I’ve had some amazing results using the techniques I am about to describe for getting good customer service. I had a power toothbrush manufacturer give me a new unit because it was losing its ability to hold a charge three times in a row just before the two-year warranty ended. I had a computer manufacturer replace a recently purchased computer because I was unhappy with its performance two times! The last computer they sent me had twice the capabilities in almost every category. And I had an automobile manufacturer replace an air conditioner that stopped working in a vehicle that was out of warranty by more than a year.
I’ve used these techniques to get good customer service for years. The key to executing these strategies with customer service representatives is that you must do them with sincerity. You must find the motivation and good-heartedness within so that you can express yourself with authenticity.
These techniques work with all different types of customer service representatives, but those with the most authority and the best training have the greatest ability to do you the most good. I categorize customer service representatives like this. Customer service representatives with the greatest to the least amount of authority and training are those at the manufacturer, followed by managers at retail stores, followed by clerks you’d find at a customer service desk of a department store.
Here are the 8 keys for getting good customer service.
1. Greet them in a friendly and respectful manner
If you consider what customer service representatives deal with it’s easy to see how being friendly and respectful is a crucial first step in getting good customer service.
Many people who call customer service have the mistaken notion that the only way they are going to get something done is to be angry, forceful, and demanding. This is a big mistake. Imagine how the customer service representative feels at the other end of the phone. The customer service representative must be nice and many customers take advantage of this.
Consider how the customer service representative can respond and get back at you for making their job miserable. They can give you the bare minimum from the array of possible solutions that they are authorized to provide and the least amount of their time to identify them.
If you greet them in a friendly and respectful way, amazing things can happen. Here’s how you should greet them. Customer service representatives usually give their names when they answer the phone. Write it down so that you can use it in your conversation and record it in your notes at the end. Greet them by saying something like this in a pleasant, uplifting, and sincere tone, “Hi Robin! How are you doing today?” If you get a warm response from them, continue. Your chances of getting good customer service from this person are excellent. If their response is cold, come up with an excuse to end the call. You will not get good customer service from this person.
If the conversation starts poorly, the rest of it will continue the same way. This can happen for any number of reasons including the possibility that they are having a bad day, your personalities don’t match, or they just have a bad attitude. I’ve never had a call that started poorly end on a positive note. If you get the same representative when you call back, wait a few hours or days before trying again.
The other half of the strategy for getting good customer service involves you. If you’re having a bad day, you’re in a rush, or you’re angry or frustrated with the product you are calling about, call some other time.
You’ll know it when you connect with a customer service representative that you gel with. The stronger the rapport that you establish at the beginning, the better the results you will get in the end. And often the outcome can be far beyond your expectations. I’ve been amazed countless times.
2. Talk positively about their product
Here’s another area where you must put yourself in the place of the customer service representative. The person that you are speaking with has chosen to work for the company that manufactures or sells the product that you are calling about. In many cases, this assignment is an entry-level position. Some companies place their management trainees into this job so that they can learn about the business from the frontlines. Everyone wants to be proud of where s/he works. You can imagine how a customer service representative will feel if they get a caller who angrily rips apart the company and product that they represent.
There was a positive reason why you chose to buy a particular product. Before you call, revisit those reasons and take your attention away from the frustration the problem has caused. Then express these reasons to the customer service representative. Whatever you come up with, you must communicate it with sincerity. Here’s an example of what I mean. Tell the customer service representative, “I bought your LX model and I love it. In fact, this is the third time I’ve purchased one of your products and I’ve always been extremely happy with them. But this time I am having a problem that I am hoping you can solve.”
Telling them how you appreciate their product and explaining your history provides a customer service representative with the information they need to classify you as a valued customer. The criteria for this classification may come from company and department policy, but the customer service representative interprets and applies it. Therefore, you need to convince and encourage your representative.
Being classified as a valued customer empowers, and possibly inspires, the customer service representative to provide you with options only available to this select group. In order words, companies and customer service representatives want to hold on to customers who are loyal and speak well of them. After all, isn’t this the number one reason for providing good customer service?
A written policy for classifying valued customers may or may not exist, but I can assure you that it does in practice at every company.
3. Determine a solution in advance
If you have a solution on how the problem might be solved in advance, you can guide the conversation with the customer service representative toward that outcome. If you don’t have a clue about how the problem might get fixed before you call, the result may not match your expectations. Figure out what you want to accomplish before the call even if you have to do some research. This is particularly important when you are calling about an expensive item.
Decide ahead of time what you want to do. Don’t leave it to the customer service representative to decide for you. If you are calling the manufacturer, you might need to call or visit a few of their local retail stores to determine their parameters. Retail store personnel might also give you some insights into what is needed and what is possible when dealing with the manufacturer. This is valuable information that you can use to get what you want in the shortest amount of time and with the least amount of effort.
It’s important that you clearly state the problem and then subtly and respectfully lead them toward the solution that you want without actually saying it. By not saying it right away, you avoid the possibility of them thinking that you are trying to take advantage of them.
