According to a Harvard Business Review article entitled Kick-A__ Customer Service — Consumers Want Results — Not Sympathy, 81 percent of customers across all industries attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative. The investment in self-service technologies has been enormously effective at removing low-complexity issues from the live service queue. According to the article’s authors, 84 percent of customers prefer a straightforward solution to their problem. When they do call for assistance, they’re knowledgeable and very demanding.
The authors conclude that customer service representatives fall into seven profiles, which they outline in the article. The big “aha” is focused around two profile types: Empathizers, who enjoy solving others’ problems, seek to understand behaviors and motives, and listen sympathetically; and Controllers, who are outspoken and opinionated, and like demonstrating their expertise and directing the customer interaction.
Intuitively, I would think Empathizers would be the best reps — and so do customer service rep managers, since Empathizers represent 32 percent of all representatives (the largest category). As it turns out, we’re wrong! The trouble is, the messaging managers use in recruiting service reps is often stereotypical of yesterday’s customer service workers, and tends to repel rather than attract Controllers, who represent only 15 percent of all reps. Controllers want flexibility to express their personality and handle issues as they think best (versus following a script), are keen problem-solvers with a unique ability to think on their feet, and are self-starters who are comfortable taking the initiative.
If you’re part of a company that provides customer service reps who assist clients by phone (and probably face-to-face, too), I would highly recommend reading the HBR article. Our old, well-established “best practices” no longer work in this tech-savvy world.
By the way, according to the authors’ research, the best reps, Controllers, are paid the same as other reps and are satisfied with it.