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Are Your Reps Serving Customers or WINNING Customers?

Brian Cantor

Customer service representatives are not inherently incompetent.

In fact, your organization’s customer service representatives might be rather superb at their jobs. They might know how to respond to customer inquiries, know how to keep calls quick, know how to smile through customer rage and know how to read perfectly through their scripts.

When it comes to the call center institution’s traditional conception of success, your agents are very likely meeting all necessary criteria.

Why, then, does customer satisfaction stay levels below the apex of the mountain? Why does your call center continually fail to boost customer loyalty and drive meaningful revenue?

The answer is quite simple: excelling at customer service is only part of the battle. In order for reps to truly succeed, they must re-align their focus to actually winning over the customers with whom they interact.

Cliched as it might be, it is unequivocally true that the age of transactional customer service is over. Sure, most customers are calling the customer service department with one issue in mind. They are not necessarily looking for an intimate, personal relationship with the brand or its agents—they just want their problem solved.

But the way agents achieve that resolution still stands to greatly influence how customers perceive the brand’s commitment to their satisfaction.

Agents driven by a transactional mindset focus on how to quickly conclude the call without causing any further damage. Agents driven by a relationship mindset focus on how to make the customer happier with the brand after the call than he was before he calls. Their emphasis is on "wowing," on winning the customer over (again). It is not simply on resolving.

The customer might not call for the purpose of being wowed, but when he processes the experience he just had with the organization, he is going to, even if just subliminally, take into account the call’s "X factor."

That especially rings true when the call does not reach the resolution the customer truly desired. If your brand is unable to give the customer exactly what he wants, it better make an effort to show that its work does not stop with "policy!" It must show how deeply it values the customer and how aggressively it is pursuing every avenue possible to gain that customer’s trust and satisfaction.

Consider an angry call I just had with a customer service representative at an online banking organization.

I initially called with a somewhat bitter taste towards one of the bank’s illogical account policies. That bitterness grew to anger when, in the midst of the call, I learned I had been victimized by an even more maddeningly illogical policy. I kept my language PG, but I was firing heated insults at what I now perceived to be a laughable, anti-customer organization.

Instead of taking my bait for rage, the customer service representative remained pleasant. She spoke slowly and calmly through her script and was sure to follow her training protocol to add an, "I completely understand" after each of my comments. She kept the call on point and was thorough, yet concise in her disclosing of the relevant information. She provided the exact customer service experience she was trained to provide.

But none of that mattered for me, because at the end of the day, she showed absolutely no interest in fighting to win back my business. She did not offer workarounds for the annoying policy, she did not check on getting certain fees refunded and she did not even consult a "manager" who could more quickly assemble the resolution I desired. She was calm and pleasant, but that mood came out of training and indifference rather than confidence that she could give me what I wanted.

Her goal was to handle the call efficiently and not to win over the customer. My emotions and opinion of the company and its practices were unimportant; as long as she kept her composure and got the information across, she did her job.

That is the attitude that must change. Customer service representatives are more than mere problem-solvers or sound-boards; they are brand representatives and often the only face affixed to interactions with customers. Regardless of why the customer actually called, every word he hears and every gesture he senses informs his opinion of the brand. These clues determine whether or not this is a brand with which he will start doing business, keep doing business or stop doing business.

Aware of this reality, you cannot allow your agents to settle for customer service. Their minds and hearts must be 100% behind the notion of winning the customer.

It is that mindset and that passion—not the words on a script, smiles or "total understanding"—that helps customers look beyond their individual customer service "transactions"—whether the end result was desirable or undesirable—and engage in future business with that brand.