Celebrating Customer Service Week

For Customer Service Week, we asked our Technical Customer Support expert Excellent Ikeakanam to share her experiences, from what it’s like being a customer success representative to their most memorable experience with a customer.

Can you share some best practices for handling difficult or irate customers while maintaining a positive customer service experience?

The first thing I would say is to maintain professionalism. While you are trying to handle customer issues, you must maintain professionalism as some customers can frustrate you. You always must resist the urge to talk back at them. Then there is empathy. I can say empathy is the most important thing ever. You must always put yourself in the shoes of the customer to understand how they are feeling. Another is active listening. Understanding the issues helps you narrow down the process of resolving their issues.

Can you give 2 tips for customers if they want their issues resolved quickly?

The number one tip is that they should know how to communicate properly. It is going to help the support tech to understand and reduce time wastage. Customers should know how to note what the issue is and the different areas of the issue. Secondly, they might not like it, but they should be patient. It is like they have an antithesis to the word itself. I remember telling a customer to be patient and it was like adding fuel to the fire as the person was starting to get angry. Some issues can be very technical, and they require some time to fix.

Take us through one unforgettable experience you have had with a customer.

So this was actually a chat. If it was a call, I don’t know how I would have reacted. You obviously can not hang up on a customer, but that incident might have made me do so. The good thing about a chat is that you can take a step back before replying to them. The customer had an issue that he was not communicating well. He would drop action after action that had no sequence when making the complaint. We ended up using 2 hours to resolve an issue that would normally have taken 30 minutes. On top of that, he was not making it easy by complaining that I was slow and this and that. I was quite upset but at the same time, I had to maintain professionalism. 

I finally resolved the issue yet he still made a statement that I was incompetent and called me names. There was nothing to say other than “I understand” despite feeling the opposite on the inside. Did I mention the customer also gave me a 1-star rating? It was so unfair and frustrating.

What role does empathy play in customer service, and how can businesses cultivate this skill in their support staff?

I would say it is very key as it involves putting yourself in the situation of the customer and trying to understand how they would react. Imagine a customer with money issues talking about their money getting missing and it is destabilizing them and what you can only say is for them to calm down. That is a No No. The best thing to do at that time is to empathize with them by telling them to worry while also assuring them that you are doing your best to resolve their issue. There are some people that when you tell them tend to become calm. It is not all but it works a trick for most. Empathy is not an apology.

As for how businesses can cultivate the skills among the support staff, they can introduce courses and seminars that train their staff and then, the management should practice what they preach. Managers should learn how to empathize with their underlings and this in turn will translate into how the underlings in turn relate with customers. A happy employee is in most cases a good employee.  

What is the most difficult part of talking to people every day?

The most difficult part for me is having to listen. There are times that my mind is not really invested in listening to a customer, but I must listen. It is like going to class every day. Especially for those customers who do not know how to communicate. But it is something that is very important, so it must be done.

What advice do you have for people who want to make a career in customer success?

Well, just 3 things. To have good communication skills, you have to be able to talk to them in a way that they would understand what they are saying.

Then, I have mentioned empathy but would do so again. It is so important. Then lastly, have active listening skills. 

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