The best strategy is to clearly present the problem and allow them to present possible solutions. If they don’t offer the one that you want or the one that you know they sometimes provide based on your research, start asking questions. For example, say to them, “What other possibilities are there?” or “It is my understanding that you sometimes offer X or Y.” or “This has nothing to do with your performance because you’ve been great, but are there any options beyond the range of your authority that I might consider?” The last one is tricky. Your objective is to get them on YOUR side before you ask them to speak with their supervisor. You do this by being respectful and asking, in effect, for their permission to speak with a person with greater authority. You might say, “Would you mind if I spoke to the person (supervisor/boss) that you mentioned?” That way they won’t feel slighted or become defensive. If you were to make them feel that they were performing poorly, they would not support your position when they present the matter to their supervisor before transferring the call.
Remember that a company’s goal is to provide good customer service. Your objective is to help them do it in a way that fixes the problem to your satisfaction.
4. Ask what can be done to correct the problem
Here’s a slightly different approach. After you have established a rapport, explained the problem, and guided them toward your desired outcome, simply ask them, “What can be done to correct the problem.” After you have asked them this question, do not talk. Wait for them to speak first! This is very important. There’s an old saying about successful sales and negotiation techniques that goes something like this, “Whoever speaks first loses.”
Your objective is to find out about all the possible options that exist for solving your problem. If they don’t present any that satisfy you, ask them, “What other options are available” or “Are there any options beyond the range of your authority that I might consider?” and “What are they?”
When you are speaking about options beyond their authority, you are leading them toward a conversation with their supervisor. But before you let them transfer the call, learn as much as you can about all the options that are available. When you speak to their supervisor, use the same strategies I described for talking with representatives. If the representative you were speaking to provided good customer service, be sure to mention this to the supervisor. After all, the supervisor probably hired and trained them.
Keep probing them for the solution you want by repeatedly asking them, “What can be done to correct the problem?” Do this with patience and respect and you will get good customer service and be satisfied with the result.
5. Show your appreciation
With each attempt to find a solution to your problem, express your appreciation and praise them for their efforts. Everybody likes being appreciated; it makes them want to do more. This is probably more true of customer service representatives since they spend most of their time listening to people complain and criticize.
Since it may take several steps involving days or weeks to solve the problem, it’s important to constantly show your appreciation and NOT assume that the issue will be fixed with just one or two calls. So don’t burn your bridges.
If a customer service representative does an extraordinary job, take the time to tell them and even offer to send an email to their boss. Again, only do this if you sincerely feel this way and intend to follow through.
By expressing your appreciation to your representative, you have a much better chance of receiving good customer service.
6. Make notes
After you’ve ended the call, make notes about your conversation that include this information: date(s) contacted, customer service representative’s name, description of the problem, description of the solution, and agreed timetable.
This information gives you the ability to respond with authority and it lets them know that you are keeping records. These records also strengthen your position should you need to pursue the matter further or take it up the chain of command.
7. Follow up
Mark your calendar on the date stated to you that the problem would be solved. If it’s not solved by that date follow up with your customer service representative. I would recommend that you add a couple of extra days to allow for any glitches so that you don’t waste your time or theirs when you call.
The strategy for following up is the same as it was at the beginning — be polite and respectful. You’ll need to add one more crucial ingredient that can lead to success if you can hold on to it: Patience! If you can hold on to your patience, the customer service representative will likely recognize this and reward you by giving you much more than you expected.
8. Consider customer satisfaction surveys
Customer satisfaction surveys have become an important part of measuring business success for most companies. To encourage employees to provide good customer service, the scores they receive are sometimes tied directly to their salary. If they get an overall rating that’s less than near-perfect their paycheck is reduced.
Although this method of incentive has produced a higher level of customer service, I question the ethics of doing this when it can affect a large portion of a person’s salary. This is especially true when certain measurements of the survey are outside the control of the employee.
With this in mind, I would encourage you to give the person you’ve been working with, or their supervisor, the opportunity to solve the problem rather than venting your anger in the survey.
This is particularly important for business establishments that you visit regularly like an automobile dealerships. They have ways of figuring out which customer gave them a bad score. And if they determine it’s you, they’ll still treat you in a courteous manner but you’ll never know how they may return the favor.
Give representatives and managers every opportunity to solve the problem before you complete a survey. If you’re still unsuccessful after you’ve patiently tried every way possible to get the problem solved, then perhaps it’s time to submit a low-scoring survey. The company may actually benefit by getting this feedback if they are that incompetent at providing good customer service and solving your problem.
I’ve been amazed at what I’ve been able to get done with customer service representatives over the years using the strategies I’ve presented. I think my rate of success is about 90 percent! No kidding.
The money you save by not having to replace or repair products is more than worth the time you spend. And in some cases, if you’re really in the zone using the techniques I’ve described, you’ll end up with more than what you originally paid for the product or service.
So as I have pointed out, good customer service isn’t necessarily something that is given automatically, it’s something that you create! Companies spend a great deal of money training their representatives to provide good customer service. I am surprised that some of them don’t spend a portion of their budget on showing their customers, through subtle methods, how to “get” good customer service.
You are now one of the few who knows the secrets to getting good customer service. Give them a try.