Customer Service Representatives: The New Superheroes

“When you depersonalize abrasive behavior and see it as a call for help you become a catalyst for the best kind of change.” ― Marilyn Suttle

[img src=”” width=”” height=”” align=”right”] Since this famous quote seems to suffice for elucidating the title – I might as well stop writing anything further on this! For those who still perceive Customer Service Representatives as an ignorant, untrained and unskilled lot, need to do a double-take on this perception. With rising digitization and globalization, information is now easily accessible and it is impossible to fool the discerning customer with an ambiguous reply that provides no resolution. The customers want answers and they want them NOW. The customer agents must therefore be skilled, multi-disciplined, have the ability to remain calm in the face of unreasonable behavior, exhibit knowledge of various communication channels, have a good command over language, display a sense of humor- and this is probably not even the complete list. These ‘traits’ are actually defined by what customers want from this group of people and are livid if either one or the other seems to slip by. These wanted traits have given birth to: THE NEW SUPERHEROES!

Companies know all too well that a customer base is no longer enough. These customers need to remain happy if they are to keep doing business with the company. One unhappy customer has the capability to drive away scores of potential customers. So customer service and its representatives have to constantly be at the top of their game and remain focused on ensuring the customer always leaves with a resolution and the service provided was at ‘ecstatic levels’. It’s like running to stay in the same place – in the happy mind of a customer. So really, customer service is nothing short of a crusade, a championing of the cause – your company and its brand. Kind of describes what our popular ‘superheroes’ seem to be doing! It is easy for these representatives to become robotic or mechanical dealing with a plethora of problems and questions which are repeated so often that would tire even the strongest mind! But they just cannot and must not for that is their ‘calling’. It is the responsibility of the company to ensure that these minds are stimulated and encouraged with great working environments, up to date equipment, regular and relevant training. Growth prospects, incentives and at par compensation are the obvious ones! This is how you make a person with limited capabilities in to a Superhero who will bear the torch for your company and its product / service. This is true for all sectors and industries that desire to undertake the journey to success through this ‘first point of contact group’.

Related Article: How decision tree driven interactive guides help you ‘see’ these superheroes?

If this narrative still leaves a sliver of doubt that this once perceived as ‘lowly’ group are anything short of superheroes, let us reflect on the traits they are deemed to possess. No doubt perception is reality for some, but a speedy run through of the skills and talents this group possesses should dispel any imperfect ‘perceptions’ of their actual abilities.

As pointed out earlier in this exposition, most of the information a customer needs to understand the company’s products or services, the value it can add to them, is already available on the various communication and social media tools. These, I may add, are the trivial or simple transactions a customer can carry out for himself / herself and will now be making that call to the customer service representative to deal with the more complicated, requiring thorough understanding and in-depth knowledge of the subject. What adds to the complexity is that these ‘superheroes’ must explain to this time rushed and probably irate customer, this complicated subject matter in simple graspable terms and endeavor to present a resolution as well, all with a smile. This is expertise at its best!

Having a command over language is another challenge. Sometimes the same contact person is speaking to you and also attempting to write a professional, sensible and well worded reply to a written query to a customer, for whom any response time is probably too long. Speaking well and writing well do not necessarily go hand in hand and this is where the element of a super heroic representative comes in to play. Adequate and pertinent training is required for this group, if they are to leave an indelible positive mark on the customer. So strained is this department at times, it leaves them no time to train, giving rise to misleading and cryptic answers to customer queries. This in turn starts the vicious circle of unresolved first contact giving rise to customer impatience and viewing these representatives as unskilled and unhelpful.

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You sell a product or service you will have to deal with complaints. Ranging from simply voiced to the vociferous, to the abrasive and potentially harmful for the image of your company! Whatever the tone of the complaint, it requires handling, adeptly, skilfully and patiently. The customer service superheroes need understand that these angry outbursts are not personal and despite the pressure must handle these with fortitude and good humor. As the first point of contact, how they manage these pressure points will have a bearing on the image and goodwill of the company and its brand. Mastery of this daunting task, leads to customer loyalty and several brand ambassadors, which is nothing short of super heroic!

Once the barrage is done with, these superheroes must find a way to placate and form a connection with the customer. Smooth and lucid explanations, of the situation and about how the problem can and will be resolved shows the customer that the customer service representative is on the same wavelength and clearly comprehends the current need. The customer feels drawn in and is sure to provide a patient listening to what the representative has to say and is more likely to take up the ‘offering of peace’. Truly amazing!

Calling all customer service representatives to also be a sales agent – yet another reason to consider them superheroes! While responding to queries or providing a quick and effective resolution to a complaint, this group is now also expected to carry the flame for a new product or service launched. When the customer seems amply satisfied with the resolution provided, the next step is to covertly talk about the new product or service, doubling up as part time sales representatives. Advocacy, of a flailing product or service in a bid to resurrect them, is yet another activity added to their already full plates.

I do hope that this candid and rational narration helps to see that the customer service representative has dramatically evolved and the role has expanded to new proportions. They are now viewed as key to the upkeep of the customer base, sales figures and the bottom line. As the voice of the organization they are expected to do much more than just mechanically listen to and make a record of the problem or query at hand. The data they collect and the performance they put up, defines in many organizations, business strategies and the overall projection of profits for a company. Their job is multi-faceted and requires some super skills to deal with issues that once were dealt with by the more ‘learned, experienced and skilled’ employees of the organization. The fact that they now have growth prospects, better compensation and perks, speaks volumes of how organizations now view this crucial and indispensable group – the superheroes of customer service. We can safely announce that words like ‘unskilled’, ‘ignorant’ and ‘untrained’ no longer belong within the realm of Customer Service and in fact are very far removed from the real world of profits and customer satisfaction. They truly are the first level superheroes who are of supreme service to the company and brand they represent. This role can be summed up in the words of Leon Gorman, CEO of L.L. Bean:
“Customer Service is just a day in, day out ongoing, never ending, unremitting, persevering, compassionate, type of activity”

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