Customer support representatives are some of the most diplomatic professionals on Earth. It makes sense; they spend roughly 40 hours per week helping angry, anxious, and confused people solve their problems.
Needless to say, having this ability comes in handy in all walks of life. If you want to improve your people skills, read on for the top three lessons from customer support.
1. Never Say, “I Don’t Know.”
It’s impossible to know everything. Occasionally—or maybe often, if you’re in a new role—someone will ask a question that’ll stump you.
Most people respond with something like, “I’m sorry, I don’t know.”
But “I don’t know” is a conversational stop sign. Where does the other person head from there?
Although not having the answer is perfectly fine, giving an unhelpful response is not.
Customer support agents give a much better answer: “Good question. Let me find out and get back to you.”
Clearly, saying this will do far more for your credibility and reputation as a resource.
2. Be Empathetic
Support reps will always empathize with the customer, even if that customer is acting rudely. They understand that being open and kind is much more productive than arguing with the person or staying matter-of-fact. After all, sometimes people don’t want you to do anything. They just want to be heard.
With that in mind, try saying one of these lines next time you’re talking to someone who’s upset:
“I can imagine that would be tough.”
“From what I’m hearing, that must’ve been a stressful situation.”
“It sounds like ____ would have been frustrating.”
“I think anyone in your shoes would have felt the same way.”
Statements like these tell the other person you’re on their side—which usually mollifies them. However, avoid statements like, “I know how you feel,” or “I’ve been there, too.” Unless you’ve had an identical experience, assuming you know exactly what they’re going through could easily annoy them.
3. Respond to Feedback with Gratitude
Criticism normally stings. Who likes to hear they’re not doing a good job? Well, support agents do! Companies are grateful to learn that, say, one of their integrations isn’t working, or an important link is broken. So when a customer goes out of their way to flag an issue, representatives thank them enthusiastically.
Apply the same mindset to the constructive feedback you get. If you view it as an opportunity to improve—rather than a value judgment on your abilities—responding graciously will be much easier.
You can borrow a second technique from customer support. Not only do they say thank you, they also let the other person know when and how the problem will be fixed.
For instance, they might say, “I’m going to let our product team know immediately. Expect to see that updated within the next 24 hours.”
Providing a clear plan shows the customer they’re being taken seriously.
Ready to put it all together? Suppose you’re a project manager, and one of your team members tells you, “I feel like I’m being micromanaged.”
A support-inspired response might be: “Thanks for bringing that to my attention—I really appreciate it. I’ll stop asking you for updates so often. How about if we check in once every two days?”
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