Providing great customer service isn’t about being nice.
You may think being nice is the most important part of customer service but it is not. Being nice isn’t even among the most important steps to providing great customer service. In fact, you can give great customer service without being nice at all.
Hard to believe? That might not line up with what you think you know about providing great customer service because being nice, or whatever you want to call it, is usually the first thing taught to anyone who will be providing customer service. Be pleasant and understanding with the customer. Be nice. That’s always lesson one.
But that’s the wrong place to start and here’s why. When the customer has a problem, he has only one goal. He wants his problem resolved to his satisfaction. The customer isn’t looking for a new friend. The customer doesn’t want to share feelings. The customer just wants resolution, not sympathy.
The goal of customer service therefore is to resolve the customer’s problem. The quicker that goal is achieved, the better the service is considered by the customer.
Let’s start with a clear definition of what great customer service is. Great customer service is resolving the customer’s problem in as little of the customer’s time and involment as possible.
The need to solve the problem quickly should be obvious. But what is meant by “with as little of the customer’s involvement as possible”? This is the key to great service.
Let’s make this concept concrete. If I call your company because my new radio is dead, and your representative thinks it might be best to send a new one out to me, should I be put on hold for 20 minutes while your rep gets approval to send a replacement radio? Even though the rep is working to resolve my problem, he is taking my time to work on what is really your problem. Your problem is the procedure required to authorize the shipment of the replacement radio. So why not take my phone number and any other required information and offer to call me back within an hour with a resolution? That frees me to do things I need to do and it saves expensive telephone time for you. Your reducing my involvement in the resolution of the problem by working out the details on your time rather than mine.
The representative can call me back with the resolution and make me very happy. Wow! I only had to make one call and they took care of everything. And I was only on the phone for a few minutes. That’s great service. Well, isn’t it?
I recently spent several hours on the phone with Wells Fargo Bank over many phone calls while they tried to figure out how to send me a replacement ATM card. 90% of the phone time was spent with me on hold.
A call to American Express to obtain a replacement for a card that took a trip through the washing machine lasted 5 minutes. The operator was not not sugary sweet. I told her my problem and she replied, “I can have a card sent immediately. May I confirm your address?” I gave my address and she replied, “a new card should reach you within 48 hours. Is there anything else I can help you with?” No. End of call. I had the card the next day. It took Wells Fargo nearly 8 weeks to get a working ATM card to me.
The American Express operator was not as “nice” as all the people I had to speak at Wells Fargo. She was professional and quick. She seemed to be in a hurry. But she wasn’t in a hurry to get rid of me; she was in a hurry to resolve my problem. Wells Fargo people were all nice and empathetic but I hope I never have to deal with any of them again. I don’t have the time.
Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog