Support Mastermind: The Finest Customer Service Problem Solving Skills

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Mar 11, 2016
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Sherlock holmes dr watson customer service problem solving skills

I’m sure you remember at least one really, really bad story of a customer having a problem and the customer service failing to solve it.

The most famous one is the story of Ryan Block who tried to cancel his service with Comcast and the representative did his best not to let him do that. He insisted so hard on Ryan staying with Comcast as if his life was dependent on it.

I’ve even thought that maybe his entire family was kidnapped by Comcast and held in an unknown place until the representative earned a specific amount of money.

But let’s leave Comcast’s work culture behind and notice the company’s bigger problem: inability to solve their customer’s problems.

In today’s post, you’ll learn how to avoid such mistakes and what skills make a Support Mastermind.

What does problem solving in customer service mean

The most important thing to understand is that even when customer problems don’t concern your product, it is still your problem.

We need to understand that every single negative interaction with the brand can bring harm to the relationship with the customer, so every problem the customer has is also yours.

A quick example on how such problems can be handled.

Let’s say that you’re running an online shoe store. You run your business happily until one day, an unsatisfied customer starts a chat with you and informs that since they are jogging in a pair of shoes they bought from you, they feel back pain!

You can have one of two thoughts right now. One is: "wait, I don't have LiveChat!" (and then, I let you know that you can test it for free for 30 days ;).

The second thought would be: "what does it have to do with my shoes?!." Believe me, in such case it's just too easy to tell them that it's not your business.

But if your representative is a person with problem-solving skills, they will more likely try to find the solution to the problem anyway.

By asking the right questions they might get to know if the customer has any problems with the shoe itself if the pain happened before, for how long are they practicing running.

It might turn out the customer is still a jogging freshie and tried to run too much too soon. It might also turn out that he didn’t do a proper warm up or has bad upper body form.

In most cases such explanation will be satisfying for the customer as they come to customer service to hear a piece of advice. A solution might not be what they expected, but the most important thing is that you’ve tried to help them.

That creates a positive customer experience!

The finest customer service problem solving skills

Several traits that turn a regular agent into a Support Mastermind. Some of them are natural, some of them can be learned, but all of them need to be constantly trained.

Sherlock holmes dr watson problem solving skills

So, when looking for a real troubleshooter, you should look for below traits. And even when you’re not hiring anyone now, you can learn how to improve problem-solving skills of your representatives.

1. Patience

Working in customer service is a hard and recurrent job. People contact customer service with silly questions or they keep asking about the same things on and on. Sometimes they’re even rude, so it’s really hard to remain calm.

But why is patience so important?

Because every time you lose your patience, your company’s reputation is suffering.

Exactly, my dear Watson.

Tip: Did you know that bursting with anger or blaming others is just an addiction? The first step to deal with it is to understand that every addiction, including this one, can be overcome. The second step is to figure out that bursting in anger does not solve anything and can harm your health.

Anger affects your heart, weakens your immunity system, hurt your lungs, is linked to depression… Try to control it as it might turn out that it’s not that difficult after all! And if you still find it hard to overcome, read this post: How To Deal With a Rude Customer and Remain Sane.

2. Willingness to help

Willingness to help is the first thing your customers will notice. It’s the tone of your voice and a particular choice of words that will let them know that you’re not only there to help, but you actually want to help.

To a great mind nothing is little.

A nice and helpful attitude is something that turns a regular customer experience into an amazing one and something that can help to tame the most enraged customer.

Another myth says that willingness to help is also something that you have or you don’t. But as well as patience, it’s something that you can train and develop.

Tip: Show the positive attitude and always try to smile! Customers will hear you smiling even if they won’t see you, they will hear it in your voice.

Always try to find the solution for the problem and if you can’t fulfill a customer’s request, try to find the closest solution. Avoid the negative language! “I don’t think it’s possible” or “this can’t be done” should never come from your mouth (you might want to read How To Use Positive Communication in Customer Service). Always try to provide a detailed explanation to the customer in simplest possible words.

You will soon notice that the helpful attitude becomes your habit and second nature!

3. Inquisitiveness

Customers will often contact you not knowing what caused the problem or how to explain it correctly. You’ll have to play the detective to find the cause of the problem and the solution. Luckily, thanks to analytical thinking and effective listening you’ll be able to solve any customer service mystery.

Data! Data! Data! I can't make bricks without clay!

Tip: The golden rule of a good detective is not to take anything for granted. Sometimes customers words can be misleading – it’s your job to find the clue in the evidence.

Ask many questions, say out loud how you understood customer’s words and try to think laterally. Try to change your approach and look at things in a new way. You won’t notice when it becomes your habit!

You may also want to check this post out: 4 Steps to Effective Problem Solving.

4. Knowledge about the product / services

The best representatives know which deals they can close and when. They are prepared to answer the toughest questions and are ready to do the product walk-through at any time of the day or night. They won’t be surprised by any customer question and won’t be pushing customers problems to others. Such reps are true customer service heroes.

It is better to learn wisdom late, than never to learn it at all.

Tip: Training, training and once again - training. You need to make sure your agents know the product /service, understand all the processes behind, know what different departments and employees are responsible for and are well-versed in company’s updates.

Encourage your customer service agents to be up to date with the product, encourage them to ask questions and learn. But while giving your team a product training, don’t forget about the soft skills. You’ll find a couple of training ideas here: Best Customer Service Training Ideas. Also, there's a Customer Service Quiz and Free Customer Service Training to check and improve your customer service skills even more.

Don’t leave any cold cases

One of the top reasons why customers are leaving is failing to solve a problem promptly. That’s exactly why we should keep in mind that every problem, even the minor one, can become a reason you’ll going to lose a customer.

Let’s do our best to resolve complex problems as carefully as the routine ones and let’s show customers that we care.

And even when customer problems are enigmatic, remember that you don’t have to hire Sherlock Holmes to solve them. Every company’s “study in scarlet” can be solved thanks to a little patience, willingness to help, inquisitiveness and knowledge.

Photos of Sherlock: The Abominable Bride thanks to a courtesy of PBS.

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