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Being efficient in conversations with customers is based around getting two fundamental aspects right – the direction of the conversation and the control of the conversation.
The direction of the conversation is about using specific questions to guide the customer through the conversation, getting all of the relevant information from the customer and cutting out anything that is irrelevant. Direction allows us to signpost for the customer when we are taking their enquiry, influences what we are doing and why we are asking them certain questions.
The control is about ensuring the customer that we are in control. By using signposting and questioning, we demonstrate that we are in control and the customer understands that we are working towards resolving their enquiry.
To proactively manage our customer’s conversations, we can use the Proactive Contact Management cycle. By combining our customer service or communication skills (questioning, listening, positive language, building rapport etc) with this cycle, we can be more efficient in the way we manage our conversations and more efficient in the service we deliver. The Proactive Customer Management cycle has four key elements:
To undestand the concept of Proactive customer management better , listen to any conversation between a sales/service agent and a customer and ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is controlling the situation ? / What evidence supports this?
- Who is asking the majority of questions in the conversation? /What is the impact of this?
-What is the customer feeling about this ? what evidence supports this?
- How is the sales/service representative dealing with this conversation? What evidence supports this ?
- What could the sales/service representative do to improve this conversation ?
What do we mean by Stating/signposting ?
By signposting the direction of the conversation, we are indicating to the customer that we know where the conversation is going and that we are controlling the conversation.
If we signpost the conversation, the customer:
• Understands where the conversation is going and the direction of the conversation
• Understands why they are being asked certain questions
• Has confidence that we are taking them on the journey of answering their enquiry
How do I signpost?
The meaning of signposting is holding a sign to give guidance and direction. To signpost when you are communicating means to give guidance to the other person by giving the information in more organized chunks to make it easier for the other person to understand your complete message. Signposting means using words like First, then you explain the first thing you wish to communicate. Then Second then you start explaining the second thing you wish to say. ..etc. Its as if you are holding a sign to give better guidance to the other person and make sure they understand you message without any confusion.
If we DO NOT signpost the conversation, the customer:
• May not have confidence that we are taking them on the right journey to answer their question.
• May be confused as to why we are asking them certain questions
• Is unsure as to whether we have really understood their enquiry or not.
Every time we give the customer information, advice or respond to their question, this should be followed by a question that will invite the customer to speak.
If we ask the right questions at the right time, the customer:
• Will be engaged to either provide information, think about what has been said or confirm their understanding
• Will know when the right time for them to speak is
If we DO NOT ask the right questions at the right time, the customer:
• Is left to drive the direction of the conversation
• Has to think about what they need to know next
• Is not sure if they have been given all the right information
• May try to interrupt or talk over you as there is no clear place for them to speak
• May wait in anticipation to speak and there will be silences
• Will be on the phone for a longer period of time as it takes longer to reach a conclusion
It is important to acknowledge what the customer has said so they know we have understood and that we are able to help them with their enquiry. If we acknowledge what the customer has said, the customer:
• Will feel comfortable that we have understood what they have said
• Will feel confident that we can help with their enquiry
If we DO NOT acknowledge what the customer has said, the customer:
• Will wonder whether we have listened to/understood what they have said
• Will be anxious as to your level of understanding
• Will be concerned as to whether we are answering their enquiry in the most suitable way
Tips for Proactive Customer Management:
- Always use the proactive customer management cycle
- Always SIGNPOST where you are taking the conversation
- Every time information, advice or a response is given to the customer, follow this by a QUESTION to invite the customer to speak, gain further information or confirm understanding.
- Actively LISTEN to the customer at all times to ensure you understand exactly what they need.
- ACKNOWLEDGE what the customer has said or how the customer is feeling and reassure them you can help them with their enquiry
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