Nothing bugs me more when I can spot that a member of staff hasn’t been properly equipped.

I talked about this in my video the other day, but nothing gets my irritation levels veering towards a 10 out of 10 quite like having a bad experience with a business’ customer service department. And sometimes it’s not even the member of staff’s fault, because it simply comes down to the fact that they have been given minimal training and then set loose on the unsuspecting customer.

I called a company because it had sent information to my mum about her pension. Nothing is guaranteed to get my mum panicking more, than a letter about her pension, because there’s a rather complicated history in terms of her needing to make a complaint at the time she applied to take it. So her heart dropped when she got a complicated letter asking lots of information.

 

When we called the company, a friendly and polite member of staff took her details, went through GDPR and then mum asked him to speak to me. He’s friendly and polite and we get the GDPR statement again, followed by a rather robotic statement about the letter. However, when it came to the more complex question I asked, that’s when the wheels fell off.

My example isn’t even a particularly bad one, because the member of staff was doing his best and was clearly committed to getting the matter sorted out. He’d obviously been drafted in to deal with a deluge of calls about pensions, and the training had clearly been minimal, because it’s OK folks he had a script to follow.

The script ticked all the boxes:

  • Say hello and introduce yourself (tick),
  • Be polite, friendly and engaged (tick),
  • Cover GDPR (huge tick – we got it twice).
  • Questions concerning enhanced annuities and the unique circumstances of this call (erm….)

But the problem happens when the script has clearly been written by someone that’s not doing the job. Dare I say it, but someone that perhaps works in the legal department. It clearly showed that this poor member of staff was having to back flips when he really wanted to be cart wheeling to help his customer.

 

What do I mean by this? He was having to shape himself around the script, rather than around the call. He didn’t have the knowledge to be able to answer my questions, which I accept because pensions are mind-blowingly hard to fathom, but worse still he had no soft skills to manage the call. This meant that I’d ask a question, be put on hold, get an answer but then have a follow up question, be put on hold…eugh! It was frustrating for us all. The member of staff clearly felt deskilled and embarrassed because he kept apologising. I felt irritated and felt more than a little sorry for him, because I could see it wasn’t his fault at all.

So, what can businesses do to reduce the likelihood of bad customer experience then? Sometimes, it’s not always about equipping staff with masses of knowledge in terms of products, although I will just say that this does help enormously when it comes to being confident in what you’re being told by a business. Sometimes, it’s more a question of investing in staff and providing them with the skills to manage interactions with customers.

  • Building rapport by being interested
  • Managing expectations
  • Steering the conversation
  • Managing emotions
  • Handling endings
  • Following up on promises

Also knowing when it’s better to take a note of a customer’s details and telling them you’ll call them back, rather than putting them on hold repeatedly.

 

Too often I see these soft skills reduced because people don’t necessarily see customer service as a long term investment or a long term career. But, these staff are the front line of your business, they represent you and they deserve the investment in them. Not everyone can be good at this area of work and it takes a unique set of skills to be able to do it, so investment in them will pay dividends in terms of retention of staff, retention of customers and reducing complaints.   

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