Customer service is one of the most important elements of running a successful business. Customer relationship management is a priority for the managers of all companies looking to sustain themselves in the competitive market of today.
In order to carry out the customer service effectively, it is imperative that the call center employees who has been assigned the duty of direct interaction with the customers possess certain skills and are trained in certain mannerisms.
The key to successful customer retention is keeping the every individual customer satisfied. One of the most crucial aspects of this is active listening on the part of the call center agent.
You have the telemarketing software to aid you in understanding the client and data procured from his buying history, previous call logs, profile, etc. are a great indicator of what sort of concerns he is likely to have and how he wants to be heard.
Agents must follow these indicators and take data-driven decision to thoroughly understand the queries of the customer and keep him satisfied.
Businesses today are more customer centric than ever before. In the market of modern times, a happy customer is a loyal customer, and a loyal customer is a profitable customer.
Most companies undertake surveys to gauge the level of satisfaction they are meting out to their clients, and shape their policies according to those results.
Management guru Peter Drucker says “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” This is exactly where active listening comes into play, understanding the deeper implications of what the customer is actually saying and acting accordingly.
Active listening is a skill acquired over the period of time through dedication, exposure and practice. It involves being completely focused on what the customer has to say, interpreting what the customer means and then responding accordingly.
This sends out the message that you consider whatever the customer has to say as being important enough for you to dedicate your complete attention, which is important to establish trust on a personal as well as professional level with the customer.
In this article, we will take a look at some of the top tips on the best listening practices to satisfy the customers, and transform a one-off business transaction into a loyal relationship that is mutually beneficial.
1. Avoiding distractions when conversing with the customer is the key first step. Ensure that while on-call, you are not in charge of any other duties, or bothered by anything else happening around you.
Listen to your customer’s requirements intently, since you will have to keep these in mind throughout the problem solving procedure.
Try to keep your personal phone or pager away when you are performing on-call duties as these may also lead to your mind wandering when it should be focused on comprehending everything that the customer is saying.
2. Listen to understand, rather than to reply. As the customer is speaking, try and gauge exactly what are his concerns,rather than focusing on how best to reply to him at that given point.
Focusing on your response would lead you inevitably missing out on the details of the problem that the customer is describing – leading to inefficiency down the line in solving that requirement.
3. Try not to interrupt the customer as he is speaking. If there is something he has misunderstood, wait for him to complete speaking before bringing it up.
People do not appreciate being cut off in the middle of their call, and they expect a customer service executive to listen to their queries rather than being more concerned about pointing out the errors in his interpretation.
You should also encourage the customers to be willing to talk to talk to you as much as they see fit, because the more details they describe, the better you will understand where the challenge lies with that individual.
4. Following Peter Drucker’s words, try to understand what the customer is looking to communicate beyond his mere words.
Identify aspects such as the tone of speech and body language, and draw valid conclusions from their variations. Body language can be just as revealing as the words themselves, because the involuntary actions betray true feelings of the customers.
This is also an excellent metric for a call center agent to judge whether what he is saying is being clearly understood by the customer.
5. One of the most effective ways to practice active listening is paraphrasing what the customer says occasionally.
This is beneficial, both for the agent as well as the customer. It instills in the customer a belief and assurance that the agent is indeed listening intently to what he has to say.
For the agent, this helps because he could frame the same grievance in a manner that highlights the main point of concern, thus making the conversation far more clear and concise.
6. Take comprehensive notes while the customer is talking. This ensures the retention of key points that have been discussed in the conversation.
Further, this allows the important points discussed in the call to be circulated amongst all the employees, so that whoever is responsible for correcting those measures can be called into action.
Noting down key points is an indicator of how willing you are to listen properly and follow up on the demands placed or queries made.
7. One of the most important scenarios to consider in terms of adopting the best listening practices is when the customer is registering a complaint.
It is impossible for any company to come up with a product or service that has no blemishes. You will always have customers who are left wanting and you need to listen to their problems calmly and carefully to rectify them.
You must remain courteous even if the customer’s tone is rude. Only consider hanging up if the customer persists with abusive language even after being asked to refrain repeatedly. There is no other excuse acceptable for hanging up on a customer who is voicing a complaint.
8. Do not shy away from asking for a clarification from the customer if you did not understand something he just said.
It is better that you ask and attain clarity now, rather than have it become a bigger issue further, down the line after you have promised some solution to the problem outlined.
