Customer Service – Are You Even Listening?

customer service reading a script

The customer is not always right.  The computer is not always right.  They system is not always right.

But do you know how to make it right if your clients or customers have a problem?

I have been a business owner for several years.  There is one thing that drives me every morning rain or shine, weekend or week day, feast or famine.

It is not the benefits of setting my own schedule, the ability to choose the clients I work with, the freedom to explore new opportunities or the control of my finances; although these are all great perks, they are not the driver. There is only one true core to my business:

It is a privilege and honor to provide service to my clients.

I remind myself of this after each win with a client – and when there is a challenge.  This week is a great example.  I spoke to two different clients who were thrilled with our work.  I spoke to three others who are beginning new opportunities.  I also spoke to one who was not happy.

I do not always get it right the first time.  I let my clients know this and encourage open feedback.  Bless my client, he is a very polite, respectful gentleman.  Yet, he was not happy with the initial direction.  He was kind in attempting to relate his thoughts.

I encouraged him to give me open, straightforward feedback, even if it meant he hated it. This allowed him to be more honest with me which allows me to zero in on exactly what I need to do.  I encouraged the negative feedback and then thanked him for providing it to me.

Not all companies have the luxury or desire to be selective in choosing their clients.  Some offer services that cater to a wide range of markets.  Some want to be so big that the more clients the merrier the company.  The revenues and conquering of markets and competitors takes a backseat to that fundamental core of having the privilege to serve. Clients take a backseat to expansion and profits.

I personally experienced this today.  I have a service provider that is huge.  I am just one little guppy in their ocean of customers.  I noticed two errors and called to have them corrected.

Long story short – the computer made two mistakes.  The first was reading the system wrong and showing a bill for twice the amount owed.  The second was a reconnect charge when service was not interrupted.

I spoke to three representatives, two initial level and one the next level up.  I was told that the system made a mistake on the billing but not on the fee.  Each one was staunch in telling me that since it was showing on the system that the service was interrupted, than it was true, nothing could be done, pay the fee.

I was told, “I am verbalizing to you that the system says this happened.” I have to admit, that is the first time I have ever had someone tell me they were ‘verbalizing’ something to me.  Where I come from, we normally said, “And I am telling you…”

I was also told that the only solution they could provide is that I would have to pay the fee. In what world is that a solution?  I will admit, I am very impressed with the wordplay used by this organization.

I walked away from this experience feeling that I had just experienced three conversations, no, not conversations, three sessions of reading from a script to a blank wall – and I was the blank wall.

More importantly, I walked away grateful.  This was a wonderful reminder to me to remember my core guiding principle: it is a privilege and honor to provide service to my clients.

Back to my original question: do you know how to make it right if your client has a problem?

No matter the size of your company, your customer base or service you provide; here are three things that will help make it right for your clients when there is a challenge:

Listen

Recognize

Bend if Possible

 

My biggest frustration is feeling as though with the three individuals I talked to, no one listened.  They spoke to me, but not with me.  If one person had said, “let me make sure I understand this” and reiterated what I had asked, I would have felt like a client – not a blank wall.

Listening is not, “I understand you are frustrated and I am sorry to hear that.”  No you are not.  That is a script.  When a client explains a frustration and you respond with a canned line, that is not listening.  That is responding.

My second biggest frustration is the refusal to recognize that there might be an issue with a system, process or program.  If it screwed up one thing, is it not possible it screwed up another?  If one of those three people took the time to say, “There is a possibility that our computer screwed up more than one thing” it would have validated my thoughts. Even if there was not a darn thing they could do about it.

My last frustration, and most minor, was the ‘solution’ was not a solution.  Since they had not heard me, no recognized that there might be an error there was no reason to attempt any type of solution.

The bottom line is, I am paying a fee – no matter what the discussion.  Perhaps I would not have such a bee in my bonnet about it had I been treated like a person.  Validating frustration, recognizing the potential for an error – even if it cannot be corrected – will go a long way in keeping clients.

Sometimes a solution is not possible; however, there are times that it is possible to bend – offer an alternative to bridge the gap even if you cannot repave the road.

In customer service it is paramount to remember that behind each account name and number there is an actual person, not a revenue source, for whom you have the privilege to serve. You may forget this, but they will not when they choose another service provider.

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As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about how we can help you.

 

Work With What You’ve Got

Going outside your comfort zone can be overwhelming.  Even if the step you are taking is a tiny one, it can still cause quite a bit of anxiety.

 

I was asked to give a four-minute talk at a networking event called Sparks.  It is a similar format as the TED Talks with two four-minute presenters and a ten-minute presenter.  The talks are focused on ideas worth sharing – not about promoting your business. 

 

This would not seem like a problem for me, as I am a talker.  I love facilitating workshops and speaking so I was thrilled to present.  It also let me be creative in what I wanted to talk about.  I’m a creative person so again, this shouldn’t have been an issue.

 

I chose to talk about gratitude and for the metaphors use one thing I love: dogs.

 

It is all sounding good and I was getting excited.

 

But here is the thing: I wanted it to be good and what I found was I was running over on my time.

 

If that were to happen I would immediately be clapped off the stage – so it is a strict four minutes.

 

Now the anxiety started creeping in, it was getting out of my comfort zone because I was not able to control all the factors. 

 

Do I trim the talk to make it fit but loose some of the punch?

Do I start over thinking of a new angle but loose the excitement of what I want to use?

Do I adjust my talking speed in the middle to account for the timing?

 

AHA!

 

That’s it!

 

I realized that there is no way that I could really say what I wanted, in the format and flow that I wanted in a “normal” way in four minutes so what I needed to do what use one of my other talents – the ability to talk really fast.

 

If I sped up in the middle of my talk the cadence would throw people off and possibly loose them.  But if I started and stayed at high speed it would be consistent and just might work.

 

People can listen to fast talking and get what is said.

 

The result – about an eight minute talk in four minutes that was very well received.  Oh sure, the speed talking was entertaining, but people also got the message; they heard it, they understood it and hopefully someone got it.

 

This experience reminded me of a line of thinking that I believe my dad instilled in me: use what you’ve got.

 

I was a short kid, a skinny kid and a girl.  I was also a tomboy so all the prior qualities were kind of detriments to that.  But he taught me to use what I’ve got to do what I want.  No excuses, just alternatives.

 

Instead of looking at a problem or goal and thinking about how you cannot accomplish it because you lack certain things, he taught me to look at it and figure out how I am going to succeed based on what I have or know.

 

Whether you are stuck in a situation, take a step back and think about using what you’ve got to solve the problem.  You may not have the education that a company is looking for in hiring for a position, but maybe you have the experience or life skills that compensate or outshine that diploma.  Use what you’ve got.

 

And use it to your advantage.

 

Here is a link to the video of the talk, I hope you enjoy it.

 

 

Lisa K McDonald – Gratitude: Three Legged Dogs and Piles of Poop

 

 

I think my dad would have, but he certainly would not have been surprised by the speed talking.  He got used to that many years ago.

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

www.CareerPolish.com