The First 5 Seconds: The Secret to Providing Better Customer Service

better customer service

Because live customer service doesn’t go viral the way social media interaction can, companies often overlook the importance of call response. But the first five seconds can make or break a customer’s impressions of your company.

If I call ten different 800 numbers and reach ten different customer representatives, I’ll have ten different customer experiences. And each of my impressions will be created in the first few seconds of the call.

How good is your team at customer service? Here are my top five rules to provide better customer service in five seconds.

Sound Like You Care

If your customer service is delivered primarily over the phone, tone of voice is top priority.  Let’s pretend I call Delta, and a customer service representative answers, “Thanks for calling Delta, this is Julie. How can I help you?” If Julie’s voice is upbeat and energetic, I’m going to want to talk to her.

You can easily role-play the first five seconds of a call. Practice with your team and set expectations for a positive tone.

Develop the “I’m Here to Help” Attitude

The feeling your team communicates in their voice puts customers on track to be happy, sad or angry.  The reason customers call is less important than what they really want to hear: that your team cares about them and wants to help. (Keep an eye out for my next blog post. I’ll talk more about turning angry customers into advocates.)

You can teach your team to listen and say (without saying), “I am here to help.”

A Customer Call is Like Tennis

Imagine you and I are playing a friendly game of tennis, but instead of scoring points, the object is to simply keep the ball in the air. I start by serving the ball gently to you so you can lob it back and keep it from touching the ground.

It’s the same scenario on a customer service call. If I start the call with an upbeat tone and attitude, I am likely to receive a happy tone in return. Happiness is contagious! The tone of the whole call is based off the first interaction.

Smile and Relax

Have you ever played a slot machine? You may not know the outcome before you pull the handle, but each time you play is an opportunity to win. A customer service call is like that; your team may not know what the customer’s issue is before they pick up the phone, but each call with a customer is a new chance for success.

Teach your team to think this phrase before each call: “Smile and relax, this is a brand-new call.”

Teach Your Team the Soft Hand-Off

One of the biggest customer service mistakes is not providing a soft hand-off. It happens with both automated and live customer service. For example, you call an 800 number for customer assistance. An automated response instructs you to enter your account number. Then, you are instructed to press one to be transferred to a representative.

When you are transferred, the representative responds, “Hi, this is John. May I have your account number?”

Don’t ask your customer to provide the same information twice. If the person answering the call needs to transfer the customer to another team member, make sure you have a process in place to transfer the customer’s information along with the call.

Good customer service is a necessity for your business, and your team is critical to keeping customers happy. Make sure they understand the importance of the first 5 seconds.