People First: Getting Customer Service Right (Part 1)

That's one special customer
Image by mag3737 via Flickr

CEO Joe, who we are trying to talk into using Twitter regularly, recently created a list of 18 customer service principles that we at DataGroup have always lived by, but needed to put in writing. Here at SmarterBiz, we’re passing them along to you. Check out Part 2 here, and Part 1 below:

1. The Customer Is Always Right

You’ve heard this all your life, more than likely. We all know this is not always the case, but the customer should at least feel like he is in control of the situation.  After all, it is his business and he can take his business elsewhere if you don’t treat him right. Try to avoid putting the customer in a defensive mode by never directly accusing him or her of being incorrect. Try to highlight where they have made an error by phrasing the same thing in a non-threatening way. Another thing to avoid is to get into a conversation fueled by pride. It ultimately doesn’t matter who is actually wrong or right. It only matters that the customer perceives you to be assisting him, not talking down to him. When you leave the customer, you want to keep the communications channel open and have the customer satisfied with the way you’ve handled the situation.

2. Always Remain Professional

Do not, under any circumstances, lose your cool. Even if you are visibly frustrated, keep a cool head. As a service business, there will come a time when customers will argue or be dissatisfied, but you as the professional must work hard to control the situation. In most cases, the customer really just doesn’t understand how the invoice or bill is justified. It is your job as the professional to guide the customer to an understanding of how the process has worked, and how you have earned your paycheck. Nine times out of ten, when this conversation is had professionally with a cool head, the customer will back down.  Regardless of how the customer reacts, stand your ground firmly…but politely.

3. Stay In Your Lane

Do not attempt to perform work outside of the boundaries of your job position or comfort level. When you do this, you’re really just experimenting, which can lead the customer into a bad experience in the name of your ego. Pass the issue on to someone who can do the job, and then ask for training so that the next time, you are equipped to handle it directly.

4. Never Let Them See You Sweat

Going right along with #3, if you don’t know what you’re doing ask for help, but don’t let the customer know. They want to know that they are good hands. Your job is to assure them that they are in great hands: the company’s…not necessarily yours in particular. If you don’t know how to do the job, get someone who does know. Take care of the customer’s needs, not your self-esteem.

5. Ask for Help Early

Most talented people are problem solvers.   We tend to look at a tough job as a challenge and approach it with determination to conquer the problem.    However, what this means is that, occasionally, we spend way too much time on a job before asking for help and the customer ends up with an enormous bill.   Ensure the fastest and most cost-effective solution for the company, and you’ll see an increase in repeat business. Your company can’t afford to eat labor in order to feed anyone’s ego. We all have something to learn from each other and sometimes a second set of eyes is all it takes.

6. Check With Your Team Before You Speak

Don’t bring up other issues to the client without first knowing if your co-workers are handling it. Your co-workers may already know of the issue or they may be handling the issue with another method that you may not be familiar with.   The last thing you want to do is to unnecessarily worry the client. You also don’t want the client to think we don’t talk to each other or that we are incompetent. That being said, if your co-workers aren’t handling the issue with the client, inform them of the issue. Never keep a client in the dark.

7. Present Issues Simply

When you find an issue that needs to be brought to the client’s attention, never use industry-speak.   They don’t care about how much you know.  They just want to know how you can assist them. You don’t want the client to think that you are speaking condescendingly to them. Clients don’t want to be talked down to, they want to be helped.

8. Present Issues Formally

Any situation that is that serious deserves a scheduled meeting with the decision maker, a review with your supervisor, and a written course of action.  This is to inform the client…and to cover yourself.  Make sure the presentation of the issues are done in the right forum, to the right person, and that you have a solid course of action before presentation. You don’t want the client to be confused about what you are doing, and neither do you want to waste your time presenting the same thing to 4 different people, when only one is a decision maker. The client should be assured by your presentation of a course of action…not panicked by it.

9. Be gentle, calming, and non-judgmental.

When you identify a problem, don’t critique someone’s prior work without first knowing who was responsible for setting it up.   This way you don’t undermine an co-worker on your team.    Don’t use phrases like “You should”,  “why is it this way”,  “why haven’t you”,  “you’re not in compliance”, etc.    Be the voice of reason for the client. Present it instead as “I noticed that __________.   It may be because of ___________.   I’ll gladly take care of this for you if you like”.

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  1. [...] People First: Getting Customer Service Right (Part 1) | Smarter Biz [...]

  2. [...] needed to put in writing. Here at SmarterBiz, we’re passing them along to you. You can read the first part here, and the second part [...]

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