You call a number. You get a recording, a menu of options. You listen to all the options before pressing two. Another menu. This time you press one. Now a recording offers you yet a third menu. You select three and a recorded voice comes on to say, “Please hold while I try that extension.”
Twenty minutes of horrible music and a voice interrupting every so often to say, “Please stay on the line and the next available representative will help you,” you finally get a live person on the other end of the phone. You explain your problem patiently only to hear …
“Hold on while I transfer you to someone who can help you.”
Another fifteen minutes or so later you get someone equally unhelpful. You’re ready to hang up except you now have over forty minutes invested in this call. Your frustration levels are through the roof. Your anxiety is peaking. You’re about to rip someone’s head off if you don’t eventually get satisfaction.
We’ve all had that experience. Many of us have experienced it more times than we care to count.
Then we walk into a retailer with what we believe to be a simple problem, find a clerk to help us, explain our problem, and hear …
“Hold on while I find someone who can help you.”
We immediately go back to the frustrations and anxiety of all the other times this has happened to us.
Sure, you’re not a phone tree with endless menus and unhelpful people. Sure, you solve the problem with the second person she sees. Sure, your customer doesn’t have to wait thirty minutes like she did on the phone with that other company.
None of that matters. You still caused your customer to feel all those negative emotions first.
This is why the best stores empower the first person who greets a customer to be able to solve all of her problems and take care of all of her needs.
The customer walking through your door with a problem is already worked up. She brings with her the baggage of every forty-minute phone tree fiasco. She brings with her all the frustrations and anxieties of all the interactions with untrained, useless “salespeople.” She’s loaded for bear and ready for a fight.
Then you spring the, “Hold on while I find someone,” phrase on her.
When she explodes on you, it isn’t really you. You’re just the straw on the camel’s back. But those feelings she has are now associated with you whether you like it or not.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You can empower your front line staff to solve her problem by teaching them this simple three-statement approach:
- “I’m so sorry you have this problem …”
- “Let me see if I have this straight …” (explain the problem back to her as your heard it and ask for clarification)
- “What would you like us to do?”
Always apologize. Notice that the apology doesn’t necessarily imply guilt or fault. The apology simply acknowledges that she has a problem and sets her at ease.
Then repeat back her problem to show that you were listening. Sometimes just being heard is all a customer really needs. It also gives you a chance for clarification to understand the problem better and time to think about how you would want to solve the problem.
The last phrase is the kicker. Great Customer Service is when you meet a customer’s expectations. The best way to know what she expects is to ask. And since an unhappy customer is your worst enemy because of the negative reviews and bad word-of-mouth, it is vital you know exactly what she wants.
Once she tells you what she wants, the best thing to do is give her that … and a little more.
More often than not, when you first put the customer at ease and show her you are listening to her problem, by the time you ask her what she wants she will ask for less than you were likely prepared to give. Even if she does ask for a lot, instruct your staff to give it to her. It is worth it in the long run because of how it makes your customer feel.
“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou
Empower and train all of your staff to handle all of the problems immediately and you will control how your customers feels. Speed does matter. (Plus, if your staff are handling all the problems, you’ll have fewer interruptions throughout the day to get your work done. Win-win!)
PS Every now and then a customer will make an outrageous request. It is still worth it to meet that request the first time. If she becomes a repeat problem then you have the right to adjust what you do for her. But since these requests will be so few and far between, they won’t cost you nearly as much as you think. Plus, since you’ll be better managing the way customers feel about you, you’ll have more happy customers than ever before. Instead of worrying about the cost, think of it as an “advertising” expense where you are buying positive word-of-mouth (or at the very least buying the lack of bad word-of-mouth), and the fact you just made a customer’s day. Those are two benefits that will help any business.