[This article was written by Dawn Castell.]
We’ve all been there before. Something we’ve bought either online or in a store has failed to arrive at the appropriate date, and so we call the customer service line in order to figure out what went wrong. After listening to our issue, the representative calmly issues a simple fix to the problem, assures us that everything will be fine, and then politely hangs up the phone. Everything sounds great until one tiny thing happens…
…Our item still doesn’t arrive.
By this point, we’re fuming about the problem for two reasons: (1) What we paid for still isn’t here, and (2) we were given the run-around by the company that we bought from in good faith.
Good customer service can make or break a company. Some companies, like Chick-Fil-A, are known for their great customer service, whereas others simply treat it as an afterthought.
Truthfully, there are a million reasons why customer service should be at the forefront of your mind, and if not, it needs to get there pronto. And one of the best ways you can do that is to teach your employees to think critically.
1. Get to the Core of the Issue
Customer service is a tough job because, by its very nature, the only people that call up are the ones that are having problems with your company. They’re already upset about something, and in many cases, may be downright furious by the time you reach the call.
Instead of bouncing around the conversation looking for a “quick-fix” to the problem at hand, try and understand what the core complaint is. The problem can be something as simple as not receiving a receipt or a rental car being late. If that’s the case, the only thing that matters is solving that one specific problem. Resist the urge to simply offer one idea in the hopes they’ll become someone else’s problem, stay with them until you’ve discerned what the real issue is.
2. Get All the Information
In their anger, customers may contact your company and start talking about anything and everything, whether it’s relevant or not. In these situations, be sure to ask as many questions as possible to redirect their mind to the matter at hand and get them focused on the problem. If they can figure it out by themselves with you guiding them along, that’s the best possible scenario. Regardless, the more pertinent information you get from the customer, the better your service will be.
3. Check Your Assumptions at the Door
You may be tempted to take many things for granted when it comes to customer service: Of course they spelled their name right on the order form. Of course they didn’t use an expired card. Of course they’re contacting the right company in the first place.
When it comes to customer service, there are no guarantees at all. You may go round and round with someone only to find out that not only are you the wrong department for this problem, but you’re the wrong industry entirely. In cases like that, a simple step back is all you need to right the ship.
4. Ask Who Benefits From This Solution
Whenever you arrive at a solution, you should take a second and analyze who stands to benefit the most from this conclusion. You’re obviously trying to solve someone’s problem, but it could be that the customer isn’t complaining about something that’s wrong as much as they are trying to get more than what they paid for by registering a complaint. Conversely, it may be you that stands to benefit the most from a solution because you’re able to hang up the phone and move on. Either way, the problem isn’t solved.
Effective customer service is all about thinking critically about a problem (after you’ve identified it), and analyzing it from multiple angles in order to reach the best overall conclusion. Once you’ve done that, your customer service may actually act as a second international sales department, as people notice how your business treats their customers and share it with their friends.
Dawn is a budding entrepreneur. After graduating with her MBA, she spent a few years working in the CPG industry and a few more working in the business tech industry before she set off to start her own business. She has been consulting with businesses, large and small, on the side ever since.