A CSR (Customer Service Representative) is your first point of contact when you need additional service, questions answered, or need to file a complaint.

CSRs are the people with the answers and tools to take a concerned customer and turn them into a satisfied one. Customer satisfaction isn’t a skill one learns overnight. It takes time and patience and knowing the right practices used in customer calls – from de-escalation to having the right answers under your belt. You might even need to improvise from time to time.

So how do the seasoned pros do it? What does it take to be a 5-star CSR? What should you NOT do in order to keep customers happy? All this and more will be covered in this article. Let’s dive in!

How CSRs Are Integral To Business

As previously mentioned, Customer Service Representatives are often the first point of contact for customers with your business. This is your chance to make a big first impression! Don’t overlook how vital this is to setting up the rest of your team for success, as well as leaving a positive impression on your potential customers for the future.

Your potential clients rely on you to solve their queries quickly and efficiently – the better you can do this, the smoother your customer service calls will go.

5 Ways to Be an Effective CSR

So how do the CSR pros handle even the most difficult of customer interactions? It takes perseverance, patience, confidence, and the ability to let things roll off your back. Most importantly, to be an all-star CSR, you need to learn the ins and outs of effective communication. Quality communication is key to any relationship, even brief interactions with customers.

Here are 5 recommendations you can use to be an effective CSR that will keep escalations down and, most importantly, keep your customers satisfied.

1 — Take the Time to Listen

One of the most important things you can do is make sure the customer feels heard. Don’t rush through the call – give the customer the time to say their piece so they feel they’re being understood. When the customer feels heard right from the start, they’re less likely to argue or interrupt, and you’ll be able to problem-solve in a more timely manner.

Put aside the need to get through the call quickly. The more you try to rush through the call, the more the customer will interrupt you to feel heard – making your call longer. When the customer feels heard right from the start, the call will go more smoothly and quickly.

2 — Put the Customer Experience First

Put the customer experience before anything else. That means connecting with them before getting to business, understanding the relationship goes beyond this moment, and having the bigger picture in mind.

3 — A Smile Goes A Long Way

This might sound silly since this is a phone call and not an in-person meeting. But smiling while you talk to a customer can make a customer feel more confident in the help their receiving and in turn, keep them a bit more calm.

Over-exaggerate the smile in your voice. Your regular tone might seem fine to you, but over the phone, it can come across as uninterested and tired. In the first 5 seconds, that customer already knows if they are interested in doing business with you, and it all starts with how you welcome them.

4 — Get Really Good At Asking Questions

Whoever is asking the questions is in control of the call. Asking questions engages your customer, helps them feel heard, builds connections, and clears misunderstandings. Anytime you aren’t sure where to go in the call, ask a question. Asking questions is also how we find out how else we can help our customers and what other services and products we offer that will fill their needs.

5 — Mindset Is Everything!

The CSR role can be mentally straining at times. Not every customer interaction you have is going to be a positive one. There will always be that difficult customer that just wants to argue.

For your own sake, make a mental note to find satisfaction in knowing you are making a real difference in the customer experience and acting as a lifeline to customers when they have run out of options. If you go into each experience dreading what the call could turn into in a worst-case scenario, it will reflect in your tone, and you’ll lose the customer’s faith in you.

Put on your best face and go into every call like you’re here to save the day… because you are! Keep a positive attitude and focus on doing what’s best for your customer.

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What You Shouldn’t Do as a CSR

Now let’s talk about some of the things a CSR should avoid in order to have a successful customer interaction. In the world of customer communication, there are just as many don’ts as there are do’s.

You need to be strategic and tactful in your approach – all the while coming across as caring and empathetic. Their problem is now your problem, and together you’ll fix it! Unfortunately, it’s not hard to take a cordial conversation and watch it go sour. Here are some things you shouldn’t do when handling a customer call.

1 — Say No

Saying no immediately shuts down a conversation. No progress can be made when you shut doors. In all situations, there is something you can do, and your job is to find it. It only takes one no for that customer to decide they don’t want to work with you. Learn to set boundaries positively by focusing on what their options are.

