Category Archives: Customer Service

9 Tips to Improve your Listening Skills

Having the ability to listen is one of the most important skills that you can learn in business as companies love to hire employees who have good listening and communication skills.  In fact, poor listening on behalf on an employee can end up causing organizations huge losses each year due to mistakes caused by employees who didn’t get the facts right.

There are many reasons to become a good listener as doing so allows you to become more efficient and productive, gives you the ability to demonstrate empathy and build better relationships with customers and co-workers.

Active ListeningThere are many distractions that can impact your ability to carefully listen to your customer such as side conversations, background noise, up and coming meetings, your supervisor waiting to talk to you, a previous rude customer, social media, email notifications, data entry, etc. These distractions can be easily overcome by following some guidelines on how to actively listen while on a customer call.

Actively listening and actually comprehending what the customer is saying is a skill that can be developed with proper training and practice.  Below are some tips that you can practice on a daily basis to help improve your listening skills:

  1. Focus: Stay focused on the purpose of call and listen for the facts or ideas being presented. Pay attention to the callers tone of voice and try to understand the message the caller is telling you from their point of view.
  2. Take Notes: Take notes as you listen to capture key points that you can refer to later.
  3. Eliminate Distractions: Try to prevent yourself from becoming distracted by colleagues and side conversations. Listen carefully and do not multi-task by checking emails, texts, Facebook or continuing to do data entry. Remember the caller deserves your undivided attention.
  4. Demonstrate Empathy: Listen to the emotion in your caller’s voice. Adjust your own tone of voice accordingly by showing empathy and interest in what the caller is saying.
  5. Don’t interrupt: You listen more effectively when you’re not talking, so refrain from interrupting your caller. Listen objectively and let them finish what they are saying as interruptions may break their train of thought.
  6. Ask questions: When in doubt as to what your caller is saying, ask patient, relevant questions to gain more information on points you need to clarify. This shows the customer that you are interested in what they are saying and that you are taking responsibility for the call.
  7. Stay Positive:  If you encounter an assertive, angry, upset customer, don’t allow your attitude to slip and become negative. Take a moment to reflect on how this impacts your attitude and then make a choice to retain a positive attitude as this will make the rest of your day much happier.
  8. Confirm and Summarize: Let the customer know you understand what they are saying by summarizing the conversation. Use statements such as “I understand”, “I agree”, “I see”, “You’re right”. These are all great ways to reflect back and summarize. Refer back on your notes by asking questions such as “It’s my understanding that we will be installing on…” or “May I take a moment to confirm what you’ve said?”. If your customer is upset, emphasize with them by saying statements such as “I understand how you are feeling right now. I will get this resolved as soon as possible.”
  9. Ask the Customer to Repeat Some Information: While it’s not good to ask callers to constantly repeat information, if you are having difficulty listening, you could say, “I’m sorry I missed what you just said. Could you please repeat that for me?.

Improve your Active Listening skills by taking an Active Listening E-Learning course offered on officeskills.org.

6 Tips to Properly Answering the Telephone

Having basic phone skills such as answering the phone in a professional manner and greeting the customer is important,  but knowing how to speak properly, listen to your customers, express empathy and maintain a positive attitude through-out the day will be key to your success as a Customer Service Representative or Office Professional.  Below are 6 basic skills that will help ensure your caller is completely satisfied with the service they receive and that they hang up with a positive impression of your company.

1.  Prepare for the Call

It’s important that you learn the features of your office phone system prior to handling calls as you do not want to practice on the customer. Most companies will provide basic training on how to use their phone system or pair you up with a more experienced person who can explain the features to you. It’s important to practice these features until they become second nature to you.  If you’re using a microphone, hold it directly in front of your mouth.  Save your eating and drinking, except for water, for break-time so you’re focused only on answering the call.  Make sure you are sitting comfortably and have a note pad handy so you can take notes as you listen, to capture key points of the call.

