How to save customer service

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Is customer service dying? On one level, the response is a sign of the times. People are angry, disgusted, and even resigned to the fact that we as consumers get the service we settle for. There is no question that customer desire for low prices has driven some of the problems. So has the great resignation,  which has forced many companies to operate understaffed.

But customer service still has the power to make or break your success. 

Let me summarize what I believe are the three essential ingredients necessary for any company to deliver great customer service:

Desire: First, a company has to see the value in providing customer service. Not all do. Some companies clearly have determined that their “value quotient” is price and that the cost of providing better customer service does not provide an economic return.

Hiring: Some people are not well suited for dealing with customers. They don’t test for personality in school. Companies with great customer service have great hiring processes.

Training: Being friendly is about 20 percent of customer service. Unfortunately, many companies think that customer service is about smiling and asking everyone how they are. Worse is the “How can I provide excellent customer service?” line that some companies are using in their call centers. I think that sums it up. They really don’t know!

As a public service, I am going to tell them.

The next 40 percent of training is actually knowing the product and services that you provide. The last 40 percent is being trained on how to take care of angry customers (the people who keep those call-center phones ringing). Here is a page from my training manual about how to S.A.V.E. an angry customer.

S.A.V.E. customer service

Sympathize:  “I can understand why you are upset,” or, “yes, I can see the problem,” or, “I am so sorry that we have put you through this” will go a long way to calming most people.

Act:  “I am going to talk to the person who does our scheduling,” or, “I am going to go back to production to take care of this myself,” or 100 other things you can say that will solve the problem.

Vindicate:   It’s important to let the customer know that this isn’t business as usual. In my lawn and landscape business, if we install something improperly we say, “We have a quality control inspector in addition to your sales consultant who checked over your project They usually catch things like this. I’m really sorry this happened. This kind of performance did not get us where we are. Again, I really apologize.”

Eat: something. Customers did not give you money to get bad service. Many times it is appropriate to give them something. A restaurant might offer a free dessert, another company could offer free delivery or a discount. It costs a lot to find a new customer; it is certainly worth something to keep an existing one.

Moving on

There is one more part to training for good customer service. You’ve calmed down the customer, but you may also have to calm down your staff. It can be very frustrating and even humiliating to get yelled at by customers. I always remind people that they don’t have to take things personally. Customers have bad days, are sometimes in bad moods, are sometimes unfair, and in many cases have a right to be mad.

Let it go.

They are not your parents, spouses, friends, or professors. They will be gone in a few minutes. Our job is to get them to go away happy.

But you're not done yet

Even after you complete the extensive hiring, training, and management efforts, there will be some employees who still are not suited for the job. They need to be unhired. Even the nice ones. The fact is, the customer does not care how hard you are trying. They want and deserve what they are paying for and you must find a way to deliver it.

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