2 — Take Things Personally

CSRs get the brunt of all the customers’ emotions… both positive and negative. Taking things personally can cause you to get defensive and combative- this is where the customer connection falls off the rails. Recognize the customer is not mad at you personally. They’re just frustrated that they cannot easily solve the problem themselves.

Remember, you are in the best position to help them. You’re the one steering the ship, and it’s up to you whether or not it’s a smooth ride.

3 — Say “I Don’t Know”

It’s ok not to know the answer to everything. But the customer called for help, and saying “I don’t know” is about as useful as saying “no.” Instead of shutting down the conversation by saying you don’t know, focus on who you can connect with that does know the answer, where you can go to get the information, or what process needs to follow in order to get the answer.

Saying things like, “That’s a great question. I’m happy to get that info for you,” or “That’s a great question, the technician will be happy to cover that with you, and they have the most accurate information” is a lot more reassuring than simply stating you don’t have the answers. Customers expect you to be the beacon of knowledge – so even if you don’t have the answers for them, you at least need to know your available resources and assure the customer that you can get them.

4 — Giving in to a Customer

That probably sounds counter-intuitive. If the customer calls and wants to know how much you charge to come out, just giving that dollar amount is not helping your customer.

You want the customer to know who you are as a company and the kind of experience they can expect to have with you. Giving away short answers doesn’t give the customer enough information to make an informed decision on whether or not you are the company to meet their needs.

What that customer actually wants is to get their issue resolved and resolved right the first time with a company they can trust. You do your customers a huge disservice by not giving them the opportunity to see who you are as a company and build value in what you have to offer.

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How You Can Support Your CSRs

If you own your company or act as leader of your CSR department, it’s important to understand that handling customer complaints can be a bit draining. It takes a positive attitude and drive for success to take on these tasks day after day. Your employees need the support of strong leadership to do their best when they’re “out in the field,” so to speak.

Let’s get into what you can do as CSR leadership to set your employees up for success during their calls.

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Empower Them

Empower your CSRs with the tools they need to make your customers happy. Do they know what allowances they are allowed to make, do they have the authority to refund up to a certain amount, or does every little decision have to be taken up the pole? Clear guidelines and a little trust go a long way in helping your CSRs be effective in providing WOW customer experiences.

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Consistent Team Communication

Does every team in the business understand how their job affects the customer experience? A lot of people just lay the customer experience at the CSR’s feet and assume they are responsible for it.

CSRs rely on every other department in the company to do their part, meet their SLAs, and keep the customer experience in mind so that when a CSR tells a customer something will happen in a certain amount of time, they have confidence it will happen. They won’t be made to feel like they are being untruthful. This ultimately comes from the top. If the highest level of management in the company isn’t putting the customer experience first in a very public and obvious way and demonstrating that in all their actions and decisions, how can they expect any other department to feel the importance of it?

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Effective CSR

A CSR coach should focus on helping each CSR find their confidence in themselves and their most authentic and genuine desire to help the customer and provide the best experience possible.

A CSR is most effective when they feel they can be themselves, bring their personality to the call, and be equipped and empowered with the tools and knowledge they need to get the best result. Sometimes the best result doesn’t include actually booking the call. When we focus on the experience as a whole, not just the immediate booking, we build lifelong relationships with our customers who want to refer their friends and family. A coach should also be focused on exhibiting the same principles in their relationships with their CSRs, as they are teaching their CSRs to display to their customers.

It’s not enough for a coach to know how the call should sound. They need to be able to help the CSR see the value and benefits to themselves and the customer in doing what they teach and make it a collaborative effort.

Be an All Star CSR!

The CSRs primary role is to build relationships based on trust and value. This includes taking the time to make the customer feel heard, putting the customer experience above all else, keeping a positive mindset, asking discovery questions, and finding solutions even when you don’t have the answers off the top of your head.

Taking the advice we’ve laid out here can make a big difference in your performance as a customer representative and as a customer representative lead! With patience, perseverance, and the hunger to succeed – you’ll become a 5-star CSR in no time!