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Small talk is a critical tool you can use to address and solve for a customer’s frustration. But when do you make small talk? That differs from customer to customer, and the type of situation you’re dealing with.
When you answer the call, introduce yourself to the customer. Mention your name, title, and company. Customers appreciate knowing who they’re speaking to. This will make you come across as professional and friendly. Then ask the customer for their name, and use their first name to address them during the call. Avoid saying “Mr. X” or “Ms. Y” – that’s more old school, and overly formal.
Speak to the customer like you’d speak to a friend you’re meeting after a long time. You wouldn’t say “Hi, how can I help you?” to a friend, would you? So after introducing yourself, ask an ice-breaker question. These are generic questions related to normal life such as:
Avoid asking questions that involve personal information. Never ask questions about their age, religion, relationship status, where they went to college, etc. This information is unnecessary and doesn’t help you solve their issue. You’re not here to build relationships, you’re building rapport to solve their issues swiftly.
When your customer responds to your question, remember not to answer in a monotonic voice, as this will make you seem like you’re asking questions for the sake of asking them, without really being interested in what the customer is saying. You don’t want to seem robotic, as though you’re just getting through your job. Use your voice strategically to convey your emotions.
Do this right, and you will make your customer feel like the center of the universe, which is ideal!
While the customer is telling you about their day or week, you should be working smart. Quickly pull up all the information you have on the customer history on your system and see if you can identify the issues they’re facing. It’s very delightful to customers if, instead of saying “Thanks for sharing, how can I help you today?” you’re able to proactively identify what their problem is.
You should say “(First name), I can see you’re facing an issue with 1, 2, 3. I’m very sorry that you’re going through this experience. Let me solve this for you.” This way the customer perceives you as being professional, and an expert at your job.
But what if you’re dealing with an angry customer? Someone who starts the call by shouting and yelling at you?
A recipe for disaster would be to interrupt their screaming to ask them about their day. At that point, the customer is not only going to be angry with the organization, but also you as an individual. In calls with angry customers, leave the small talk until the end of the call.
Let the customer yell or vent without interrupting them. Remember, most angry people just want an apology. In this case you should say “I’m so sorry you’re facing this issue. Let me speak to my manager and provide an exceptional solution for you to resolve this.” You should highlight the fact that you’re providing something exceptional for them, and that they’re important.
Once you’ve resolved the issue, this is your time to make small talk related to the issue. For example: “Once again, I’m really sorry you’ve experienced this issue. I’ll follow up with the team personally. The next time you need anything, please feel free to ask for me, and I’ll personally assist you. Hope you have a great day/week/weekend/upcoming holiday.” The goal is to make them feel like they really matter.
Or, if you’re unable to provide an immediate solution, you could say “(First name), I’ve spoken to my manager, and it will take up to 48 hours to resolve your issue. But I guarantee that I will provide a solution.”
The most crucial thing here is to deliver on what you’ve promised, and be careful to not overpromise. If you say you’ll follow up on something, do so within the timeframe you mentioned. For example, if you told a customer that you’d get back to them on a solution within 24 hours, but there are some issues or delays on your end. You should still call them and give them an update. This way, you earn their trust and don’t anger them further.
You’ll sometimes come across customers who are abusive. It’s very important in these cases to keep your cool, as you’re not speaking on behalf of yourself, but on behalf of your organization. Any mistake you make can be used against you and the organization. Keep things professional, and try not to take anything personally.
If someone is being abusive, highlight that this behavior is not acceptable. Give them a first warning, and say you’ll hang up if they don’t speak respectfully. If they continue to be abusive, you could say “Your behavior goes against this company’s policies, and this call is being recorded. We might have to block your account or file a report with the authorities if this persists.” Most people will tone down when you say this. But if they don’t, just say “I’m sorry I won’t be able to help you today. Have a great day, thanks for calling.” and hang up.
The best companies value their employees and see that they’re just as important as the customers they serve.
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Customer Service Manager