Home > Uncategorized > Customer Service: You’re Doing it Wrong.

Customer Service: You’re Doing it Wrong.

Last night I bought groceries and my cashier did not speak one word to me until she told me my total.  I don’t need to chat while you’re ringing my groceries, but it would be nice to be greeted.  After all, I don’t have to shop here.  I could just as easily spend my money somewhere else.  Would it really kill you to be nice?  Make me feel a tiny bit welcome?

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that good customer service is a dying art.  It’s now the exception, when just a few short years ago, it was the rule.  My earliest jobs were all customer service related.  I rang up groceries, I took fast food orders and I waited tables.  More recently, I have spent the better part of ten years in corporate customer service management and development.  Believe me when I say that I never intended to make a career of serving customers, but I fell into it accidentally and discovered that I’m pretty darn good at it.  I’ve recently moved into another, much less thankless, division of my company and since I am now denying the world of all my top-notch customer service skills, the very least that I can do is pass on my great knowledge and tell everyone what to do.

Without further ado, as written by the Queen Grand Master of Customer Service, please see the following guidelines to quality customer service.

Be friendly.

We all have bad days.  We’re all grumpy sometimes.  We’re all tired sometimes.  We all have times that we’re angry, frustrated and/or sad.  You don’t have to be a little ray of sunshine.   You do have to act like you’re a little ray of sunshine.  You are representing your company to every customer.  Smile, be friendly, and pretend that you’re happy to interact with them.   A big part of your job is being friendly to customers, no matter how unfriendly they may be to you.  You must always be nice and smile.  That’s your job.

Apologize.  A lot.

Inevitably, something is going to go wrong and you’re going to have an irate customer on your hands.  It might not be your fault.  There might not be anything that you can do to fix it.  This is the time when you apologize.  Repeatedly and profusely.  It doesn’t matter if it was your fault or not.  Once again, you are the representative of your company.  Your company failed this customer in some way; therefore it’s now your job to try to make it right.  If you can’t make it right, then at the very least you need to act like you give a damn.  Apologize like you mean it, whether you do or not.  People will remember a sincere apology and effort to right a wrong for a lot longer than they will remember the wrong.

Shut up and listen.

When you do get those irate customers, they’re probably going to want to tell you things, a lot of things, about why they are irate.  They may tell you these things very loudly and they may tell you very rudely.  It’s a natural instinct to want to defend yourself and make this angry person shut it, as quickly as possible.  Resist the urge.  Hear them out.  People want to be heard and they’ll feel a lot better about everything once they get it all out.  I promise you, if you try to interrupt, they are going to make you regret it.  They don’t want to hear what you have to say, they want to TELL YOU THINGS.  Just ride it out.   Sticks and stones, you know.  Just last week, I had the thrilling opportunity to hear a harsh, loud and insulting rant about how much my company sucks and how very unprofessional I am, all because something entirely out of our control disrupted dude’s schedule.  There are no words for how angry I was.  I quite literally wasn’t seeing straight, and I certainly wasn’t in any condition to form a coherent response.  I wanted to force choke the asshole.  But what did I do?  I listened to him until he wore himself out and then responded, “I apologize.  I know it’s an incredible inconvenience.  I wish I could do something, but at this point all I can do is apologize.”  Why did I do that?  Why didn’t I let loose with a well-deserved tirade on his unreasonable ass?  Because he’s my customer.  That doesn’t make his behavior acceptable, but it makes it necessary for me to learn to deal with it in a professional way.  I triple dog dare this fool to run across me in my personal life, but that’s a whole other topic.

Know your role.

If you’re working in customer service, then your job description, quite simply, is to serve the customer.  Most of the time, this entails you performing your normal duties.  Some of the time, you’re going to have to go above and beyond.  Unless the customer wants their bartender to change the oil in their car or some equally absurd task, then it’s your job to do everything within your power to make your customer happy.  This will probably be annoying, inconvenient and, in general, make your life difficult.  Do it, anyway.  Without your customers, you don’t have a job.  If you go that extra mile to help them out, they will likely be your customer forever, allowing you to keep your job and pay your bills.  Win, win!  Disappoint them?  You’ve lost them forever and you have failed at your job.

You don’t have to care; you just have to act like you care.

I am not a people person.  I don’t enjoy the company of a lot of people.  I don’t enjoy the general public and, to be perfectly blunt, I don’t really care what their issues are.  It’s hard for me to dig deep and really, honestly and sincerely care a whole lot about a customer’s problems.  There’s a bright side, though.  It doesn’t matter if I care and it doesn’t matter if I like these people, because I do a bangin’ good job of pretending that I do.  You do not have to, and will not, like everyone.  You don’t have to care a lick about whatever their problem is.  All you have to do is put on your happy face and pretend that they’re your best friend for a minute.   Even the most miserable people on earth have nothing bad to say about someone who smiles and says hello.  And who knows?  You might even be the bright spot in someone’s day.  Who can resist that opportunity?

Working in customer service is not an easy job.  If on some days it feels like the primary job requirement is the ability to take a verbal beating with grace, well, that’s often the case.  However, that’s no excuse to do a poor job.  You don’t have to like your job any more than you like your customers, but you’re accomplishing nothing by spreading the discontent.  I don’t know about you, but I have to deal with enough unavoidable unpleasantness in my life.  I am certainly not going to seek it out at my market, restaurant or entertainment venue.  I want to spend my time and money at the places that make things pleasant for me, the customer.  No one should expect their service to be perfect, but everyone wants to feel as if the effort to make it perfect is there.  It’s not rocket science.  If you smile and say hello, they will come.

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  1. May 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    I love live live this! I am also a customer service professional (now doing my thing in a sales job) so know this to be great advice. I will be sharing!

    • May 21, 2012 at 3:49 pm

      Thank you, thank you! TOOOO many customer service people are missing the point. Thanks so much for reading!

      • May 21, 2012 at 3:59 pm

        That was supposed to be love love love. Damn autocorrect. I sent this post to my friend who still manages the CS department I came from. I also posted it to my Facebook for all my CS friends to read. You are absolutely right that people miss the point. I’m so happy to be out of that role so I’m not responsible for all the dumb things people say to customers. 🙂 Common sense is not very common.

      • May 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm

        At least your autocorrect makes a little sense…mine turned the word “somewhere” into “zimbabwe” recently. Somewhere, indeed. Thank you so much for the shares…I am so honored! And I agree, common sense is a rare commodity!

  2. June 20, 2012 at 8:21 am

    I love this post! So true!

    • June 20, 2012 at 7:08 pm

      Thank you. I wish more people agreed. 🙂

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