We’ve all had those days when it’s really difficult to sound interested and welcoming when answering customer service calls. This time of year, calls start rolling in with questions and service inquiries galore and even if you started the day with a smile and a positive outlook, it can be hard to maintain one as the day(s) roll(s) on. Maybe a tough customer interaction put you off your A game, maybe it’s just the magnitude of the calls in queue, but in any case, keeping positive when answering client calls can sometimes be a challenge.
While we all understand the value of good customer service, is keeping the smile on your face (and in your voice) really that important? In a study by the International Customer Research Institute1, individuals gave these reasons for being “non-repeat” customers:
- 1% died (ok, so maybe smiling on the phone wouldn’t have retained this group)
- 3% moved
- 5% said friendships
- 9% said competition
- 14% were dissatisfied with the product
- 68% cited an attitude of indifference by employees
Yup, that right, 68%! Those numbers really resonate with us about how important friendly, sincere customer service is, every call, every time. So, how do you do it? Try these tips to help keep the smile on your face and your customer happy (and we all know, happy customers mean happy employees!)
✔ Make an actual physical change. Answer the phone with a smile on your face. Putting a physical smile on your face before you answer the phone really instantly creates an upbeat in your voice when greeting the caller. The caller really can hear the smile in your voice.
✔ Try using positive verbiage: Instead of “no problem” try “my pleasure” or “happy to help”. Using positive verbiage not only reassures your customer, it also makes you feel upbeat.
✔ Put some inflection in your voice! Have you ever read a story to a child? What makes it interesting? Inflection, that’s what! Monotone voices tell the caller you’re bored and listless, but adding some inflection helps to let the caller know you’re interested in their call and have the energy and desire to help them. Click here for some tips on how to add inflection to your conversation.
✔ Set expectations, and check in! Have you ever found yourself in the hold time-continuum where you call a company and they place you on hold for what feels like eternity? It’s ok to need to check information or talk to a co-worker before giving an answer, but be sure to set your customer’s expectations, and check in every few minutes to be sure they know your still there and working on their issue.
✔ Be realistic! (with yourself and your client) There is no better way to stress out than to have a caller on the line asking questions that you know you cannot answer. Instead of guessing and taking the risk of being wrong, answer what you can and tell your customer “I’ll be happy to look into that for you” and then set those reasonable expectations about follow up (I’m going to place you on hold for two minutes while I look into that, or, Can you provide the best phone number for a follow call within 24 hours).
Some tips to help you feel happy during a busy shift
✔ Get your ducks in a row! Come in on time, give yourself time to get organized before you have to answer that first call. Make sure your resources are at your fingertips. If you feel like you can find the information you need, it makes for a less stressful time during really busy periods.
✔ Remember that every call is a fresh start. Even if the call you just ended was difficult or stressful, doesn’t mean the call that follows will be the same way. Take a deep breath and remember each call is a new interaction with a new customer.
✔ Stay calm: While some customers may be irritated right from the beginning of the call, remember, it’s not you they are annoyed with, it’s whatever situation they are trying to solve. You are the solution to their problems! Use empathy to let your customers know you care, and get to solving the issue without letting the emotions of the call take away your smile.
✔ Know when to let it go: You can’t solve every issue and don’t always have the right answer. If needed, escalating a tough or sensitive issue is the key to getting the customer what they need. Involving the right people (your manager, a subject matter expert, another team) might be exactly what is needed to getting it done right the first time. Set proper expections with the customer (the time they can expect a resolution or a call back)… and let it go.
Remember, the key to keeping the smile on your face when answering customer phone calls is to actually feel the smile. Physically smiling, de-stressing through understanding what to do when you don’t know the answer to a tricky question, and setting clear expectations to keep customers happy can be the key to getting through the day with a positive attitude.