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The holiday season is ramping up, which means the interaction between customers and customer service reps is also going to be ramping up. Questions need answering, problems need solving. How customers interact with service reps can make or break their shopping experience, and how service reps deal with customers can make or break a company. Here are some tips for each to ensure happier and more successful interactions.
You, the Customer
Understand what you want before you reach out to customer service. Reps are there to help, but remember, they’re not there to have personal conversations with you and hear your life story. They have many people they are trying to help. Know the reason for your call/email/tweet/post and be succinct when explaining. If they need more details, they’ll ask. Remember, you might be that person waiting on the line while someone else is explaining their life story - and you know waiting doesn’t feel good!
Watch your language. If you think you’re going to do nothing but swear and unload on the person at the other end of the call - don’t make that call. They don’t deserve that. Remember, they didn’t sell you the product. They didn’t make the product. They didn’t accidentally charge your card. They didn’t screw up your order. They are there when something does go wrong and they are there to help. Treat them with respect.
Escalate the problem only when it’s necessary - and then, do it politely. Service reps follow scripts. If X happens, you do Y. They don’t have any decision-making authority. They can’t just “refund your money” or “send you a new one” unless it’s part of their script. If you don’t feel you’ve gotten a proper answer, or would like to see a different outcome, you can ask the service rep to escalate the problem. ASK. Don’t DEMAND. If you’re so angry that you don’t know how to ask, use this: [insert service person’s name], I appreciate what you’re telling me, but I think I’d like to speak with a service manager or director now. Can you connect me or give me the proper contact information so I can do this?
You, the Service Rep
Don’t take the anger personally. The customer calling is mad. And, unfortunately, you have to take that call. They will swear at you. They will yell. They will blame you for everything. But you can’t take it personally. All you can do is stay calm and help. They’re at a point where they are frustrated and feeling like the company doesn’t care. So when they reach you, they feel the need to lash out. It’s not about you. If they have to vent, they will vent. And then you can begin to help them.
Always be a problem solver. The worst thing a customer hears when they reach out to customer support is “I don’t know.” Instead of saying that, you can say “I haven’t come across this problem, but I want to check with my team/manager to find out more so that I can get you an answer.” That’s all they want - an answer, and they’ll be willing to hold on the line for it.
You, the Company
Train your service reps. When customers contact you, they are looking for someone with knowledge. They want a welcoming voice or message. They want to know that they’re being heard. Ensure that your service reps are training on your CSR software, that they have specific scripts and responses for repetitive questions and problems, and that they know and understand your policies and your escalation process.
Have multiple forms of customer service contact. Customers are engaging more and more over social media rather than a simple phone call. Make sure you have customer service reps that can respond to Facebook posts and Twitter tweets as well as by phone, email and website chat. The more ways you can show your customers how accessible you are, the more pleased they’ll be with using your services and products.
It was around 10:30 on a Saturday night and I was looking for some new software. Yes, that is my excitement for a Saturday night!
I came across a website that sold software that fit what I needed. I was browsing, did a slight scroll down, and read the big sale statement. And right there, in an exceptionally large font size - a spelling error. A very glaring error.
Some people would not have noticed. Those that would see it would just ignore it.
But not me.
I can’t move beyond it. So I do the only thing that I can do. I send them an email and point out the error.
And it strikes me as a bit funny. Because this is something I’ve done my whole life. And honestly, it usually isn’t met with much gladness by others. No one likes to have their mistakes pointed out.
Last month I emailed another website. They were selling a course, but the expiration date had already passed. Again, I emailed and let them know they needed to update it.
I’m not trying to be mean or critical. It’s just what I do. If there’s a mistake, I want to see it fixed. And I realize that people are busy and rushed, and those two things are a combination for making errors. We all get to that point.
And for these websites I come across, they’re going to get emails from me, and they are not going to like me.
But, if you’re one of my clients, you’re going to love that I do this. Because I’m going to do everything I can to make sure you look your best.
Why did you hire a virtual assistant? You needed help, right? You felt it was time to start building a team so that you could focus on the big picture of growing your business. You are in the midst of chaos, you’re becoming more and more disorganized. You are not a software guru.
You needed help.
But now...you’re in a fight with your VA. Every time she offers advice, a suggestion, an idea, you say no. You push back. You fight everything she’s trying to do for you.
You bring a virtual assistant on board to make things easy for you. To lighten your ever-growing load. And your VA is going to know how to do that for you in the best and most efficient way possible. Isn’t that what you wanted?
It’s so important that you are open to everything she’s trying to do for you. If you only ever use Notepad to take notes, or you put all of your notes into an email, she may suggest something better. If you put your entire to do list in an email and she says, let’s transition this to a spreadsheet, let her do it. She says, this way I can see the tasks clearly, one per line, and I can leave notes where you can see what the status is. And we can share this doc and you can continue to add to it. It’s a living document and it’ll make sure things aren’t getting lost in emails.
