This is a guest post by Mary Grace. She will guide you through why customer care is so important and how teams can feel empowered to help their customers.
You love doing everything that you can for your customers.
If there is a way for you to solve problems, your instincts are going to tell you to solve it, of course!
However, there are certain times when you cannot accommodate your customers’ requests, and while you absolutely hate to let your customers down… sometimes you have to.
Customers can make crazy requests. Sometimes their request is out of reach of what you can actually do for your customer.
When a customer does ask for something you really can’t help with, what’s the best way to respond?
Keeping a polite and helpful tone is vital. But, it’s the first step in helping your customer. What they want is an alternative solution.
Teaching your support team how to handle these interactions can be the difference between keeping and losing a customer.
Understanding what you can’t help with
There are some things you can’t break the rules for, or honestly can’t help, as much as you’d like to: packages arriving late due to catastrophic weather or consumer misuse that is clearly explained on the product. Taking control of their issue and being empathetic is appreciated.
You’re not able to give your customers the world, but letting your reps use creative solutions (and talk with their managers to see if they can do those creative solutions) will help your customers feel like they are talking to someone who can help.
It will also empower your customer service representatives to feel like they can find a solution to your customer’s issues when you can’t give them exactly what they want, which can help you win like Zappos.
Or if you don’t want to lose your shirt, follow ‘guidelines’ like American Express that provide a framework for fantastic customer service so they know exactly how to act.
What to do when you can’t help
People like to feel like they’ve been cared for. In advertising, emotional ads do better because ‘likability’ is one of the strongest performing emotional ad-themes. That means that even if you can’t solve your customer’s problems, caring about them is an action that your representatives can take.
Caring about your customers is a fabulous start for killer customer service.
That means doing things like using selective wording. Instead of ‘we don’t have that’ say ‘that item is back-ordered 3 months’. This change in sentence structure removes negative language and gives the client more insight into the problem.
Following through with that problem (owning the solution from start to finish) will let your clients know that they are being taken care of by a specific person, not the telephone tree machine.
These solutions are less about being nice, and more about owning your customer’s problems and making them feel cared for rather than giving them exactly what they want.
There are a number of ways to make your customers feel cared for, even if you can’t directly give them what they want. There is a myriad of options that sound great and are effective (finding creative solutions or personalizing your care) when you’re doing your own customer service.
How do you train your employees to offer the same level of care?
How to teach customer care
How do you teach an employee to care about someone they can’t directly help on the other side of the phone or email? How do you get your customer service professionals to invent creative solutions to problems that customers have?
Empowering them to help your customers, giving them an outlet to ask questions, and channeling the right customers to the right form of support will help you keep your clients and enable you to offer more specialized care.
Empower support teams
Empowering your customer service representatives to take creative solutions is scary. It’s going off road, off script, and letting them explore.
Drawing boundaries and letting your employees know where they can make adjustments is a great way to get those creative solutions out without the fear of someone giving away the company.
This could mean instituting rules and outlines that are clear and easy to understand, or doing regular testing to make sure people know what they can and can’t offer.
This information could be anything from a basic knowledge of the profit margin, so they can know to offer 10 percent off or 10 dollars off, or some additional information on common alternative options–maybe your clients can’t cancel, but they can change their dates.
Giving your customer service team the option to find a way to help a client is great for your team and the customers.
That means more customer loyalty and engaged employees who feel empowered to make their own decisions. All awesome, right?
It also means standing behind the poor decisions of certain employees who might offer too big of a discount in order to please a customer. Those are decisions to talk about and use as learning points for defining the information you give your customer service reps.
Have someone who CAN answer those questions
There will probably be some things that your customer service reps can’t guarantee to a customer over the phone. Having an available resource there for them to dive into will help them, especially when first starting out.
Many customers don’t mind being put on hold if it’s so the support rep can quickly confirm an actionable solution.
Giving your representatives a place or person where they can find all the answers to their questions (or bounce creative solutions off) is a great way to give them confidence in their solutions and make sure they don’t give away the company.
Having someone onsite who can oversee and answer all those out-of-the-ordinary customer questions is a great way to insure that your customer service representatives can know that they make good decisions for you and your customers.
If they aren’t sure, they just have to ask.
Channel customers to the right place
Channeling your customers to the right place is a great way to reduce the training for each customer service representative. If they have to learn every bit of every facet of your many awesome tools, they may not be the most effective at finding creative solutions and answering all the fun questions or concerns your consumers might have.
Putting your reps into teams so they can hone in on their particular set of issues will help out your customers by getting them the specialized care they deserve.
This can be done onsite with specific contact pages, or with specific contact us methods for different products.
For example, if you are trying to serve accounting software clients, a text-us-your-problems would be really effective. Eighty-one percent of accountants work remotely from their phones, and they may not want to put down what they are looking at, thus a phone-in helpline wouldn’t be the most comfortable platform for them to reach out for help.
When your customers want help, they will Google to find a solution to their problem or search “Your business customer service.” To counter this make sure you:
- Have a well-built contact us page.
- A Help Center that makes it easy to request further help.
Design standards for Help Centers and knowledge bases show that 82% had the option to request further help from support teams.
To meet these design standards on your support pages, try including a “contact us” button, list an email address, or have an icon for a live chat or messenger app as a way to request help.
The idea is to show you care about them, by allowing them to contact you on the channels your customer prefers. But only offer this selection if you can actually support those channels well.
Reducing the time it takes to contact you will help them be a little calmer and ask better answers, plus it means that your clients can ask for help from the medium they are most comfortable with.
A culture of care creates loyalty
There are some things that you just can’t help.
Empowering your employees to make creative alternatives, that they can confirm with others will help your customers get more out of your company and keep them coming back. Especially if the customer service answers all of their questions from a platform that they like and can easily find.
About the author:
Mary Grace is based out the beautiful Boise, Idaho. She loves hiking, skiing, and examining human interactions. Want to get in touch? Drop a comment below or tweet her @marmygrace with any questions or suggestions.