BE A GREAT CUSTOMER
After a collective 20 plus years of working in service/customer service roles, from a roller-skating waitress, department store and boutique retail sales, marketing and public relations account executive, advertising sales, customer communication specialist, conflict resolution liaison, and business communication professor, I know a few things about providing successful service to others.
The truth is that the calmer and kinder customers are when they are trying to get what they want or correct an error, the more likely they are to arrive to a more than happy resolve quickly.
As individuals living in today’s primarily consumer based society, we often find the need to acquire customer support for the goods and services that we need or desire.
How many of us can recall the times when we had a bad experience with our cell phone carriers, cable providers or car insurance companies during a customer service phone call, only to get off the line to tell our friends and family stories of how we wanted to switch to a different provider due to absolutely horrid customer service?
But if we stop to reflect on these experiences for a moment, we can safely conclude that during many of these interactions, the person at the other end of the line is just trying to do their job to help us while we are struggling to communicate our needs due to our daily frustrations and may simply be giving said individual (and ourselves) a hard time; acting as an aggressor, promoting a bad time for everyone involved in the conversation. Humans are generally good natured creatures possessing a great capacity for empathy, which means that your customer service representative would feel good about helping you resolve anything brought forth to them. Their job, believe it or not is to provide you with amazing customer service (they are heavily graded on their calls and their livelihood depends on it), YOUR job is to be a great customer.
So without further ado, let’s jump right in and show you how to build great short term relationships with your customer service representatives, for your benefit and theirs!
Be a good customer!
Good customers get good results – period.
The best thing to do is check your mood prior to entering a store, picking up the phone or drafting an email: Take a breath and do what I call, “Smile before you dial.” This will boost your mental mood instantly and relax your speaking or writing tone. If you are face-to-face with someone your happy and relaxed stature and facial features will be non-threatening to those you approach and they’ll be more willing to help you. Always remember when speaking to customer service agents that they are people too, they have good and bad days, they have bills, kids, troubles and tribulations like everyone else; just like you. They even have to call customer service themselves sometimes for their own goods and services! The bottom line here is to treat people how you’d like to be treated. You WILL be rewarded for it as kindness and understanding can be very contagious. Treat your customer service rep with respect and they will go to bat for you and your needs.
Make use of the “0” key or the “Agent” vocal request
This one is pretty simple. Instead of sitting through an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system, you can usually speak to a representative by repeatedly hitting the zero key when presented with numbered options. You can also simply say “agent” or “representative” when prompted to state your reason for calling. Using such tactics will get you speaking to a person pretty quickly. However, one must bear in mind when using this tactic, you may have to deal with being transferred from the initial person you speak with to a different department since the automated system didn’t have the chance to do its job (which is to direct calls to the department relevant to the service request), be patient and friendly during this and things should go your way.
Respect company policies
These generally exist for your protection and theirs. Another reason for company policies is for your convenience as it makes it easier for the business to accommodate you. Customers that are not willing to follow company policies are hard to work with and will be less welcome due to that fact. Think about the customer that tries to purchase items with expired coupons, or the customer that buys an electronic device with a 30 day return policy, uses it for a year then attempts to return it. Does this sound fair? No! Of course it isn’t. It is completely unreasonable and takes up valuable time the company could be using to service other policy abiding customers. A little common sense will probably go a long way with this one folks. Work within the guidelines to achieve your needs, you will find that certain companies might even make exceptions for you if you are courteous, reasonable and aren’t trying to get one over on them.
Separate the individual from the company
Once again we must remember that customer service reps are people too, people that are only doing as they are instructed. Meaning if Bob from Verizon tells you that “Plan A” costs X amount of currency, he isn’t making this up for his own gain. Instead of getting mad at him and yelling about how expensive Verizon is (which he has no control over), we can ask him to review our monthly usage and help us come up with a more cost effective plan for our needs, or maybe we could ask Bob to check on any specials the company may be offering at the current moment. This moves the paradigm from a feeling of personal attack on the individual, to a more friendly cooperative experience that is likely to yield better results and may even have Bob digging to find you some discounts, just because you were super nice to him and didn’t yell and complain like the 10 people that called before you.
Know what you want and ask for it
It is surprising to see how badly things can go wrong with the best of intentions and simple miscommunication. With that being said, it is important to be clear about what your goals are when you interacting with any customer service individual. Being clear about intentions from the very beginning will make things simpler as there will be a clear goal the customer service agent will work towards achieving for you. They can’t help you if you confuse them to the point that they have no idea what you want.
Building rapport is perhaps the most important part of the process. When you build rapport, you are essentially building a short term friendship with the representative, this will make their job easier (people are often rude to them) and your request more likely to be fulfilled as desired. Generally, building common ground and showing some compassion goes a long way. Ask them how they’re doing, ask if they have any pets, how their weekend went and things to show that you care that they have a life. Once you do this, they will relax and find it enjoyable to deal with you, increasing their will to dig deeper to help you get what you want. Lastly, if they are a rep over the phone, they may offer you their extension so you can deal with them on future issues. Its pays to probe!
Cut a deal
Having trouble paying a bill? Service too expensive? Thinking of switching services? Often times companies have built in policies that they don’t advertise, which are specifically designed for such cases to cut their customers better deals in times of need or if a customer threatens to leave, if anything you might be able to acquire a nice little credit on your bill with said service. The key here is to be firm in your convictions, or if you are experiencing a time of economic hardship you respectfully and clearly explain your current conundrum, you may find that some companies can work with you to cut you all kinds of deals to help keep you around and retain the income you provide them.
Stick to your guns, cancel if you have to!
So what if they can’t cut you a deal and you just can’t live with what is being offered? Stick with your convictions and cancel or switch if you have to. In most cases, for every service that you’re paying for, there are many more (sometimes better) services/goods like it being offered by other companies. Vote with your money, not with your mouth.
When dealing with customer service PEOPLE, we need to keep just that in mind. They’re people too! Treat them how you’d like to be treated and remember a deep breath and a smile will go a long way in your favor. That little bit of a change in interaction will help you be a better customer who gets the most out of what you pay for.
“Communicating calmly and kindly opens doors to success and happiness.” – Ellie Parvin