Your virtual assistant is offering you a good idea. It may be uncomfortable for you because you’ve never used a spreadsheet before, but you have to open yourself up to that. You cannot just keep doing what you’re doing because that’s the way you’ve always done it. That’s not a reason to do ANYTHING.
Just because it’s something you’ve always done doesn’t make it right or good. It just means that maybe you’re a little lazy or you’re horribly resistant to change. If you’re going to run your own business, you cannot be resistant to change. The world is changing around you. You have to kind of go along with it and grow with it.
I’m not saying that all VA ideas are going to be perfect or great, but give them a chance and maybe when you’re comfortable with a spreadsheet, you can work up to project tracking software like Asana or Basecamp or something else that will keep you even more organized. Especially if you’re adding more team members.
Quit pushing back. Quit fighting everything she’s trying to do for you. Otherwise, there’s no relationship, and you should let her go so she can help someone else.
You must think I’m nuts. Because I’m writing a blog about firing your virtual assistant. That goes against every sales and marketing text book out there.
Why would I - a virtual assistant - want to put that nugget of information into your head?
Because it’s important. Because it’s a fact of business when dealing with virtual assistants. Sometimes things just don’t work out and you need to know when it’s time to let someone go, even if that someone is me. (I hope it’s not me!)
In every Employer/VA relationship, there is a beautiful honeymoon that undoubtedly takes place. You, the employer, are desperate for help. The VA tells you all the wonderful things she can and will do for you. Life is going to be better just as soon as you send over the first payment.
Happiness! Joy! Relief!
Unfortunately, sometimes that happiness is short-lived. The honeymoon ends much too quickly. But you think that it’s just because it has only been a few weeks. Your VA is still learning your business. She’ll get better. She’s really busy and you know this. That’s why she’s not returning your message. You just haven’t trained her enough.
And in a matter of weeks, you tell yourself it’s you, and you need to do more, and things will change if only you…
No. Stop that thinking right now.
You get so desperate for help that you’re willing to keep moving down the wrong path with the wrong person. This doesn’t help you or your business in the long run. Deep down in your gut, you know this isn’t working out, but you just don’t want to go through this whole hiring process all over again. So you keep sticking to this person who is not helping you achieve your goals.
Okay, that’s a tough question. I won’t make you answer it, but think about it. What I want to show you are three red flags that will immediately tell you your VA and you are not going to work out.
NOTE: I’m not saying the VA you chose is bad, or that you’re awful to work with. The Employer/VA relationship is completely different than one you’d have at an office. Because you’re both miles apart (and it could be countries apart), the relationship has to be one of trust, understanding, and care. You’ll work more closely with your VA than anyone. She will be an amazing support system for you. She will know just as much about your business as you do.
That means the relationship has to be just perfect to work.
So let’s talk about those red flags that will help you know it’s time to break up before you invest too much time and effort into a VA.
She promised turn-around times - but doesn’t deliver
I think this one is a complete deal-breaker in any business. During the honeymoon, if you ask your VA to write blogs, and she tells you she will write and post one per week every Tuesday at 10am….and you see the blogs being posted once on Wednesday, then a week goes by with nothing…. RED FLAG.
An experienced VA is going to know how long things take to do (generally) and what her schedule is like so that she can accommodate your timetable properly. Failing to adhere to the delivery and turnaround times for work is a huge problem. Perhaps the VA just doesn’t have good time organizational skills. Perhaps she’s tried to take on more work than she’s able. Whatever the case, you cannot have a VA who turns in work to you “whenever.” That’s unacceptable.
She does not respond to your messages in a timely fashion
If you’re asking her a question Monday morning and she doesn’t respond until Wednesday… RED FLAG. Now, for me personally, if I’m receiving emails and phone calls outside of business hours, yes, I probably will not respond until I’m officially in the office again. Because we all have to have the boundaries of work hours and personal hours in order to maintain our happiness. (You don’t want your customers calling you at home on a Saturday night at 10pm, do you?)
But during business hours, your VA should respond within a reasonable amount of time. Even if it’s just to say - hey, I got your message but I’m on the phone. I’ll respond as soon as I’m off.
Acknowledgement is key to a great Employer/VA relationship.
She told you she could do what you asked - but she can’t
The worst offense between any two people is a lie. When you ask a quality VA if she is able to do a task, she should tell you the truth. If you were to ask me if I can design a website for you, I’m going to flat out say NO. I am not a web designer. Can I use platforms like Wix or Weebly or other drag and drop sites? Sure. But anything coding - that’s right out.
If you have key tasks that need to be done by someone who has experience, you need to make sure they have that experience. Plenty of people (not just virtual) will say they are able to do something just to make themselves look better in the interview process. But, when it comes time to shine, they can’t perform. And you don’t need someone reading through help files and “For Dummies” pages in order to solve your problems.
Of course, the best remedy even prior to having those red flags flying is to take your time before you hire. Feel free to check out our previous posts on the whole hiring process.
20+ years business experience and growing!