5 Rules to Improve Customer Service AND Your Personal Life

smiley-coffeeBAD customer services is worse than NO service at all.  I shouldn’t hang up the phone or leave a store with more anger and frustration than when I began.   I know we’ve all had our experiences that were memorable – either because it was over-the-top fabulous or because it was pull-your-hair-out disgraceful!

I happen to be in the business of Client Relations and Customer Support; however I like to call it the business of people.  My skills in customer support have translated nicely into my personal and professional relationships.  Just following a few simple rules can make a customer tell his friends about the great service they received and invite more business.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not always EASY to put on a happy face and give outstanding support, but it is the most important part in sustaining a thriving business or relationship.  So for those of you who currently hold customer support roles remember these basic rules. And for everyone else – you may not be on the front lines dealing with “customers or clients” but practice these simple rules and I promise you’ll see a positive difference in your professional and personal relationships.

1. Treat others like you wish to be treated. It’s the golden rule that applies in all situations. If you can’t personally relate to a person’s question or issue you need to stop and put yourself in their shoes.  Ask yourself, if this was me how would I want someone to assist me and put me at ease.  Even if you think their issue is minor, treat it as monumental and that person will never forgot how you cared for them.

2. Understand the issue before suggesting a solution. You can’t really help someone if you don’t truly understand their issue.  None of us want our time to be wasted with a canned response or a ‘solution’ that is temporary just to get us off the phone or out of your hair.  You’ll save everyone a lot of time and attitude by asking questions to figure out the best way to help.  If you don’t immediately know the answer or how to help, take the time to do some research of your own.  We are all more receptive to a person who can admit that they don’t know the answer but who assures us that they will find it.  It’s a comforting feeling to know that the person with ‘the power to help you’ is on board to get you the results you are looking for.

3. It’s OK to vent. Inevitably you will encounter people who immediately approach you with a negative tone, attacking words, or placing blame.  Whether it’s an email, a call, a voicemail or an in person encounter you must react internally before reacting outwardly.  Human nature tells us to react to this type of behavior with defense techniques so we can protect ourselves.  Customer Support is not the place to react emotionally.  If you get an email that is rude or mean take a minute and vent your thoughts to yourself or even to a coworker who you trust.  Once you’ve gotten all your immediate feelings out you will be able to reevaluate the situation with an empathetic eye.  You can do the same thing with a phone call or an in person situation.  Put the person on hold or if necessary excuse yourself for just a moment to calm down and remind yourself that this person is just upset –it’s nothing personal.  Take a breath, maybe say a few ‘choice’ words in your head (or out loud if you are alone) and then smile-a-mile and return to the phone or the customer who is waiting.  Just don’t take longer than a couple of seconds otherwise you will seem aloof and that will just make them more angry.

4. Smile. The previous tip brings me nicely into the smile factor.  Even if a person can’t see your face they can hear that you’re smiling.  Whether on the phone or in an email if you are smiling it will come through to the person you are assisting.  Just like when you approach someone in a store or at a restaurant to ask them a question you can tell if they are going to be helpful based on their facial expression.  If you are greeted with a straight face then you are going into the conversation with the notion that you may have to work harder to get the help you need.  If you are greeted with a smile then you immediately feel like you are dealing with a friend or with someone who will try to understand where you are coming from.

5. Always offer more than is expected. Helping someone with a concern is standard and expected in the business of customer service and support.  However, going above and beyond is how you’ll get loyal customers and raving fans.  It is up to you to take a disgruntled customer and turn him into one of your biggest fans.  It’s that moment when you have your biggest opportunity to impact him to be a real believer in what you and your company stands for.  By not only resolving his concern in a timely manner but offering him even more for their inconvenience lets him know you are sincere about making the experience a positive and unforgettable one.  If you can’t throw in any ‘extras’ for their experience you can still go over the top with your words and time.  Be responsive and personal with your words so they know that you care about making them happy.  Always ask if you can help with anything else or if you satisfied their needs.  Go as far to give them your direct line or email address in case they have any other problems.