2.  Greet the Caller

Customer Service SkillsYou only get one chance to make a good impression, so formulating your initial greeting when answering the company telephone is critical. Remember, you are the first voice they hear when they contact your company. If your greeting is friendly and professional, the caller will begin to form a favorable and positive opinion of the company. If your greeting is unpolished and unfriendly, callers will form a negative opinion of your company.

Experts agree that the following initial greeting will make your customers feel welcome and appreciated:

  1. Greet the caller in a friendly and enthusiastic manner such as “Good morning or good afternoon”.
  2. State your company name.  For example, “This is Office Skills Training”.
  3. Introduce yourself to the caller.  For example  “This is Mae Smith”.
  4. Offer your help.  For example, “how may I help you”

Example”  “Good morning.  This is Office Skills Training, Mae Smith speaking.  How may I help you?”

Don’t forget to smile before you answer the phone as this will be reflected in your tone of voice and will be great for maintaining a positive attitude, not only during the call but through-out the whole day.

3.  Listen Carefully

Actively listening and actually comprehending what the customer is saying is a skill that can be developed with proper training and practice.  Give your full attention to what the customer is saying.  Take the time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate. Do not interrupt the caller at inappropriate times.

4.  Speak Clearly

When talking over the phone, you’re unable to rely on the nonverbal expressions that are so important in face to face conversations.  Therefore, speaking clearly and in an upbeat, positive and enthusiastic tone is extremely important at all times.  Do not speak too fast as the caller may not be able to hear you.  Remember to vary your tone of voice as this adds emphasis to what you’re trying to convey to the customer.

Your job is to be courteous, cheerful, polite, able and willing to show empathy to callers. Never argue with customers, rush them through a call or otherwise provide poor service.

5.  Keep a Positive Attitude

Maintaining a positive attitude, both in person and on the telephone, is very important in the Customer Service profession.  A positive attitude is the key to your success in your job and experts agree that maintaining a positive attitude is a choice you can make on a daily basis. While you may not have any control over many things that happen in life, you can, in fact, control your attitude by incorporating some of the following positive choices into your daily work life:

  • Dress for success and smile while talking to your customers.  Your attitude isn’t just reflected in your tone of voice but also in the way you look, stand or sit and in your facial expressions. You’ll find that your attitude towards customers may influence your own behavior as it’s hard to hide a negative attitude.
  • Be Friendly and courteous to all callers at all times. Remember that you are representing your company and first impressions count.
  • Try to reflect on your pleasant customer experiences through-out the day and not on the unpleasant, negative ones. You’ll be amazed at how much this will improve your attitude.
  • If you encounter an assertive, angry, upset customer, don’t allow your attitude to slip and become negative. Take a moment to reflect on how this impacts your attitude and then make a choice to retain a positive attitude as this will make the rest of your day much happier.

6.  End the Call Professionally

Ending the call is just as important as the initial caller greeting as this is your last opportunity to make sure the caller is completely satisfied with the service they received and that they hang up with a positive impression of your company.  Here are some tips:

  • It’s important to thank the caller for calling and provide a brief summary of the outcome of the conversation such as “Thank-you for calling Mr Rogers. Your order for overnight delivery has been placed and you can expect it to be delivered within the next 24 hours.”
  • Let the caller know you appreciate their business.  Example: “Thank-you for calling Mr Rogers. We very much appreciate your order and it has been a pleasure doing business with you.”
  • Offer to help in the future by letting the customer know how to contact you or your company. Example: If you find you need additional assistance, please call us back at 800-333-1212.
  • Say Goodbye but always let the caller hang up first. Example: “Goodbye Mr. Rogers. Thank-you for calling.”

References: Telephone Courtesy & Customer Service: Be Your Company’s Lifeline to Customers (Crisp Fifty-Minute Books)

Need to improve your telephone skills further?  Take the Essential Telephone Etiquette E-learning course offered by Phone Skills Trainer on officeskills.org.

