If you’re like most people, you dread — I mean DREAD — calling a mega-company with a question. You feel like a lowly peon in the middle of a vast ocean of faceless voices, most of them recorded. And if, by some fortunate incident, you get a live person on the other end of the phone, you’ve struck pay dirt, because it doesn’t always work out that way.
Do you relate to any of this? It’s frustrating isn’t it? And then, out of the blue, an exceptional customer service rep crosses your path. It’s like manna from heaven. You are so grateful and somewhat surprised by the amazing service you receive. Why? Because it’s so rare. Even if you’ve had a series of bad experiences with a supplier, here’s something to remember …
Just ONE GOOD EXPERIENCE can change your perception.
Do you know what I mean? I had one of those “WOW” experiences today. NOTE: The names in this story are REAL because the company and the customer service reps are real … really great too.
After receiving my Rogers cell phone bill for my biz, I noted an additional $10 charge I wasn’t expecting. I called Rogers and after a few minutes of listening to delightful elevator music (it’s OK, I needed a break anyhow ;o), I had a live client rep on the line. Her name was Shari and she distinguishes herself by her amazing ability to connect with and help clients. After she introduced herself in beautiful English and French, the conversation went something like this:
ME: Hi Shari. Wow, (in a genuine voice, because I genuinely was taken aback and impressed …) you speak both English and French flawlessly. Beautiful!
SHARI: Oh (quite surprised), thanks so much! That’s nice of you to say that. Thank you.
ME: Well, I was hoping you could help me. I have a question about my latest bill. I’m puzzled as to why I was charged $10 for calling one of your reps with a question. And here’s the irony — I’d called that day to ask about an overage in my data usage. I was told it would be about $10, not knowing that I was being charged another $10 for that very phone call. I’m not sure why that number would have a charge for clients?
SHARI: I see. What number did you dial?
SHARI: Hmmm, (concerned tone) where did you get that number?
ME: I think it was from a text message I’d received from Rogers.
SHARI: OK. Did you get that message while you were traveling?
ME: Possibly. I’m in the States a lot.
SHARI: That’s our out-of-country number for clients … it’s free to dial in when you’re in the States, but there’s a charge when you dial that number from Canada. I think that’s what happened.
ME: Oh no! I had no idea. I’ve used that number when traveling and had no charge. I had no idea there was ever a charge for it.
SHARI: I understand. Here’s a couple numbers you can use in Canada at no charge (she gives me two numbers). I’m going to put you on hold and check with my supervisor to see what we can do.
ME: Shari, before you speak to the higher-ups, here’s a suggestion I hope you could pass along — something to save both you and your clients future headaches. Why not include a note on the text message that this 514- phone number is free when dialed outside Canada but is not free when dialed anywhere in Canada (and give another toll-free option for in Canada use)? I think that might help everyone.
SHARI: Good idea. Thanks for sharing it. Yes, I’ll pass it along when I speak to my boss. I’m just going to put you on hold for a moment, OK? I’ll be right back.
And right back, she was. With the knowledge and permission of her supervisor, Shari removed the $10 charge immediately from my bill and thanked me for my suggestions and patience. In return, I thanked her for her outstanding service and (here’s the part most people forget …), I asked to speak to her boss. I left a message for Elizabeth recounting the exchange and commending Shari on representing the firm well. She embodies responsiveness, great listening skills and problem-solving — the hallmarks of great customer service.
So let me ask you this — are YOU giving great customer service like Shari?
Do you use these 4 keys to great service?
- Allow the client to say his or her piece … without interrupting. Actively listen. That means punctuate the conversation with “uh-huh” or clarifying questions such as, “Then what happened?”, “Who did you speak to”, or as Shari asked, “What number did you dial? Where did you get that number?” Watch your tone to ensure that there is no trace of judgment or superiority.
- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Understand why they might be upset or may be behaving in a certain way. This requires a degree of maturity and ability to step back and remove the emotion. Everyone is the way they are, feels the way they do, and acts in a certain way, for a reason. Find out what that reason is.
- Do you acknowledge the client’s position? I’m not saying “agree”, I’m saying actively acknowledge. Further, do you let the client know what you’re thinking by using neutral language such as “I see what you’re saying, “I hear you” or “I understand”? Or do you say nothing or get defensive and start explaining WHY it’s the way it is before you’ve validated their perspective?
- Once the client explains the situation and you validate it, do you move to solve it? Listening alone is not enough. If you don’t have the authority to resolve the issue, connect them with the person who does. Or better yet, YOU talk to that authority so you maintain the one-person contact and the client doesn’t feel like a bouncing ball. (Plus, that empowers you and positions you as a problem solver versus sloughing off the client to someone else).
The end result of my encounter with Shari? I’m a satisfied Rogers client. At least for today ;o) The service she provided assures me that this company is genuinely interested in helping clients. The fact that this mega-company has real, live people at the other end of the phone, helps me feel less like a cog in a massive wheel, and more like a valued client. This experience tells me, through their actions, that they appreciate my business and are working hard to keep it.
What are YOU doing to serve your clients with WOW?!
You may not realize that you too are a customer rep. Wait a sec, I can hear you now, “Marion, I’m an office worker or a corporate manager. I don’t deal with clients”. Wrong. Your boss, your colleagues, your employees — they’re all your “internal clients”. I challenge you to assume an attitude of service. Consider these people as your clients and your job is to help remove obstacles so they can get their jobs done faster, easier, more cost-effectively. Although less directly, you also have “external clients” — your company’s shareholders, the media you feed stories to, the communities your company serves. When you think that way, it changes what you say and how you respond.
Or maybe you’re a small biz owner and you clearly see the direct connection between the service you provide and your bottom line. Bravo. You have skin in the game, your own time and money in your company, and every reason to provide shining client service. You can take that to the bank.
Whether they’re “internal” or “external” to your organization, rest assured that you have clients too.
How you treat them will impact the viability of your company, your relationships, and your personal career.
Hats off to all of you who offer fantastic client service. I’d love to hear your stories posted below of the amazing service you’ve received or given. What made it so great? I bet they listened, validated and solved. Post your comments in the blog below. Isn’t it wonderful to share some GOOD news? Now, that’s a service anyone can enjoy.
Looking forward to reading about YOUR great client service experiences.
And Shari, if you’re out there, don’t be surprised to see a comment on your Personnel file — I asked your boss to note it. Why? Because customer service like yours deserves recognition. Thanks again. d me that the amount would be removed from the bill, given the misunderstanding.
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Helping biz people find solutions to workplace communication challenges.
Better communication, better business, better life.
Recipient of APEX “Award for Leadership in Service Innovation”
© 2013 Marion Grobb Finkelstein
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Communication catalyst, author, professional speaker Marion Grobb Finkelstein teaches individuals and organizations across Canada how to boost communication skills in order to improve morale, confidence, and productivity. Chat with her at www.facebook.com/MarionSpeaks and sign up for her FREE weekly “Marion’s Communication Tips” at www.MarionSpeaks.com