11 Practical Ways To Provide Better Customer Service By Phone

customer service by phone

Your customers deserve excellent service, and providing support over the phone is a great way to deliver it to them.

Of course it’s not enough to just have a contact number and answer calls ad hoc. You need to be aware of what it takes to go above and beyond to serve people who get in touch for a conversation.

There’s a cavalcade of tweaks that will make a big difference to the quality of your phone-based customer service, and we’ve put together an outline of the most impactful for you to try at your business.

1. Use a Robust Business Phone System -- Not Google Voice

While it may be tempting to jump straight on the Google Voice bandwagon in order to set up an affordable contact point for customers to use, this is not sufficient for small but growing companies that want to stand out from the crowd.

Thankfully there are alternative phone systems out there which are similar to Google Voice but offer far more in the way of enterprise-focused features and functionalities.

This includes things like voicemail transcription, auto-attendant and flexible pricing for as many users as you require.

2. Aim to Answer Inbound Calls ASAP

The longer a customer has to wait in a queue to speak to a team member, the more their opinion of your business will deteriorate.

In addition, when they finally do get through to someone, it’s likely that the customer’s levels of frustration will have increased, which can make it harder for employees to deal with them, and might hurt morale in the team as a result.

This means that you need to prioritize the reduction of call wait times, which is only possible if you’re tracking this metric and taking steps to address it.

Adding more team members to your support setup is a quick fix, but obviously incurs increased costs. You could set up a callback service, whereby anyone who can’t be immediately put through to an employee can choose to be contacted when someone is available.

Long wait times might suggest that you aren’t managing support calls efficiently, and fixing this along with other mistakes may require a broader rethink of your tactics.

3. Give the Customer Agency

Customers that are bounced around different departments and spoken to by several different people in the course of a call can feel powerless, especially if they constantly have to re-explain their issue to each new employee that’s put on the line with them.

For this reason, it’s best to ensure that they’re given a degree of control over the course that the call takes. Staff should ask if they’re happy to be transferred elsewhere, rather than simply pulling the trigger themselves.

4. Put Clarity at the Top of the Agenda

One thing that a lot of businesses overlook when processing customer service calls is the extent to which their employees have been understood.

Some people will be too polite to admit that they’ve not fully grasped the information they’ve received, so it’s worth double-checking this before terminating a call.

Clarity of expression isn’t just about satisfying customers the first time, but also about avoiding repeat calls being necessary, which is obviously inefficient.

5. Prioritize Friendliness & Approachability

Conveying the right attitude and emotions while having a phone conversation with a customer is key to succeeding in this arena.

The tone of voice you use, and the words you choose, can sway the direction the call takes. So it’s not enough to resolve issues swiftly, but to do so with a smile. This is advice that team members should take literally, as smiling is an expression that’s easy to detect even if you can’t see the person’s face.

Even if a caller is vexed or in the wrong, you need to rise above it and remain professional and courteous. It’s the only way to turn potentially problematic interactions in your favor.

6. Use Training to Ensure Consistency

Having policies in place to govern phone-based customer service is pointless unless you also back this up with the right training provided to the team members that will be expected to take calls in the course of their duties.

After the initial training, it’s worth scheduling refresher courses for further down the line, so that best practices can be maintained, and bad habits can be stamped out.

7. Ask for Input From Callers

If you’ve been on a customer service call with another business, you may have noticed that there’s the option to leave feedback offered at the end of the experience.

This is an approach worth adopting at your own company, because the input of real customers is invaluable in identifying problems and fixing them.

In addition, it’s possible to automate this aspect so that you don’t need to take up any of your team’s time. And of course this goes back to selecting a business-grade phone solution, rather than one that’s designed for consumer use.

8. Listen Actively

You might think of listening as a passive process, but to really hear what customers are saying you need to be active about the way you listen.

There are several techniques involved in this, including restating what a caller has said to emphasize that it has been recognized and understood.

9. Use a CRM

A customer relationship management solution goes hand in hand with a phone support service, as it’s a way of keeping contact information in one place and also taking note of past interactions with callers so that this is available to team members if they get in touch in the future.

There are many other benefits to a CRM, and one which integrates across a variety of tools and solutions you use in the workplace will have a transformative impact on the quality of your customer service across the board.

10. Recognize the Achievements of Support Staff

While staying on top of call metrics and working with team members to address shortcomings is useful, it’s important to remember that you also need to celebrate the successes of employees on a regular basis.

You could go all out with employee recognition software, of which there are several varieties. But even just having a policy in place of carrying out regular performance reviews and positive feedback sessions between team members and managers will make a difference.

11. See What the Experience is Like at Rival Companies

If you’re still stuck on how to improve your own customer service by phone, it only takes a minute or two to contact competitors in order to understand the other methodologies that are at play elsewhere.

Better yet, this is an opportunity to learn from the mistakes that rivals are making, so that you don’t repeat them in your own call center operations.

Final Thoughts

By keeping the standards of your customer service consistently high, and being rigorous in checking that you’re hitting targets, you’ll see loyalty blossom, and also gain benefits in terms of things like employee engagement as well.

You will need to invest time and money to rectify existing issues and monitor performance in the long term. However, the payoff will more than justify the investment, and there’s still a lot of brand-building clout that lies in providing exceptional service by phone.

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