A Note To Whiny Customer Service Reps

You customer service reps out there who complain and have all of your whiny reasons why your job is so bad……..Get Out! You’re going to be whining until the world comes to an end; and that can be very, very stressful on you. Until your organization decides to handle customer service correctly, those customers will continue to get angry and take it out on you.

“Most” problems customers have are not unreasonable.

“Most” of those problems are created from poor habits at the point of sale. The customer is sent out the door with inadequate knowledge about what they got themselves into. Yep! That’s right!

Your salespeople don’t know they’re doing this and the customer doesn’t realize it’s being done to them until there’s a glitch. Then the blame game starts. If you are going to have the bad attitude of playing that game……You Lose…..periodBut if you play, you have to decide how you will placate that customer and we all know that process can be draining.

But you say, our salespeople treat the customer right and help them all they can. How does this cause problems later.

People get so focused on making the sale, whether that be from pressure by management or just trying to be cute, they are hardly focused on the customer. When you’re not focused on customers the right way they may leave with a purchase that is not what they really need or they may leave with a purchase that they don’t understand correctly. This obviously raises the chance of them becoming upset once the product is home. You see, even if they are at fault for making the wrong decision…..you get the blame. That’s the way it is and that’s the way it will be!

“Knockout Customer Service Rule” # 5: You’re better off talking a customer out of buying if you know the purchase may not be right for them!

JOE! Did you just say what I thought you said? You bet I did! My experience has shown that if you care about helping people and make sure you ask them if they are completely satisfied with their purchase before they leave your store, you will end up with far fewer unsatisfied and unhappy customers. You also save a lot of potential costs later when trying to make things right.

The profit you make on a sale may pale in comparison to the cost to you later if you aren’t honest and transparent right up front in the selling process!

This is called nipping potential problems in the bud. It’s effective and it definitely works. I’ll devote my next post entirely to this rule.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. There are going to be some unreasonable and hard to deal with customers. That’s just the way it is. But these should be few and far between and if they are not; your company really has issues. Even if you lose these customers, you should still handle them with dignity and respect. But always remember; they still don’t owe you a wonderful day! If you can’t deal with their abuse, please re-read my opening paragraph to this post. Personally, I have never dealt with an irate customer that I couldn’t calm down! I may not have saved them all, but I could stop their abuse. And trust me, I’m no genius. It can be done!

Calming down irate customers is your job. If you’re so miserable handling the anger and bad language, you’ve got some serious thinking to do because it won’t change no matter how much you complain about it. I wander around the web reading comments on blogs with customer service reps whining because “poor little me” gets treated so bad by customers. It’s not about you. As long as you have that poor me attitude, you’ll never be able to deal with customer service problems adequately.

In your defense, here’s your second big problem. You work with your hands tied. This ends up frustrating you. Frustration is not the best mental state to be in when dealing with the public. Your company ties your hands by not allowing you to take care of that difficult customer on the spot. And by take care of, I don’t mean passing them off. If you aren’t allowed to take care of my problem without having to pass me off to a supervisor, you are in many cases “escalating” the problem,  and it’s not your fault.

Until the people in charge of your organization understand this and make a Real effort at providing customer service, you’re going to get the guff that angry customers dish out.

While you do that, your managers get to go to more meetings and seminars to learn all the new metrics and paradigms and whatever else about improving customer service. Then they will come back and show you another way to handle those customers that still get angry from their last brilliant customer service policy.

In the meantime, quit complaining about angry customers and quit whining about how “poor little you” are treated. Instead, complain about your companies’ customer service policies. Ask them to untie your hands! Good luck!

Customer Service And ROI?…..Are You Kidding Me?

I often read statements or articles about customer service policy and ROI.

If delivering customer service requires you to consider the ROI it will give you, you’ve got serious problems with your concept of “customer service”!

Customer service is innate in a business. It comes with the package. You must give service whether it’s good, bad, or somewhere in the middle. Service is as mandatory as having a key to the front door. So I would suggest you stop looking at customer service as an add-on. You don’t make an extra investment in it and consider what you’re going to get in return. But if you do it right, you will get a great return. The return of your customers because your excellent service has earned their loyalty.

The only way you can know for sure if you are creating loyal customers is if they come back and spend more money buying what you offer. Not if they “say” they will be back, Not if they “promise” they will be back, but if they actually return and buy from you again.

