As a customer service professional, you know that when you get customer service right, you make a customer for life. But when you get it wrong, the customer will spread her bad experience with your company like a fast-moving oil slick all over Facebook and Twitter.
Whether you work via on-line chat or you respond to phone calls or emails, the difference between right and wrong is often in the words you choose. You must make sure you choose them carefully. Like never-ending Muzak, there are things a customer never, ever wants to hear. Study these seven examples, and learn to avoid the problems they can cause.
If you ask “Didn’t you read the instructions?” your customer will morph into a big old growly bear. Don’t imply it’s the customer’s fault (even if it totally is). Instead, say “Let me try walking you through the process.”
Customers can spot insincere apologies. Put yourself in their shoes. They heard that “We care about your business” recording 27 times while on hold. Instead, it’s better to empathize. “Oh, I get it, that’s so frustrating.” Then move on to helping them.
Come on. Your boss is there to help, same as you. If your customer is frustrated with your response, don’t stonewall; kick it upstairs. Some difficult customers find it soothing to get the VIP treatment.
Just as with t-shirts, one size fits all is a bad idea when it comes to customer service. Okay, maybe you truly can’t make an exception. But is there a way to sweeten the bad experience? Why do you think Southwest Airlines hands out all those free drinks coupons? It’s to make their customers happier. Say “Here’s what I can do for you,” and follow through on that promise: whether it’s a discount on a new product or service, some money taken off the bill, or whatever you can give.
Your customer doesn’t care about the future. Your customer cares about NOW, so tread carefully. “Thank you for letting us know. I’ll make sure that our programmers are aware of this glitch." Take down the details if it's something new. Then say, "In the meantime, perhaps I can suggest this work-around…”
If you’re doing an on-line chat, you can paste in the instructions. Step-by-step is the better way, checking after each step to see if your customer got it. If you’re on the phone, even if you’ve already answered the same question 47 times, remember that for your customer, it’s the first time. She deserves a polite answer, not a curt one.
Customers may have been growing cobwebs on hold before they got to talk to you. Now you’re shuttling them off? Do it properly, please. Say, “I hope this doesn’t happen, but if you do get cut off, here is the direct line.” Or better yet, say “Hang on, I’m going to get Marissa in Sales to help you,” and then, when you have Marissa on the line, introduce the customer to her.
Your mama was right. Delivering on customer service means practicing the Golden Rule—treating others the way you would want to be treated. Customers want to feel that you listened to them, and that you care. You can’t solve all your customers’ problems, but you can make them happier than when they first contacted you. All it takes is finding the right words.
Max Al Farakh
Max is a co-founder/CTO of Jitbit with tons of experience in customer service.