Essential Telephone Etiquette Online Course

If You Care About Your Productivity, Stop Worrying About Timesheets

Guest Post by Marie Miguel

Obviously, no-one is going to argue that productivity is important. However, any word used as often can have subtle shades of meaning: do you track productivity by people arriving on time and spending as many hours as possible at their desks? By tasks completed, and if so how do you compare picking apples with juicing oranges? By which employees complain most often? Whatever system you’re using, you’ll eventually run up against an inescapable fact: labor does not equal results.

Productivity no longer means simply convincing people to work harder

Most productivity metrics break down at some point; you may be obsessing about the number of tickets closed per day while ignoring the actual level of customer satisfaction, or be encouraging sales staff to make a certain number of client calls per week regardless of whether these result in revenue. This isn’t to say that we should abandon measuring performance, whether of teams or individuals, but we should keep in mind that there are many different aspects to this. The employees who are apparently the laziest are often the most effective, but pushing them to work harder can often have a negative effect on their productivity by upsetting whatever “system” they’ve found to work best for them.

If you take the time to think about this issue and do a little reading, the first truth you’ll discover is that movement, while tiring people out and possibly looking quite impressive, isn’t always in the right direction. Much of this is simply caused by miscommunication, which will cause employees to prioritize the wrong things, or work on tasks that will soon be irrelevant. The second thing you’ll realize is that improving productivity, based solely on an arbitrary metric, is usually a mug’s game.

The contribution direct labor input makes to a product’s final cost, in many industries, is now lower than ever. On the other hand, factors that never enter into productivity calculations, such as employee retention – particularly of the most valuable, and therefore most mobile staff – and health-related absenteeism can have a critical impact on the bottom line. Increasing productivity no longer means simply convincing people to work harder.

Impact of Stress on Employee Productivity

If your focus is on company-wide, long term productivity, one of the first things to look at is the level of stress your employees are subjected to. At a most basic level, this affects their health, potentially leading to things like heart disease, diabetes and a variety of mental illnesses. This doesn’t mean just the occasional sick day being taken, but long term absences or even losing a critical contributor due to a chronic condition. Alternatively, they might simply leave because they’ve become fed up with the environment you offer.

Workers who are less stressed are less likely to procrastinate, more likely to take initiative and offer suggestions, and far less prone to start interpersonal conflicts out of feelings of frustration. Overly stressed employees, on the other hand, can end up feeling resentful towards their employer, unable to deal with criticism, paranoid about their job security, and unable to concentrate on their work due to mental and emotional exhaustion.

Given all of these negative effects, you’ll be glad to know that there are quite a few ways to reduce stress. Companies are increasingly offering benefits such as free cafeteria food, flexible working hours, free stress counseling and various types of assistance to parents – not only to attract the best talent or because they’re nice, but also to assist their employees in achieving a better work/life balance. Work is, after all, the primary cause of stress in the lives of most people; if you can get them to actually like coming in on a Monday morning, your productivity worries are likely to be a thing of the past.

Recent research from Sweden correlated the characteristics of different managers, as described by those working for them, with health problems employees suffered over a long period. Unlike surveys that simply ask people to describe their level of stress, this offers a completely objective metric suitable for statistical analysis. Surprisingly enough, it was found that working for a boss lacking certain abilities increased the chance of having a heart attack by a full 40%!

Even if an on-site massage therapist isn’t going to fit into your budget for this year, though, there are certain things you can do, starting today, that can enormously improve the level of comfort, commitment and job satisfaction in your workplace. As it turns out, managers who don’t shirk responsibility for making decisions, listen to those under them, communicate clearly and don’t act arbitrarily is one of the key determinants in creating a pleasant place to work in.

Unfortunately, there are no clear indications that a particular executive will be able to organize a team and its challenges so that this kind of environment is achieved, nor is there a cut-and-dried set of rules to follow when managing your own team. A completely unsympathetic despot of a boss can unintentionally cause those under him to feel appreciated and unworried if he sets clear goals at every level and treats all workers equally. By contrast, a very personable manager who relies on a few key people to transmit his directives to all employees, and convey information back to him in turn, can lead to a situation where no-one knows what’s expected of them or what their part of the big picture is. There are an infinite number of variations on these themes – most of us can probably identify a few, good and bad, from personal experience. It is highly recommended that every manager reads the article, and the seven key points at the end, found at the link above.

