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.

 

Dad’s Advice for College Turned Out to be a Key to Customer Service

dad and daughterMy dad gave me great advice, adages and tidbits of wisdom. One of my favorites is, “If you are never sure what to do, imagine me standing next to you.”

He told me this before I went off to college and considering he was the dad that scared the heck out of all my high school dates, I know the primary intent of this little tidbit. It worked. There is a certain filter that comes with being around your parent, even if you just imagine them there.

I kept this little tidbit in the back of my head throughout my career and as a business owner. I find it very helpful with customer service, good or bad. This week I experienced a contrast in customer service.

The transmission in my car when out. We called several places, priced many options and decided upon one company. Initially it looked as though all would be taken care of in less than a week. Then the transmission goblins stepped in – it is close to Halloween you know. Long story short – three bad rebuilds lead to the company sending it to a dealership for a new one and nearly a month later I (according to the manager) had hit the transmission lotto with a perfectly running car.

I was not happy that each week there was a problem with the newest install; however, this was not the fault of the company, it was a bad transmission from their supplier. Even though I was not happy, I could not blame them; I did suggest they find a new supplier.

In the end, they kept us apprised of what was going on and held true to the original cost and increased the warranty. Things that were out of their control they handled on their end and upheld good customer service to us.

There were plenty of opportunities for great customer service and they kept them front in mind.

This weekend, we stopped in to a McDonalds to grab a quick breakfast. We had a lazy day planned so we were not in a hurry, thank goodness. There were only two young people in front of us and several people waiting on their order.

After we got our drinks we sat down and got engulfed in conversation. At one point we realized we had not heard our order and I saw the young girl still standing near the counter that ordered before us so I knew it had not been called. That is when I looked at the receipt to see what time we ordered. 10:47. Our order was called at 11:15.

It also had to change because one item we ordered were hot cakes, when they handed us the food they told us that they were out of syrup. Well, that would not work. So we asked for something different and got it immediately.

The young girl in front of us who also waited over a half hour for her food – she ordered a cinnamon role and hash brown.

As we ate we tried to figure out what went wrong. Why did it take over a half an hour for these things. That is when dad’s adage came into my head.

The young man at the register never smiled or greeted any customer. He simply took the order without ever moving from his spot. When one angry customer made the comment, “Thanks, a half an hour later!” he made a snarky remark under his breathe. Would he have acted like that if his parent were standing next to him?

The backup crew were busy but without urgency; often standing in front of the screen waiting and watching. If what they needed was not there, they just waited. If their parent were standing next to them, perhaps they would have looked to see what else they could be doing before the order came up.

The woman who called out the orders was brisk; calling out the food and leaving it on the counter. Not once did I see her say, “Thank you for your patience” or “I’m sorry about your wait”. Would she have done so if her parent were next to her?

The thing I realized is that the tone was set before we even walked in. One gentleman walked in and let out a loud groan looking at the line. We told him they were a bit slow today, taking about a half hour. He remarked that they always took that long. I could not understand if he thought this then why was he there and why was he complaining?

Yet the tone was set. There was no customer service. There was no friendly. There was no “we are so sorry for the wait” there was no urgency or energy.

Perhaps they were short staffed, or just had a huge run and obviously the stocking and ordering were not done properly to account for a weekend. Yet, even with these things, there were opportunities for great customer service. They were all missed.

Most customers do not care about your short staffing problems or rushes that you just handled. They care about their experience only. Each and every one is unique and an opportunity to prove yourself all over again.

You cannot always handle or predict what happens during the day; however you have complete control over how you treat each and every customer or client.

My dad worked hard all day on his feet. It did not matter how bad his day was, he always came home and was a great dad. It did not matter what happened five minutes before, it was the immediate interaction that counted.

Putting this with the adage of what would I do if he were standing next to me, I realized that customer service is about that moment. Not the one before or what comes next, just that one moment of interaction.

Perhaps the transmission place got it right because of their advertising or tag line. After all, their commercials are done by the “owner’s mother” and ends with the line, “My Edward, he’s such a good boy.”

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I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.

–Lisa

Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at companies, professional organizations and colleges speaking to leadership, sales, teams, transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about career mobility, personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

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