The following dialogue occurred between a former customer support rep and a new customer:
CSR: Todd with computer assistance; How can I help you?
Caller: Yes, I’m having trouble with the computer I bought from your company.
CSR: What sort of trouble?
Caller: Well, I was just typing along, and all of a sudden the words went away; they just disappeared.
CSR: Hmm. So what does your screen look like now?
Caller: Nothing. It’s blank; it won’t accept anything I type.
CSR: Are you still in that program, or did you get out?
Caller: How can I tell?
CSR: Can you see the ‘C: prompt’ on the screen?
Caller: What’s a sea-prompt?
CSR: Never mind, can you move your cursor around the screen?
Caller: There is no cursor; I told you, it won’t accept anything I type.
CSR: Does your monitor have a power indicator light that tells you when it’s on?
Caller: I don’t know.
CSR: Well, then look on the back of the monitor and you will see a cord. Can you see it?
Caller: No I can’t, it’s dark.
CSR: What do you mean by ‘dark’?
Caller: Well we had a power failure, and the only light I have is what’s coming through the window.
CSR: A power failure? Aha. Okay, here’s what I want you to do. Unplug everything, and then pack it up just like it was when you bought it. Then take it back to the store you got it from.
Caller: Wow! Is it that bad?
CSR: I’m afraid it is.
Caller: Well, all right then, what do I tell them?
CSR: Tell them you’re just too stupid to own a computer!
That fellow obviously needs to go to charm school, which is why I listed him as a former CSR. One way I continue to sharpen my ax (improve in my job), is to read about and listen to others from the sales coaching and customer service arena. In my home office I have one entire wall devoted to books I’ve accumulated over the last 45 years. Currently there are 40 running feet of bookshelves filled with publications, and who knows how many more there are boxed up in the garage.
Recently I picked up one I hadn’t read in a long time, titled “Hey, I’m the Customer” by Ron Willingham. I acquired my signed copy at a workshop hosted by the author in Phoenix about 15 years ago, and am using it to provide the framework for this blog post.
Mr. Willingham breaks down communicating with customers into six simple steps:
1. Greet Customers
On average, callers make 11 decisions about you in the first 7 seconds after contact. To be effective as a customer service specialist, you should listen to the caller’s emotions, pace, tone, and attitudes. Be sure to thank them for contacting you, and then tune the world out and tune them in.
You should practice these responses until you are an “unconscious competent,” defined as an individual who has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. Remind yourself how uplifting it is when you are greeted properly. Or think how you feel when people’s actions say; “Hey, you’re the one paying my salary.” These suggestions will result in great customer service every time.
2. Value Customers
When you value people your sincerity causes them to feel good about you and trust you. You should value customers by regularly making mental statements like these; “You’re the customer, and my paycheck is dependent on you”. “There’s something about you I like”. “You make my job possible”
The secret is to see your job as more than being a customer service or admin specialist. Look at it as helping people enjoy the end-result benefits of what your company sells and services.
3. Ask How to Help Customers
A genuine desire to understand the needs and wants of others impacts customers, and places you above your counterparts at other companies. Find out why they contacted you, ask how you can help them and then follow up by probing to further understand their pain (needs) and desires (wants).
Questions are your best friend. Relate to them with this quote in mind, which is one of my favorites: “I’ve kept six honest serving men; they taught me all I knew. Their names are what and why and when; and where and how and who.”
4. Listen to Customers
According to noted psychology professor, Dr. Albert Mehrabian, effective communication is only 7% verbal (the words you say), and 38% tone of voice (how you say them). The other 55% consists of all the non-verbal aspects of communication (body language).
You must be very observant by listening not only to people’s words, but also to their voice tone. Even when you do a good job in those areas, you still must listen to their body language in order to receive 100% of what is being communicated when you are on the phone.
5. Help Customers
To remain competitive today, businesses must change from a service orientation to a customer-needs focus. You must satisfy their wants and/or needs by giving an extra measure of value. When you do this, you will solve their problems in the process.
As you come to the aid of your customers, avoid being overly product focused by becoming more attentive to their needs. Center your communication on the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) they receive by doing business with you.
6. Invite Customers Back
The last impression people will have of you will stay with them until you have a chance to change it; if in fact you ever get another chance. Make sure to thank them for contacting you and, as you do, create an atmosphere where they will want to return and will feel comfortable doing so.
This is a crucial step in building long-term loyalty and satisfaction. Don’t overlook the importance of the last impression. People go where they are appreciated, welcomed, and valued, and they return when they are invited back.
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