There should be no doubt that customer service matters when it comes to gaining and retaining business; a 2011 survey conducted by Forbes showed that 71% of people ending a relationship with a business made that decision because of poor customer service. And even with all the communications options afforded by new technology, a majority of customers still prefer to handle customer service matters over the phone.
So what makes for good customer service? Here’s what any business answering service calls must do:
- Answer Promptly
Good customer service starts before you say a single word. A full third of customers think their calls should be answered immediately, with no hold time whatsoever, and standard business etiquette dictates that a phone should never ring more than three times without being answered. If you’re getting an unusually high volume of calls, make sure that you’re answering promptly and asking customers’ permission to place them on hold. And if you are consistently receiving more calls than you can promptly address, it’s time to do some hiring or investigate a white-labeled call answering service (more on that below).
- Listen Attentively
If you’ve been following Comcast’s customer service debacles over the past year, you should have learned one thing: You need to really listen to the customer and pinpoint his or her needs. It’s only then that you can give an answer that will be fully satisfying. Even if a customer is calling for reasons you’d rather not address — demanding a refund, canceling service, etc. — listening is the only way you may be able to retain their business.
- Mind Your Tone
It’s extremely important that anyone providing customer service maintain a tone that is simultaneously polite, energized, calm, helpful and focused. No matter how outrageous a customer gets, the person representing your business must keep cool. That doesn’t mean letting customers get their way all the time, but it does mean being courteous and sympathetic even in refusals.
- Expand Hours
For some types of businesses, it makes sense for your phone hours to correspond directly with your business hours. But for others, your phone hours should be far wider. Sit down and brainstorm a list of reasons why your customers might need to call you. If any of those situations might arise outside of normal business hours, then you need to consider keeping people on the phones (or hiring an after hours call answering service) earlier and/or later. Nothing is more frustrating to customers than never being able to reach a live person.
- Consider Outsourcing
If your in-house staff can’t meet these standards, or if it would be expensive for you to implement such a team, then it’s smart to consider live answering services. Both regular (9 to 5) and after hours call answering services can be white labeled, meaning that the person who answers the phone will greet your customers as if they were a part of your staff — and will have the training to ensure callers will get the best possible impression of your organization.
Do you need regular or after hours call answering services, or do you think you can achieve all these standards with your in-house staff? Discuss in the comments.