Author Bio:  Marie Miguel is an avid internet researcher. She is fueled by her determination to answer the many questions she hasn’t been able to find the answer to anywhere else. When she finds these answers she likes to spread the knowledge to others seeking help. She is always looking for outlets to share her information, therefore she occasionally has her content published on different websites and blogs. Even though she doesn’t run one for herself she loves contributing to others.

Remote Desking in 3 Easy Steps

Guest Post by Jenny Holt

Managing a highly efficient team in a single building is a tough feat to manage, but when the team is based remotely the task is near impossible. With 68% of Americans believing that they will work remotely in future, businesses will need to make significant changes to their infrastructure to accommodate this. Thankfully, there are online tools that make this process a little more streamlined. Furthermore, these tools are accessible through mobile devices as well.

Remote Team Management Apps

When facts and figures come to the table, things change. In an open-plan office environment, the noise levels are said to drop productivity by up to 66%. With this in mind, allowing each person to clock in from a remote location should have a positive effect on productivity. There are a multitude of products on the market to help with team management, such as Trello, Basecamp, and Asana. With these, business owners can assign specific projects to their teams, assign tasks to individuals, and set reminders for due dates.

Online Storage and Collaboration Tools

Sending around a spreadsheet for multiple users to complete, wastes a lot of time and resources. Many online storage products allow users to share their information with specific team members in a controlled environment. This allows workers to have access to dynamic documents as well, such as the ones available on Google Docs. Online storage also allows customers to share large files without each person having to download the files first, which again saves resources. Other benefits of cloud storage include sufficient space and security for businesses to perform backups. Employees can take advantage of this too, as their work will never go missing again.  

Efficient Communication

Email is listed as one of the reasons employees are miserable with their jobs. Not only do they check their emails often during a typical workday, they are also known to take work home with them. Instead of using emails for every little thing, it’s important to learn that there are chat services that make this easier while still remaining more professional than platforms such as Whatsapp and SMS. Services such as Slack provide employers with an interactive way to communicate with the team. It also allows employees to create various groups to ensure that the right people receive relevant communication at the right time.  

No one should go to work every day and feel unhappy, wishing they were somewhere else. Finding innovative and interactive solutions to combat this feeling is key to a successful working life. Maybe remote desking is exactly what your team needs to shake things up, boost morale and create a better working environment.

25 Reasons to Integrate Live Chat into Your Business

Case study after case study has proved that adding a live chat feature to an e-commerce website can help improve sales rates and foster customer loyalty. One of the reasons customers love to use chat is the fast response time as it only takes 48 seconds to answer a chat for the average company, according to the study.   Chat also appeals to all age groups and more than a third of older boomers are already using chat, the study notes.

Benefits of Live Chat

Here are just some of the benefits of live chat for e-commerce:

  • Sales Growth:  63% of customers claim they are more likely to return to a website with live chat service.
  • Customer Loyalty:  Up to 40% of online shoppers who use live chat are more likely to make an online purchase at least once a week versus those who have never used chat.

Why does Live Chat Work?

One of the reasons more and more companies are using live chat is that it increases productivity and the study noted that the average number of chats an agent handles a month is 274.  Agents who use live chat in Mexico, in particular, were found to have the most chat conversations – managing the highest volume of chats.

Chat usage rates have been constantly rising year over year according to the study and many companies are experiencing a significant rise in customer satisfaction ratings.  Real life examples that prove introducing live chat can do wonders for online businesses include reports from several renowned companies, including Orbitz, Dell, Sears, and Total Gym Fitness.

To learn more about how these companies increased their traffic, improved customer satisfaction, and raised their revenue with the help of live chat service, take a look at this comprehensive infographic from skilled.co.

 

Live Chat for Business
Infographic Courtesy of Skilled.co