11 Successful Customer Service Techniques

Customer service is all about problem solving, whether you're resolving an issue with an existing purchase or suggesting a new product that will meet a client's needs. The best customer service reps have strong communication skills backed by a customer service technique arsenal that can address any problem. The following customer service techniques will help you improve the customer's experience and provide a more satisfying resolution.

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Feel, Felt, Found Technique

The Feel, Felt, Found technique is the cornerstone of Apple's strategy for turning customer complaints into sales. The company uses this approach to show empathy toward customers and turn a negative experience into a positive discovery. The technique involves the following three steps:

  • Listen to how the customer feels. Focus on the emotion rather than the issue. "I hear that this issue is extremely frustrating for you, and you feel like you're wasting a lot of precious time dealing with it."
  • Focus on showing empathy toward the customer and letting the person know that you have also felt this way. "I had a similar issue and it was so maddening I wanted to just give up."
  • Tell the customer that you found the emotion was unsubstantiated. "I realized that the fix was simpler than I thought, and with the new update, the feature became a huge time-saver instead of a drain on my patience."

HEARD Technique

HEARD is a Disney strategy that stands for Hear, Empathize, Apologize, Resolve, and Diagnose. This valuable customer support technique addresses an individual's complaint first but concludes with a high-level assessment of the overall issue and includes a final step that should help prevent future problems. The HEARD technique is summarized below:

  • "I hear that you're upset because the jumper looked great the first time you wore it but shrunk significantly after the first wash and is no longer wearable."
  • "I can empathize with your frustration. I would be upset, too. It was a major purchase, and you should have been wearing it all summer."
  • "We apologize sincerely for this issue with the fabric. A care label should have provided you instructions."
  • "I can help resolve this issue for you by offering you a $100 store credit to purchase a new item, refunding you the original $90 purchase amount, or sending you another jumper with dry cleaning instructions and offering a 20% discount on your next purchase."
  • "I will speak with my manager about diagnosing the problem with the fabric and including better instructions for how to handle it and prevent shrinking so that this situation doesn't occur for customers like you in the future."

ELI5 Technique

The ELI5 technique stands for "Explain Like I'm 5." This strategy is about speaking to customers at a simpler level. While you don't want to talk down to a customer, you want to simplify your language so that you're using terms that anyone can understand. This approach is particularly useful when you're working with a highly technical product or service. Avoid high-level technical jargon and get back to the basics. Patiently explain every step in the process, even if some steps seem obvious to you.

Meet and Repeat

Meet and repeat is a name memorization technique. This technique helps reinforce a person's name in your mind so that you don't have to ask for repeated introductions. You may find this technique particularly useful in face-to-face interactions when you can't simply jot down the customer's name for future reference throughout the conversation.

Repeat the customer's name as soon as you hear it. "Hello, Juan! It's nice to meet you." Throughout the interaction, use the name a few more times. Conclude by thanking the customer by name. You can impress repeat customers with this technique when you remember names for future encounters and greet customers by name the next time they walk through the door.

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Listening With Body Language

This listening technique is another good face-to-face strategy for customer service reps who deal with clients in person. It helps customers feel that you're paying attention. When you're listening to a customer's complaint, concentrate on using body language that shows you're attentive. Lean forward, nod regularly, and make eye contact. Don't let your gaze wander around the room, pick up your phone, or play with the computer. Take notes sparingly and always return to a posture of listening as quickly as possible.

Verbal Listening Indicators

If you're talking to customers in a call center or live chat, you want to offer verbal indicators that you're listening. The clients can't see your nod or smile, so you need to find other ways to reinforce your attentiveness. Try the following strategies:

  • Affirm that you're listening to them with brief indicators throughout the conversation, such as "yes," "I see," and "go on."
  • Repeat key information to show that you're gathering critical facts. "I understand that this error reduced your product output by 20%."
  • Paraphrase the problem. "Altogether, these problems have cost three hours of production time this week."
  • Restate the overall issue. "You need to resolve this issue and recoup the lost time."

Probing Questions

Excellent customer service is about communicating quickly and effectively. As a customer service agent, your job is to help the customer get to the important issues as fast as possible. The use of probing questions is a great customer service skill because it quickly tests hypotheses and drills down to the real problem. Probing questions touch on possible causes and look for the pain point. "Did you drop the phone recently?" "Have you installed the latest update?"

Clarifying Questions

Clarifying questions confirm whether you're on the same page as your customers so that you can solve their problems accurately. These questions are especially important during a customer call where you can't see what the client is dealing with. A clarifying question such as "when you refer to the menu, are you looking at the right side of the screen?" will ensure that you're both looking at the same menu so that you don't waste time talking a customer through the wrong fix.

Taking Ownership

By the time customers reach out to a contact center, they're usually feeling overwhelmed and dissatisfied. They're ready to hand off the burden of their issue, and you're there to take it from them. Take ownership of the problem by letting the caller know that you'll handle the concern. Offer reassuring language: "I will get to the bottom of this problem for you."

Provide clear steps to a resolution. If the issue will require a call back, set deadlines for your future communications and check in proactively to make sure each step took place, even if you handed off some of the activities to specialists or other team members. Own the issue yourself to relieve stress and increase customer happiness as quickly as possible.

Emphasizing Positivity

Customer service team members often deal with disappointed clients. Although it can be difficult in the face of an unhappy caller, emphasizing positivity is one of the greatest customer service skills you can have. Positivity works in nearly any situation, whether you're chatting one-on-one or responding to a social media comment. Practice using positive statements rather than negative ones.

  • Instead of saying "you don't need to be upset," say, "It's completely understandable that you're upset."
  • Replace "I don't know how to fix this problem" with "I will find the right team member to fix this problem."
  • Change "what's the problem" to "how can I help you today?"

FAB Approach

When you're discussing a new product or service, use the FAB technique to explain features of the product in a compelling way. FAB stands for Features, Advantages, and Benefits. For example, lightweight waterproof fabric is a key feature of a spring jacket. The advantage is that the jacket looks stylish and doesn't let moisture seep through it. The benefit ties directly to customers who don't have to worry about damp clothing when they get to their offices.

The FAB technique can help you effectively upsell or suggest a replacement product that will meet the customer's needs. Understanding how to best explain the benefits of a product is key to securing customer satisfaction with your suggestions.

These customer service techniques help elevate your conversations so that you're providing a truly outstanding experience. With the right approach, you can turn an upsetting problem into a positive memory of receiving exceptional care from attentive staff members. Choose a few key strategies to focus on as you create your customer service toolbox for future interactions.

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