Remember when customer service was actually a service? Those were the days as they say. Now, customer service often feels more like customer aggravation. Lately, I have noticed that many companies have a recording that says due to high customer volume you should call back. They at least use to give you a time range is which your call would be answered. Now, it’s call back. Yesterday, I heard a recording that gave me specific times in which I should call back. Seriously? What kind of service is that? I decided to hang on and see if I could get a rep on the line. It took all of 3 seconds for a rep to pick up. I wonder what happened to the extreme customer volume they were experiencing.
If you Google customer service, you will find sites for software companies selling their solutions. You will find articles from marketing folks writing about the 7, 8 or 10 secrets to customer service. What you will not find is any useful information about what constitutes good customer service. For example, offering strategies and behaviors that are important to have the customer feel they are well served. There was a time when the “customer was always right”. Now, is the time of “this is the way we do it, these are our rules and if the customer gets frustrated or aggravated, so be it”. At least for the most part.
There are some companies who truly provide a good level of service. American Express being one of them, in my opinion. If only, more companies would take their lead. The fact is the customer is not always right, this we know. However, customer service well done, allows for the customer to feel they were heard, and understood. In the end able to walk away feeling they were respected at least and at best achieved some level of satisfaction.
Customers are quite capable of hearing no when that is the answer, if they are treated respectfully. It is nearly impossible to hear no when a customer service rep keeps repeating the same answer over and over again because that’s what their script says. Even worse when one department of a company blames another department and transfers you to that department only to hear that person blame the first one. Better yet, how do you feel when you ask to speak to a supervisor and are told there are no supervisors. Or, after spending an inordinate amount of time being transferred from one person to the next and having to retell your story several times, you finally get to the right person feeling as though you are now going to get to a resolution. Then that person tells you that you need to gather more information. You ask for a direct line to call this person back and lo’ and behold there are no direct lines. And so it goes on and on and on.
And, here is the most frustrating part. There is nothing that any of us can do about it, right? Wrong. There are several things we can do both as business owners as and as consumers. One of the reasons I love doing business locally is because local business owners have the ability to design their businesses according to what they value the most. If you are a local business owner, be sure to think about how you would like to be treated as a customer. Design your customer service program around that and it will directly impact your bottom line. How you may ask? Because you will connect with people in a way that will cause them to want make you their go to business for the product or service you offer. Strive for them to feel respected, heard and serviced and you will have a long-term customer.
For consumers, do business with local companies. Reputation is everything to a local business. These owners take full responsibility for their outcomes, they believe and support their communities and they truly care about the customer experience. These are the people who work and live in the same communities as you do. When there is an issue they have skin in the game and want to make it right.
Now, there are times when we do not have any other choice but to engage with medium to larger companies like utilities, cable companies, large department stores etc. In those situations there is still something you can do. Before you place a call to customer service, prepare yourself by having all of your pertinent information together. Take a few deep breaths and choose the perspective you want to be in during the call. Choose how you will respond if you begin to get frustrated.
First, remember that the person to whom you speak is trying to make a living just like you. They are performing a job to the best of their ability, just like you. And they are doing so within the construct of company rules and regulations. They did not create the process, they are simply implementing it. They are not out to make your day miserable, they are just following the rules.
A good way to start a conversation is to engage them from the beginning as a person. Next time you initiate a call try opening this way. “Hi (use the persons name if it is given) my name is __________, how are you today?” If you are feeling frustrated, stop and let them know that you are feeling frustrated, Tell them politely and quietly what is frustrating you and what you would like instead. Keep your purpose in mind, be patient and compassionate with yourself and the other person on the line. Basically, treat them as you would like to be treated and you will be surprised by the result.