I want to be able to talk and phrase things in a diplomatic non confrontational manner like a tech support / customer service representative, where can I find more information about doing this?
December 9, 2012 3:29 PM   Subscribe

I want to be able to talk and phrase things in a diplomatic non confrontational manner like a tech support / customer service representative, where can I find more information about doing this?

I am ashamed to admit this, but when I speak to customer service representatives, though their phone manner is completely robotic and false - some part of me is pacified by their deliberate phraseology. I'm fairly certain that the things that they say have been whittled down via experimentation by experts to evoke just this sort of response.

Where can I access that sort of data? As a small business owner, I want to learn to talk like this in some instances, or at the very least steal parts to make people happier on the phone with me. I've seen some basic call handling scripts on-line, but that's not exactly what I'm looking for.
posted by Feel the beat of the rhythm of the night to Human Relations (11 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
It's just customer service. You can take classes in this.

My job sent me to a help desk analyst class through the Help Desk Institute about 10 years ago -- here is their generic 'customer service rep' class.

The class I took involved a bit of role playing, and just some general psychology about handling customers, as well as honing problem solving skills.

A lot of this training is done on the job though -- at a job like that, they'll have supervisors monitoring calls and so on.
posted by empath at 3:46 PM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can also try taking a psychology class in counselling. "Intentional interviewing" covers communications strategies like this, as does "active listening".
posted by KokuRyu at 3:53 PM on December 9, 2012

Note, though, that they may not simply be extemporaneously coming up with everything to say; there's often a script they're running through which has been pre-written and polished and as you give each response they indicate that to a computer and it gives them a menu of further questions and responses.
posted by XMLicious at 4:14 PM on December 9, 2012

It's just basic empathy. Put yourself in the shoes of the caller and try to imagine the interaction from their point of view.
posted by COD at 4:26 PM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I was hired twenty years ago at a Fortune 100 corporation's 800 # as a customer service rep, they had us read--and trained us using--two books: Power Talking by George R. Walther, and The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense by Suzette Haden Elgin.

At the time, my company's call center was considered the best of any company's 800 # in the US, and we were known to have the nicest 'no' in corporate America. I use the lessons I learned out of those two books--particularly Elgin's--to this day in my job in sales.

I think it's important to realize that what good customer service reps do is not just about what they say. It's also about listening to the customer, identifying their needs, establishing empathy, and helping them understand that you are listening to them and you are willing to work with them. Elgin's entire Verbal Self Defense series of books are gold for this sort of thing.

Both books are highly, highly recommended for anyone who has to deal with customers.
posted by magstheaxe at 5:15 PM on December 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

The Apple Employee Guide might be a good read too, if you can tone down some of the more sales-y talk. Snark aside, Apple's customer service is a large component of their success.
posted by meowzilla at 5:16 PM on December 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Since you say you are not looking for scripts, I will suggest "The mind and heart of the negotiator" and "Getting to yes". Both were texts in a college class I took on Negotiation and Conflict Management. Understanding what the other person wants, what they are reacting to, etc. helps a whole lot. Both books are research based. "Getting to yes" is a fairly quick read. The other book is a lot meatier.

You could also look for books on social psychology. I took a social psychology class in college many years ago. The book from it was lent to my husband when he had recruiting duty for the army. Army recruiters get world class sales training. He basically confiscated my social psychology book because it was so useful to him. Unfortunately, I have no recollection of a title.
posted by Michele in California at 5:43 PM on December 9, 2012

Perhaps learning to negotiate may help. The standard is "Getting to Yes"
posted by Gungho at 6:34 AM on December 10, 2012

Some additional tips:
-Try your very best to be in a positive mood because IMO, it does affect the types of interactions you have with your clients
-Focus on what you CAN do rather than what you cannot do
-Explain jargon in layman's terms
-If something can't happen then explain why it cannot happen
-Develop empathy for the client
-Use active listening skills
-De-escalate a situation before it reaches the point of conflict

This tip is kind of long, but...
-Learn to differentiate between various types of customers/clients within under a couple of minutes. I've reached a point where I can do this under a minute now just by focusing on their tone and how they address their needs. This will help you with framing responses.
-There are two types of customers from what I've gathered: 1) the curt and/or very professional and 2) the friendly and/or personable customers
-People from the first group are generally upset, sensitive, or don't like wasting their time. When interacting with the former: follow a similar conversational approach by being to the point, except continue to remain polite and respectful throughout the entire conversation.
-People from the second group tend to be polite, optimistic, and interested in conversing with you as a person. Share this interest by communicating in a similar manner (make small talk, share a few jokes, show concern for the client's needs, etc...) while maintaining control of the conversation.
-Differentiate between these two groups of clients based on their tone and diction. For instance, people from the second group tend to take a bit longer to explain their needs whereas people from the second group will call you and flat out say "I need _____."
-Some customers will be easier and more pleasant to deal with depending on your own personality type, but regardless of your preference always...
--Ask the client if there's anything else that you can do to assist them. A lot of people are hesitant about asking more than one question, so you might need to offer additional assistance again.
--Let the client know a) who to contact in the future and b) how to contact this person.
--Always end the call on a positive note. For instance, I was taught to say something like "good luck with everything I hope things work out well for you" rather than just "bye." It may sound a bit awkward at first, but it tends to create a better image for your company.
posted by livinglearning at 11:47 AM on December 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

I learned Non-Violent Communication for counseling, but I've also found it incredibly useful for customer service. There are some parts that don't apply--you're not really going to be using a lot of "I" statements or telling your customers/clients how you feel--but there's a lot of great stuff on how to be non-confrontational in your communication and how to listen effectively, which is an important part of good CS.

A few other tips from my years of highly-commended customer service in some pretty sensitive fields:
  • Smile (they can hear it!) and use a warm, friendly tone even for the most basic and robotic of exchanges
  • Don't skip the pleasantries, but don't repeat them robotically. Phrases like "Thank you for calling," "Have a great day," and "We appreciate your business," and general small talk-type stuff, should sound sincere.
  • If you must use a script, learn it well. If it's necessary to deviate from it when something unexpected comes up, learn to do so smoothly and confidently.
  • Speak to the customer where they're at: mirror their tone (unless it's hostile), and use the words they use even if they're not the official or technical terms
  • Let them finish speaking. Don't interrupt, even if it's to save time or correct them or be extra-helpful, because even when it's helpful it's annoying and can put them on the defensive.
  • Speak with authority. "Part A should be compatible with Part B" and "I'm pretty sure we carry that" don't impart confidence or reassure the customer that you're helping them.
  • Show empathy and understanding if something has gone wrong. "I'm sorry, I know how frustrating that must be" can go a long way toward calming a hostile customer and even making them happy.
  • Try to say "no" (literally and generally) as little as possible. If you can't offer them what they want, offer them an alternative.
  • Make sure you've answered all their questions and met all their needs. Always ask if there's anything else you can help them with. Give them exactly all the information they need (order numbers, shipping dates, confirmations, whatever) but no more information than they need.

posted by rhiannonstone at 2:38 PM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

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