When customers call a business, they want to speak to a live representative who’s friendly, clear, and helps them quickly.
These might sound like obvious factors in customer service success, but now we have the numbers to back up those claims. As a writer and researcher for Clutch, a B2B ratings and reviews company, I got the chance to conduct a survey about callers’ preferences and priorities.
We asked callers to name their top priority when talking to a live representative (as opposed to an automated phone menu). The most popular response? The opportunity for actual human interaction. Friendliness was a close second, and clarity of speech was third.
Let’s break down all six of the priorities, in order of popularity, to figure out why they’re so important for answering services of any kind.
1. Human Interactions
Callers prefer a warm, real, spontaneous human voice over a recorded message – but it may not be for the reason you think. It’s not the authenticity that callers want. Instead, it’s efficiency.
An automated menu doesn’t send the callers the message that their concern is getting anywhere. They don’t think their problem will be addressed, so they get frustrated.
Don’t frustrate your callers. Cut down on phone menus and interactive voice response representatives, and keep hold time to a minimum. That way, callers can speak to live representatives as quickly as possible.
Representatives should be polite, helpful, and sympathetic in order to satisfy callers. If a customer hasn’t received her order on time and calls because she’s angry, do your best to see the situation from her perspective. Empathize with her, and tell her you’re sorry for what she’s experienced.
The customer isn’t always right, but at least try to understand the customer’s problem.
‘Clarity’ really means two things: clear, non-fuzzy audio and understandable representatives. Callers want both.
To keep call quality high, eliminate background noise and make sure that your phone service is reliable. Callers shouldn’t be able to hear other conversations.
In addition, representatives should be fluent in the target language – that is, whatever language the customer speaks, whether it’s English, Spanish, or Punjabi. That means not only a vocabulary large enough to handle phone conversations, but a realistic accent. Callers shouldn’t have to struggle to understand the person they’re talking to.
4. Fast Service
Have you ever been on the phone with a customer service agent who was friendly enough, but who took twenty minutes to hunt down the information you were looking for? You have? Remember that interaction. It’s not the kind you want to provide for your callers.
According to a 2015 Consumer Reports study, 57% of customers have been so frustrated by phone customer service that they’ve hung up without a resolution. The longer you keep customers on the line, the higher your chances of causing them intense frustration.
To serve customers as quickly as possible, provide your representatives with guides that explain how to answer the most common questions and perform the most frequent tasks (like placing an order or scheduling an appointment). Give reps the specific information they need to make callers happy, fast.
5. Decisive Outcome
When callers pick up the phone, they don’t want to be told that their problem is getting passed down a convoluted chain of reps, and that someone will resolve the issue...eventually…maybe. What callers want is an answer.
You can give callers a decisive outcome the same way you can give them fast service: by providing your representatives with all the tools they need to actually help. If your client hasn’t told you enough useful information, ask them for more. Open channels of communication are essential if your answering service is going to be useful.
6. Company Knowledge
The best answering service representatives aren’t just friendly and fast. They also know enough about their clients to seem like a natural extension of their clients’ businesses.
Say a customer of a cosmetics company calls and wants to know if the company tests their products on animals. A good representative will know that specific fact – that the company does not test on animals – and answers the customer’s question right away.
Get clients to give you general info about their brand, business model, and products. The more customers know, the more precise service they can give.
Still curious about answering services and the voice services industry? Check out Clutch’s guide to voice services for more information.