Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Softer Side of Customer Support

Many online stores sell the same types of products, and although one might look different than the other on the exterior, the core difference often lies in the quality of service provided day-in and day-out. For online retailers, being able to provide a superior customer experience begins with finding the right team members to represent your brand.

When a potential customer reaches out to a company, whether it’s over the phone, by email or live chat, his or her perception of the brand will be heavily influenced by the quality of service provided upon that initial contact. If the customer has a bad experience, he or she is not likely to return, ultimately affecting your feedback, sales and reputation. On the other hand, studies show that over 80% of consumers would actually pay more for better service.

Knowing this, I reached out to Jodi Gaines Pereira, co-founder of ReplyManager to learn what attributes she finds most valuable and ways to discover those qualities when conducting interviews.
“Often times companies go for the “perfect” résumé when searching for the right support team members. This is certainly a good start, but the people that wind up being our best support employees typically imbue qualities that don’t show up on any résumé - like passion, good communication (over the phone and via email) and a willingness to learn. These attributes can only be discovered by interviewing over the phone and exchanging emails. Not only is it important to communicate clearly across all channels, but the way an individual communicates with you over the phone or email is how they would interact with your customers. Its a simple way to evaluate someone’s skills outside of looking at their résumé.” 
So what should you look for? We suggest focusing on identifying three basic personality traits: willingness to learn, patience and empathy.

Desire to Learn
Among all qualities, the most important are those you cannot teach. Seek out those with a strong work ethic and a desire to learn. Depending on the industry, it may not be necessary for a company to employ someone with a certain skill set or previous knowledge about a product or service - as long as he or she displays a willingness to learn.

Patience is not only a virtue, but also a necessity for customer service. Customers will reach out to support for a variety of reasons - whether they’re frustrated, confused or simply pleased with a product or service. Regardless of the situation, team members should be able and willing to address the needs of customers accordingly.

Empathy & Attentiveness 
On the same note, customers want to be heard, and being attentive and empathetic to their concerns is also important. Empathy is all about seeing a situation through the customer’s eyes, responding sincerely and offering customized solutions to their problems. Being attentive to the customer’s needs and concerns not only helps build trust and loyalty, but it provides insight to a company’s products, customer service and overall business.

by Samantha Warner
Marketing Extraordinaire