Customer Service

Posted on December 17, 2010

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The other day I read an article about customer service. As a customer service manager with five years experience, it frustrated me. Let me summarize.

  • “I know you’re angry. I would be too.” First of all, no human being can ever truly know how another feels. Customer service professionals should banish “I know” from their vocabulary. The basic idea, letting the customer vent without getting defensive, is correct. I also recommend not insulting the customer by putting yourself in their place. You’re not in their place. Instead, let them vent while you focus on fixing the problem. When they run out of steam, suggest your solution.
  • “Find something in yourself that resembles the customer and display it.” I think that’s poorly put and misleading. The idea that you should avoid smiling at an angry customer is a good one. By all means, treat the customer’s complaint seriously.
  • “Avoid saying anything that sounds like a command or contradiction.” This is very good advice. When you say “but,” you’re telling your listener that what you said before wasn’t true. “Of course you’re right, but…” is going to upset your customer. Also, don’t tell customers what to do. Ask them questions. “I could do X. Would that work for you?” “Have you tried X?”
  • “Make your challenge the customer’s challenge.” Don’t do this with a complaining customer. That customer already has a challenge. On the other hand, make it clear that you’re invested in working with the customer to resolve the problem. Avoid passing the buck. Avoid putting the person on hold. Customers love when customer service follows through, so do call them back if you say that you will.
  • “Get personal.” Do get the customer’s name, and do use it. Do give the customer your first name. If you’re waiting for your computer to provide information, make small talk with the customer.

Customer service can be a tricky business. The best advice of all is to be compassionate and human. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes, and treat them the way you would want to be treated.

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