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The Changing Face of the Customer Experience

July 5, 2011

By: Omnia Group

Good customer serviceThese days many of your customers are likely reeling from a nagging pain – the one that comes after trying to survive for so many months in such a chilling and stormy U.S. economy. Most are worried, aggravated, stressed, and looking to interact with someone or something that makes them feel better – even if it’s only for a few minutes…with your Customer Service Representatives!

That said, it’s probably time to take a closer look at how your CSRs conduct their typical, day-to-day business. Certainly, no one on your service staff can ever afford to slip or make any mistakes when responding to clients, and excellent service has always been essential. But today, an empathetic tone needs to be added to that mix and may be what ultimately makes or breaks a sale.

Now, more than ever, customers want to feel special, pampered, and valued. Make sure your CSRs can consistently deliver. Strong customer relationships have always driven business, but today, by most accounts, they’re king. When building them, keep in mind that not all customers respond to the same type of treatment, so attempting to standardize service by training staff to deal with everyone the same way or repeat the same script is apt to be a big mistake.

Are your CSRs adept at reading people? Do they have personalities and attitudes, allowing them to get along with a wide range of temperaments? If not, start training them immediately!

The stress-filled world we all live in will drive different customers to different brinks. Those who are typically a little bold often become outspoken, testy under pressure, while naturally timid souls can seem even more fragile, easily frightened.   Clearly, your CSRs need to display an adaptable business style; they may be required to shield themselves from verbal attacks, provide reassurance, and function as psychological counselors – all within the same hour!

Be sure your CSRs reflect the passion and value you’re looking to provide. Train CSRs to treat each customer as if they were the only one that matters, and encourage them to be honest about what they can and can’t deliver for any given financial situation.

Think of the personalities who are your CSR staff.  Which are the least sociable, the most impatient, or the most likely to inadvertently come across in an intimidating way? These are the CSRs who may require some extra training or perhaps even a new placement to satisfy the needs of this new breed of customers who’ve been driven to the edge.

Here are a few coaching tips for some CSR personalities you may have in your office:

  • Assertive, Determined, Risk-Taking CSRs

While perhaps invaluable for making sales and taking control of precarious situations, these personalities may benefit from extra coaching on tempering themselves when offering general advice and dealing with nervous customers. Role-play with them. Ensure they don’t seem too busy to bother answering petty questions or more interested in just making a sale than listening to a customer’s dilemma.

  •  Reserved, Quiet or Introspective CSRs

These individuals usually have impressive analytical skills. However, the problem is that they‘re often more comfortable dealing with abstracts and theories than with people. Please provide them with some good, reliable ice-breaking techniques, so they sound more animated and empathetic when conversing with customers. They often speak in direct, short sentences, giving others the impression they’re cool or aloof. Offer these CSRs frequent tips on how to sound not just professional, but also compassionate and caring.

  • Hurried, Fast-Paced, Fast-Talking CSRs

They seem to be always racing against the clock, bursting with energy, tapping their feet, jumping from one thought to the next. Your time-driven CSRs are natural multi-taskers, ready to shift gears, change assignments, and meet their goals in record time. Their shortfall is impatience and little desire to delve into matters requiring diligence and repetition. Show them how to slow down and the importance of listening politely to what customers say, not speeding through their conversations.

Of course, all the training and coaching in the world won’t help a CSR who’s totally wrong for the job or totally wrong for your workplace. This is why it’s important to know your needs ahead of time and place the right personality in the right position.

Let’s say you’ve found who you think is the ideal CSR. Your new employee seems eager to meet expectations, prepared to press for results, able to stay resilient, and concerned about quality. However, as time passes, something seems wrong, and your dream candidate gradually morphs into a nightmare employee. Why? Because you forgot to factor in an important variable when it comes to hiring -- environmental compatibility! Even the most prize-worthy CSR will prove disastrous if he/she can’t mix in with colleagues or communicate harmoniously with superiors.

When coworkers don’t get along, the effects are far-reaching and nerve-wracking; employee turnover is high, morale is lowered, resentment is felt, and arguments (or worse) ensue. Consider the personalities of the rest of your staff before taking on someone new.

It’s also vital to note the size of your CSR candidate’s previous work environment. Someone coming from a large agency may not realize how flexible, versatile, and multi-tasking they might need to be in a smaller office where employees tend to do everything from running errands to selling products. Conversely, a CSR from a small office might dislike the structure or defined parameters of a big company and could feel stifled and ultimately become resentful.

Having a firm grasp of your candidates’ mindsets can help you better determine how suited they are to your company’s specific needs and how coachable or trainable they may or may not be.

Your independent, self-directing CSR candidate or employee might resent the critiques, direction, and close oversight you give. To counter this, ask for his or her input. Present constructive feedback as a learning experience, an opportunity to grow, to quell any growing feelings of animosity.

These are the days when every CSR on your payroll needs coaching on how to stretch beyond his or her limits and do what’s necessary to help maintain and grow business. There are no free passes in this market where companies are closing daily, and losses are rampant.  You need ambitious, knowledgeable, compassionate; attuned service representatives prepared to deal with virtually any situation and any existing or potential customer.

A CSR's role is an ever-evolving one, shifting from its original emphasis on service to one that’s more focused on sales. However, more and more companies will find themselves in need of CSRs who can service and sell and advise and comfort. Employing CSRs who lend an attentive ear, offer practical solutions, present new product options, and display a sincere interest in the unsettling dilemmas faced by today’s customer will keep your agency way ahead of the competition.

Omnia Group

For over 30 years, we’ve helped organizations across the world improve and optimize their workforce operations and company cultures. While we take a unique, scientific approach to hiring, development and retention, we also believe every business is a people business. Our passionate advisors always put people first.

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