Core Traits of Customer-Centric Employees

If you ignore customers, they’ll ignore you back.

If you respond to customer support tickets well past their average response time you’ll send a clear message – you ignore users issues and product queries. You can observe a similar phenomenon in retail, a customer left standing without anyone coming to assist them will simply get up and leave as they’ll figure it’s a standard practice.

You need to remember that “How can I help you?” is the most crucial sentence in terms of customer engagement.

It’s really easy to turn away potential customers.

All it takes is one bad experience with your product or a slip up from your staff, and they’ll be leaving through the nearest exit. Unfortunately, it’s the polar opposite when it comes down to winning over new clients, which makes losing potential sales due to lack of employee engagement, plainly wrong.

You need to map out your customer journey and focus each and every aspect of it on the customer, be it social media, cell phone or help desk. The rules of the game changed, providing a great product or service is simply not enough, you need to create lasting and positive experiences.

Customers can be annoyed in a multitude of ways, including but not limited to costly fumbles such as your help desk not being all that helpful, or your sales team just dropping a pre-scripted pitch while the customer is asking actual questions about the product and is expecting factual answers.

Tools of the Trade

Your employees need to possess the customer skills listed bellow and leverage them to your business’s advantage:

Empathy

Showing a lack of empathy or understanding for a customer complaint or query is the fastest way to losing them as it vividly shows them that you’re not interested and simply don’t care. Usage of negative words and phrases needs to be kept to the bare minimum as it can be perceived as a sign of disinterest on your part. And let’s not forget about the tone of your voice.

Every customer deserves your full attention and empathy and it doesn’t matter what type of customers (we know some can be a handful)were you dealing with previously

A customer’s journey starts with the very first interaction with your staff and it’s irrelevant if their query is major or minor as you should care about creating positive experiences and not triage tickets.

Product Knowledge

Customers get in touch with your brand to ask questions and receive factual, intimate answers regarding the product or service you provide. Any hesitation or uncertainty will leave them with a sour taste in their mouth. Ensure you leave a positive impression be letting your passion and knowledge shine through – you’re the expert.

Furthermore, your employees are your greatest asset and potentially can become your brand’s ambassadors; if you provide a SaaS product they have to use it, and tell their peers how great of an asset it is.

Because, what message do you send to potential buyers when or if your own employees do not believe in their own product?

Ask the right questions

Problem facing customers can often be unable to clearly articulate what their issue is. That’s where experienced support agents come in as they will instantly decipher what the customer means and will respond accordingly. Which is even truer when dealing with customer support tickets, as the sheer amount of tickets agents go through makes them accurate to common issues, thus enabling them to pinpoint the cause on the spot.

However, every once in a while you’ll come across a customer who’s overwhelmed by the number of options your product or service provides – they’ll be unsure which one is best suited to their needs.

They might not even need the most expensive one, which is why it’s key to provide them with the solution they need. They may come back, solely because you were honest – it’s that simple.

Patience is a virtue

Yes, being patient is key. We’re not going to sugarcoat it, customers can be a handfull to deal with, especially when they wind themselves up, are vague in their descriptions of their issues or plainly dismissive of your support prowess. However, please keep in mind, that despite all of the above they are the ones in need, they’re the ones contacting you with their issue and their demeanour is a non-issue.

Your goal is to provide them with a positive experience, even when facing impossible odds.

An absence of patience betrays your disinterest, take a deep breath and do the following:

  • Keep your focus
  • Stay calm
  • Maintain control

Remain Calm

On a rare occasion, a customer will adopt an aggressive tone. Yes, such customers do exist. However, think before you respond and put yourself in their position. How would you react if you weren’t able to find a product feature you paid premium for or were unable to figure out a problem for an extended period of time?

Listen carefully and most importantly, be polite. You can’t allow yourself to be provoked not antagonised. Keep it cool and remind yourself that you’re dealing with a customer on behalf of your company.

Use clear language

There’s no room for vagueness nor ambiguity, be precise and tone done the industry lingo and buzzwords to the bare minimum – especially if you feel the customer is not tech-savvy or up-to-speed on the latest trends.

Confusing customers with your responses will get your nowhere as they will walk away from the time spent with you with either an unclear message or a flat our wrong one.

If you’re unsure what the customer means, then ask them to specify or probe for an answer by asking careful questions – use common sense. Be tactful, always.

Empathetic employees, who possess deep product knowledge are capable of remaining calm and coherent in each customer facing scenario in the book, and are a big asset to your enterprise.

They are a stepping stone on your path to customer centricity by providing your customers with positive experiences which last.

Coaching is an Art Form

Suffering from poor agent performance and not reaching targets is a common occurrence in the contact centre industry.

Managers facing such issues approach their staff and try to push them to work harder and just “be” more efficient as if that alone was enough to boost their productivity as well as solve underlying causes.

But as with all choices made under pressure, this one isn’t the optimal solution. Team leaders and supervisors often think they are coaching their contact centre agents but in reality, they are simply highlighting problems and ask to “magically improve performance”, without providing any coaching whatsoever.

Improving coaching skills should be a priority for each and every supervisor.

