Recently, I came across a fascinating customer service story involving an American Express cardholder. It all began with a seemingly innocent mistake while making a payment involving a decimal point in the wrong spot, resulting in the customer inadvertently paying thousands of dollars instead of hundreds.
Determined to rectify the error and seek guidance, the customer promptly contacted American Express to report the issue. To his relief, a representative assured him that the mistake would have no adverse impact on his account and that all charges would be promptly refunded. Little did he know that this was just the prologue to a series of challenges.
A few days later, the customer was taken aback when he discovered that all his debit cards were unexpectedly suspended. Perplexed and concerned, he went over his account for any indications of suspicious activity or an account block, but to no avail. Thus, he decided to reach out to American Express once more to seek clarification.
To his utter surprise and dismay, the representative he connected with not only questioned why he had not halted the incorrect payment but also accused him of attempting fraud. The customer explained that a previous representative had not advised him to stop the payment and had, in fact, assured him that there would be no negative consequences resulting from his honest mistake.
That's what customer service does. They tell you what you want to hear.
This quite nasty customer service story inspired me to write about the real purpose of customer service. Which is not “telling customers what they want to hear” but helping customers and resolving their problems.
In this article, you’ll also learn some troubleshooting techniques to make your job easier.
Creating a Good Customer-Centric Culture
A customer-centric culture serves as the bedrock of exceptional problem-solving and sustainable business success. In a world where customers today wield unparalleled power and influence, placing them at the heart of your operations is not just a choice; it is a strategic imperative.
At all levels of the organisation, employees must wholeheartedly prioritise customer happiness, understanding that every interaction is an opportunity to leave a lasting impact. By cultivating such a culture, businesses create a positive and supportive environment that empowers employees to go above and beyond to delight customers.
Nurturing this culture demands a multifaceted approach. One potent strategy is to recognise and reward outstanding customer service efforts. By celebrating employees who embody the customer-centric ethos, businesses reinforce the value they place on exceptional experiences. This recognition motivates individuals to exceed customer expectations continually and sets a powerful example for others to follow.
Encouraging collaboration is another pivotal aspect of fostering a customer-centric culture. In today's interconnected business landscape, problems seldom fit neatly within departmental silos. Emphasising collaboration cultivates a shared sense of responsibility for customer success and enables employees to pool their expertise, collectively devising innovative solutions that surpass individual capabilities. The result is a seamless and consistent experience for customers, who benefit from the collective effort of a united organisation.
To equip employees for the challenges of modern customer service, businesses must invest in skills training. Outstanding problem-solving skills do not materialise by chance; they are honed through intentional development. Equipping employees with the necessary tools and knowledge to navigate diverse customer interactions positions them to respond adeptly and confidently, even in the face of dissatisfied customers.
Customer Service Problem-Solving
Speaking of dissatisfied customers, they hold the key to unlocking greater customer retention. Rather than viewing poor experiences as a liability, businesses must embrace them as opportunities for growth. Each negative interaction presents a chance to introspect, identify pain points, and make tangible improvements. By actively seeking feedback from dissatisfied customers, businesses demonstrate their commitment to listening and learning, earning trust and loyalty in the process.
A customer-centric culture is more than a mere buzzword; it drives superior customer experiences and enhanced customer retention. By prioritising customer satisfaction at every touchpoint, celebrating exceptional service, fostering collaboration, investing in skills training, and actively engaging with dissatisfied customers, businesses can forge a path to sustained success and unmatched customer loyalty. Embrace the customer-centric ethos, and you will unlock the true potential of your organisation in a customer-centric world.
Strategies for Effective Customer Service Problem-Solving
Timely response and resolution are essential components of successful troubleshooting. Customers appreciate swift action, showing that their concerns are taken seriously. Personalisation also plays a significant role, as customers feel valued when their issues are treated individually rather than generically.
Navigating challenging situations with irate customers requires patience and tact. Service reps need to stay calm, acknowledge the customer's feelings, and work towards finding a resolution.
4 Steps for Better Customer Service Problem Solving
As a customer service agent, providing satisfying solutions is essential. Let's explore the path to achieve this.
1. Understanding the Customer's Point of View
Imagine yourself in the customer's shoes. They reach out to you with what seems like an impossible request. For instance, they received a notice that their phone line would be cut due to non-payment, yet they requested credits on their invoices due to financial constraints. Initially, you might question their request, but remember, you're not just an ordinary person; you're a Support Hero tasked with saving the customer's day. Negative thinking won't lead to solutions.
