A Global Customer Services Director recently came to us with a challenge: We have customer service teams spread all over the world, helping our telecommunications customers with technical troubleshooting. Some of them are really excellent, experienced agents, others are relatively new and still learning the ropes. Some are good with the technical side, others better at working with people. The question is – how do we get them all working to the same standard?
We proposed the RATER model, a five-point framework which describes how customers evaluate the service they receive. We have found RATER is a tool which everyone can learn from and improve, whatever their level of experience. In a previous post we introduced the framework. In this post we will add some information and provide tips on how to put it into practice, based on real experience we’ve had working with clients like the one above.
Is your organisation able to deliver services consistently, accurately and on time? Of course, sometimes things go wrong. If you work on a customer helpline, ‘reliability’ becomes the measure of how quickly and effectively you can put things right.
- Manage customer expectations by explaining honestly what can and cannot be done. Being open and transparent is the foundation of reliability.
- Never feel pressured to promise something you are not 100% sure you can deliver. Declining customer requests is not pleasant, but it will build trust in the long term because your customers will value your honesty.
- Being pro-active by identifying and communicating problems before they happen is another great way to help your customers see you as reliable.
How much do your customers trust you? If a customer is buying a service from you this is particularly important because the transaction is built on the customer’s future expectation that you will deliver what you say you will.
- Find out what your customers’ real needs are and show that you are focused on the benefits and outcomes for them.
- Build your credibility by demonstrating your specific skills and expertise; customers expect you to be an expert in the product or service your organisation offers.
- Ensure that you are giving consistent information to all customers. If customers hear different things from different people in your organisation, they will not be assured that they can trust your answer.
Tangibles are the way the customer interacts with your organisation; through physical spaces as well as your web site, apps, phone lines and email. If you are a customer service agent, some of these things will be beyond your control but there is still a lot you can do to make the customer journey a good experience.
- Consider the steps the customer went through to get in touch with you and how that can impact their mood and expectations. For example, apologising for waiting time is a respectful thing to do.
- Smile, be friendly and interested, show respect. These are all tangible elements that contribute to a customer’s impression of your service.
- If you have different customer communication channels, find out which ones different customers prefer and use them to personalise your communication approach.
Do you customers feel that you care about them as individuals? And importantly, how do you show them that you care?
- Empathy means putting the customer at the centre of communication; you will achieve this by talking less, listening more, and asking effective questions to ensure you understand.
- Avoid phrases like “I understand how you feel” and “I apologise for the inconvenience” which are over-used and sound scripted and unnatural.
- Listen to the customer’s emotions and acknowledge them; a phrase like “I can hear that you are feeling upset” shows the customer you are paying attention to their feelings and they have a right to feel that way.
The whole reason for having customer service is to respond to customer questions and problems. So, customers will judge you on how quickly and effectively you do this.
- Don’t wait until you have the full solution before re-contacting a customer; giving updates on progress and steps you have taken will assure customers they have not been forgotten and are still a priority.
- Provide customers with specific deadlines and timelines but always make sure these are realistic and do-able, otherwise you will undermine their trust in you.
- Manage communications across multiple channels (if your organisation has them) to make sure you pick up and deal with customer communications quickly.
The RATER model in action
When we used the RATER framework with this team, participants reported that they found it extremely useful to have a model to draw on – not just for planning customer interactions but also to reflect on which of the RATER dimensions was important for a specific customer and how the agent addressed this during the interaction. RATER became a common language which this team could use to support and debrief each other.
If you would like to know more about our experience of working with global companies on developing their customer service communication, or the RATER model, feel free to contact us.
Customer service training solutions
Click on the links below for more details.