 

Support & challenge

Remember, your staff is already frustrated and demotivated after not being able to hit the predicted targets. Those relatively easy goals are becoming impossible – adding more pressure from their managers could be fatal to your business.

Support and nurture your agents, especially when morale is down. Provide challenges as well as goals to reach but at the same time establish clear and reachable goals.

 

The “I want to…” not “I have to” approach

Time should never be a reason for a poor coaching session or a complete lack of one. This is your job as the manager – don’t ever label coaching as “wasted time”.

Remember to engage the coachee in such a way, that he or she will leave the session with a sense of involvement in the coaching process, help them identify the problem themselves – this will strengthen their desire to improve their skills.

Highlight the good and the bad, give your agents “contrast”. Encourage self-development, it’s a great asset, especially in the outsourcing industry.

 

The coaching plan

Prepare a solid coaching structure, one that addresses each potential issue, remember about proper questioning techniques. The plan is vital, it will bring consistency to your sessions and will put the “value” back into coaching as an art form.

Just be sure to keep it simple, clear and involve agents as much as possible – interactive coaching is the best possible solution to performance issues.

 

The process

  • Introduce; make it clear from the get-go, what is expected from both parties involved and what should be the outcome.
  • Pinpoint;the problematic area by listening to recorded calls, reviewing data entry quality or missed sales opportunities. Finding and reviewing particular problems alongside the agent will provide tremendous insight when you compare both sets of information.
  • Summarise;make notes, ask simple open questions. Ask the agent, what they did well and what areas need to be improved upon? Let them explain “How” will they improve, offer tips and exercises.

 

The outcome

Through proper engagement during coaching sessions, you will create value for the activity – no longer, will it be considered a mere “time sink” by agents and managers alike.

The feeling of self-development is a tremendous morale booster and will benefit your staff as a whole.

Your business will thrive thanks to improvements in key areas such as; customer contacts, sales conversation, staff and customer retention.

The Perils of Customer-Centricity

Committing to customer experience continues to be a significant challenge organisations will face in 2017.

It is becoming virtually impossible to find a company who has not tried to become customer-centric by embracing customer experience, however, not many were capable of transitioning fully.

The inability to commit to customer experience or to sustain focus on the process at hand, including the numerous challenges it presents, is the reason why consumers have so many negative experiences. Ones, which leave them unsatisfied with the service or product but also the varying level of customer service which accompanies it.

Few organisations have been capable to truly transform the way they operate, and it’s still hard to cite actual names of companies who managed to fully “take on the mantle” of customer centricity apart from the obvious brands. Are companies simply unwilling to fully transform or they commit to the cause but once challenges appear they’re not “equipped” to deal with them properly?

Bellow you’ll find 5 reasons we at OpsTalent think are the biggest obstacles in becoming customer-centric, and putting customer experience at the forefront:

 

Leadership
We all know this, “talk is cheap” – nothing changes from just talking about the need to change. Unfortunately, businesses seem content with this practice.
Organisations are eager to hype up the importance of customer experience but when the time to take action comes they fail to operationalize customer experience. Thus, making it impossible to embrace customer centricity.
If leaders have the desire to transform their brands, then they also need to possess the drive required to make customer centricity the top priority.

 

Stability
In the corporate landscape the word “restructure” makes every employee tremble in fear – executives and managers included. This coupled with the fact that a lot of organisations restructure annually makes you wonder, and doubt how successful these processes are.

Each restructures causes instability, a possible change of priorities as well as company vision realignment. Which makes sustaining a customer-centric strategy through each consecutive restructure extremely challenging.
Stability is a necessity if you want to achieve sustainable, long-term success – including strategy and approach reinforcement.

 

Strategy
If you want short term results, then, unfortunately, customer experience transformation is not the valid way to achieve them as it’s a long-term business strategy.
Transformations require patience, tenacity and a firm belief in achieving success, only when you possess these three traits you’ll see your vision come to fruition.
Oftentimes stakeholders who are not on board with the customer-centric approach, apply too much pressure to switch focus to short term gains. Thus, bringing your customer experience efforts one step closer to failure.

 

Competencies
Lack of knowledge is what holds many businesses back from becoming customer-centric.
Without the required skills and competencies, shifting your companies focus on customer experience, not to even mention sustaining it, will prove to be a futile effort. You need people to drive the change by incorporating their abilities into the transformation process.
Developing operational knowledge needs to be a top priority (not limited to customer-centric companies mind you), at all levels of the organisation. Most importantly, leaders should not be exempt from this rule as they too need to continually develop in their role by acquiring familiarity with relatively new skill sets and lead by example.

 

People
Businesses are failing to put people first – both employees and customers at the forefront of their strategy.

You need to put your own people first, failing to do so is a surefire way to void your organisation’s chances of becoming customer-centric.
Only happy, highly motivated employees are capable of delivering excellent service – become people-centric and you will succeed.

 

We do hope that the text above didn’t dissuade you from embarking on the customer-centric journey.
The path ahead is a perilous one, however, it’s not only filled with challenges as it provides plentiful opportunities for your company to grow.