When customer support first came online, it was a revolution in the service industry. The problems started emerging when companies began to scale and outsource this service. It became harder to ensure that every customer service representative (CSR) was on the same page and performing up to par.
So, managers began to introduce scripts into the picture. The concept was simple and elegant – or so they thought. If all the CSRs had the same script, they would essentially have the same answers with which to respond to customers’ queries – this would ensure that a certain standard was kept in check. And customers would be none the wiser, right?
The main problem soon became obvious – what if a customer went “off-script”? No matter how detailed a script is, or how many scenarios one can imagine and prepare for, reality is never that clear-cut.
Soon, another problem emerged. Contrary to popular belief (among managers, anyway), customers can actually tell if a CSR is using a script and not truly empathizing or engaging with them. This is especially apparent when a customer goes “off-script”, and a CSR storms ahead with a prepared answer anyway. It becomes glaringly obvious that the CSR knows nothing about the customer or how to deal with his/her problem adequately. When this happens, the customer does not feel cared for, communications go quickly downhill, and a customer is lost.
At the same time, we hear stories of legendary customer service being delivered all across the globe, from Amazon to Zappos, Apple to Zopim (disclaimer: I am an employee of Zopim). How do they do it? Simply put, they make sure that they add a personal touch to their customer service. This sets them apart from the script-toting pack, especially in the online world.
Here are 3 ways that you can make online customer support personal, too.
Know your customers like the back of your hand
Ever made a call to your credit card company to complain about a problem you were having with your card? If you did, you would know that they ask for some of your information before attending to your problem. They are not just being nosy – by looking through your history, they can quickly pick out your problem, and often give you a solution even before you start on your complaint.
In other words, by knowing your customer well, you can pre-empt their problems and offer them solid solutions even before they open their mouths (or begin typing). It is therefore crucial to keep a log of your customer’s history somewhere in your system. For example, CSRs using Zopim Live Chat to communicate with customers can easily access past information related to the customer by clicking through to the History tab on the Dashboard. The proactivity you demonstrate goes a long way in assuring your customer that you care.
Deliberately go off-script when communicating with customers
Sometimes, certain situations are simple or routine enough that scripts are sufficient in dealing with them. The rest of the time, they are near impossible to pre-empt. As I mentioned earlier, sticking closely to a seemingly related script is certain to give your customer the message that you do not care.
In these cases, the best thing to do is to forget about the script – communicate with your customer like you are chatting with a human being. Talk to your customer, not at him/her. In essence, sound more human, and your customer will respond in kind.
In fact, in the Zappos office, no such scripts exist at all, though they do have an extremely solid training regime for each and every one of their CSRs to learn the art of customer service. It’s all about making the customer happy, and being able to actually hold a converation with them is a good start.
Take your time to attend to customers
What can be worse than facing a CSR who is unable to answer your questions coherently? Probably one who is obviously rushing through the “conversation” in order to meet their quota.Here are a couple of classic telltale signs are as follows:
– Spouting scripted phrases that have nothing to do with your responses in quick succession
– Repeating the question, “Is that all you need?” at every available opportunity
Need I say more? Surely, this is the knockout blow in alienating your customer. To avoid this, CSRs need to remember that it is not always about efficiency, but the quality of communication as well. It takes time to create a connection with the customer, and having the patience to go back and forth with him/her for whatever reason is absolutely essential.
Let’s go back to the Zappos playbook. Just earlier this year, they broke their own record for holding a conversation with a single customer at an incredible 10-hours. Talk about building a personal connection with the customer!
More recently, a creative Netflix customer service agent earned brownie points when he transformed what would have been a routine conversation into a Star Trek role-play (props to the customer for playing along, too). In fact, “Lt. Norm” enjoyed the conversation so much that he decided to share it with the online world – all because a CSR decided to make an extra effort and take the time needed to fully interact with the customer.
At the end of the day, just because so much more convenience is afforded with customer support online, does not mean that we should take shortcuts in communicating with the customer. It is exponentially more important to go beyond detached scripts, and make interactions personal and hence, memorable.
Providing awesome online customer support can be a seemingly insurmountable challenge. With Zopim Live Chat, you can talk to your visitors in real-time. By doing so, it becomes that much easier to impress and convert them into customers for life. Try out our 14-day trial here.