No matter what kind of business you have, customer service is important.
For example, part of my radio program is a business. When one of my peeps answers a phone and talks to someone, they know they’re representing me. And I want to be represented as someone who gives others respect. If people have the interest to make contact or if they have any need or question, we have to fulfill the need or answer the question as best we can.
Now, of course there are times when people call and are obnoxious and rude. It’s rare, but it does happen. Some people call up very angry because they can’t have what they want, how they want it, and have it five minutes ago. But it’s amazing how even when that happens, a customer service rep (even if they’ve been having a bad day) will usually respond nicely.
I deal with a lot of companies to get the “ingredients” I need for the pieces I create for Dr. Laura Designs. I’ve been working with a company called Rio Grande Jewelry (I’ll give them a plug because they’re always so great) for years. They understand that as a business, the whole point of your existence is customer service: taking care of customers so they will be loyal. I would say over 90 percent of the equipment I get, I buy from Rio Grande because if there’s ever a problem, I know they’ll take care of it.
One week, I ordered a mold to work with powdered glass, and it was delivered cracked. I was disappointed because I was really looking forward to using it over the weekend. So I called them up and asked for help (by the way – the minute you say to somebody that you need help instead of ragging on them, they’re already more likely to want to help you). I didn’t sound upset. The person on the other end of the phone didn’t crack the mold, and the company they work for didn’t either (they’re just an intermediary for the company that made it and probably forwarded it to me cracked). She offered to pay for the mold to be returned and sent me new one.
Because the phone call was so pleasant, I started asking her about an engraver machine I had with some lowercase letters missing. And after we had some fun communicating the letters that I needed to each other, – “‘B’, ‘P,’ ‘T’…’B’ as in ‘baby’…” – she helped me get replacements. The interaction was just great.
The goal of customer service is to make sure your customer is satisfied and loyal. Feeling disrespected is the primary reason customers don’t come back to a restaurant or a store. Nobody should tolerate being treated rudely when all they’re asking for is help.
There are a couple of things I especially loathe when I call up a company asking for help. One of them is that stupid tree of “press one for this, press seven for that…” I won’t work with companies that have that. You go through the whole tree, and you end up nowhere. At that point, you’re left banging the phone down on the table several times. Companies ought to have people answering the phone instead of putting customers through the obstacle course of that automatic menu.
However, sometimes you might be the one contributing to the reason why you’re not getting great customer service. Here are some tips to avoid getting lousy customer service when you’re calling and asking for help:
- Don’t be yelling at your kids, pets, or spouse in the background. There is nothing more unpleasant for the person helping you to hear than you threatening your kid with a beat-down and then morphing into a sweet, polite person. Keep the household or work drama out of the situation because that just gets the person on the other end tense.
- Don’t demand an immediate solution or interrupt them. Don’t bully or make threats: “If you don’t help me right now, I’m going do this,” or, “If you put me on hold, I’m going to sue you!” (I think at the very worst, you should say that you’re going to tell their mother).
- Explain your problem thoroughly. On my program, I work really hard helping people explain their problems clearly and linearly so I can get a complete picture of their dilemma. I try to get them to speak calmly and explain their issue in the least amount of sentences possible. I tell callers not to rush and just give me what I need to know in order to help them.
- Be patient and give the person time to fulfill your request or give you some kind of alternative solution. Have a magazine, book, iPad, Kindle…whatever…sitting next to you. Instead of pounding the walls, just do something while you’re waiting.
- If you’re not getting help, politely ask to be tossed upstairs. Ask to speak to a manager or a supervisor.
- If worse comes to worst, you can write a complaint letter to the company’s owner or a higher-level executive. You’re more likely to get your complaint satisfied by somebody who has more power. A lot of times the people who answer the phone just don’t have the authority.
Always remember this: remain completely calm when interacting with customer service agents and managers because employees are more likely to help if you are level-headed, reasonable, polite, and patient.
A little sense of humor doesn’t hurt either.