Teach the art of great customer service
Some people are born to greatness, some people achieve it through Herculean effort, and some strive their whole life and never obtain it.
I’ve met of a few of the first case; the types who you know fifteen seconds into the interview that they’re getting a job offer and their own desk. And I’ve known a few that I would build a stone wall to keep them away from any interaction with the public.
But the million dollar question is; can greatness be taught? Is there a formula to get them to that peak of greatness where you just know they are doing far more for your company’s image and future beyond merely answering questions?
I believe the answer to be a qualified yes and here’s my mostly infallible 1-2-3 method:
#1 Pick the right people in the first place. I choose people based 80% on their attitude and social skills. A calm, empathic, positive demeanor carries a lot of water toward making your company look good. Skills, tools, knowledge can be taught, but a forward facing attitude largely cannot.
#2 Teach active listening rather than speed and rapid regurgitation of info. Often, a person coming to you with a query is flustered and impatient and not at their best at explaining what the real problem is right off the bat. Encourage active listening — that is, shutting down your internal dialogue and truly focusing on what you’re being told. Ask for clarity and details. Really understand the nature of a problem BEFORE formulating a reply.
#3 Show, don’t tell. At Olark I do drive-alongs with each new CS person. I have them sit by my side for a day or two just watching the Olark-esque approach to chatting with our customers in action. Then I spend a day or two sitting by their side advising them on a case by case basis. It’s like when my dad taught me to fix my first beater car’s carburetor. He sat there and explained and kibitzed while I took it apart piece by piece. Sure, he could have done the job in one quarter the time it took me (best part of 2 days of anguish), but by the time my old Austin Healy was running again and spewing slightly less blue smoke, I had confidence and skills. This is essential during the first weeks and again periodically as way of check in, even if it’s only reading through transcripts when you can’t sit directly next to someone.
Speaking of training, come on by on Wednesdays to my admin and operator training session. Learn the set up, managing and best practices to achieving great customer service via live chat. olark.com/training
We recently asked our customers how they teach customer service and got a bunch of helpful replies. Give us your methods here in the comments, we’d love to see them.
The Guru’s Guide to Happiness: I feel the need for speed
The weather has been kind of dodgy out here in California this winter, alternating between bouts of super cold (for us wimpy Californians) in December to almost summery days in the mid 70’s by January. The other day when I walked out of my house I was amazed to see my plum and cherry trees in almost full bloom.This doesn’t ever happen in February and I was quite taken aback by the unexpected sight of snow-white cherry blossoms at a time which is usually the coldest and most miserable month of the year.
It seems nature was playing the same trick on me that I like playing on Olark customers in need; arriving early with good news.
At Olark we have an incredible team. We have an average email response time of roughly 25-35 minutes during US East and West coast business hours. We’re pretty proud of that and I know our customers appreciate getting a response so quickly.*
However, I like to go above and beyond that to amaze people who come by with questions sometimes. My number one super trick is to keep our CRM desktop open while puttering about at other tasks and watching for new incoming email – then I pounce and respond instantly. It’s the most fun thing ever to respond to an email query in under 10 seconds, knowing the recipient of that response may not even had time to close their inbox before my reply shows up. I get emails every day from people saying they’ve never experienced anything of the sort when sending an email into any company’s help inbox.
It’s an easy way to stun and amaze your site’s visitors and I can’t recommend it highly enough if you want your customers and potential customers to fall in love with the way you do customer service.
* Of course we’re also on live chat for 11 hours a day M – F, so if you really need help right now, there is no reason to wait.
Got any super tricks of your own to share? Put them in the comments or shoot me an email if you’re shy: Bill@olark.com Come on, I went first. You owe me one now.
Creating happiness is a two way street
A wise man once said, “Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes, well, the bear eats you.”
I’ve found that the same sentiment holds true for creating happiness and amazement for your customers. Everything we do to stun and amaze our customers comes back to us tenfold.
So how do we create happy customers? The answer is simple: We all go out of our way every day to go above and beyond the call of duty to form a real bond with our customers. We try to make every interaction be far more than just “Hey, you’re paying us so sure we’ll help you out” and more like “You’re our partner and our friend, is there anything more can I do to make you happy?
Examples include times I’ve made house calls to help with training operators and give live demos to show off what we can do specifically to tailor Olark to a company’s needs. Or the time I made a tech support phone call at 6am on a Saturday to help someone with a sticky install issue who had a Monday morning launch date they didn’t want to miss. There is nothing that makes me happier than to hear the delight from a customer when I or one of my crack team does something unexpectedly amazing to help them. It’s not exactly as awesome as being the firefighter who pulls Timmy up from the bottom of the well, but it’s pretty darn close.
Examples of how this blows back to us. Customers have:
Brought fresh baked chocolate cookies to our doorstep (My first week on the job)
Brought us 6 bottles of home brewed beer (yes I shared)
Sent a box fine chocolates and cheeses (+++)
Sent the office a bottle of 12 year old scotch (that disappeared fast)
Most recently we all sat down at Christmas time and wrote Christmas cards to a few hundred of our customers (we have thousands so don’t get mad if you didn’t get a card on the first round). It was the most fun day at work ever, sitting around in a group writing and drawing art on the cards, laughing and smiling at how good it felt to do a solid for our wonderful customers.
We also invite our local customers or those who are in town or around the area on business (we’re in San Francisco) to drop on by for one of our regular Tuesday night barbecues. Rain or shine we hang out after work on Tuesday, cooking, toasting, talking and we love it when our customers grace us with their presence.
Come on by if you get a chance when you’re in the City. We love to cook for our friends.