Great Customer Service May Start With You

You receive an envelope from your bank and quickly rip it open. Inside is an overdraft notice. “THIS CAN’T BE!” you scream. You are peeved. Really peeved. You resolve to go stomping into your branch and reading the riot act to the first teller who flashes a smile your way.

You grab your checkbook and that envelope, and head out the door. It takes awhile to get there, which is fine. You have time to compose your thoughts. “Boy, is she gonna get it!” is one of several going through your mind. But during the course of your drive or walk, a funny thing happens: you calm down.

Strolling into your branch you hear a friendly “Can I help you?” and walk up to the teller window. “I got one of these,” you say, flashing the envelope. “Let me see,” the teller replies as she brings up your account on the screen. As you both review your recent transactions, another funny thing happens: you realize you failed to make a certain deposit. “That’s all I need to know,” you reply, sheepishly drifting toward the door.

Sound familiar? The above incident happened to me many years ago, and it taught me a powerful lesson. Contrary to what you may have heard, the customer isn’t always right. Worse, that showing an attitude can actually make matters worse.

Customer service people are humans too

As one who has spent years on the other side of the line, I know what it feels like to face irate customers. But I also understand the compassion and empathy that customer service people have and the genuine desire to make things right. You as a customer can help that process by following a handful of simple steps.

1. Be calm. That can be difficult, especially if you’re getting the run around. It does no good to explode on anyone in the company at any time.

2. Be willing to re-explain the situation. Eventually your issue will land on the desk of someone who can help. That person will probably want to hear the story directly from you. Take a deep breath, stifle your emotions–yes, this may be the 5th time you’ve talked about this–and restate the matter from top to bottom. Include as many details as you can recall. Try to have all your documentation handy in case additional copies are needed.

3. Have faith. As difficult as it may seem at times, customer service people are paid to solve problems, not generate new ones. We like to clear the deck, so to speak. Plus, it feels good to do so. (More on that in #5.)

4. Be patient. It may take time to resolve your issue. On the flip side, the customer service person should be keeping you updated. If it’s not offered, feel free to ask approximately when you can expect updates, and how.

5. Offer thanks. Eventually, one hopes, your problem is resolved to your satisfaction. If you want to melt a customer service person’s heart, offer either of these comments: Thanks or Thank you. You can’t imagine how good it feels to hear those words. Remember, customer service folks have feelings just like you. Extend a kind word whenever you can. Believe me, it will be greatly appreciated.

Want to go a step further? Send a note or e-mail to the person’s supervisor explaining how helpful the employee was. Managers take note of those comments, especially during annual reviews.

Errors are a fact of life. With the proper attitude, customers can help ensure timely resolutions to their problems. In turn they receive the level of service they deserve and expect.

Have a noteworthy customer service story to share? Feel free to discuss it in the comment section. If you found this column valuable, could you do me a favor and share it with others? Thanks!

Tom Fuszard, corporate storyteller, content writer




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