In bordering on turning my blog into a place to vent, I’m going to use some restraint this week when discussing the main topic on my mind — customer service. And, I write this from the perspective of being a self-employed person whose livelihood is in the hands of clients and prospects and as being the other half to another self-employed person who recognizes the connection between service and keeping one’s clients.
The Ugly Side of Service
In the past week, I’ve had four distinct situations that can be linked together by a sole common denominator: the customer service I received was atrocious (at best). In fact, the service was so obnoxious that I felt like I should hang my head in shame because I even thought I would ever count as a customer. Here are my favorite verbal tidbits from such experiences (and I’m quoting the customer service people here):
- Long Beach BMW dealership: “This is all I can offer or this has all been for nothing.” [Really, so you don’t need to make an effort to get a sale anymore?]
- Southern California Edison: “No, there is no possible way we can help you.” [In response for me asking for a letter to verify Dave’s name had been added to account. I was told we would have to wait four weeks until our next paperless bill. Wow, looks like it’s my fault for calling between billing cycles].
- Department of Environmental Health: “What are you trying to do? Do you expect me to have the answer?” [This was said right after my opening line where I was asking for the fax number of a person I identified in order to send permits. That is exactly what I said and that was their answer — did they even hear the quite specific information that left my mouth right after they said hello because I thought I was pretty clear?]
- Don’t take the fact that your day is going from bad to worse out on the person on the other end of the phone, email, or counter.
- Don’t make the customer feel like they are somehow at fault. Even if they are, keep it to yourself.
- Say ‘yes’ as much as possible [unless what is being asked is not in the realm of reality]. If I can shuffle work to accommodate a new client I will, but I will also gently let them know that it is something special I’m doing and can try to do it wherever possible [so they don’t take advantage of it].
- Be patient and listen with your mouth shut and ears open.
- Find solutions rather than simply create more problems. While it is easy to just discount a person’s request or their issue with the idea ‘that it’s not my problem,’ it’s better to offer alternatives or ideas that could help. This will keep them coming back for more.
- Smile when you talk on the phone. People can feel that on the other end of the line.
- Thank your clients for their business and prospective customers for considering you. Appreciation goes a long way.