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Managing customers is not as easy as it sounds. At times, customers can be very difficult to handle. And the issues they report can give nightmares to customer support agents.
But since customers are a very important part of the business world, especially in recent times, it is not a wise move to get annoyed while talking to them.
Today customers have the power to decide which product will survive in the market and which one will perish. Sometimes the same thing happens in the case of companies too. Those companies which are not able to cope with the customer standards, be it the product and its features, or the customer experience, tend to fail.
So no matter how many challenges they put forward, a Customer Support Agent should be well prepared to tackle them. Today we will talk about some of these challenges and most importantly, this article will provide some ways to overcome those challenges.
Customer Support Challenges
A customer intentionally doesn’t create a lot of problems for the Support Agents. Most of the times, the support staff faces these problems just because of miscommunication or misunderstanding between a customer and the agent.
But sometimes when there is a lot of expectation from the support staff, they may face some serious challenges.
1. When the customer gets angry
All your customers may not be tech-savvy. Still, they may try to solve their problems themselves and fail. This makes the situation much worse, resulting in an annoyed and angry customer.
But it’s not always the customer’s fault. Sometimes there can be a mistake on the support agent’s part which can make the customer angry.
Whatever may be the reason, a smart Support Agent should be able to handle the situation well. Making the customer calm down is a work half-done. The real challenge is to make the customer believe in you again.
Now the question arises, “ How to overcome this challenge..? How to handle an angry customer..?“
One can easily take pointers from the strategy Disney used to recover when they had a service failure. It was known as H.E.A.R.D.
Hear: And more specifically, listen. Give the customer the opportunity to tell their complete, uninterrupted story.
Empathize: Empathy creates an emotional connection, a trust that is crucial to demonstrating an authentic willingness and ability to help the customer. Consider using phrases like “If I were in your shoes…” and “Your reactions are completely normal…” to validate the customer’s feelings.
Apologize: Sometimes, this is all the customer is looking for. The power of a sincere apology should never be underestimated. You must take ownership and remember, the manner in which you apologize matters greatly — apologies cannot be scripted.
Resolve: Speed is critical to recovery and is best achieved when the maximum amount of authority possible is delegated to employees.
Diagnose: Seek perfection, settle for excellence. Remove any personal guilt and examine the processes related to the service failure. Returning customers will appreciate your efforts to improve the experience.
This strategy will surely help you overcome this challenge as it did in case of Disney.
2. Not knowing the solution to customer’s issue
A support agent is not perfect. But for a customer, he is supposed to know everything. But what if there is something that even the support agent is not able to answer. How to handle a challenge like this..?
When a customer comes up with an issue, he is not concerned about whether a support agent knows the solution. But this is where most of the support agents fail to handle the situation.
The traditional reply to this problem is, “I’m so sorry sir, but I may not be able to help you with this. You can contact ____ for further assistance. Thanks!”
Do you know the reason why a customer decides to contact support..? It is because either he has already tried to solve the issue himself and failed, or he doesn’t want to solve it himself.
In such case, a reply like that will surely make the customer even more frustrated.
Support agents can overcome this challenge by taking responsibility and making sure that customer doesn’t need to do anything. It is their job to get the solution to customer’s issues. Even if they don’t know the solution but if they are responsible enough to find the solution for the customer, that is more than enough for them.
And as far as the interaction is concerned, they can simply tell your customer,”Oh! So this is the issue that’s been bothering you… It will take me some time to discuss this issue with my associates… but I’ll surely update you as soon as I find the solution… “
3. When there is a defect in the product
As you might have noticed, in the above challenges, there were chances that customers may be wrong. But what if the customer is right and there is genuinely a defect in the product.
Being on the receiving end of a damaged product is always very disheartening. Especially when the customer has invested a lot of time and money in it. At moments like these, a smart support agent will not blame others.
Generally, the support agents blame shipping services by saying,”…there can be something wrong with the shipping service…it might have damaged during shipping… ”
The hard reality is, words like these can never have a positive impact on the customers. Even if it is not their fault, by blaming others they set a very bad example.
The best thing to do in a scenario like this is to admit your fault and apologise. By saying something like,”I’m so sorry that you had to face this issue…if that is ok, can I place a new order for you right now…after confirmation, our associate will collect the damaged product from you…once again, as disappointing as it is, I apologise for this mistake… “, they can do their part.
And if possible, they can also send a discount coupon or a gift card just to make up for the mistake.
4. When a customer asks for something that you can’t provide
There are times when a customer may either ask for favours or request for some features specific to their business case. Personally, I feel that if a small favour results in customer retention, it’s not a big deal. Also if a customer wants a feature based on his business needs then its ok too.
A support agent is supposed to take a decision at that time. They can even discuss with their supervisor and then decide whether to provide customers with what they are asking.
Now you may ask,”But what if we decide not to fulfil their request..?”
It is perfectly fine. Customers don’t mind if you don’t fulfil their requests, but they should let customers know what made them take the decision.
Saying something like,”It is so nice of you to discuss this with us… But as much as I want to fulfil your request… I’m sorry the policies do not allow me to offer something like this…”, can help handle the situation.
