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Think about the time when you interacted with a sales or customer-service rep. Let's say, you have a question about your airline reservation and reward points.
* You dislike being put on hold for more than 10 minutes, so you go to their website and try to find an answer on their FAQ.
* You use their
* After 48 hours, you receive an auto-generated message filled with gibberish.
* You google to determine if others have an answer or if others had similar issues, but find nothing that relates to your account.
* You start a web-chat. It takes 5 minutes for someone to join but they ask you to call a 1800number as it is 9 pm and these agents do not address the set of questions you have.
* Now you take a deep breath and call the 1800number. Even though it is 9:30 pm where you are, you are put on hold for 15 minutes and then the rep comes on.
* The rep does not quite "get" your frustration and at the end, does not give an answer that is satisfactory.
* You take to Twitter and express your frsutration.
* You go to Facebook and express your frustration on the airline's Facebook page.
And the story goes on.
Customers and Prospects initiate an interaction via voice/phone, web, email, chat, face-to-face or social-media because they have a concern or they are encountering a problem or they simply have a question. Typically, they are not calling because they want to express their "awe" with the product or service.
The most important skill that a rep "must have" is the ability to identify the degree of your frustration and anxiety and then to de-escalate the situation adequately, such that they can engage you in a discussion and lead you to a satisfactory resolution.
When they are able to use this de-escalation skill, they can impact "first issues resolution" (FCR) and they can engage you in "solutioning" discussion. These in turn impact the "trusted adviser" score (in case of sales processes) and the "customer satisfaction" (CSAT) (in case of customer service processes).
If they are unable to use the skill well, it further escalates the situation that can lead to losing you as a customer. Also, in this day and age, the loss might not be only that one customer, but you can amplify the concern via any social-media channels (by tweeting with #fail that goes to your followers, by posting on Google+ and making it searchable everywhere and forever or by kvetching on facebook and getting your friends' attention) leading to a permanent and more severe damage to the brand equity.
Kate Nasser in an article dating back to 1998, identified the customer or prospect's personality types as "Power Players", "Chat-A-Lots", "Know-it-Alls", "Tinkerers", "Accusers", "Non-Communicators and Non-Listeners" and "Irate".
The first measurement can be done during an interaction-quality audit, where the quality auditor identifies the personality type of the customer. Then one can measure, if the directed response from the rep was "appropriate" to that personality type. As these are subjective measurements, the quality auditors must go through Gage R&R realibility tests and the operational definitions have to be standardized. Moreover, one can measure by counting the instances where the interaction de-esclalated or further escalated (further escalation includes transfer to supervisor and/or customer dropping off and/or with a social-media or email follow-up reporting the interaction).
Kate Nasser also highlights the "Do's and Don'ts of behaviors" that reps should engage in order to de-escalate. For example, the Do's are:
"1. Restate (paraphrase) the customer's problem description. This builds trust and shows the customer you understand his or her problems.
2. Monitor your tone of voice throughout the day so that you sound interested, not tired or bored; confident not cocky; upbeat not saccharine; focused not insensitive. It's not just what you say, it's how you say it that matters.
3. Learn to listen better and practice listening skills with friends and family. If you have children, practice listening to them they'll be brutally honest with you about whether or not you're a good listener."
We code these as four aspects which when practiced by the rep leads to de-escalation:
2. Show empathy and apologize for the situation
3. Repeat back the problem to indicate that one understands the issues
4. Ask for permission to start "solutioning"
PAKRA® Games simulate your work processes and provide a practice environment where your employees acquire critical-thinking and decision-making skills—before they engage with prospects and customers. We measure various metrics for every action and click that a learner makes in our Games. All our games provide a real simulation of the operational situation. Our Games can teach you and your reps a real learning experience in how to deal with all the personalities that Kate Nasser identified. We score de-escalation in all our cross-selling customer service, tech support, help desk, customer-care, banks and insurance services, techsupport, billing desks, patient-care, sales, customer interaction and leadership games.
We provide instructions for the game-player or learner emphasizing de-escalation skills. Here are samples of instructions for some of our games:
"During this game, you must try to alleviate customer’s frustrations and address customer’s concern. You will achieve this by demonstrating:
"Understanding customer’s needs and suggesting best solutions is the way to get highest scores in the game."
" De-escalating and sympathizing with the frustrations that the customer is facing and seeking agreement such that you understand that the customer sees you as someone who can alleviate their frustrations."
She is running between her patients and has been on her feet all day. She ain't got time for nothing.
Does she have cash? Charge it or Cash? It is medical emergency. She wants to pay for her son's illness. She calls her Bank: Best National Bank.
Will she be relieved to know the credit limit?
Manmeet (CSR): Hello Ms. Maya Walters. This is Manmeet. I will be your banker today.
Maya: Yes! Can you help me? God! I was on hold with the music for 10 minutes. What’s my credit card balance? Also can you increase my credit limit? And yes! I know I can check balance on my mobile. But my mobile account is not set up. Can you just tell me?I have an emergency to deal with, so I need to know urgently….
Manmeet: My apologies for the wait. These are typically busy times for us. However, I can certainly help you with assessing your credut limit needs. Before, I can help you, I have to pull up your account. I understand that you have an emergency. I will be able to start as you as soon as I am able to pull up your account. In order for me to do that, I have some security questions for you. I will need your 15-digit card number in order to start.
Maya: Yeah! I don’t have all that. I am a Nurse. I am working in the Hospital now and came down to the cafeteria to get some tea. I have to run back to get that information but I can’t. Can I just give you my soc.# and then you can find me in your system Sweetie? Right?
Manmeet: I can work with your social security number but I will also need your security password. Ms. Walters would you be able to provide me that?
Maya: Yes! I can do that.
Manmeet (CSR): Hello Ms. Maya Walters. This is Manmeet. I will be your banker today.
Maya: Yes! Can you help me. God! I was on hold with the music for 10 minutes. What’s my credit card balance? Also can you increase my credit limit? And yes! I know I can check balance on my mobile. But my mobile account is not set up. Can you just tell me?I have an emergency to deal with, so I need to know urgently….
Manmeet: Yes. I need your 15-digit account number and your last transaction details with this credit card.
Maya: God! I don’t have all that. You people need all kinds of things. You think! I memorize 15 digit numbers. Really! God! Aaugh! Wait a minute, let me find it. Will my soc.# do?
Manmeet: Sorry but soc # will not do. I need the credit card details to pull up your account.References
- 1. The promise and peril of self-affirmation in de-escalation of commitment; Niro Sivanathan, Daniel C. Molden, Adam D. Galinsky, and Gillian Ku; Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes; Volume 107, Issue 1, September 2008, Pages 1–14
2. Conflict De-escalation Strategies: Control Your Tone and Body Language; Guy Harris; The Recovering Engineer Blog; May 8, 2013
3. How To Handle Difficult Callers; Kate Nasser; Support Management; January 1998
4.The 25 Worst Customer Service Stories to Train the Best CSRs; Kate Nasser; Smart SenseAbilities™Blog; 2010
5. Demeanor impacts your Customer Satisfaction CSAT KPI; Madhurima Basu Dutt; Plugged-In With PAKRA blog; June 2013
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