Customer Service Communication
May 7, 2012 Leave a comment
Customer service is most commonly thought of as the customer support / help desk department for upset customers. In this post I explore best practices for customer service and customer care from this Micro customer service / help desk department perspective.
On a Macro level however, the customer service is linked to every person and every thing that impacts your customers’ buying, using and even returning experiences. Look for a soon to be released blog post about Macro customer service – or Follow This Business Communication Blog now (upper right side of your screen), to be sure you see it.
So if people are the triggers, how can you help your customer service representatives unload the gun and turn a potential bad situation into a great experience for everyone – preserving both relationship and lifetime value for customer and business?
The following are customer service techniques I expand upon with clients when establishing policy / procedures / training. I must point out that while this looks like a sequential process, every customer care experience has a life of its own. These are best practices for people in customer relationship positions.
- As an individual – protect yourself. Allow yourself to have needs for safety, respect and care. Know what your responsibilities are. Stay calm and don’t own the situation – this will help you stay creative and open to suggestions for resolution.
- If the customer yells, don’t yell back. You cannot control your customer but you can control yourself. If you stay calm you will be happier, see things clearly and be of much better help to your customer and a better ambassador for your company.
- Be polite at all times.
- If the customer is ‘heated’ (and some will be), stay calm and listen. Listening is your most important job. Don’t jump into solution mode or judge your company’s actions or the customers’ actions / needs / goals. Assigning blame will likely not help at this stage. Give the customer space to let off steam. Comments like “I understand” are safer than “I agree”. When the customer is calmer they may see things differently.
- Let the whole story evolve. As you listen look for the customer’s real need / goal. It may not be what they are pointing at… that may only be a trigger (read my customer service example of the book and the birthday gift). Look for what is getting in the way of them achieving their goal and for other things that might become an issue later on.
- Be careful to use language the customer will understand – which often means staying away from jargon. Communication is based on interpretation and making assumptions – be sure your understanding is correct.
- If it’s your company’s problem take responsibility – but you don’t need to take personal ownership of the problem unless it is your fault (see Point 1.) You should however take personal responsibility for the resolution… for many good reasons.
- Agree upon clear expectations and next steps including who is responsible for what and timelines.
- Confirm again.
- If the resolution takes a while – keep the customer up to date. This shows respect and that you are in control. If they are on hold, check in with them. If the resolution is taking days – call them with an update. If there are delays let them know. Manage their expectations.
- Follow through with the resolution promptly. Speed and accuracy are important. This may help reestablish a profitable relationship and avoid a public relations problem.
- If you can do something extra and unexpected then do it. In most cases it will be noticed. It doesn’t have to be cash and often the personal gestures like a hand written note are more valuable.
- If there is any question as to values, policies or possible next steps… or if you cannot satisfy Point 1 then escalate.
- Pointing fingers and assigning blame is not helpful – uncovering the reason for the challenge is helpful. If the customer is at fault they will realize all on their own – pointing it out may only embarrass them and put them on the defensive.
- Stay positive, upbeat and solutions orientated during the whole process.
- As you need, explain the problem. If it’s an internal issue the customer doesn’t need to know every detail… especially if the information is going to shake their confidence in your solution, your product / service and or your company.
- Do what you can while staying professional and in-line with company values and policies… remembering not to judge (Point 4 above). Perhaps ask yourself… “What would I do for my best friend?”
If you can win them over with your customer care you will have a customer for life.
When you are done… you are not really done. It never hurts to ask, “Would I have enjoyed that experience?” Circle back to see if there is an internal problem that needs addressing so it doesn’t recur. If you can stop other customers from a negative experience that will be valuable on many levels. This also shows customers and employees you have high standards and that you respect your product / services as well as your customers, employees (professionalism and time), and your company.
If you demonstrate pride and respect your employees will pick this up and also be proud. Pride will take your customer service and customer care to the next level – like booster jets on a rocket.
Happy communicating… Happy training.
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