So we have been writing quite a bit about Bots and AI lately, particularly how the future of CX will be a ‘blended’ one. The blended approach will see Bots and humans work closely together to achieve greater things than they can individually. The speed, processing power and data collation ability of the Bots combined with the human’s EQ, communication skills and ability to solve complex problems will be a force to be reckoned with.
Stay tuned for lots more info and insights on the Bots of the near future, but in this column we celebrate the unique skills of the human: the investigative skills, emotional intelligence, and problem-solving power of the Customer Support Agent.
Dean Carroll is a Trainer and Quality Lead at Voxpro – powered by TELUS International. He mastered the craft of having customer-facing conversations with positive outcomes over years of solving problems of varying complexity. He is now responsible for new agent training and current agent upskilling. In this column, Dean lays down the six steps to solving your customer’s problem over the phone.
The six steps to solving your customer’s problem
By Dean Carroll, Trainer and Quality Lead at Voxpro – powered by TELUS International
Like everything in life, a customer contact, be it via phone, chat or email invariably has a beginning, middle and end. In the Disney Pixar movie Toy Story, we meet Woody the Cowboy who is happy with his life. It all changes for him when a new character is introduced, and he begins a journey of growth and change until finally, he cannot imagine his life without this change.
Although far less dramatic, a customer goes through a similar process. When they first call it is because they have had their otherwise regular lives interrupted by our product or service – and it’s our job to either fix it or help them grow to the change that is needed.
But how do we get there? Let’s break it down.
1. The Opening
In the opening moments of a call, the customer is ready to speak about their issue, especially if they have been kept waiting. From the Support Agents perspective the best thing you can do is to make your introductions swiftly, so you can listen to the customer.
If they are particularly upset, sometimes you may need to wait until there is a 2-3 second pause as your cue to save the day. Once you have clearly established what it is that has upset their daily routine, you must then assure them that you can help, or know how to get them help.
Let’s take John as an example.
John has just come home after a long day to find his internet isn’t working. He can’t work from home, and he has a big deadline. He calls his ISP utterly furious.
John isn’t just calling to get his issue resolved, he is calling to express his frustration and the added stress that this situation has put him under. The last thing that will calm him is a robotic opening from the support agent. What will calm him is letting him say everything he feels he needs to say
When a customer knows that the person on the other side of the phone has the wherewithal to acknowledge the emotional impact that an issue may be causing them, it shows to them that they are dealing with a competent human being. It also puts their minds at ease if they are worried about the resolution.
But others may not be so interested in platitudes, and so a balanced approach may work best
For John, simply saying “I appreciate how the service being down is worrying for you, and I understand the implications it may have for your home/family/business.”
This is likely to be better received than if the support agent were to lean heavily on apologies, or flexing their logic-ceps, or even launching directly into twenty questions. Sometimes this can be done in earnest to help the customer, but can seem severely detached.
Although instinct may tell you to resolve their issue as quickly as possible, caution must be taken. A well-investigated issue is an issue that usually stays resolved.
It is important not to skip quality probing questions that can rule in or out a diagnosis. This is one of the defining aspects of a technical support call that can make or break it. Questions like; When did it begin? How long have you had the product for? Has this issue occurred before?
At Voxpro – powered by TELUS International we place a very strong emphasis on documenting the facts of the situation and the data to support it. This is because more data means more accurate results. We also share this data with our partners so that they can learn about their products and customers in ways they previously never thought possible.
To John, this can simply mean that he doesn’t need to repeat himself, and we get the big picture of the issue quickly.
4. Path to Resolution
When the symptoms have been clearly identified from investigation it should be clear to the support tech which issues match these symptoms, what needs to be done, and approximately how long it should take to resolve.
Explaining this to John in clear and direct language can turn an average experience into a beautiful customer experience as it makes John feel like he is back in control and knows exactly what to expect – contrary to the unexpected behaviour that prompted contact in the first place.
If the support agent were to say, “John, what we are going to do is try a few steps to isolate to the root cause of the issue, hopefully it should only take us ten minutes, do you have the time to do that now?’
That sounds pretty good, right? Providing the path to the resolution is key to ensuring the continued cooperation of the customer, and to develop a good relationship whilst you work together.
If the customer fully understands that cooperation is in their best interest, they may do one better than just mere cooperation and go right to enthusiasm to perform whatever troubleshooting is needed. Of course everyone is different, but some people just need a little encouragement and a clear concise structure to follow.
Troubleshooting is the bread and butter of a technical support call, without it all you have is a conversation without purpose. Troubleshooting theory can be simply implemented with differential diagnostics. Try something based on the symptoms and see how it responds, keep going until you have isolated down to the root cause. We do it because it works.
Of course, that may sound like guesswork to John, and this is where the support agent needs to display confidence and certainty in their words, and the actions they may ask John to perform.
Using words like I hope, I guess, I don’t know what will happen if do not convey this at all. Instead, the support agent should tell John “There are a few ways this may respond, we will know more once we try this step, and can continue from there”.
It is absolutely OK to not know what is coming next, as long as it is part of the plan. But ultimately if the support agent methodically rules everything out, they will resolve the customer’s issue.
6. Closing the call
In a typical call, the issue is likely resolved at this point, and all that remains is some house-keeping. This doesn’t mean that the support agent should hurry the customer off the call. This is now the prime time to brand the call and remind the customer why they are a customer.
The Support Agent should recap with John what was wrong, what they did together to resolve it, and confirm he has no further questions. This can only leave John feeling good about his experience.
Every day at Voxpro – powered by TELUS International we deliver a beautiful customer experience to customers just like John that are genuinely wowed by the level of care, professionalism and skill that they have witnessed as a result of something that may have initially been a bad experience.
If you are a CX Lead, a Technical Support Agent, or a member of the quality assurance department for technical support, ask yourself if your calls have these key elements or not. Here’s a handy quick checklist:
Did the agent…
- Listen and wait for their turn to speak?
- Adjust to the emotional needs of the customer?
- Thoroughly investigate the issue?
- Lay out a path to resolution?
- Express confidence whilst troubleshooting?
- End the call on a strong note?
We publish lots of seriously insightful content about how to deliver beautiful customer experience – here are three we think you might enjoy:
Take a peek inside the doors of Voxpro and discover what we do best in this quick video