We Need Assertiveness to Deliver Exceptional Customer Service

Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) exist in every industry, company and profession. Some are lawyers, some are advertisers, some are editors, and some work in call centers. What they have in common is the need to manage their internal and external “customers” with exceptional customer service. The traditional customer is the outsider who buys a product or service. The non-traditional customer is just as important. She can be the colleague from another department or the IT consultant next door who helps you with the software.

To what extent does assertiveness play an important role? Understanding the true meaning and intent behind assertiveness can help anyone overcome challenges with their peers, suppliers, executives, or customers. This intention is to communicate with respect for oneself and respect for others. This is crucial when we get into difficult situations: For example: having to say “no”; expressing disagreement or dissatisfaction; tracking broken promises; or set limits. In all areas of business there will be times when we must agree to disagree. However, the primary goal should always be to keep the relationship intact. After all, we have to keep working with these colleagues, managers and vendors – and we have to keep the customer.

Learning assertive communication strategies directly helps with these confrontations. Assertiveness gives us permission to stand up for ourselves. It teaches us what to say and how to say it. We can learn to set boundaries when others cross the line. We communicate in a way that encourages others to take us more seriously. The goal is to communicate disagreements or dissatisfaction in a way that doesn’t distance others.

In any customer service interaction, when deadlines are tight, the stakes are high and diplomacy is crucial, we must be respectful and communicate with authority. Saying “no” is difficult for many of us. Many people want to avoid the conflict or rejection that often occurs when we decline a request. It’s better if people take us seriously the first time.

learning tip: When saying “no,” keep your tone neutral, free of anger, frustration, or sarcasm. Repeat the prompt to reassure the other person that you understand the question. Briefly tell them why you need to decline. Then use the actual word “no” in your last statement.

“I realize the deadline is tight and you want this report today. To get it right, I need to get input from several other people, which means more lead time. So, no, I cannot finish this report until this afternoon. Let’s look at another alternative.”

Following up on broken promises or missed deadlines is another uncomfortable situation for many CSRs. How do we meet our internal or external customers without distancing them? The assertiveness training suggests wording the verbal agreement as you understood it, followed by an open-ended question. This is a respectful way of confronting someone. It gives them a chance to speak for themselves and explain what factors led to the agreement being broken. This approach is more respectful than an accusation. When in doubt, she agrees with the other person and looks for a joint solution.

learning tip: When confronting someone who has broken a commitment or promise, repeat the verbal agreement as you understood it. Then ask a question.

“I understand that we agreed that you would get back to me by Monday. Today is Wednesday and I never heard from you again. What happened?

Setting boundaries is about teaching others how we want to be treated. When we hear a lot of complaints about things that went wrong and the call gets ugly, it’s important to stand up for ourselves. If someone crosses the line and starts using swear words, we have the right to let them know how we expect to be treated.

learning tip: If a caller starts swearing, let them finish, no matter how long it takes. It is important to address the abuse and not the problem at hand.

“I want to help you with your problem and I will not continue this conversation if you continue to abuse me. Can I have your promise to speak respectfully? Now let’s move on to solutions that will help you.”

Perseverance is a learned skill. In any professional situation, customer service representatives benefit from learning the values, beliefs, and strategies that come with a confident approach to communication. Over the past 15 years of using and teaching this method, I have seen many business professionals improve their customer relationships, increase their professionalism, and reduce their personal stress by adopting an assertive approach to customer service.

Thanks to Bina Feldman | #Assertiveness #Deliver #Exceptional #Customer #Service

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