At this stage, it's hard to distinguish if the customer is genuine or potentially fraudulent. However, instead of passing judgment, assume the customer needs assistance and act accordingly. Engage in active listening to comprehend the problem thoroughly and find a way to help.
Exceptional problem-solving hinges on understanding customer needs and concerns. Active listening enables service representatives to connect with customers on a deeper level and empathise effectively. By listening attentively, you can pinpoint the root cause of the problem and tailor solutions to meet their specific needs.
Remember these keywords throughout your journey: fully understand the problem, solve the customer's problem, find a workable solution, and ensure the customer is happy with the resolution.
2. Identifying a Problem
Ensuring that customers are happy with the solutions provided is crucial in customer service. Sometimes, customers simply struggle to articulate their issues, and that's entirely normal. They may not be familiar with your processes or jargon; all they know is that their expectations regarding your product or service have been disappointing.
As a Support Hero, it's your responsibility to restore their faith in your company, but to do that, you must first pinpoint the problem.
To troubleshoot effectively, here are a few questions that can guide you. Sometimes, by asking these simple questions, you can quickly identify an outage or a faulty batch of products sent out by a manufacturer!
Can you describe the problem you're facing precisely? When did this problem start? Has this issue occurred before?
Next, consider the following:
Are all users affected, or is it isolated to just one customer? Has anyone else faced a similar problem in the past?
Once the customer responds, summarise their answers back to them. This gesture demonstrates that you genuinely comprehend their concerns and helps you verify the facts.
If you're unfamiliar with the problem or unsure how to proceed, offer a brief apology and inform the customer that you need to discuss their case with a colleague or supervisor. Maintain a self-assured tone, and don't hesitate to ask the customer to hold on for a moment.
Remember, customers value accuracy even if it takes a bit more time to sort out the issue.
Instead of abruptly transferring a customer to another department, try saying:
"We're committed to resolving this for you. Let me transfer you to a specialist best equipped to address your question."
Customers appreciate the effort you put into understanding their journey and resolving their issues promptly. Poor customer service can lead to bad customer experiences, but by actively listening to their concerns, you can turn their dissatisfaction into a happy customer.
Always focus on solving the problem, no matter how common or complex. As a customer service representative, your role is to provide exceptional support and ensure that customers are satisfied with the resolution.
So, embrace every customer service issue as an opportunity to solve the problem and deliver exceptional customer support. Your dedication and responsiveness will create a positive experience, turning unhappy customers into satisfied ones.
Remember, the help desk is where customer issues are met with efficiency and care. The key to a successful customer service journey lies in how you handle problems and fix them effectively.
3. Find a Solution
Utilise your analytical thinking to devise a solution that best suits your customer's needs. Here are some key questions to help you plan an effective resolution:
Is there enough staff to carry it out?
Who will be involved in implementing the solution?
What is the expected time frame for the solution?
What resources are needed to make it happen?
Who should be informed about the planned solution?
How will the customer be notified about the solution?
Even if you're faced with a case that goes against your company's policy, there is always room for creative suggestions. Take, for example, a customer seeking a refund, which may not align with your policy.
However, consider these alternative solutions:
Inform the customer that you cannot credit the bill, but offer to split the payment into smaller instalments to accommodate their financial situation.
Postpone the account suspension temporarily, allowing the client to continue using the service.
Analyse the customer's account and propose a switch to a more budget-friendly price plan.
Your creativity can turn an unreasonable request into three viable solutions!
But what if you're not the one who can solve the problem?
In such cases, you may need to open a ticket to escalate the issue appropriately. To ensure the ticket doesn't get lost, assign it to yourself and monitor its progress. If the problem remains unresolved after 24 hours, consider contacting the customer to provide an update on your ongoing efforts.
Occasionally, there are situations where the problem cannot be fully sorted. For instance, your company may have stopped selling a particular product, or you may not have a gluten-free option on your menu. However, that doesn't mean you can't offer a helpful solution. If you don't have what the customer needs, guide them to the right source. Let them know where they can find the desired product or suggest alternatives.
Going the extra mile can create customer happiness, even if the solution deviates from their initial expectations.
Here's an example from our experience: My colleague, Justyna, recently chatted with a customer disappointed that our application lacked an in-built screen-sharing and screenshot-making tool. With a composed demeanour, I informed Aline that while LiveChat lacked those features, she could set up an integration for screen-sharing sessions and use a free screenshot tool like Jing. It did the trick! Aline was delighted with the solution, and my mission was accomplished.