And when it is a feature request or a suggestion, refusing directly will be considered rude by the customers. In such a scenario support agents should try to acknowledge customer’s efforts and suggestions first, and then come to any conclusions. Consider the reply below,
“Hey its really great to hear your suggestion. It feels good when customers put their time and effort for a product to improve on its features. I will surely discuss it with the product development team and keep you posted about the status. But as you know decisions like these require time. Also, we will have to consider other customer’s opinion too. When it comes to features, we really want our customers to have the best. But thanks a lot for your suggestions.”
A reply like this will not only let the customer know that the company actually considers customer suggestions but it will also give a good impression about how much customer satisfaction matters to you.
5. When the product is not available
As we learnt in the previous section, customers invest a lot of time in the selection of a product. But what if the product is currently unavailable. How to cope with such a situation?
Being a support agent, no one like to tell his customers that the product they want is no longer available. That they have to wait further to get that product.
But being positive in such a situation is the key to customer management. Let us consider the reply that a customer generally receives when such a thing happens.
“Sorry for the inconvenience, but your order has been put on hold due to an issue. The product that you ordered is currently not available. We are sorry to inform that it will not be available until next Monday.”
The issue with such an answer is that the customer doesn’t really care how sorry support agents are. Further, it is very annoying to hear that he will have to order the same thing again after some days. There is nothing that is good for the customer here.
Now check out this reply,
“Hey, I see that you had ordered _____. It is indeed a great product. But we are currently shipping these from next Monday. Since you are interested in this product, I have booked it for you and I will personally make sure it gets delivered to you by Tuesday morning.”
Since the reply is in a positive tone, it is not hard for the customer to believe what support agent told him. Also, there is nothing to worry as far as the customer is concerned. His order is already pre-booked and the delivery date is also confirmed.
6. When you have to redirect a Customer
Customers take it very personally how support staff treats them. For them, it is not always about solving issues. It is more about how much customer satisfaction and their convenience matters to the company.
While dealing with customers, sometimes support agents have to redirect them to another agent or even the supervisor. But this is not always a wise move. Most of the support agents commit a mistake of redirecting their customer without telling the customers why exactly they are doing it. Or in some cases, they say too much.
Consider this reply from a support agent to a customer, “I have looked at your issue and now I will redirect you to my associate, who will then assist you further.”
How would you feel if you get a reply like this..? For me, it will be a clear sign that there is something wrong with the customer support. Either there is a shortage of staff or the current agent was not capable of solving my issues.
In both the cases, it will never be the customer who will be prioritized. There will be many thoughts about why exactly this thing happened.
In any case, customers should be given the priority. To deal with such a challenge, support agents need to focus more on what the customer wants and less on the support staff’s capabilities. Consider the reply,
“Hi. I see you had some issues with the product handling and installation. Let me connect you to our product expert, ______. I feel he is the best when it comes to product installations and handling. I assure all your issues will be resolved. Thanks for your time and let us know if we could assist you any further. Happy to help.”
By saying this, the customer is not only assured that he is being redirected to the expert but he also knows that it is fine to ask for further assistance if needed.
7. Telling customers something that may not benefit the company
Being a Customer Support Agent is a very difficult job. On one side they have to manage customer and on the other, they have to make sure the company’s interests and their targets are met.
But the real challenge is when they have to choose between the customer’s interest and that of company’s. What should they do in that situation?
The first thing that they should keep in mind that if they consider the company’s interest, one way or another the customer will come to know. And when he does, it will be a case of a bad reputation for the company.
So when they know that the product does not meet the requirements of the customer, they have to make a difficult choice. In such scenario too, the customer should be given priority.
Let us consider this reply,”Hi. I noticed that our product failed to perform as you expected. My sincere apologies are with you. But it might be because your business requirements are something else. In such a case, you can consider using <an alternate> and see if that solves your issue. I really wish we could help you more. I will make sure your paid amount to be refunded by tomorrow. Let me know if you need further assistance.”
By saying this and by suggesting an alternate product, which might be a competitor, support agents can put customers above everything else. So even if the customer fails to remember the product, he will surely remember the outstanding experience he had with the support staff.
8. Efficiently closing customer conversation
It is rightly said that the first impression is the last impression. But when it comes to customers, be it the first conversation they ever had with a support agent or the last one, impressions can change at any moment.
In such a scenario, it is a real challenge to start a conversation properly and to end it well.
Customers don’t require a special treatment everytime they have a conversation. But adding a personal touch to the conversation while starting and especially while closing is something your customers will never forget.
You can close a conversation with your customer in a number of ways depending on the situation. The trick is to identify the right moment to say the right thing.
For example, wishing customers on occasions like birthdays, or simply weekends adds a personal tone to the conversation. Making a customer comfortable is the key to customer retention. If a customer is comfortable in talking to a support agent, he will never hesitate to give his valuable time and views about the product or the company.
So while having a conversation, support agents should make sure they end it with phrases like, “I’m glad we were able to help you. Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.“, or something like, “Thanks for your time. Let me know if there is anything else. And yeah, on that note, if I’m not mistaken, is it your birthday..? Happy birthday and have a great day ahead.”
So these were some of the challenges every Customer Support Agent faces on a daily basis. I tried my best to provide the best ways to overcome these challenges.
Support agents being at the first phase of customer interaction, need to train hard to avoid facing these challenges. This aspect of Customer Support is generally avoided by many companies. As a result, they never know what went wrong.
One thing to know in these situations is that there are a lot of challenges. Sometimes you may not be able to handle things properly. But it’s not about one or two days or customers. It is more about how you train to sort things out in long run.
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