Ensure that you get the whole picture from the customer’s point of view as well as the company’s perspective. This is important for you to think of ways to solve the problem that would be acceptable to both the parties.
9. While listening to the customers, combine customer satisfaction with sales figures to provide a more personalized experience. Using analytics, you are able to understand your customer’s data.
Using listening skills, you are able to understand your customer’s emotions. Combine the two to act upon a solution that would be most effective for that particular customer.
Providing individuality in a world of mass production is a unique selling point to have, and you can implement it if you can adopt the listening skills.
10. Asking that one extra question is often the key to really understanding the problem being discussed. For the sake of clarity, always ask probing questions that lead to the right information, until you think you have all the information you need.
Once that is done, it is easier for you to suggest a resolution that would be agreeable to the client. After a resolution is agreed upon, it is your responsibility to see that the resolution is carried through as soon as possible.
The Case Study
Your business is dependent on the loyalty of your customers. Your customers will only be loyal if you give them a compelling reason to be loyal.
On many occasions, simply delivering a good product may not be enough to earn customer loyalty. This is where customer service takes precedence in managerial decision-making.
The tips provided above would help the call center take up a more effective role in boosting the business by establishing good on-ground customer retention.
To shed light on how important these listening practices are in the context of contributing to sales, let us turn to a case study featuring a real example of a call center.
To keep them anonymous, we will call the call center GEENCAPET Solutions. For the scope of this case study, GEENCAPET Solutions is a call center providing telemarketing solutions for an established organization.
This case study will progress through the problem scenario and the challenges faced by the company, to studying the solutions they drew up and how these changes led to a growth in business.
The Problem Scenario
GEENCAPET Solutions is entrusted with retaining clients of the company as well as gaining new clients. However, in recent times they are noticing stagnancy in their growth rate.
Some of the previously loyal customers are also shifting their accounts elsewhere. This is especially problematic because it costs far more to gain a new client than retain an old one.
Such migration was causing the organization to lose foothold in market share. The company that hires GEENCAPET Solutions for telemarketing was seeing its profit margins dwindling.
The company faced many challenges in its operation. However, we will only discuss the problems relating to interacting with the customers in this case study, as the rest of it falls beyond our purview at the moment.
1. Agents were unable to provide personalized services for the individual clients because they were not using any call center software to collect and analyze data the from previous calls, bios, customer buying history, etc. This meant that a lot of customers got the impression that they was nothing special to the company and chose to leave.
2. Often it was observed that the agents were operating on half-baked theories rather than trying to understand the entire problem that the client described.
This caused unhappiness amongst the clients because they were spending their time describing the problem accurately and they felt like the company did not bother to listen to the finer details of their suggestions or complaints.
3. Many customers were unhappy with the service because even though their concerns were heard, the follow ups did not occur as promised or agreed upon. This made them think that their issues were not being attended to, when they clearly mentioned, that they needed a solution as quickly as possible.
The managers identified the problems that was happening and came up with the following solutions to them.
1. The company decided to take the help of the best telemarketing software that would crunch the numbers and draw a clear profile for each customer that would indicate agents about the likely requirements of the client. This helped streamline the process of customer service greatly.
2. Agents were provided proper training on the best listening skills to be followed. They were encouraged to let the client describe the problems in as detailed a manner as possible. They were also encouraged to keep asking, probing questions till they believed they had all the information they needed to see an absolutely clear picture.
3. Meticulous notes were taken and recorded during and after each call, and circulated amongst the employees, so that no deadline was missed and all the follow ups was carried out as required.
Customer service improved immediately with the introduction of these new procedures. Customers were more satisfied with the responses they received, and were happy with the actions that were being taken to rectify the errors they had pointed out.
Customers once again started to trust the brand, which directly translated to increased sales. Business grew by 5% more than the previous year within one year of implementation, rising to 12% in three years of dedicated use.
Thus we see how, the sort of attitude you have to listening to your client’s wishes, can have a significant bearing on the magnitude of business you generate.
Investing in training to sharpen the skills of your call center employees and especially the agents who are on call interacting with customers, can reap hefty financial rewards in terms of the sales figures of the organization.
Active listening requires a positive approach and dedication and consistency in practice, but if it is implemented properly it can truly have far-reaching effects.