Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Easy Tips for Improving Customer Service...

... Having spent all of my many working years in various forms of customer service, I feel that I'm pretty well qualified to offer a few pointers for making your many customer service encounters as smooth and easy as possible. Most of them are common sense, but it's easy to overlook the basics sometimes. I've been a consumer and a service provider, so I'm familiar with both sides of the coin and how things work. We all have to work with customer service folks from time to time, and we've all had some good and some terrible experiences. Hopefully, the advice here will help you have less of the terrible kind. One horrible interaction can ruin your whole day, and your whole experience with a company. So, here are my tips for making your experiences with customer servants as easy and friendly as possible.

--Be aware of the company's policies about shipping and returns before you make a purchase. Few things suck more than buying something expensive, discovering that it's not what you wanted, and not being able to return it.
--If you have to call with a question or an issue, have as much information as possible. If you can find it, have your order number and any information you used to order your products close to hand (if you're working with someone in a store face-to-face, a receipt always makes things about a million times easier, and means that you're more likely to get cash back, rather than store credit). It'll make things faster for you and easier for the person you're working with.
--Be as clear as possible when describing a defective product. If there seems to be shipping damage, mention that. The more descriptive, the better.
--If, for whatever reason, you are unspeakably angry about something (and we've all been there), wait until you can discuss the issue without screaming or throwing things to try to return it or resolve the issue.
--Customer servants are people, and as such, can be mean just because. If you end up with someone who's mean, rude, condescending, or just unpleasant, ask for a manager politely. If the person tells you no, request another customer servant. Be polite, but insistent.
--Remember, if you're working with someone over the phone, they more than likely have a system for logging notes about their interactions with you. They will keep tabs of when you call, what you ask, and how you treat the person you're working with. It's only fair that you should do the same, where necessary.
--Speaking as a customer servant, I can tell you firsthand, we work harder to help the nice people than the mean ones. Even if something is horribly wrong, if you're at least polite about it, we will be inclined to work that much harder to fix it for you.
--If you have a great experience, e-mail or call the company. Sometimes, they send you free stuff.
--Much as it pains me to admit it, if you travel far enough up the chain of command after having a claim denied or an issue ignored, the decision is usually reversed.
--Every so often, there comes a time when the only solution is to pitch a fit. It's not often, but sometimes, it's the only way to get what you need or want.

In review:
--The more information you have when working with someone, the better
--If the person you're working with is not pleasant, or at least civil, ask for a supervisor
--Rarely, the only way to get what you want is to be demanding. Politeness is still nice, but firmness is key
--Training today was pretty cool, I spent twenty or thirty minutes discussing a sentence with my new boss.


Donna Lee said...

I have observed that pitching a fit often works but I don't think I can do it. I'm more inclined to back down. I'm pretty nonconfrontational.

Roxie said...

The fit pitching should be a line of last resort. If you use it too often, it sours your karma. I'm with you. Be polite but firm.

And, as a customer servant, if they want an extra pickle, give them the pickle.

Julie said...

I used to do customer service for a branch of Citibanc. I averaged about 300 calls per eight hour shift. The best thing I learned was that when someone irate called, to let them go. They intended to rant as soon as someone said hello, so I'd let them. Sometimes it took them a while to run down. And when they were finally saying "uh...hello?" in a somewhat rational manner, I figured they were ready to listen, and would start talking. Usually they'd have dumped enough information during the rant that I could have the problem fixed or the needed information at hand. It was kind of entertaining. If your bosses don't mind (and they shouldn't), give it a try for hard cases.

Generally I only yell at people to blow off steam; I never think it will accomplish anything.

Rose Red said...

All excellent advice. I always try to remain polite although I'm not sure I always achieve it (eg when I was trying to have the charges reversed from my mobile phone for some awful phone sex line which I'd NEVER subscribed to but which I was charged for). Took me and hour but I managed to get it reversed, even though they told me it was "impossible"). Mostly I stayed polite despite my frustration!