A Guide to Effective Customer Communication
With more and more businesses being done over the telephone and the increasing use of 24 hour professional call centres to handle customer enquiries, knowing how to communicate effectively both face to face and on the telephone is vitally important. To help you get your message across clearly, politely and efficiently, workforce solutions provider Kelly Services highlights some common problems and provides some techniques on essential know-how on the different ways you can polish up your communication.
We live in an era where the customer is king. Gone are the days when customers were thought of as an interruption or that answering their queries was doing them a favour. Nowadays good customer service provides an organisation with its competitive edge and customers expect to be dealt with professionally and competently. Whether you are involved with customers on the telephone or deal with them direct, the following guidelines will help you to make the right impression and give your customers what they are looking for.
If you answer the telephone or if you greet visitors you need to be aware of ruining professional images with comments that often give the wrong impression such as:
- They are still at lunch (they're taking a long break)
- They are not in yet (they're late)
- They have left already (they've slipped off early)
- She's at the dentist (this is too personal)
- He's just popped out (and does so all the time)
- I don't know where he is (internal communication is bad)
- They are tied up (they are too busy to talk to you)
It is far easier and much more professional to say: She's not available at the moment - may I get her to call you back etc.
Top six telephone frustrations!
- Being cut off or put through to the wrong person
- Being left hanging on with no explanation
- Not knowing who you are talking to and if they can help
- Being asked lots of questions
- Not being given the chance to explain yourself
- Being called at an inconvenient time
Think about what is meant by good service. It involves many different qualities and will depend on the circumstances involved but whatever business you are in, there are a number of basic good practices which should be taken on board.
- Identify yourself and listen without interrupting
- Respond as necessary
- Stop talking if interrupted
- Give prompt service with the minimum of delay
- Don't keep the caller hanging on the line without going back to them
Be friendly and helpful
- Speak clearly and with a smile (yes, you can "hear" a smile!)
- Be aware of how important your voice is in conveying a friendly personality
- Be enthusiastic and show an interest
- Be sincere in your attempts to help
- Never lose your cool
- If you promise to take certain action do it as agreed
- Deal with any problems diplomatically
Learn to listen
Improving your listening skills can make a huge difference to your communication success - people need to know that you fully understand their case.
- Don't interrupt unnecessarily
- Don't switch off half way through
- Don't hurry people
- Try putting yourself in the caller's place
When you are recording or giving information remember that it must be precise and detailed.
- Be clear and accurate
- Make sure that any information you give is correct
- Avoid jargon
- Talk with confidence
- Get the facts and record the information
- Confirm your caller understands the information you have supplied
- Answer questions if you can or offer to find out the information
It is vital to collect all the relevant information when you are taking messages for other people. The following checklist will help you to make sure you haven't forgotten anything.
- Who the call is for
- The date and time of the call
- Name of caller and company
- Their telephone/fax number
- Reason for the call / is the call urgent?
- A convenient time to return the call
- Your name
- Details of anything you have agreed with the caller
Handling problems and complaints
When you are handling difficult situations it is important to keep calm and not let your emotions get the better of you. In many ways a complaint is an opportunity - the chance to show you can put things right. A customer whose complaint is successfully resolved will have a strong sense of loyalty.
- Try and establish some rapport with the caller
- Use their name and recognise their importance
- Let the person explain and listen carefully
- Get all the facts and take notes
- Direct the conversation away from emotion
- Avoid defensive reactions
- Try and develop a solution giving a time frame and your actions
- Make a commitment to follow up
- Get agreement to your solution
- Thank the person for calling
If you are in the front line of communication, it is vital that you have a positive attitude because it is clearly reflected in both your voice and in the way you behave with others. Not only will a positive approach make you feel good it will also get a positive response from others.
A well known business guru was recently asked what the three most important factors were for a business to be successful. His reply was 'Communication, Communication and Communication.'