By Jeff Walker
In my last customer service article, we talked about some of the tools that are important when dealing with customers. In this article, we will continue adding tools to the customer service toolbox. In addition the previously mentioned strategies, these tools will be invaluable in helping you deal with customers.
A willingness to make things right
As much as we try, things will and do go wrong from time to time. At this point your communication skills and your ability to listen are key to solving the issues. First, you have to find out what went wrong. Often times it’s not easy to hear out a customer who is angry about something that happened that made their move more difficult. And as a customer service rep, you have to be able to weigh both sides of the story. In my experience, there is three sides to every story. The customer’s side, the service provider’s side and somewhere in the middle is the truth. In speaking with the customer, and then speaking with the service provider it may be possible to sort out what really happened. Sometimes you’ll have to go back to each multiple times. Eventually you’ll need to decide what’s right for the given situation, and find a creative solution to the problem. This may involve a willingness to be flexible with the customer.
Every company has rules and policies that are designed to make the company as efficient and productive as possible. After all, a business is in business to make money. That being said, there are times when following the rules doesn’t work in anyone’s favor, and there may come a time when you will need to “bend” the rules a bit to do the right thing and help the customer walk away with a smile on their face.
To illustrate this, I always come back to a story that took place my second year at MovingScam.com, when an angry customer posted a complaint about one of our newly endorsed moving companies. The customer worked from home at a desk, which had taken some damage from their previous move to their new home, and as he worked from home every day, every day he looked at his desk and was reminded about the damage that had happened during his last move. It would be easy to say that this customer should have filed a claim and been done with it. However, one of the VP’s of the company in question decided to do something about it. Taking initiative, he sent a woodworker out to repair the desk, and offered the family a gift card to a local restaurant. This was all after finding out the move had taken place six years prior to the review! The company had a policy that claims must be made within 6 months of delivery, yet the VP took the time to make sure his customer was still happy. Both were low cost alternatives to replacing the desk, and the customer walked away happy that the company was willing to make things right, even after all that time had passed.
I don’t necessarily believe that every company should go to these extremes to help out their customers, but at the base of this act was the core belief that every customer who walks through our doors should leave knowing that we did our absolute best to make their move a pleasant one.
Keep your cool
As difficult as customers can sometimes be, it is up to you to remain professional at all times. Reacting to a customer’s threats of lawsuit with an angry tone or counter threats can just make matters worse, and inevitably lead to harming the company’s reputation, or yours. Remaining professional throughout your conversations with your customer, despite the abuse you might be taking, shows that you have the tenacity to handle yourself well in a less than perfect situation. Professionalism allows you to rise above the situation and objectively find a way to handle the problem. It also reflects well on your company that you, as their representative, showed poise and dignity under fire. Customers can appreciate this, and they may even lower their tone, when they realize their initial tactics aren’t working for them.
That’s right! Smile! When I first started my job in customer service, we were each issued a mirror that we were to place next to our monitors as we took our phone calls. The reason? People can tell the difference when you’re smiling and when you’re not. Believe it or not, most people can actually “hear” that difference over the phone! Take the time before each call and think about something that makes you happy, and when you answer that phone, make sure you still have that smile on your face.
Please and Thank you!
Someone once wrote, “Everything I needed to know about life, I learned in Kindergarten”. While most of us would argue that what we do in our adult life took a much bigger education that this, to some degree it’s true. Common courtesies go a long way in making your customer feel appreciated. Using words like “please” to ask your customer to perform a task, and “thank you” before you hang up lets your customer know just how much you appreciate them. On the other hand, using these courtesies too frequently can also cause you to seem “phony”, kind of like when you’re dealing with that cable company support guy, who says “thank you” after every sentence. You know he’s just reading off a script or saying “thank you” simply because that’s what he’s been told to do. Use good judgment when using your courtesies and just be polite.
Ask for feedback
One of the things I’ve noticed since coming into the moving industry is the abject fear of criticism. This is not true of every company, but the industry as a whole has an overall fear of what their customers might say about them. Negative comments are viewed with fear and suspicion and there isn’t a month that goes by that I don’t hear about someone wanting this or that review removed because it might affect their reputation.
Don’t be afraid of your critics! A good company knows that from time to time things won’t go the way they should. Maybe it’s a failure in the system, maybe it’s a new employee who is still learning the trade, but things can, and will go wrong. A good company also knows they can learn from that criticism. It tells them where they failed and helps them to learn what they can do to minimize that failure in the future, making them a better, stronger company.
Folks, making that bad review go away may help you in the short term, but inevitably, ignoring the problem won’t make things any better. And your customers know that fact. If you’re ignoring the problem by trying to address criticism by making the criticism go away, you will be confronted by that problem again and again. Ultimately, what determines the character of a company, is not only how well they do their job, but how they react during times of difficulty. When a new customer goes to a review site, and sees that there’s been a problem, but also sees that there is a solution to that problem, it increases the trust that consumer has in that company’s ability to handle their move. In short, do the right thing and you’ll gain more customers and repeat business.
In the end, good customer service isn’t something that just happens, it’s a strategy that is carefully planned and executed, and it requires that everyone in your company is on board with those policies. Good customer service helps increase the public’s trust in you and eventually leads to more business, and that is worth every penny you put into your customer service program. In Part 4, we’ll examine the other side of the coin, what it means to be a good customer.