The power of the 'Time Out' formula in delivering customer satisfaction

The power of the ‘Time Out’ formula in delivering customer satisfaction

The power of the ‘Time Out’ formula in delivering customer satisfaction

Finding ways to help manage customer service situations to a successful and positive outcome, as well as providing support to service professionals to help, builds resilience in them and leads to better outcomes for all. As we know, sometimes the questions, complaints, feedback or challenges given to our service team members can be unexpected, complex or very demanding. If these situations cause high levels of stress or concern in those who are in daily contact with customers, it can cause a lack of confidence or overwhelm because they are unsure of the best way forward.


Time to reflect and recalibrate 

A key skill that we find makes a difference to service situations and is sometimes missing in customer service teams is a structured and acceptable way for our team members to take a Time Out with a customer to allow for reflection, investigation or just to enable a situation to become calmer so that a better outcome can be achieved.


A simple formula


There is a formula for taking a Time Out in a very professional way and when our team members feel confident that this is an acceptable and, in many cases, very appropriate strategy and are equipped to take this Time Out with confidence and composure, the overall outcome is more positive.  

The steps to taking a Time Out are easy to follow. Firstly, it is important for the service giver to be careful not to raise false hope or put inappropriate doubt into the mind of the customer or other person. So, they need to choose their words carefully. In these situations, the service team member may be unsure of the next steps, what the options are, their level of authority and in fact whether the organisation is willing or able to help the customer in the way they are asking for help.

Phrases such as “I would like to take a time out to check what the best next steps would be,” or “I would like to take some time to find out some more information before coming back to you with options” are useful examples. Here, the service giver clearly states that some time would be helpful to find the best options. They are not raising false hope or creating doubt and show that they are willing to help.


Providing confidence to defuse and reset


In circumstances where a customer has perhaps become distressed or angry, the Time Out strategy is very important too. In your organisation, do you feel your team are confident that once they have used their expertise to move situations forward and they feel they are either nearing the end of their level of authority, are in danger of becoming distressed, or the customer is unable to discuss the situation appropriately with them, that it is acceptable for them to politely and firmly pause the conversation? Having given the customer options to continue a call politely and collaboratively which have not been accepted, to then be assertive and clear that they need to pause the conversation or disconnect the call will buy both the customer and the service giver some time to reflect and reconsider options. How our team members take this Time Out is important. It needs to be done in a calm and professional way which could be stating that their goal is to help the customer, stating a next step such as they or a colleague will call back (at a specific time) to continue the conversation.

For example, “Mr Patterson, I definitely want to find a way forward for you. What I am going to do is take a time out so that we can continue the conversation in an appropriate way later. I will call you back at 3pm today to see how we can make some progress together.”


Essential back-up and getting the timing right


An important aspect of a Time Out strategy is to have the back-up for your team members to hand over the situation to an appropriate colleague or manager and to enable them to be confident that it is OK to ask for help. 

When to press this pause button is also important. In our experience, it is a fine balance. Equipping people with the ability to handle confidently whatever comes their way at work, along with the appropriate empowerment and technical capability, avoids unnecessary escalations. A Time Out as a stated and trained part of your service ethos also helps in managing the sometimes very high demands placed on our service professionals and provides the best outcome or solution for the customer.  

In summary there are four steps in the Time Out formula.  

  • State that a Time Out is needed, ensuring the customer is aware of a next step 
  • Think through the options and solutions for a customer asking for help if needed 
  • Hand over to a colleague or manager if that going to provide a better solution 
  • Ensure the customer is called back and there is good follow up to an appropriate solution 

Get in touch here to find out how MGI’s unique Mindset, Language & Actions Toolkit can equip your customer service teams with the confidence and capability to excel in handling whatever comes their way. 

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