By Kelly Kincaid
This week I sat down with Nella Marov, the illustrious FreeConferenceCall.com Customer Care Manager. Part of the FreeConferenceCall.com family since 2012, Nella moved from the front lines to our management team after her first year. And as the most recent recipient of the Stevie Award for Customer Service Leader of the Year, I thought I’d try to suss out her secrets for success.
K: I understand that next week you’re heading to Las Vegas to accept the Stevie Award. Congratulations! What can you tell me about the process behind your win?
N: Thanks! It’s been really exciting. You become eligible for this category through peer nomination. Once nominated, there is a request for an essay and statistics to back up any data points. For example, I provided information on how many customers we support and how many customer care representatives I manage. I had to demonstrate change over time, such as how much the department grew in 2015 and how many reps were promoted into other roles. I also included a sampling of customer testimonials.
K: Do you have a favorite customer testimonial?
N: Well, getting positive feedback is definitely my favorite part of the job. It speaks volumes about your operation when people freely give you praise. I had one customer who needed a little extra support and called in three different times in a single day — and received outstanding service with every rep he spoke with. That’s the best testimonial I could imagine.
K: It sounds like having a strong department makes a real difference. So how do you ensure you’re bringing the right people onto your team?
N: When I’m interviewing, I tend to look more for sincerity than I do for experience. I want reps with empathy. I need people who can tolerate having their patience taxed given the repetitive nature of the role. I look for efficient communicators; our customers are busy, and they shouldn’t have to wait on hold for very long to receive the assistance they require. In building a strong team, each rep has to hold firm to our high-level service standards. I hire individuals whom I believe will be invested in the position and really push to meet or exceed those standards.
K: So efficiency is critical?
N: Yes. But keep in mind that sometimes, efficiency has to be sacrificed to provide quality customer care. Sometimes, reps need to spend over an hour on a call, walking a new user through the different features of our product, step by step. Within my team, I do my best to instill the perception that this is more than just a job answering phones. I want every rep to take pride in his or her work and prioritize meeting the needs of customers.
K: Can you sum up your biggest lessons learned in delivering customer care excellence?
N: First and foremost, create a relationship. Every caller should feel like more than just a number. A positive relationship starts with never making assumptions about who is on the other end of the line. You have to train reps to expect that every caller is a high-level executive and to treat him or her as such.
I believe that less is more. Resist the temptation to overload callers with details. Oftentimes, the smart and concise answer is the optimal choice.
Also, it is critical to keep up with both product changes and industry developments. Our product is frequently enhanced and there’s always something in the pipeline. That’s why I make sure that all our reps receive weekly trainings on product changes and the roadmap. On the management side, it’s critical to know about industry trends to ensure we remain cutting edge, competitive and responsive.
It is always important to listen — so you don’t lose anyone. Callers aren’t usually expecting perfection, but they do expect a way forward. Reps are tasked with creating that path through the customers’ concerns. That starts with actively listening to the heart of the issue and ends with finding a solution or workaround. To the reps, I always say that angry or frustrated customers are the best opportunities to learn.
Last but certainly not least, your customer care department is a gold mine. In 2016, I firmly believe the most vital element of a company is customer care. Low-quality customer service gives customers a reason to walk out the door. Retention is key — whether we’re talking about conference lines for small business or enterprise conferencing solutions. In a competitive industry, the importance of responsiveness to customers can’t be overstated. So much valuable information passes through customer care. Smart companies allow relationships to be created with customers, leading to feedback that can be passed to product and development teams. That’s certainly how we’ve become one of the best business conferencing solutions around.
Congrats again, Nella! We can’t wait to see what you accomplish in 2016.