The Guru's Guide to Happiness: Teach the art of great customer service

Some people are born to greatness, some people achieve it through Herculean effort, and some strive their whole life and never obtain it.great_customer_service

In hiring great customer service teams, I've met of a few of the first case: the ones who you know fifteen seconds into the interview that they're getting a job offer and their own desk. And I've known a few that I would build a stone wall to keep them away from any interaction with the public.

But the million dollar question is; can greatness be taught? Is there a formula to get your team to that peak of greatness where you just know they are doing far more for your company's image and future beyond merely answering questions?

I believe the answer to be a qualified yes and here's my mostly infallible 1-2-3 method:

#1: Pick the right people in the first place. I choose people based 80% on their attitude and social skills. A calm, empathic, positive demeanor does a lot toward making your company look good. Skills, tools, knowledge can be taught, but a forward-facing attitude largely cannot.

#2: Teach active listening rather than speed and rapid regurgitation of info. Often, a customer coming to you with a query is flustered and impatient and not at their best at explaining what the real problem is right off the bat. Encourage active listening -- that is, shutting down your internal dialogue and truly focusing on what you're being told. Ask for clarity and details. Really understand the nature of a problem BEFORE formulating a reply.

#3: Show, don't tell. At Olark, I do drive-alongs with each new CS person. I have them sit by my side for a day or two just watching the Olarky approach to chatting with our customers in action. Then I spend a day or two sitting by their side advising them on a case-by-case basis. It's like when my dad taught me to fix my first beater car's carburetor. He sat there and explained and kibitzed while I took it apart piece by piece. Sure, he could have done the job in one quarter the time it took me (best part of 2 days of anguish), but by the time my old Austin Healy was running again and spewing slightly less blue smoke, I had confidence and skills. This is essential during the first weeks of training and again periodically as way of check in, even if it's only reading through chat transcripts when you can't watch them in action.

Speaking of training, check out our sales page for some helpful videos on admin and operator usage. Learn the set-up, managing and best practices to achieving great customer service via live chat.

We recently asked our customers how they teach customer service and got a bunch of helpful replies. Give us your methods here in the comments, we'd love to see them.

Check out relevant topics on: Customer Support

Bill Thompson

Read more posts by Bill Thompson

Bill is the Guru of Customer Happiness for Olark. He's been building and writing about community and online customer service since Internet 1.0.