So how do you assure they will come back? You don’t assure anything! Don’t waste time looking for any assurances. Customer satisfaction is a moving target. It’s ever-changing. It’s at the mercy of moods. You can’t change that fact no matter what you do. If you do figure it out though, let me know so I can cash out everything I own to invest in your business!

What you can change is your own skills so you’re better able to hit that moving target. It takes just a little practice. It’s much easier for you to improve your marksmanship at hitting the target than it is to change the target.

This takes patience. That’s spelled P A T I E N C E. Not because it takes a long time to develop these skills, but it does take some time. If you’re not worried about ROI you should be ok with the patience part. Remember, most of the time patience does pay off.

So where and how do we apply this patience?

You must always, 100% of the time, give customers…..attention, respect, and appreciation. From the time they walk in your door to the time they walk out that door. If you give those 3 things authentically to customers, the rest will fall into place. If you understand your business, which we will make that assumption, and you truly understand your product, which includes more than features, you will have your best chance at making sales and creating customer loyalty. This is the built-in synergy of sales and service. What makes it work most effectively is the mind-set of caring which manifests the attention, respect, and appreciation.

Does this sound too simple? Is it not complicated enough to justify wasting all of that brain power you’re paid so much for. I dare you to try it! This is the best foundation for a policy of exceptional customer service. Foundations are so plain and boring I know. But I also know that all the rest of the complicated structure above that foundation is totally worthless without the boring part! It just won’t stand up!

If you do the above, you won’t sell, satisfy, or create loyalty 100% of the time (which we know is pretty much impossible anyway), but I assure one thing…….you will be way, way better than average!

Customer Service And Those….Demanding, Unreasonable, Moody Customers!

You big retailers out there must remember one thing about those demanding, unreasonable, bargain hunting, price conscious consumers your stuck with ……You Created Them! Not only that, you pulled many of the smaller retailers into your vortex.

You did it with deceptive discounting, too many coupons with hard to figure out discounts,  26 hour shopping days, and 8 days a week to shop! Sorry, but I’ll bet you’re working on those last two things. Good luck!

To do all of this, you took away from those shoppers THE most important thing they are looking for when they visit your place of business….someone to help them make an informed decision. You took away personalized customer service. You traded your service “soul” to the discount “devil”. Guess who won in that transaction? Now you have to keep your numbers up for the stockholders and deal with the monsters you created.  You’ve exhausted all of the honest discount options trying to “buy” your customers and you’ve found it difficult to come up with legitimate pricing ideas. Ah!, you live by the discount, you die by the discount!

I dare say many people out there don’t believe they are really getting 60%-80% discounts on as consistent a level as you make it seem. I know I don’t. Which leads me to think the prices are set too high to begin with. But what causes my biggest distrust in you is that by doing this, you make it hard for me to know the true value of the products you sell. You also force me to have your silly coupons with me to receive those erroneous discounts. Otherwise, I’m the sucker who pays the spurious regular price or I go home without what I came for. How should we rate that as customer service? I’ll tell you one thing though; “don’t even waste time in meetings trying to figure out customer loyalty”. If you don’t change your tactics customer loyalty will be a word you’ll forget how to spell before you’ll get any”!

You see, you violate Knockout Customer Service Rule no. 9. DON’T EVER CONFUSE THE CUSTOMER! When you confuse customers, they won’t make a decision. they even get upset because you have confused them. They keep their money in their wallet and go somewhere that’s less confusing. Having said all of this, I realize you are making sales, albeit with thin margins, but I can assure you that you’re not creating loyalty. And don’t fool yourself, people aren’t lazy. You can get them off the internet and into your stores if you give them the right reasons to do so. One customer service impact report out there showed that 85% of shoppers are willing to pay 5% to 25% more for products if they can get superior service. So, if they don’t get great customer service, they might as well stay home and shop.

In my 38 years dealing with the public, I haven’t seen any significant changes in what shoppers really want. You guys complain that the customers have changed. I say “you guys changed the customer”!

So now you have to suck-it-up and deal with your monsters or change them back to the way they were from the beginning. And how was this? Just consumers with a need or desire to purchase something and an expectation of a little service to help them make that decision.  Do you think you have the brain power in your organization to pull this off? You certainly had the brainpower to dig the hole you’re in!

