Gain a Competitive Edge

By Nancy Friedman, Telephone Doctor

Tight economy, reduced staff, and demanding callers: these days it’s extra challenging to satisfy and keep clients. It’s even more important than ever because customer loyalty is generally considered the primary means to retain clients, maintain profitability, and gain an advantage over the competition. It’s been this way for a long time; it’s just getting more attention now.

There are many ways to do better. Here are the top nine:

1. Know your product and services inside and out. Not being knowledgeable frustrates clients and their callers. An uneducated agent is semi-useless to a caller. Job knowledge is important in any position and call center agents are no exception; knowledge is the key ingredient to serving callers.

2. Believe in your product and services. Most of us know of a salesperson who has never had any formal sales training. However, based on a belief in the product and services, along with contagious enthusiasm, this person is a top seller. People love to buy from people who get excited about their products and services. Add that enthusiasm to strong training and just see how far your agents can take you. Don’t forget, customer service representative are sales people, too!

3. Walk the talk; practice what you preach. A Ford dealer would not drive a GM car. Similarly, call center employees need to use and understand their call center’s product or services before they can expect their clients to have confidence in them.

4. Keep your word. Companies spend thousands of dollars advertising their services and products. They boast that they’re the best and number one. However, just saying, “We guarantee our work,” isn’t enough. Clients need to know that you’ll do what you (and your advertising) say you will. Whatever you claim, make sure you keep your word. Plus, be sure all employees keep their word, too. Telling a caller that something will be to them in seven working days and then having it not show up is a creditability buster.

5. Return all calls and emails. It boggles my mind when a call or an email is not returned. There’s not an excuse in the world I could buy when that happens. Sure, some sales and customer service people get way too many calls and aren’t able to return them in a timely manner. Well, then have the call returned on your behalf! What about returning an email? How much time does that take?

6. Don’t ever forget who “brought you to the dance.” There are always clients who were with you from the start. They helped make your call center a success. They believed in you. A nice simple note once in a while is an ego booster to them and you’ll feel good about it too.

7. Make “no ulterior motive” calls. Every once in a while, drop a note or make a phone call to clients (and prospective clients) without trying to sell them something. Telephone Doctor labels those as “no ulterior motive” calls. They’re “just because” calls and they are welcomed. When was the last time you heard from a sales person or a company just to say, “Hi?” (See what I mean?)

8. Be in a good mood. All the time! Be the person that when the client leaves or caller hangs up the phone, they think to themselves, “That was a great call/visit.” What if you are not in a good mood? Then learn how to be. Remember one of our Telephone Doctor mottos: “A phony smile is better than a real frown.” Do you really think the first runner up of the Miss America contest is as thrilled for the winner as she says or shows? Talk about a great big phony smile!

9. Participate in customer service training programs at your company. Sure you know how to be a good customer service representative, but everyone can use a refresher. If there are no programs in place on customer service, ask for them. At best, you’ll be ahead of the competition and at worst you’ll be even with them! Customer Service is not a department; it’s a philosophy – for the entire company. Everyone needs to embrace it or it doesn’t work.

Nancy Friedman is president of Telephone Doctor, an international customer service training company, based in St. Louis, MO.

[From Connection Magazine December 2005]

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