The Golden Rule of Customer Service

Ghostbusters

I was craving a chicken sandwich one day and headed to a local fast fast food restaurant noted for their addicting, juicy, but crunchy, heaven on a bun. I thanked the teen as he took my money and handed me the hot bag of food. He responded with, “My pleasure.” I had a “huh?” moment, but went on my way.

Days later, (OK, the next day – no, that evening – don’t judge me), I went back. Different teen, same “My pleasure.” On a later visit, “My pleasure.” You get the idea.

This particular chicken sandwich chain is known for their amazing customer and community service. In addition they have a great product. Part of that reputation is built on consistency and the robotic-like employees that give you the same service and product no matter which store you visit. It works for them.

But does it work for your business?

A couple of years ago, I worked with a consultant who preached consistency in customer service for our business. We were to answer the phones the same way (“Hello, this is x company, my name is x, how may I serve you?”), and, use the popular “My pleasure” as the closeout. And NEVER say “No problem.” Because that insinuates there is a problem.

I hated it.

The people I work with have personality. I am not saying to answer the phone with “Whadda ya want,” but to be polite and let the employee’s style come through. We are not a company of robots. We are also not a company where people receive yummy goodness with every interaction. We have laws to follow. Sometimes we have to tell people “No” or “You owe us money” or “We can’t help.” Using predetermined automated answers is not going to help.

So whadda you do?

Answer responsively

Answer the phone on the first or second ring. There’s always that one client who makes you cringe when you see their caller ID. Don’t send them to voicemail, that will just add to your anxiety and will make them more cringe-worthy when you deal with them later. Greet the caller by stating your business and your name.

Wash, rinse, repeat

Listen to, don’t hear, what they say. They may drone on and on. If it seems to be one of those calls, I will take notes on a notepad of what is relevant. Then I repeat what I believe the client is asking to make sure I have it right. By doing this, I have reduced the anger or angst of the caller by at least 50% because they know I am listening.

Don’t play phone tag

If you cannot answer the question or help, don’t just sent the caller off to transfer tag land. Either transfer, (not blindly – tell the receiver who is on the call and what they need), if you know who they need to speak with, or take down their contact information and get back to them if you are not sure who they need to contact. And get back to them within a day. If that is not possible let them know. Be your client’s advocate. If no one gets back to you about the issue, keep asking and asking until you get an answer. I have been known to walk into people’s offices to say “Hey, about that call….” At the same time, don’t belittle your coworkers to the client with phrases like “it figures they haven’t gotten back to you yet.” That reflects poorly on your organization.

Don’t assume

I can tell if there is an elderly caller on the line by the tone of their voice. But I do not assume they are technologically inept. When walking them through an issue, I ask if they have internet service, a computer, etc. and explain where they can find information online in the future. I do this with all the people who call. Yes, I am glad to help, but if I can share other resources with them, they will not be inconvenienced to the point of having to call. And please, oh please, if the person is from another country, do not speak super slowly or loudly. Let them tell you if they need you to slow down or speak up. Where I live, the international population is well-educated – many with PhDs. Don’t insult their intelligence.

What customer service comes down to is to treat others as you wish to be treated. It really is that simple.

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