Excellent customer service does not mean that you must always say “yes” to customers, clients and team members. Consider the old adage, “the customer is always right.” That old model represents the “master and servant” relationship and is no longer a valid model. Customers, clients and service professionals working together to meet and exceed business or professional needs, is the most effective customer model. This partnership is based on openness and honesty. The customer shares his or her wants and needs and relies on you to know what you can and cannot do to fulfill those needs.
Customer service is easy and fun when the answer is “yes.” Dealing with “no” while maintaining your partner relationship is more challenging. Here are three ways to meet the challenge:
The first thing is not to assume that the answer has to be “no.” In the spirit of partnership, it is possible to develop creative and innovative solutions to many issues. Work with the customer or client to see if you can find a way to say “yes.” You may not be able to do exactly what your customer or client requests, but you may be able to formulate alternatives that may work out as well or better than the requested resolution. Focus on the positive and reinforce the relationship by letting the customer know that you value the relationship and have been able to work things out in the past.
After working through the customer’s issue, you may need the approval of your manager to implement the resolution that you developed. Before confirming the agreement with the customer you may need your supervisor’s approval.
Suggested Response – “Mr. Dennison, before we implement this resolution, I need to get my manager’s approval.” [Develop a queue card with you custom response.]
Complaints that escalate out of control could result in lost customers and negative public relations. Each organization, department or individual should have a complaint management system and strategy. If you have an effective system, you can contain potentially damaging situations, and in many cases, strengthen your valuable relationships with customers and clients.
Ensure that each team member understands that the goal of the complaint management system and strategy of rebuilding customer relationships is to resolve problems and to create trust. A systematic process will be able to identify where customer service breakdowns occur. Secondly, you want to be able to repeat the processes that worked well.
Complaint Management Model
The complaint management model is very straight forward with three steps: Find out the specifics of the problem, identify potential solutions and reach acceptance of an option to resolve the problem. Ensure that you have an agreement that will strengthen the relationship and prove to the customer that what you say about your products and services is true and worthwhile.
When the customer has a service issue, the first emotion is usually disappointment when a product or service does not deliver as promised. At this point, the customer will usually contact the company or organization to get the problem resolved. However, if the problem is not resolved or the customer is placed on hold or transferred, the customer rises to the next level of frustration. If the customer is continuously transferred or gets unsatisfactory answers, the situation escalates to the next level, anger because they do not understand what is going on. This is when the customer questions whether or not they should have done business with you in the first place.
The customer may begin to think, that he or she should take his or her business elsewhere. Although the customer may have been disappointed with the product or service quality, the treatment that he or she receives is usually the “straw that breaks the camel’s back.”
Answer every one of the customer’s questions about the solution you have recommended. Provide additional information to reinforce your recommendations. The ultimate objective is to evaluate and ensure that you have done everything possible to satisfy the customer’s concerns.
Verify that your recommendation or proposed solution resolves the customer issue. The simplest way is to ask the customer, “Will this recommendation totally resolve your concerns?” If the customer agrees and accepts the proposed solution, you have added an additional element of trust and value to the relationship. It is always helpful to acknowledge the customer or client’s good judgment and wisdom for accepting your recommendation.
The colloquial expression, “the devil is in the details” perfectly describes one of the ways we can evaluate and ensure that our customers are satisfied. We must meticulously take care of the details, because this helps to establish in the customer’s mind that we are different (translated better) than our competitors. This is why a customer does business with your company or organization.
Once you have established a high level of confidence in your company or organization, continuous efforts must be undertaken to maintain that high level of trust and differentiation in the customer’s mind. You must continue to evaluate customer needs to demonstrate that the customer is important and your organization has a burning desire to provide exceptional customer service.
As you conclude an interaction with a customer, seek to broaden the common ground by asking the customer, “Is there any other way I or my organization can help to achieve your [critical business] objectives?” Don’t ever let the customer think that there is anything more important than his or her interests.
Recognize and capitalize on your edge through attention to details and establish yourself in the mind of the customer as the professional that creatively provides that extra measure of care and attention to the details of customer satisfaction.
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