Customer Service Is A Verb!

Smiling while you “point” me in the right direction to find a product in your store, is NOT customer service.

If you want to impress me with your customer service, take me to where that product is located. Then, when we get there, make sure that it is in-stock and on the shelf. After all that, you might even ask me if there is anything else you can help me find. This is the very least customer service you should offer me but I find even this hard to receive in most stores I go into. A lot of web sites aren’t much better either.

“Customer service” is a VERB! It is not a noun. It’s action, it’s doing. A written list of steps for providing customer service is meaningless. People may take the steps or they may not. When your “culture” is service oriented, by example, your employees will adapt to that culture. They will also develop a creative attitude toward service. That’s why man is at the top of the food chain. He’s the most adaptable life form out there. If the people you hire really want to work for you, they will try very hard to fit into your culture. And if that culture happens to be oriented towards excellent customer service….you win!

It’s ok to have a written customer service policy as long as it is a general guideline. If this written policy is too dogmatic, it will become useless. When you give employees inflexible rules to follow, you give them “purpose tremor”. Purpose tremor is excessive feedback that makes decision-making hard. It creates fear of taking action. It’s the same type of fear one might have when they won’t jump off a diving board into the water. This fear can arise out of real or imagined consequences. Dogmatic “rules” create the fear of making the wrong decision. This doesn’t work very good when you are dealing with me and my ever-changing moods.

When employees have flexibility, they will be creative when giving me service. When that creativity comes from an attitude of wanting to help me and not just sell to me or save the company money on an adjustment, they will tend to make the right decisions more often than not. It really does work this way if you give this mind-set a chance to become your company culture. Even if it ends up where I am not fully satisfied, I will not REGRET going into your store and I will be much more inclined to return and try you again. Remember, sales take care of themselves if you give exceptional customer service!

If you’re going to spend any of your time on developing a customer service policy, spend 95% of that time on creating a “culture” of service. A culture is imbedded into the attitude of an organization. Attitudes get perceived and copied. Rules are just “things to do”. They may or may not GET done. If you set the right example (create the culture) everyone in the organization will be concerned with helping and satisfying customers. The key here is that these examples must come from the top down. The people in charge must set the tone. If they don’t have true empathy towards customers, their employees won’t either.

Think on this:   The smartest guy in the room at running a business, does that business no good if he upsets customers. And many times it’s that “smartest guy” making customer service policy. Also, that “smartest guy” can’t, I’ll repeat that word, can’t, learn real customer service until he has been on the firing line, face-to-face dealing with customers. There are just too many changing variables when dealing with people to ever think you’ve heard it all or that you can be credible dictating service policy without the experience. I say this from my own experience. You are always learning!

If owners or managers don’t have face-to-face experience handling customers,  how can they possibility “empower” the “troops” with this responsibility. Stuff written in a memo or manual is useless in the real world. Experiential knowledge is useful. Without this knowledge what are you going to “empower” your employees with? It’s a non sequitur. You can’t empower people with something you don’t have!

The people in charge must learn how to swim in relation to customer service. You can only learn to swim by jumping in the water. No one in a business has a pay scale above learning how to treat customers well. If you think your’s is then your whistling in the dark. Oh! And by-the-way, good luck with your customer satisfaction ratings and customer retention!

Here is a little insight as to why consumers keep rating customer service low even as many businesses spend more time and money implementing improved policies.

They Do The Wrong Things! It’s been said, and quite accurately, that whatever you are doing, if you practice doing it wrong,  you will get very good at doing it wrong!  Discounts, coupons, 24/7 shopping hours, free parking, and buyers clubs that make me pay to belong to aren’t exceptional customer service. Below is the list of everything a customer wants when they walk into your brick and mortar store or click on your web site or call your phone service center. If you can give a customer everything on this list when you come in contact with them, you will be most of the way home to a successful transaction with them. Write this list down and study it for a week. Then apply it when dealing with customers. I promise you it will make your life much easier. Sharpen your pencil and here’s the list!

When customers come in contact with you here is everything they are looking for:

ATTENTION

RESPECT

APPRECIATION

Do you think you can memorize all of that?

Please don’t get a headache while studying. You are allowed to take breaks!