I like to say I grew-up in a Call-center. I have been working in the Salesforce consulting space since 2011, but before that I worked my way through a variety of jobs in a call-center. One of those jobs taught me Salesforce, and for that I will be forever grateful. It was in the call-center that I learned the value of customer service skills. While part of customer service is a talent, part of it is knowing what your customers expect when you are working with them. Salesforce users expected competence and the ability to listen. I worked towards that goal every day. Now in my work at Apps Associates, I use all of those skills and more as I work with clients to implement Salesforce for their unique needs.
After I transitioned to the Salesforce consulting space, I had the good fortune of encountering one of the people I had actually had a conversation with while working as a team manager. It was an odd experience, as my new co-worker had never seen my face, but she approached me and much to my surprise, said “I recognize your voice!” She proceeded to tell me she had been an angry escalation call that I had handled. I was a little nervous until she said she left the call so happy to have been transferred to me, as I had the issue resolved in no time. She went on to say that she would be happy to work on any project with me due to my skill level. That interaction helped build my confidence. I knew at that point that the skills I had practiced everyday on the phone were just as important when I would be working face to face with my consulting customers.
- Here are the best practices I try to live by every day in my work at Apps: Whether on the phone or in person, I try to personalize every interaction.
- Connect meaningfully with the customer. Use their name, let them talk and explain the issues they need a solution to resolve.
- Listen to the customer, especially when you don’t understand the ask the first time. Ask for clarification and additional details, verifying that you are paying attention to their needs.
- Be honest with the customer and let them know if what they are asking for is not a feature that is available. If there is a work-around, provide it with any negative impacts you may know of.
- Always try to go the extra distance.
As part of the culture at Apps Associates, I care how a customer feels after they interact with me. I don’t want them to feel that I am on a timer when working with them. If more time is required to achieve a solution, I like to be sure to schedule the additional time needed, at their convenience. That is not always the usual process in a call center, but in my experience a happy customer is worth more than the low call handling time. In consulting, it is easier to schedule the time for the follow-up and equally important to take the time to find the solution that will satisfy the customer’s needs. In my experience, providing the answer in a follow-up is almost as good as a first call resolution, and sometimes an unexpected, pleasant surprise.
Because Salesforce is such a robust tool, providing consultative customer Service can sometimes result in scope creep. How you handle “beyond the scope” discussions is an easy way to have either a disappointed, but still satisfied customer, or a customer that feels undervalued. The way to keep a satisfied customer is to have the facts when you hold the discussion. As an example, if the answer is purchasing an additional product, such as an application on the AppExchange, do some research, provide contact information, and help them install a trial, or send them a link to a YouTube demonstration. Answer any questions they have so there is no confusion about the why this is happening. Understand their frustration, and do what it is you can do to mitigate it and display empathy. This will go a long way to smooth any negative feelings that unforeseen requirements may cause.
One of the most critical parts of working as a consultant at Apps Associates is the relationships within the consulting group and across the company. Customer service plays a very important role in life with your co-workers, both managers and direct reports. Some people might say “What do you mean? Colleagues aren’t customers!” At Apps, we all work within the understanding that teamwork requires an attitude of respect and helpfulness, up and down the hierarchy. It makes for a pleasant workplace where no one is afraid to ask for help, more gets done, and consequently, everyone benefits.
The different points I have made above can be used to improve outcomes with your team and customers. In this time of Covid 19 and remote work, everything we can do to provide customer service, with a smile, will keep our customers returning for more of the same.
Jody Upton is a Senior Consultant at Apps Associates, focused on Salesforce. Jody has 7 Salesforce certifications and has been helping customers optimize their Salesforce implementations for the last 9 years.