7 Tips For Outstanding Phone Customer Service

We’ve all been an angry customer on the other end of the phone, frustrated with a problem that a brand has caused us while a customer service representative tries to come up with a solution for us. 

Some calls go great, with an outstanding rep who really seems to care about your experience and works with you to find a real solution to your problems instead of trying to tell you what you want to hear to get you off the phone. Others, of course, are a little less than stellar, and are clearly miserable and hate their jobs and kind of hate the customers, too, just for calling.

You want to deliver outstanding customer service, especially through the phone which feels more personalized and allows for real connections to be made between your customers and your staff. 

This can feel like a daunting task, but as experts in amazing customer support phone calls, we’ve got 7 key tips that all brands should pay attention to in order to guarantee great customer service every time. 

1. Start the Call off Strong

Remember that if someone is calling your customer service line, there’s a decent chance that there’s a problem that needs to be solved. This means that they’ve stopped their day to call you, and whatever problem they have is now A Thing. They might be frustrated. Sometimes they might even be really, really angry, and this often only escalates if they need to wait on hold.

Do what you can to start the call off strong. Always smile, because even if the person on the other line can’t see it, trust us when we say they can hear it. Thank them for calling, introduce yourself, and ask what you can do to help them today. As soon as they tell you, apologize for their experience if necessary and assure them that you want to find a solution. 

At this point, you can start collecting more information from them, once you’ve established the beginnings of trust on the call. 

2. Listen Intentionally 

It’s easy for us to want to immediately make assumptions about what customers are telling us– They didn’t get a refund? Must be because they missed the return window.– but it’s important not to do that. If we make assumptions, we can miss valuable information and start solving problems that may not be there. 

Listen carefully to what the customer is saying, only asking for more information when necessary. They should be doing the majority of the talking until it’s time to start offering solutions and explaining what you can do. And then, it’s time to listen again to hear what they have to think about said solutions. 

This will show the customer that you care, and it will also ensure that you’re listening enough to get as much information as needed to deliver a solution that will actually solve their problems. 

3. Put Yourself in the Customer’s Shoes 

A few weeks ago, I called my homeowner’s insurance company upset that my annual rate had almost doubled with no explanation. I about reached the boiling point when the agent I got ahold of basically did the equivalent of a customer service shrug and said in a monotone voice “Sorry, I’m not sure why the rate went up. Is there anything else I can help you with?” The rate doubling had been an internal error, but I never would have known that unless I’d called back and got someone else.

Remember that even if your customers are upset that only two servers came to sing their daughter happy birthday at your restaurant instead of the full staff, or if they’re upset about a chip that they made when they dropped the new set of wine glasses, they’re people who feel strongly enough about an issue to call it in. Put yourself in their shoes, understand how they feel, and offer them the best solution possible that suits their needs.

I didn’t want to be told, for example, “Oh you can just decrease coverage.” I needed to hear “Wow, that is really frustrating and doesn’t sound normal, let’s see what we can find out.” 

Most of your customers are the same way, so understanding why they’re upset and how they’re feeling and then reacting accordingly– even if they’re making a mountain out of a molehill– is the way to go. 

4.  Use & Listen For Specific Feedback Signals 

Feedback signals are quick indications that can shift how a conversation is going. Customer service representatives should use both verbal and nonverbal feedback signals to improve the quality of the conversation.

Customer service agents should use the following feedback signals to keep the conversation going well:

  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Use a word or two to show that you’re listening and encourage them to continue, even if it’s “oh no!” 
  • Smile when you speak.
  • Listen without interrupting to ask for more information.

5. Always Keep Your Cool 

When you spend all day having people accusing you of ruining yours, it can really take a toll on you mentally and emotionally. By the end of a long shift, it can be easy to start to want to snap back at the customer with unreasonable requests.

It’s important that you don’t. Each call reflects on your brand. Take five minutes if you need it. Take a mental health day if the five minutes aren’t quite cutting it. And remember that this person isn’t mad at you, and that by staying upbeat and doing whatever you can, you’re helping them and that’s more than enough. If you get too frustrated, you can always try to transfer them to someone else. 

6. Avoid Common Anger-Spiking Mistakes 

 There are some things that customer service reps do that can cause customers to shift quickly from “slightly irritated” to “full-blown Hulk rage.” 

Avoid the following mistakes to keep customers happy and be on your way to better customer service via phone calls:

Making some customers seem like less of a priority than others.

Anyone who is calling is important and should be made to feel like a priority.

Asking customers to calm down.

Have you ever been told to calm down when you’re upset? It’s trivializing and condescending, and nothing will make you angrier.

Telling users where to find information that easily be relayed.

If someone asks for a phone number, don’t just tell them where to find it on your site unless it’s for future reference; always give them the number, or any other information that they need. Everyone and every question is worth your time… even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Using any language that indicates distrust.

I once had a customer service rep tell me “well no one else has ever reported this issue.” It made me feel like I wasn’t believed, and she didn’t offer any solutions because she likely didn’t. A few weeks later when reports and reviews started rolling out sharing my complaint, I felt vindicated but even more annoyed. 

7. Stop Answering the Phone 

Yep, we said it. Sometimes, as your business is scaling or you have a peak busy season or maybe you just get too frustrated dealing with all the calls, it gets to be too much to handle. You know it, and if you keep trying to answer the calls, the customers will be able to hear it in your voice, too.

Whatever your reason is, when the frustration sets in, it’s time to start sending those calls out. Hiring a qualified answering service like PATLive will save you an enormous amount of time, emotional energy, and money in the long run when we’ll make it easier for you to keep more customers happy– even if they weren’t that way when they first called. We’re even available 24/7, 365 days a year (including holidays!) so we’ll be able to help your customers at all hours.

Customers’ perceptions of your brand will determine whether or not they buy from you in the future, and it’s not just about having a great product– you need great customer service to back it up. 

The ability to consistently deliver great customer service will keep your customers happy and your retention rates up. Make sure to always follow these 7 tips every time you’re answering a phone call to offer the best customer experience possible. They’ll notice the difference, and so will you. 

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