Just hearing the words “tech support” may elicit feelings of frustration or images of Nick Burns–Jimmy Fallon's SNL character we loved to hate–but in reality, customer support professionals should be considered role models of the modern-day office. In addition to troubleshooting your customers’ problems, support reps serve at the front line of your brand; they are your company’s face, smile and handshake who endure a lot to leave paying customers with a positive experience.
Bottom-line: your customer support team can make or break your brand experience when it matters most.
Done correctly, customer support bolsters your brand by adding personality and compassion–two things an otherwise faceless company needs when customers are frustrated. Quality service can turn a detractor into an advocate by treating customers as people instead of top-line decimals.
Summarized in a word, customer support reps are pleasant, and their altruistic nature is something we all should aspire to.
What can the rest of us learn from Customer Support reps?
Knowing the adversity customer support reps face day-in and day-out, we tapped our group to learn about their approach to the job, what makes them successful and any tips and tricks they use. We ended up with six traits that everyone in the professional world – and beyond – can learn from. In other words, if we all acted like this, it would make the workplace a far more enjoyable environment for everyone. Below is a summary along with their quotes.
Be patient – no matter what.
Patience cannot be overstated in a customer support role. Fielding calls from a variety of backgrounds – from technology illiterate to advanced small business owners – they must exercise patience to focus on the customer and what they are trying to accomplish.
“Our users aren't always as knowledgeable as we are; we need to have a deep patience reserve sometimes.”
“People struggle with the most basics of technology and they call us for help. You need to listen and not get frustrated to resolve the issue.”
“Some conversations can go 25-30 minutes depending on the caller and the complexity of what they're trying to do. We need to be supportive throughout and focused on helping.”
“We need to remember that our callers know a lot of things about a lot of things – they just need help with one small marketing task. It just takes patience – listening as they explain their issue and helping them through basic technology step-by-step.”
Lessons Learned: Taking the time to listen to other people makes for a more pleasant and fruitful working relationship. Patience and kindness go a long way.
Focus on finding the core problem, then solve that.
Customer support reps exist to help users resolve an issue and get on with their day. Beyond patience, this requires a laser focus on the task at hand – once they determine what that is.
“There’s a difference between hearing people and listening to what they're really saying. Before anything else, we need to determine the core problem a user is having so we can focus on that together.”
“Sometimes we're like a bartender – callers will complain about things that aren't even in our control. We listen to them because that’s what we do, but then we focus on the problem at hand and drive the conversation to find a resolution.”
“When a call comes in, the goal of customer service is to resolve a problem right then and there – not to just get them off the phone. The last thing you want is a user to hang up and scratch his/her head. We need to find a solution that will actually solve their problem in a way that lets them move on and doesn't require calling back.”
“There are times when callers scream and yell about things that are far outside our control. We just need to be patient and focus on the issues that we can solve.”
Empathize with others.
Brandmuscle callers come from all walks of life, ranging in age, experience technology use and business role. Our support team serves more than 35 client networks and works with a handful of technology and service platforms. Knowing – and empathizing – with the person on the other end is crucial to success.
“Understanding the small business environment of our callers and the challenges that come with that is crucial to our success. When we know who we're dealing with, we can emulate what they are going through and eventually help them better.”
“It’s easy to think a caller has a ‘stupid’ question, but we all come from different backgrounds. Learning to empathize with the caller makes it a better experience for both the caller AND me. It’s a skill that would help in any role.”
“Once, someone on advertising deadline was shouting at me because he couldn’t get what he needed. I stayed calm and let him know I understood and was there to help. When he realized I knew what he was going through, it was easier to resolve in a timely manner”
Lessons Learned: Making an effort to understand the person you're working with goes a long way toward building a trusting, functional relationship – whether it’s on a 15 minute phone call or a career-long partnership.
Don't get caught up in emotions or get frustrated.
Tensions can run high on support calls, which stem from issues and frustration in the first place. Keeping a cooler head allows for a positive professional environment that breeds resolution.
“I've been berated by callers saying things like ‘you work in a call center for $10/hour, what do you know?’ I explained to the caller that I was there to focus on his problems, not mine. I let the negativity and insults pass by me and focused on my role in the organization. The caller eventually calmed down and even thanked me for the help.”
“Support is a state of being as much as it is a job. Emotional intelligence is a huge portion of making it through the day and not investing in others comments and attitudes.”
“It's never about the person providing support. It's all about the individual who needs it. Creating a positive experience means leaving emotions aside and focusing on support. ”
Be thorough – and then some.
The buck stops with customer support professionals. They are the face of the company in adversity and must work an issue until it is resolved every time.
“When we answer a call we are the experience, the name and the face of both Brandmuscle and our client organization. Staying focused on a resolution and making the experience a pleasant and memorable one for the caller is important.”
“Every caller is different but success in customer support means consistently resolving people problems. To do this, I adapt to each caller and troubleshoot their problem individually. I use different techniques, but am aiming for the same end result: a happy customer who has had a pleasant experience.”
“In support we want to solve people's problems but we also want to ‘teach a man to fish.’ The key is to give him one of your own fish when you're done. That extra step is what creates advocates even when we're solving simple problems.”
“We have canned responses and guided talk tracks in support, but understanding how and when to use them is what determines success. Every caller is different. We need to truly understand their problem and work with them as a person. You can’t be a robot.”
Lessons Learned: Once you understand what needs to be accomplished, success is a matter of executing a solution in a way that leaves everyone happier. In the long run, both the end result and how you got there matter.
Enjoy the little wins in life.
Customer support is an unsung profession. Praise is rare, especially from callers even after they've found what they came for. Graciously appreciating even small successes can be key.
“At the end of a good day I know I helped someone accomplish a task they once found intimidating. It’s a good feeling to help.”
“I know I make an impact. I spend hours making others’ lives easier – spending my time to free up theirs. I establish a rapport with callers and feel like I'm the antidote to their problems.”
“A little bit of appreciation goes a long way. A simple ‘thank you,’ or ‘have a good day’ or ‘good weekend’ makes the job a lot more fulfilling.”
“You can hear appreciation through the phone – gratitude that you really helped someone, you did something for someone and now they can go do their job. Whatever it is you helped with, you know and the end of the day that you're appreciative.”
Lessons Learned: Celebrate the small wins and realize that not everyone is gracious enough to say thank you. On the flip side, remember how good it feels to be appreciated and be sure to share that feelings with others the next time someone helps you.
In the end, you have to want to be a better professional and person to make these work. Customer service is a full-time job and the mindset does not allow for breaks. Likewise, implementing an altruistic attitude needs to be both a conscious and subconscious decision. But in talking with our support pros, they all told us one thing: "it's worth it."
Have you ever worked in customer support or had a customer service experience that you learned from? What do you think of these traits? Anything you'd add? Let us know in the comments below.
Editor's note: A big thanks goes out to our support reps for taking time between calls and emails to add insight and quotes for this post. Thanks Brian, Brian, Steve, Jim and others.