Taking customer service calls can be harrowing, even on the best days.

Whether this is your first call or just the first of the day, it can help to have a quick reminder of some of the most effective strategies for defusing frustrated callers and helping to solve their problems. After all, customers who have their calls resolved by the first customer service representative they reach tend to also become more engaged with the company, just because someone did their job well.

All Callers Want is Someone to Hear Them

At the end of the day, most of your callers just want to be heard.

It sounds easy, but it can be difficult. There’s a fine line between helping callers in a way that doesn’t waste time and rushing them off the phone, but it can be just a whisper, depending on the caller.

These tips should help you win the first call resolution game:

  1. Look at the problem from the caller’s point of view. Sure, you’ve heard this plenty of times. What would you want if you were the customer? How would you feel about the situation? It’s old advice, but it’s good advice, if you heed it properly. It extends far beyond receiving the wrong color bicycle two days before a child’s birthday, though. Everything is connected in some way.You’re not there to be a counselor, but if you consider the many other situations that could be contributing to the caller’s apparent overreaction, you may be able to be a little more empathetic. Perhaps the child has just recovered from a serious illness or the other parent is no longer in their life. Looking at problems through other people’s eyes really is just a technique to help develop empathy for a voice on the opposite side of the phone. It could well have been your own mother making this same frantic call when you were a child. It could be you one day.
  2. Listen carefully for opportunity. A lot of customer service representatives try very hard to guess what their callers want before they’re told. And in a great number of cases, these outcomes are fairly easy to predict. But the problem here is that eventually, you turn into a guessing machine and not a listening human. When someone who presents an opportunity to grow your brand calls, you go straight into guessing mode and miss that shot entirely. Instead, stop guessing. Start listening. What the caller doesn’t say is often as important as what they don’t say.For example, imagine you’re taking calls for a company that manufactures and sells home office printers and a caller connects to you to ask about a return. Every time they try to use the Wi-Fi print function with their computer, their printer model XYZ completely ignores them. It doesn’t matter how they configure the printer, where it’s at in the room or anything else, it simply won’t do the job. They were assured that the printer had built-in Wife when they bought it and even saw it print from a tablet over Wife.

    Ah ha, you say, as a light goes on. This person doesn’t have a printer problem at all. This person has a computer problem and your company just happens to sell a USB Wife antenna for computers. When you advise the caller of this, they let out a sigh of relief. They realized they hadn’t considered the computer wasn’t configured for Wife. You just saved their sanity, you earned big points for your company and you turned what could have been an expensive returns process into a small, but profitable, sale.

  3. Be genuine and open to out-of-the-box thinking. Even if you don’t have a chance to read between the lines and magically fix problems that callers don’t even realize they have, you can always be genuine and work to fix problems with all the tools you have available. This means that you have to know how those tools work, inside and out, so you can take advantage of them in any and all ways they’re meant to be used. Don’t put on a show for the caller, just relax and be yourself and it’ll all go fine.

It’s easier to have a successful customer service call than you might think. It’s all about being genuine, flexible and empathetic. Some people are naturally good at these things, others need a little practice, but active listening helps a lot!