Take Cuss Out of Customer Service

If you sell anything, you must be great at customer service.

By Kevin RR Williams

BEHAVIOR It can be one of the most stressful jobs. You must navigate company policy and the demands of sincere and potentially devious customers with charm, grace and efficiency. Basically, you're at the forefront of all complaints — though sometimes the it overlaps the roles of salesperson or educator. Faced with so much stress, it's tempting to ignore negative emails but customer service is the heart of any thriving business. Without it there may be no lasting customers. Actually, we should be thankful when a company offers customer service. Online price wars have cut margins so thin on many products that companies must severely restrict much of the service we have come to expect.

Customer Disservice

Years ago I leased a $900 merchant teller terminal for two years. (They are much less expensive now.) Because of rapid depreciation, equipment leases often end with either a $1 or 10 percent buyout. Twenty seven months later, I noticed that the payment was still being deducted from my bank account. I had the bank reverse the most recent payment and contacted the leasing company to request refund of extra charges. I was told that the lease converted into a rental since I did not contact them in the 23rd month. So I was speaking with the collection department that wanted more payments.

Naturally, I asked to speak to a customer service representative. I then heard the shocking response: "Collection is customer service." Apparently everyone answering the phone was a law student or attorney. The outdated and valueless leased equipment was shipped to the company but they still demanded more money. When the company was reported to authorities, I was informed that heir tactics were already under investigation. Ultimately, the leasing company settled with the state for several million dollars and a class action suit followed. Hence, this company stands as an example of how not to provide customer service.

Take Cuss Out of Customer Service

Obviously, a merchant cannot remain in business without making a profit. But that motivation should not exclude reasonable customer rights. A customer service representative is generally considered to be an advocate for the customer. Let empathy prevail. Draft fair policies, make them clearly visible, and don't ignore complaints — responding only to praise or potential sales.

Customer Satisfaction

When the shoe is on the other foot and you are requesting, rather than providing customer service, there are some tips to receive better results.

  1. Gather pertinent details (serial numbers, receipts, model, order number, etc.).
  2. Phone early in the morning if possible. A speaker phone is helpful.
  3. Anticipate voice prompts and waiting on hold so be patient.
  4. If asked to leave a voice message, don't try to explain a long scenario. Clearly state your name, phone number, order number.
  5. When speaking to a representative, concisely state your desired resolution (refund, replacement, exchange).
  6. Be reasonable. (Normal wear and tear is not equipment malfunction.)
  7. Use a dignified business voice and write down the name/id for representative with whom you are speaking and any instructions provided.
  8. Often times third-party shipping fees are not refundable. Don't add side issues that can delay resolution.

According to WikiHow (and common sense), using a tone of voice or having an attitude that is abusive or belligerent will likely cause you to either be hung up on or the agent and his/her supervisor will be less willing to speak to you or help you with issues.

Tags: frustration, resolution, satisfaction