Even a cursory glance at online reviews and customer testimonials reporting encounters with customer service reps illustrates how pivotal such interactions are to customer retention. Feedback on consumer reviews sites makes it plain that the takeaway feeling from a customer service experience can swing a consumer’s opinion of a company more than any other factor.
A 2020 report concluded that 96% of customers will take their business elsewhere in response to bad customer service. 62% are willing to pay more for good customer service, and that most industries failed to meet customer expectations by 38%.
Clearly, customer complaints and therefore the customer service experience can make or break your company’s fortunes. Therefore, it’s crucial to invest resources and focus to ensure your business is optimized in this area.
What do customers expect from a customer service representative?
Customer expectations have increased in parallel with the widespread use of platforms which give them a voice. Passable, adequate performance is no longer acceptable, the best service a customer has ever received has become the benchmark of their expectations.
What do customers consider good customer service?
Ultimately, all a customer wants from a customer service rep is a prompt, clear response to their queries that shows an understanding of their personal situation in the context of the customer/company contract.
One of the major complaints made by customers on websites like PissedConsumer.com is of being passed around and handed-off to different representatives over the course of a phone call, often with protracted tests of patience while being put on hold. In a customer experience trends report, 68% of respondents stated that they become annoyed when their call is transferred to another department.
Repeating the same details to multiple people is frustrating, and rapidly grinds down one’s patience. Furthermore, receiving conflicting answers to the same question can rapidly raise doubts about the professionalism of your company.
Therefore, quite rightly, customers expect a resolution through contact with one representative, and at the very least, a sense of consistency and progress if transferred to another agent.
Central to customer expectations here is feeling like they are being listened to.
Why customers need to feel like they are being heard
People have a deep set need for validation or at least acknowledgment of their feelings.
What the majority of consumers who contact a customer service department desire is a recognition of these feelings, not necessarily an agreement with their views or position, more so an indication that the company is really trying to put themselves in their shoes to understand their experience.
If driven to anger by poor service or experience, people don’t want to be dismissed, told they are being unreasonable, or to be patronized, they want someone to relate to this loss of composure and understand the reasons why this has become the case.
How can customer service representatives ensure satisfaction?
One of the most tried and tested methods of displaying the empathy so necessary to good customer/agent relations is the active listening technique.
Active listening is the skill of attentiveness that is expressed through language that affirms or acknowledges the points being made by the other party, as well as their situation.
Such acknowledgment could be as simple as a verbal nod “I see,” “right” etc. An effective technique is to periodically recap what has been discussed by paraphrasing, or repeating the point being made in your own words, which can also provide clarification without seeming to ask the speaker directly to repeat themselves.
The purpose of active listening is to develop understanding and trust. From the perspective of a customer service rep, 90% of the discussion should be gathering information and perspective from the customer.
Hence, a few simple guidelines should be followed to achieve this:
- Don’t interrupt the customer.
- Allow the customer time to make themselves clear before addressing their points.
- Don’t try to catch them out or counter their arguments.
- Respond assertively, yet respectfully and appropriately.
- And, fundamentally, always speak to the customer in a way that you would consider respectful and courteous if the roles were reversed.
Active listening is not an inherent skill, and, as with other communication skills, requires training and development. You really need to invest in the establishment of a customer strategy that creates more awareness of this crucial factor of running a successful business.
67% of customers are willing to pay more in return for excellent customer service. Train your customer service staff to improve their listening skills and you will be rewarded with improved productivity, customer retention, staff morale, and better returns.