Ever had a phone call or face to face confrontation with someone who was in a Customer Service Department where you almost burst with frustration?
I have. I was reduced to tears. Me! I don't get reduced to tears over stuff like when my phone is going to be hooked up or why my express delivery package never arrived. But I did.
There was me working incredibly hard to remain calm, reasonable, logical and what I got in return was prevarication, disinterest and someone who absolutely didn't listen. This, by the way, was my fifth call to get my problem sorted. And we all have heard stories of people who have made far more calls than I did to try to get some form of satisfaction.
Why, oh why, is it so hard for some organisations to offer the fundamentals of good customer service?
Clearly, I've got a real bee in my bonnet and I will confess that when it comes to customer service I'm like a one-woman vigilante, spotting poor service from 100 paces.
The thing is that good customer service isn't hard to achieve.
Let's start with some basics to think about for yourself or your people who have to deal with customers.
Be a real person talking to another real person
Your customers will listen to what you have to say if they, in turn, feel listened to.
It's quite off-putting to know that people are reading from a script or are using pat answers. I know I don't like it when I'm on the receiving end of over formality which simply distances me from whoever I'm speaking to.
Equally, I don't want over-familiarity (I absolutely hate it when someone calls me Jo - not my name) which is nearly as off-putting as the script reader. False cheeriness will not endear me to anyone when I'm looking for resolution of a problem.
No one should need to put on a 'Customer Service persona'. Pleasant, friendly and welcoming are all excellent qualities that indicate you're talking to a real person.
The empathy thing
I'd say that every list of top tips on great customer service talks about empathy. So why is that? Because it makes my first point about being a real person more possible. It's hard to genuinely relate to another person if you can't imagine what they might be going through. You're never going to feel exactly as they do, but with empathy you can certainly get a fair insight for what's going on for them.
Really listening to what the customer is saying and then reflecting back what you've heard and letting them know you understand all add up to authentic empathy. People respond to empathy are far more likely to calm down and be less stressed when they realise the person they are talking to isn't just trying to get rid of them but cares about resolving the problem.
Resolving the problem
Once you have established a connection then you can get down to discussing the options that will resolve the issue. Not every problem has a straight-forward resolution - wouldn't that be great. However, when you establish empathy and demonstrate that you care about this real person with their real problem you are far more likely to get the customer to help find a solution instead of them berating you for not getting it sorted asap.
An extra bonus is that when someone is treated really well, they are more tolerant of hold-ups and delays and even when you mess up. I've said before that a sign that you are providing great customer service is that your customers will forgive you for your mistakes.
Another sure-fire way to connect with your customers is to show flexibility. You can usually tell when someone is 'taking the piss' and trying one on; most of the time though, your customers just want to get to the bottom of what the problem is and to get it sorted. The more flexible you can be, the better. Sticking to rigid rules says to the customer that the deck is definitely stacked against them.
It really isn't rocket science
Offering great customer service isn't difficult: ditch the script, remember you're both real people, treat your customers with excellent listening skills and empathy, show flexibility and work with your customers to resolve their issues. If you can create an environment where this is the way customers are treated, you will be a customer service master.
Check out Impact Factory's Customer Service courses.