Throughout the resolution process, ensure that the customer is at the centre of your focus. Handle customer service issues with attentiveness and empathy, as a positive customer service experience can be transformative. Use a series of questions to fully understand the problem, allowing you to implement the right solution and untangle customer queries effectively.
4. Fix the Problem and Follow Up on the Solution
Finally! The customer has agreed on a solution. You've offered a brief apology for the problem, and now you can fix it and close the case, right?
Unfortunately, it's not always that straightforward.
Sometimes, the solution provided may not address the root cause of the problem. For example, let's say a customer had an issue with the application, and you suggested restarting the device. While this might settle the problem, it's more likely that the customer will return with the same issue, possibly even upset that the initial solution didn't work as expected.
I understand that working in customer service leaves little time for breaks, and now I'm asking you to follow up on your customer's problems. But there are significant benefits to spending a little extra time reaching out to these customers.
Doing so demonstrates genuine care and creates an exceptional customer experience. You ensure that you won't receive calls or chats from furious customers later. You can verify whether your solution worked, giving you confidence for future interactions.
If you find it challenging to make calls or send emails to follow up, don't worry. There are alternative approaches you can take. Some apps allow you to send automatic emails once a ticket is resolved (e.g., LiveChat). You can test and try this feature to save time.
Alternatively, your team can use an automatic survey to gauge customer satisfaction and determine whether the problem was adequately resolved. Platforms like SurveyMonkey and Typeform can be useful in this regard. Alternatively, you can send a simple template asking two questions:
Did we help you solve your problem?
On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your overall experience?
Customers will undoubtedly appreciate these efforts!
In customer service, increasing customer success is vital. To achieve this, it's essential to understand the issue at hand fully. When a customer allows you to delve into their concerns, you can identify the right product or service to address their needs effectively.
Remember, customers are likely to encounter complex problems, and they depend on you for assistance. Utilise customer service problem-solving techniques to handle their issues competently and ensure they are satisfied with the outcome.
Empowering a Customer Service Representative
To excel in issue resolution, customer service reps must have the right skills and authority. Regular training and development programs ensure that representatives are well-prepared to handle various situations effectively.
Additionally, empowering representatives to take ownership of customer issues instils a sense of responsibility, leading to more proactive and efficient resolutions.
Solve Customer Service Problems With Technology
Technology plays a vital role in modern customer service troubleshooting. Customer relationship management (CRM) systems help consolidate customer data, making it easier for representatives to access relevant information quickly.
AI-powered chatbots can provide instant support, resolving common queries and freeing up human representatives to handle more complex issues. Data analytics tools allow companies to gain insights into customer behaviour and preferences, enabling them to tailor their services accordingly.
Measuring and Monitoring Customer Service Success
To continuously improve the way problems are solved, companies need to track and measure their customer service performance. Key performance indicators (KPIs), such as response time, resolution rate, and satisfaction scores, provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of customer service efforts.
By monitoring these metrics, businesses can identify areas that require attention and implement targeted improvements.
Great Customer Service Requires Resolve
Curious about how the story of the American Express customer ended? Well, after cancelling the payment, he reached out to customer service again, giving the company one last chance. However, he connected with a different representative this time—a night-and-day contrast from the previous encounter.
Unlike before, this representative was willing to listen. She grasped the situation immediately, empathising with the customer's plight. After reviewing his account and consulting with her supervisor, she astonishingly informed him that his card would be reactivated. The customer was both shocked and elated with this positive outcome.
It's remarkable how two representatives working for the same company in the same customer service team can provide vastly different experiences—one great and the other terrible.
The root cause of the poor experience is challenging to pinpoint. Perhaps the first representative was not suited for customer service, or management failed to train and motivate them adequately. Regardless, the bottom line was that the customer sought help but did not receive it.
Often, solving a customer-service problem involves navigating between company policies and customer interests, as was evident in this case. The first representative struggled to handle such a situation, whereas the second possessed the necessary skills to address the issue effectively.
Problem-Solving is not just an Ability -- It's a Mindset
As we explored in my previous post on problem-solving skills, the golden rule of customer service is to create a fantastic customer experience even when the problem may not directly concern your product. Offering a possible solution exemplifies the essence of customer service—solving problems, not merely telling customers what they want to hear.
The key to success lies in persistence, utilising the advice shared here, and maintaining a positive outlook. Armed with these qualities, there will be no problem you cannot conquer.