The differences between customer queries and requestsIn addition to dealing with specific complaints, the main job of a company’s customer service team is to listen, record, and ultimately resolve customer queries and issues. While there is a degree of overlap regarding customer requests and queries, there are some significant differences between the two interactions. A customer query is a specific question from or on behalf of a client related to a product or service your company offers. Organizations typically provide customer service agents (or automated systems, chatbots) with answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) to ensure that customers quickly receive a helpful response to their query. Such a repository of frequently asked questions also helps businesses properly analyze why a particular question is asked so often, ultimately helping to find the best solution. The customer request is a statement made by a customer who would like their wish/need to be acted upon. It could include a client asking your company to change their last name on your records, for example, if they are married, or if your company provides service based on a tier, the client is requesting that their account be upgraded or downgraded. Unlike customer queries, requests tend to have actionable consequences. Naturally, what begins as a customer query may transform into a customer request as the interaction between the client and the company develops.
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How to work with customer requests?Customers are an essential element of any business. Therefore, instead of viewing customer service interactions — whether a customer query, a request, or even a complaint – as a hindrance, it should be seen as an opportunity to create a happy and loyal client who will want to come back in the future and bring friends. Here are our top tips for dealing with customer inquiries and complaints.
- Stay calm: it may not be easy, but you must remain calm when dealing with customer queries and complaints. It may not be easy, especially since your business is probably a source of great pride for you. But don’t take the complaint personally; this is not a personal attack. Often, customer requests highlight areas you may improve in your business.
- Offer different channels of communication: in a small company, it’s hard to keep track of all your customers and the support methods you offer through your website. However, this is easy to achieve these days as several popular platforms provide it as an all-in-one package and all you have to do is find it.
- Listen: nothing frustrates a client more than the feeling that they are not being listened to or understood when they come to you with a question or request. Clients who have a question or problem about a product or service you provide want to be heard, not just ignored. Therefore, customer service agents need to be aware of active listening techniques. It can ensure agents don’t make the customer feel like their request/complaint is trivial.
- Acknowledge the problem: after listening to them, acknowledge the problem and repeat it to the client. By paraphrasing what your client said and repeating it to him, you let him know that you listened to him and understand the problem. Acknowledging a problem does not mean that you agree with what the client is saying; it just means that you know and respect what they have to say. You may say something like, «I understand this must be very upsetting to you» or «If I understand you correctly…» and then rephrase the request.
- Answer: After listening to your client’s questions and understanding what they are asking, it’s time to give an answer or solution. In many cases, especially if the client’s query/request is frequently asked, you may immediately provide the appropriate response/action. However, you may need time or additional resources to find a helpful and satisfactory answer in other situations. In this case, you must reassure the client that you will contact them and respond or confirm the action taken.
- Step out of the shadows: just because the internet has made customer service easier doesn’t mean you always have to interact via chat or email. If you offer a service, such as a web development, copywriting, or social media consulting, it can pay to have a video call with clients. Although video conferencing does not have the same impact as a face-to-face conversation, it still allows you to communicate emotions and non-verbal cues. It’s an excellent way to show that you want to help solve the problem.
- Follow-up communication: if a client’s request/query resulted in you providing a response containing helpful information, it might be a good decision to contact the client later, whether the next day or a week later, to know how things are going.
The most common customer queries and complaintsBelow, we’ll look at a few typical customers requests your support agents may encounter. We will also discuss how you can quickly resolve such issues to maintain customer loyalty. Even if you think you got it right the first time, you should always take every client request seriously:
- Long wait in anticipation: if your team works in a call center, the average wait time (ATH) is one of the most critical metrics for your call center. Clients want quick answers and can’t afford to spend the day with a phone taped to their ears. The long wait time indicates two problems. First, it may mean that your customer demand is too high for your customer support team. In this situation you should consider hiring more representatives to meet your call center’s needs. Secondly, the problem may be that your call center lacks automation. Call center software provides your service team with features that streamline operations and complete tasks automatically.
- Item not available or out of stock: it’s usually a good sign when an item is out of stock, but if it is out of stock, customers can look forward to returning it. They may require special orders or repeatedly request product updates. It indicates an urgent need for your product that must be addressed immediately. As a customer service representative, you may not have a say when a new batch is ordered. Sales representatives should report these issues to their managers, who can notify sales and product management departments.
- Repetition of the customer’s problem: customers don’t like repeating their issues to your reps. It happens when they are either transferred to new representatives or dealing with an agent who does not give them the attention they deserve. It may be tiring and time-consuming when clients have to describe their problems multiple times. If a customer complains about having to repeat their situation, the best thing you may do is stop transferring their call. Even if you need to connect a client with a specialist, reach out to that agent within the company and see if you can pass on advice.
- Disinterested support representative: whether it’s tone, personality, or even the time of day, some customers don’t get along with your customer service reps. When a sales rep can’t meet their needs, some customers think it’s due to a lack of interest in their case. Sometimes this is true; other times, clients have high expectations of what your team can deliver. When dealing with such customer complaints, sales reps should consider what they can do to provide superior customer service. Every business has a protocol, but sometimes it’s worth breaking the rules if it means preventing customer churn.
- New product or feature queries: if your product or service doesn’t meet all of your customers’ needs, they will ask if they can suggest a new product or feature. While some are useful, most are suitable for specific use cases and not for the entire customer base. In these cases, you must have a self-service space where your representatives will submit these customer queries. Such information is valuable, but you can’t let sales reps spend their day listening to customer ideas.