How To Be A Great Conversationalist In Customer Service

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all_earsOne of our awesome customer service representatives, Derrick Arteus, recently spoke with a customer for three and a half hours. He talks about that experience below and shares a few tips on handling even the longest of calls.

One hour to the end of my shift. Yes! I’m excited, it’s Friday, and I’m ready for the weekend! Fresh air and sunshine awaits.

I grab the next call in the queue. It’s been pretty standard so far, your generic call center call; you prompt questions, the caller answers, not a whole lot of connection going on. This guy is pretty quiet, considering that what we are doing with his account might take a while. A long while. But he happened to mention that he was on a Mac early in the call, so I prompt him with an open ended question:

“So, how do you like your Macbook? I was thinking of buying one.”

The next 3 hours, 31 minutes, and 46 seconds are a complete blur.

Never before have I heard a customer talk so passionately about a brand that has, as he put it, “changed his life completely.” From efficient and beautiful designs, to innovative work spaces. To this customer, Apple not only improved the way he does business, but also the way his life flows on a daily basis. I was so engrossed that I kept asking questions. Don’t think for a minute that I actually did any talking. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that I was calling the caller, and not the other way around.

Not that this bothered me, because it was inspiring to connect with a customer on such a deep, emotional level.  We managed to turn a rather dull, generic conversation into a dynamic rapport about life, Apple and everything in between. The great part of all this? All I did was ask questions, and the customer was ready to tell his tale.

I talked to the customer about our service for maybe ten minutes, but the next three hours probably turned him into a customer for life, simply because I engendered to make a connection. I think that’s the missing link with many of our interactions in customer service—the lack of any emotional connection. Our conversation was inspiring and taught me a few things about being a great conversationalist:

  • Ask questions, then listen. Nothing prompts someone to open up for an emotional connection like great, big, open-ended questions. Skip the questions that will result in a yes or a no. Instead, ask something broad, and use it as a gauge for the caller’s interest in speaking further.
  • Acknowledge the conversation. This isn’t as easy over the phone, but a simple “ah,” “exactly!” or “hmm …” goes a long way to let the customer know that you are still listening and interested in their subject.
  • Let the story unfold. You might be hitting overtime, but this is a special moment for customer service. Let it happen! Don’t derail an otherwise energetic unfolding, and let the customer tell their story.

As a Customer Service Representative, I’ve found that one of the best strategies for engaging with customers is not to talk, but to listen. To ask questions, and then listen to a story that a customer has to tell. You never know what journey will unfold.


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