A recent article from The New York Times shared some of people’s worst customer service experiences. Although the extreme nature of some instances may seem almost comedic, there’s nothing funny about losing business due to poor customer service. Rather, the feature highlighted reasons that companies should stress customer service training as one of the most important skills that any employee—from an entry-level worker to the CEO—can acquire and hone.
What dilemmas have left callers reeling? According to the news source, a woman in Manhattan was dumbfounded when a customer service
representative at her phone provider told her he was unable to reimburse her funds after she accidentally overpaid a bill online by $1,000 due to complications with the payment system. Even after speaking with a supervising manager, the woman was informed that her best alternative was to purchase additional goods and services from the company because they “had [her] money anyway.” Needless to say, the woman was entirely dissatisfied with that response and is even considering additional action to reclaim the overpaid funds while she waits for the company to respond.
The Golden Rule of Customer Service
Situations like that reported by the Manhattan woman pinpoint the sort of experience that not only leaves customers with a bad taste in their mouths, but can also lead to lost patronage and negative branding. To avoid this pitfall, Forbes recommends that companies review their internal policy and make ensuring client satisfaction the key focus of customer service skills training programs.
The source also offered a streamlined method for responding to clients’ needs efficiently and effectively. First, customer service representatives should apologize to the client for the inconvenience that caused them to call or contact the company. Although saying sorry may seem unjustified in some situations, it helps mitigate the client’s anger or frustration, making for a smoother conversation going forward.
Second, the customer service representative should ask the caller to fully describe their concern, as well as their desired outcome. Staff may want to review the information given to them occasionally to ensure that they completely understand the patron’s complaint. These details should be documented in an official file, so they can be accessed by other staff or for future reference.
After the situation is clear to all members involved, the customer service representative should strive to fix it themselves or forward the caller to the appropriate party who can handle the issue. Either way, internal staff should be sure to follow up with the customer about their complaint, ensuring that they were satisfied with the end result.
Practices to avoid
Of course, not all situations will follow that organized process to a conclusion that is satisfactory for all. Complicated requests or complaints that seem irrational may be difficult for staff to resolve without involving upper-level management. There are a few behaviors, however, which can escalate an already tricky situation, and should be avoided to promote positive interactions with customers. Corporate training in customer service should underline these basics as essentials in dealing with patrons.
One of the simplest ways for representatives to mitigate rising tensions when responding to guest concerns is to monitor their own tone. Rising voices and volume can create a sense of tension that only intensifies existing stress. Instead, staff should remain calm, responsive, and optimistic about finding a satisfactory resolution. Second, customer service providers should remember to keep the focus on the customer. It may be tempting—particularly if a caller is agitated—to become defensive and place blame on an external factor such as a technological shortcoming. Remaining focused on the person and their problem, however, exhibits real concern for clients and their needs