What Every Customer Service Representative Should Know About Helping Customers

7 min read
Dec 14, 2016
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Customer Service Skills Agents Need

Being a customer service representative is a huge responsibility. When working in customer service, you are the face of a company. Customers who will think about the company will think about how you treated them and whether you helped them before thinking about the company’s marketing message.

It’s definitely a daunting task. And one that shouldn’t be taken lightly!

I’ve round up a couple of tips and best practices customer service representative should know when working in support or sales. If you’re thinking about starting working as a customer service representative, or maybe you already work in such a position, these will definitely help you out.

1. The end of customer service representative training is the just the beginning of learning

Customer service training can only get you so far when it comes to getting ready for a customer service position. You will get the bulk of your customer service knowledge well after the training has concluded.

This is because the constant will to learn and to expand your customer service skills is a characteristic every representative should have.

Only the real chats, emails or phone calls with customers will allow you to truly learn how to best approach customer service. Reflecting on and learning from your past mistakes plays a big role here.

Whenever you don’t handle a case perfectly, think of what you could have done differently by accessing your email or chat history. You can do this on even larger scale by learning from the mistakes of others by browsing through shared chat archives. And if learning from your mistakes is good, learning from the mistakes of others is even better.

In the same vein, you can look to very positive situations (the ones with the best ratings or the one where customer left a glaring review) to see what to do right and how to delight customer.

Most of your experience will come from past cases but you can also develop other helpful skills, e.g. typing speed to be able to form your answers more quickly.

See how our Support Heroes describe their first days at work.

2. Things won’t always go according to plan

The faster a customer service representative accepts that not everything can be predicted or planned, the easier it will be for them to deal with new situations.

For example, a heavy snowstorm didn’t stop Trader Joe to deliver supplies to an 89-old just before Christmass. Even though that is no ordinary request, Trader Joe’s employees stepped up to the challenge and delivered amazing service.

You definitely can prepare for some situations. And it’s a pretty good idea for the most common cases. The same logic applies when you construct your knowledge base: you start with discussing the most common problems first to help the largest number of customers.

For the situations that are rare and can’t be easily predicted, a customer service representative needs to be able to improvise and come up with a solution on the spot. There’s also an option to escalate a case and seek the guidance of more experienced colleagues.

If you are facing a new customer service problem, ask the customer for a bit of time, create a ticket and try to come up with a solution. If the new problem starts turning up more and more often, it can be a good sign that it should be discussed in your knowledge base or added to the training program for new customer service representatives.

3. It’s not the job of a customer to give you all the details

It definitely is convenient if the customer could give you all the details you need to solve a case. But it’s not always something the customer wants to do.

Imagine a situation where a customer is bounced between several customer service representatives and has to tell their story over and over. After a few bounces like that, anyone would have enough and it’s no wonder they don’t want to do it again.

What you can do is to remove as much burden as possible from the customer. If you can get the details by asking another agent or by checking previous interactions with the customer in your Archives, email conversation history or in your CRM, you should definitely go for it.

Customers will always display some degree of patience. It’s up to the customer service representative not to test that patience and not force the customer to do too much work the agent can do.

4. Customer service representative shouldn’t blindly follow scripts

The cardinal rule about customer service scripts is that they are guidelines, not rules. Unless your guidelines can predict all situations with all kinds of customers being involved, they shouldn’t be implemented verbatim.

Guidelines help you to get a general idea of what you should and what you can do in a specific situation. A sort of a possible path on the road to solving a customer’s problem. You still need to verify if the customer you’re dealing with has the same problem or maybe there are some changes required.

Scripts can be helpful to make sure you don’t drift away from the core of the problem too much and to optimize the work of customer service representatives a bit, but that doesn’t always mean the best possible outcome for a customer.

If you force the script on the customer, you will end in a stupid situation where you need to jeopardize your relation just to be able to tick a few more boxes.

5. Responsibility is not a burden

Customer service representatives often see responsibility as a burden. After all, they are not responsible for a faulty product but have to take all the blame. However, responsibility can be really empowering too.

In a situation where you can say “I don’t know what happened, it normally works” or “That works for everyone else” you get rid of the responsibility but the customer is still left with a problem.

Imagine that you can’t shift the blame or make an excuse. With that option out of the window, the only thing left you can do is to provide a solution, which makes all the difference for a customer.

In the end, the part about why something is not working matters way less than how to get it working again.

6. A promise is a promise

Once a customer service representative makes a promise to a customer, they essentially sign a contract with the customer. It may not be legally binding but it’s as important in the eyes of the customer.

If you don’t fulfill that contract, it will leave a bad taste even if you end up solving the customer’s problem. For example, if you promise to do something within 24 hours and you take three days solving the same problem, the customer’s experience will be much worse than in the case where you keep your promise.

For a customer service representative a promise like that may not seem important. After all, they are dealing with hundreds of customers and cases each day. When it comes to customers, they are not aware of all those cases and only one case is important to them: their own.

Ideally, you’d want to make a bold promise and deliver on it, but that’s not always possible. You also shouldn’t offer just the bare minimum to surprise the customer with an average solution. Make promises you can keep and you will be fine.

What customer service representatives you want to meet online

I think one of the best ways to grade yourself as customer service representative is to ask yourself whether you would like to meet an agent like you online when you are in a dire need of a solution to a painful problem. If you wouldn’t have anything against meeting yourself, you’re probably doing just fine. If you have some doubts, go over the list again to make sure you’re doing what you can on all fronts.

What do you think about the list? Is there anything missing that could be useful for future or existing customer service representatives? If so, please scroll down to the comments section and share!