Customer contact point – Why your frontline staff should have the best training

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The first point of contact of customers is very critical to every business and must be manned by the best staff of the organization in terms of product knowledge, emotional intelligence and people skills.

Below are my classification of some of the frontline agents I have encountered based on my experiences with them.

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  1. The naive ones

Back in November 2018, on a hot lazy Saturday afternoon. I was caught in-between having a good sleep (the weather was hot and uncomfortable so I could not really sleep as much as I tried) and lounging in my sitting room with my family. So in frustration, I ended up on my laptop in the sitting room. From sports websites to news blog sites, then I ended up on local popular shopping sites, just to window-shop. Well so I thought because then I just remembered I had just been paid my November salary and then I felt it was a good time to check out some tyres for my car which I needed quite badly as the old ones had worn out and taken a few patches.

Getting tyres for my Lexus mini, (RX350 2010 model, which I purchased as fairly-used by the way. Lol) which aren’t exactly cheap at my income level so I decided to check some e-commerce sites just to compare and if possible lucky to hit some discounts. Then I stumbled on a car tyre shop that looked like a Startup (mainly because they looked relatively new and focused solely on different tyre brands). I figured that would be a good place to get authentic tyres and surely would get them delivered to my house and may be other services. (I am generally too lazy to stress myself in terms of spending money, I always feel I shouldn’t be stressing to get the money and also stress to spend it. Lol).

So then in my not-so-excited, hot afternoon, lazy mood I called the contact number on the website and a young lady (I presumed from her voice and manner of speech) picked up at the other end and the conversation went like this… (Don’t forget my mood, but then I really tried to put up a positive show).

Me: Hello! My name is Paul, am calling from…

Sales girl: Hi Paul, how are you doing? How may I be of help?

Me:  I’m doing great and you?

Sales girl:  all good.

Good start so far…

Me:  I am interested in purchasing tyres for my car.

Sales girl: what kind of car, brand, model and year…

Me: It’s a Lexus RX 350 2010 model. I checked your website and saw you have quite a number of options, reason I decided to call…

Sales girl:  Ok please confirm the tyre sizes you want? (Me thinking: duh, do I need to do this. There are standard tyre sizes which I even confirmed. Well. Not the kind of question I was really expecting at this point. Or was it because I was tired and bored. Or the way she framed the question. I wasn’t quite sure but I was a little bit ticked-off)

Me: Yes I think it’s… front and …. Back… (I actually know my tyre sizes by heart, guess I used ‘think’ subconsciously in reaction to above.

Sales girl: (latches on the ‘think’ and goes on a tirade of lectures). No, you have to be sure about the sizes. Please go outside and check the tyres very well and confirm so I can …. (Not sure I heard the end of the sentence. My head became heavy, did I just get commanded around, when am the one trying to offer you my hard earned money… this isn’t right ..definitely not ….)

Me: ‘very cold okay I will confirm and get back. Drops the call. After 30secs of giving her benefit of doubt to redeem the situation and be more kind, helpful…

Let’s just say that was the end. She gave me a few missed calls over the course of two weeks but I never bothered to pick. At one point I wanted to pick and give her feedback on customer management but I was too angry at her display that I never did (regrettably).

2. The over-confident ones

I had been planning (albeit without setting any serious timeline) to buy a Treadmill for home exercise. Well, not until I noticed my stomach started forming a round daddy bud of recent, then I quite became serious. Fast-forward to this day, when I got news they would be paying us last year’s performance bonus in a few days’ time.

With the bonus in mind, I finally had the courage to call a gym shop I had long bookmarked their site. Before the call, I had checked out their website and saw just a handful of Treadmills on display (about 10) and only about 2 in the lower price range home-use model I was interested in. Hence I needed to call and see if I could get cheaper deals.

A man picked. In the late 30s to 40s from the way he sounded. The salutations went well. Just to set the tone on type I wanted and budget I started by telling him I needed a home use just for my family and I; the cheapest he has etc. It was as if the word cheap ticked him off because he cut me short and started lecturing me that cheap means bad quality, how theirs is of good quality etc. it was a struggle trying to get back in the conversation as he clearly was not done on his lecture. Finally got subdued a bit and I asked the next question… “I saw a few on your site and needed to know if you have more in the warehouse you can show me”. He went off again. That I should come to his shop (duh who goes to shops in era of online shopping, just give me the pics.. or so I thought) then he kept on, “we have all on our website, just check and select”.

And that was it. That was how the call ended. No call to action, no next step, no closure.

I stared on my phone for a few minutes confused as to what just happened and what to do. Then I decided to ease up a bit and perhaps checkout the other item I needed on other e-commerce sites… a Kitchen Heat Extractor… so I opened the website and started to call… (Story of how that went on the next section below).

3. The excellent ones

We all can recall one of those shopping experiences that made us feel.. Yeah! I have come to the right shop and I am definitely buying this item...

The call: I recall the contrast I felt when I called another shop to checkout Heat Extractor (for Kitchen) shortly after speaking with the Over Confident sales agent above. As soon as I called, a lady picked, we had a nice introduction, she gently led me on to understand what I wanted to buy, carefully explained the different types, colors, and how each would esthetically fit with my current Gas burner and the kitchen in general, delivery, installation process and of course costs.

The call generally went very well and peaceful, we agreed on dates for delivery and installation ( I made up my mind there and then to patronize them). The closure was equally as fantastic, then we ended the call. Immediately after that, she engaged me on WhatsApp; sent me the images of the product thanked me profusely and reiterated what we agreed as per delivery, installation and cost.

Key lessons

  1. Purchasing is a split second decision determined by a lot of conditions, customer’s mood playing a key role. Learn to manage the conversation till you get used to the personality of the potential customer.
  2. All the contact channels where customers first make contact with you need to have your best staff. Self driven, positive minded, happy staff.
  3. The customer has done his part of the ‘work’ by earning the money, the fact that he/she wants to patronize you is a privilege to you, don’t make him work at this point, it’s time for you to do your own bit of work. Pamper him/her.
  4. Customer has options, these options are your rivals, have that in mind.
  5. Learn emotional intelligence, customer’s mood is very important, manage it properly. Your own mood (happiness, sadness, over-confidence, arrogance etc.) does not count, ever, keep your mood at the door and take them along while leaving your store. Be happy and positive always while on duty.
  6. Online and offline are one and same, keep up appearance. It’s easy for customers to detect how you are feeling; body language, unspoken words etc. Be very professional and make the customer feel you are there to help them.
  7. Don’t be stingy with information, know your product, more is better than less. Product information is not limited to features, learn about installation, support and use, possible issues etc.. Customers want to know what they are getting into before stepping in.
  8. Go the extra mile in terms of services. Someone that needs a tyre might need a wheel as well or lights etc. even if you don’t stock such, know where and how to provide such. These are your complimentary products. They really compliment you!

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