­firm­ing builds cus­tomers’ con­fi­dence by show­ing them that they have been lis­tened to and under­stood, and that accu­racy is very impor­tant to your com­pany. It also ensures that tech­ni­cians are work­ing on the cor­rect issue.

Cre­ate a Com­mon Approach to Service

Cre­at­ing a com­mon approach to ser­vice will not only expe­dite issue res­o­lu­tion, but it will also stream­line inter­nal processes. Com­pa­nies that focus on con­sis­tent com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills nat­u­rally adopt a com­mon ser­vice lan­guage which enables tech­ni­cians to flu­idly inter­act with other employ­ees and depart­ments. Using com­mon phrases and pro­ce­dures sets a prece­dent for suc­cess. Con­sis­tent com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills—both inter­nally and with customers–must be empha­sized to achieve world class cus­tomer ser­vice in your center.

This post is part three in The Role of Con­sis­tency in Pro­fes­sional Sup­port series.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Rachel Miller
Rachel Miller is the Customer Engagement Manager at Nimble - a simple, affordable social relationship manager.


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