Monday, February 22, 2010

Customer Service Training - for the Customer!

Right now, I’m working on a project that focuses on customer service. We all have customer service horror stories: surly customer service representatives, eternities spent on hold or being transferred a handful of times to people unable or unwilling to help. In that respect, we have all been there and we definitely know what kind of service we don’t want to receive. There is a clear need for customer service training.

But, I have to wonder, if sometimes, we could use customer service training for the customer. Customer service representatives have some pretty stressful jobs and if we are honest, we know that we don’t always make it any easier for them.

Just out of college, I worked briefly answering phones for a swanky hotel. I was routinely maligned and verbally abused. Of course, most guests were very nice but the ones who weren’t, left quite an impression! I never understood why someone would think that yelling at me would compel me to give better service. In fact, it was just the opposite. I went out of my way to help those customers who genuinely wanted my help and were respectful. Those who weren’t ran into a lot more obstacles. Being nasty normally doesn’t work. Respect is a two-way street. If we expect to receive it, we should also give it.

Then there are times when we call in a perfectly respectful manner and receive rude treatment. I remember calling about a credit card statement once and getting a woman who was rude. I know I didn’t do anything to her and I told a little joke and her mood changed. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. But either way, I try not to take their attitude personally, and I also try not to respond to rudeness with more rudeness. Sarcasm is an easy way to make a bad situation worse.

I was not surprised when I read that a person who receives poor service shares the experience with at least 11 people. However, when that same person receives superior service, they share that experience with just four people. We need to be more generous with our compliments. Offer a thank you to the person who retrieves your information quickly and courteously. Tip your server and tell him that he did a great job. A little courtesy goes a long way and who doesn't like it when their hard work and efforts are acknowledged?

Don’t keep great service a secret!


Kim said...

Of course we need training for the customer! We've all been terrible customers at one point or another. I try to be a good steward of good customer service. When I receive it, I write a letter to the manager or send a letter to the company in addition to telling the person how much I appreciated it. I do this because people give you what you reward. If you reward good behavior you get that. If bad behavior you get that also. I agree we need to tell more when thing are done right.

Gravity Gardener said...

If you are considering a position in user support, you will need to have the following skills:
1. A Great Listener - Customers want you to completely understand their issue with the hope you will be able to assist them in resolving their problems quickly and efficiently. You will gain their respect if you let them completely explain their issue and respond in a positive manner. Take time to listen to their situation before jumping in with your resolution. Ask questions when you feel you have heard the issue and repeat some of their problems to let them know you were listening.

2. Professionalism - Having the ability to speak well and clearly over the phone or in person will be crucial in your interaction with the customer. A customer representative that acts in an un-professional manner will quickly become unwanted and only frustrate them further. You need to be a patient, professional and calming influence when interacting with customers at all times.

3. The Desire to Solve their Problem – User support requires you to have the fundamental sincerity to help others. Once you understand their issues, your desire to resolve them quickly and efficiently will make you the go to guy or gal for future needs. Your credibility and reputation will get you the visibility you need to move on in other areas.

Gravity Gardener

Karyn Beach said...

@ Kim: Taking the time to commend great customer service is definitely worth the effort. And when I am really upset or annoyed, I try to take a few breaths before I call customer service so that I don't become a nightmare customer! :)

@ Gravity Gardener: So true. I've done some user support training and literally cringed at some of the things my co-worker would say. In addition to what you said, I would add that empathy goes a long way. Understanding that although you might have encountered this same problem 10 times a day, this problem is personal to the caller and by the time they call they are already frustrated.

Great comments!

chandra said...

reinforcing the positive attributes
Customer Service Job Duties