INTERVIEW WITH SIMON ST-HILAIRE, TRAINER AND SPEAKER
IN A CALL CENTRE, WHICH DO YOU THINK IS EASIER—TO MAKE OUTBOUND CALLS OR TO MANAGE INBOUND CALLS?
When people call customer service, it’s because they have a need: they want to buy something, get information, repair a product or make a claim. Conversely, when a representative contacts a prospect, there is not necessarily a need, and the people contacted are not always familiar with the product they are being presented. In these cases, the agents must sell a need before selling their product. They have to prove that they can provide the customer with a benefit. So I would say that it’s easier to receive calls rather than to make outbound calls.
In addition, the skill set is not the same. In the case of inbound calls, you have to be able to respond to all kinds of requests, so responsiveness and an ability to listen are key. For outbound calls, the objective is to get new customers, so you have to know how to sell above all.
WHAT ARE THE HALLMARKS OF GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE?
Good customer service ensures the quality of relations between a company and its customers. It improves the company’s reputation, which not only increases sales, but also builds customer and employee loyalty. Costs are likewise reduced—for example, fixing improperly filled orders may involve significant costs.
To provide high-quality customer service, agents should be responsive and know how to manage stress. A good work environment is essential, because teamwork and harmony between the agents and supervisors leads to activities that run smoothly.
Agents should also be properly trained. However, 50% of new hires find themselves dealing with customers their very first day on the job, with no training—a mistake to be avoided at all costs. Since they do not know the products, novice employees panic and give their company a bad name. Time to adapt should always be factored in and training provided.
Finally, agents should be informed regularly and know specifically what their instructions are. They should systemically be given written job descriptions, so that they know exactly what they are responsible for.
WHAT ARE CUSTOMERS’ NEEDS?
Customers have varied, diverse criteria. They can be looking for the latest thing, specific products, associated services, accessories, etc. What they all have in common, however, is wanting to be listened to: understanding their conscious or unconscious needs is a must.
They also want to be well advised and to get reliable, relevant, timely information—in their own language, of course. Since customers are generally reluctant to fill out forms, it is best not to ask for overly complex information.