Demonstrating patience in customer service is more important than many business owners realize.
The phrase “patience is a virtue” rings true when agents deal with frustrated consumers. Often, the soft skills of customer service reps have the most significant impact on your brand reputation.
Studies show that customers prize friendly service experiences more than fast and efficient interactions. In a world of AI and chatbot interactions, customers turn to human agents for genuine, compassionate conversations. Unfortunately, living up to expectations can be challenging.
Today’s service reps are under increasing pressure to handle larger volumes of calls faster than ever before. Contact center leaders still prioritize low average handling times and rapid resolutions. As a result, only around 9% of contact center agents believe empathy is their biggest strength.
However, training agents to show patience in customer service could pay huge dividends.
Here’s what you need to know about the power of patience in the CX landscape.
The Importance of Patience in Customer Service
Customer service agents need various skills to connect with, engage, and retain customers effectively. They need to be excellent at time management, incredible at seeking solutions, efficient in their work, and endlessly empathetic.
However, patience may be the core building block of any fantastic customer interaction. Showing patience in customer service doesn’t just mean staying calm and collected as customers rant about their issues or struggle to explain a problem.
It means actively listening to customers, showing them compassion, and demonstrating a commitment to putting their needs first. Patient reps can stay composed and collected during difficult situations, meaning they’re more likely to quell angry customers. successfully
Patience makes it easier to “de-escalate” a situation and ensures agents can fully understand a customer’s issue. Tolerance essentially forms the foundation for empathy in customer interactions, and empathy is becoming increasingly important to buyers.
96% of customers say they believe empathy is crucial in the contact center.
The Problems with Patience in Customer Service
Unfortunately, while patience is a fundamental customer service skill, it’s not always easy to maintain. That’s particularly true in a world where consumers are becoming increasingly impatient.
Studies show that in 2022, 66% of customers agreed they were becoming increasingly less patient with businesses. Buyers are demanding more from brands. They want every interaction to be fast, convenient, personalized, and delivered on the channel of their choice.
In what often turns out to be a vicious cycle, many customers vent their frustrations on agents. After waiting in long queues or struggling with complex self-service strategies, 1 in 3 customers say they’ve sworn or even screamed at an employee.
Unhappy customers lead to more impatient, overwhelmed, and stressed employees. Faced with overwhelming aggression, many agents start to lose their cool. The study above revealed that around 73% of customers had experienced an agent being rude to them.
Tips for Showing Patience in Customer Service
At a time when 86% of customers say a company is only as good as its service, business leaders are actively investing in honing agent soft skills. Many top contact centers worldwide provide agents with scripts and training designed to help them demonstrate empathy.
While preserving patience in customer service isn’t always easy for stressed reps, there are steps agents can take to minimize common issues.
1. Practice Active Listening
One of the easiest ways to show patience in customer service is to simply focus on listening more than talking. That might sound counterproductive when you’re keen to move a conversation along as quickly as possible, but listening can be powerful.
To demonstrate active listening, ensure you don’t interrupt customers as they tell their story. Don’t dive in with potential resolutions before they’re finished explaining things. When they’re finished talking, ask questions about the issue. Repeat the problem to the customer and ask them to confirm you’re on the same page.
2. Show Empathy
As mentioned above, empathy and patience go hand-in-hand. Practicing actively empathizing with customers means agents can disconnect from their own feelings of frustration. Instead of worrying about your average handling times, try stepping into your customer’s shoes, and look at the situation from their perspective.
Even if you think the customer is unreasonable, you can probably understand why they’d be frustrated or upset by a problem. Share your empathy with them with statements like “I understand how upsetting this must be.” This will help customers to feel validated and could lead to the situation becoming a lot calmer.
3. Display Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence isn’t just about understanding and empathizing with other people’s feelings. It’s also about recognizing your emotions and knowing how to express them. All agents start to feel aggravated after dealing with a demanding customer for a while. A strong level of EI can help with showing patience in customer service.
Showing emotional intelligence means recognizing that feeling and thinking about how your response will affect the situation. Thinking before you respond to a hurtful comment and paying attention to your tone of voice will help you to maintain a composed, professional image.
4. Don’t Take it Personally
Rude customers are a common issue many customer service reps have to deal with. That’s becoming increasingly true now that consumer expectations are evolving. If agents don’t answer a call quickly enough, or customers are already frustrated by the time they reach an employee, they’ll show it.
This can mean unhappy customers end up lashing out at service reps, insulting them directly. Nobody likes dealing with conflict. But the important thing to remember is that these customers aren’t angry at you. They’re stressed by the situation.
5. Pause Before Responding
Just as it’s crucial not to interrupt a customer when they’re explaining their problem, it’s also crucial to know how to formulate a response carefully. Although avoiding too much “dead air time” in the contact center is essential, you can still take a breath before responding.
If you’re feeling particularly emotional, take a moment to think about the words you’re going to say and look at how you can reframe them into something more positive. Rather than saying, “I can’t do anything about that,” say, “Unfortunately, I’m going to need some help on this.”
6. Control Your Tone of Voice
It’s not just what you say that matters when showing patience in customer service; it’s how you say it too. Sometimes, when you’re frustrated by a long and complicated call, your exhaustion can show through in your tone. If you notice you sound aggravated or snippy, try to adjust.
Take a moment to clear your throat or get a drink of water if necessary, and return to the conversation with a more positive style of speech.
7. Use Technology to Guide You
The modern contact center platform is an incredible thing. Today’s agents have access to various tools that can help them deliver more memorable experiences. With conversational analytics, you can get an insight into your customer’s sentiment in real time. This can help you determine when you might need to show more patience or empathy to preserve a good experience.
If you’re struggling to understand the issue a customer is explaining, you can use integration with your company’s CRM platform to gather notes from previous calls for more context. There are even AI tools that can suggest next-best actions and guidance to agents while they work.
8. Use your Communication Skills
Excellent communication is crucial to showing patience in customer service. If you can’t build a rapport with your customer and clarify their problem, then both of you will likely feel more frustrated and upset. With that in mind, work on your communication abilities.
Think about how you explain things to customers. Do you often use jargon words that are difficult to understand? Could you simplify your statements? Ask yourself how you can improve clarity by asking probing questions in a kind and empathetic manner.
9. Maintain the proper mindset
Stress and anxiety are common factors in the contact center. The more problematic conversations you encounter as an agent, the more your emotional health may suffer. While business leaders can take steps to minimize stress with programs for employee well-being, there are things you can do, too.
For instance, think about your mindset when going into each call. What are you focusing on when interacting with customers? If you’re just trying to get through as many calls as possible, your patience will likely be thin. However, if you’re focused on positively representing your brand and actively helping customers, you may be able to stay positive for longer.
10. Know how to Frame Your Actions
Finally, sometimes your actions as an agent can accidentally demonstrate impatience. For instance, if you decide to transfer a customer to someone else, they might think you’ve given up on them or you’re no longer interested. Framing your actions correctly with positive statements can help improve your client relationships.
For instance, instead of just saying, “I need to transfer you,” say, “I hear you’re having an issue with [problem]; I think the best way to fix it would be to get the help of [agent]. [Agent] has a lot of experience in these matters. Would it be okay to transfer you?”
Preserving Patience in Customer Service
It’s easy to overlook the importance of something as simple as patience in customer service. Many of today’s contact center leaders are so focused on improving the efficiency of their contact center agents that they can overlook “the basics.”
The reality is that no matter how amazing your AI tools are or how empowered your agents might be to deliver service on multiple channels, nothing makes up for lack of patience. Without patience, agents can’t deliver the authentic human experiences consumers are looking for.