As a technical specialist you’ll be in your element when you’re dealing with the technology you love. However, when it comes to those times that you may be needed to deal with customers directly – particularly if the customer in question has an issue they’re not happy about – then you may feel far from your comfort zone.
Customer service is a skill and an art form that can take years (and lots of training) to get right. For some people it will be their passion and they’ll thrive on problem solving and turning around a negative situation. But for others, it’s something they’d rather avoid at all costs.
To help you deal with just such a situation, we’ve pulled together five top tips for dealing with customers, so you can feel better prepared next time you have to take that call.
Step into the customer’s shoes
There is one very easy way to think how you should handle a call with a customer, and how you would want to come across. If you were to step into their shoes, what would you expect? How would you want the call to go? What would really wind you up? What would you want the end result to be? You may have had to make calls like this yourself as a customer. The issues are going to be the same. If it would annoy you, it will annoy them! Ultimately a customer will be looking for a resolution. They will want to have their problem heard, understood and for a solution to be given.
Avoid talking in jargon
You’re a technical specialist and the people around you are likely to have a high level of technical knowledge too, but the customers you are speaking to will not. Even if they have some level of understanding, speaking in jargon and technical terms is going to be a big no-no. You risk increasing tension levels and general annoyance if someone cannot understand you. Get prepared before you speak to any customers – check if you can find out more about what their issue may be and think how you may explain things. One good rule of thumb is to think ‘would my grandma understand this’ or ‘would a 10 year old understand this’. If the answer is no then you need to describe or clarify things in a far simpler way. Using similes to describe how systems and processes work, or to clarify a problem, can be very useful here.
Listen and sympathise
You may want the call to end as soon as possible – and even professional customer service agents will want that too, as they’ll have numbers to hit. But it must never come across to a customer that way. They must never feel rushed or like you don’t want to speak to them. You need to start by listening. Just let them talk. When we’re unhappy about something, we all like to vent. So let them. It’s possible they’ve been on a long and winding journey, passed around and between teams, before finally getting to speak to you. If that’s the case then their patience levels may be pretty low. Once they’ve got it all off their chest you can start moving forward with solutions. Remember, remain polite at all times and sympathise with their unhappiness, to show you know where they’re coming from.
You may feel like you’d rather be doing anything else except handling a call with a customer, but it can work wonders for the situation to fully own a problem. Depending on your particular company set up, it may not always be possible, but try to always give the customer your name and to see it through to completion. Call them back personally if you can’t resolve it over the phone there and then. And call when you say you’ll call. If it takes longer than expected, call to give an update in the meantime. Mistakes happen and things go wrong – customers know that, it’s just a part of life. The way you handle it is what matters.
Remember they’re not mad at you
When faced with an angry or unhappy customer you must remember they’re not mad at you! Don’t take it personally. You are simply a voice on the end of a phone line or email which represents the company. It can be challenging, especially if you don’t have to deal with calls of this nature very often, but you need to let it all just go over your head. This includes staying calm during the call, keeping your voice and tone steady, and not letting your emotions get involved. That will only escalate things.
And after a call is over, try and take a second to just breathe and shake off any tension. You may have been anxious about speaking to them in the first place – now you can relax, you have survived! And your confidence can only grow, the more calls and experience you get.
You may also be interested in reading How to provide gold standard customer service on social media.