Your Service: Gaining the Competitive Edge
By Mimi Donaldson
time is spent in stressful work. We have less time for leisure.
Standards are changing. Aging baby boomers want to enjoy work; they
demand service. The ever-growing demand for more customer service
focuses us on gaining the edge. Smart entrepreneurs treat customers
more than right. And managers need to become "trainers" of
people seem to already have an edge in grasping the
"rapport-building service" mentality. We discovered long ago
that people often don't
"buy" on the basis of need, and people don't "sell" based on their breadth of product
knowledge. People "buy" people; the buyer buys you. All of
us have bought at least one item we don't need, and we bought it out of the
"relationship" we developed over a two-to-ten minute period
with the salesperson.
often more easily grasp the "go-the-extra-step-service"
approach, as they've had to go
many extra steps to achieve quasi-equal footing with men in the
workplace. We know how to nurture, and the concept of "taking
care" of the customer comes naturally. The "basics" of
good customer service training, however, are not gender-based.
Managers can coach customer service representatives to answer the
phone, channel potential buyers to salespeople, answer questions and
handle complaints and calm agitated customers. They must handle huge
volumes of calls and be compassionate while being efficient! Most
people view this is an impossible task. It's not.
are the five basic steps of servicing a customer with grace and control:
1. Be clear on
your purpose. What
do you want the customer to do, think, or feel after your
communication with them? Managers are smart to coach people to
"write it down!" In the "do" column, you may list:
"pay, renew, expand the order, and fill out the form correctly;
tell friends to buy; give us repeat business; not call my boss; never
again call to complain." In the "think" column may be:
"think we're an excellent company; I'm a capable, intelligent,
professional person; think our product is worth the investment."
In the "feel" column may be: "feel taken care of; feel
they're in capable hands; feel
satisfied and confident in their decision to buy; feel trust in our
company and in me." When people are clear on their purpose and
write it down in their own words, their focus improves. It's also the necessary step to
provide focus for the next four steps.
Appropriate is one of the best words in the English language. The
dictionary definition is "proper, fit, and suited to a given
purpose." In I Ching, the Book of Changes, a source of oracular
wisdom in Chinese philosophy for three thousand years, a most
important concept is Li, which means "conduct". An excerpt:
"One's purpose will be achieved if
one behaves with decorum. Pleasant manners succeed even with irritable
people." To the manager or entrepreneur who is a service person,
this means that every word uttered, every action performed must be
suited to the purpose they defined in Step #1.Logic prevails as people
start examining their behavior. If your purpose is that this customer
come back, would you be rude to him to prove your point? Of course
not. If your purpose is having the customer thinks your company is
professional, would you answer her query as to the whereabouts of a
salesperson, "Oh, she's around here somewhere - we
never know where she is.” Ridiculous. These comments defeat your
purpose. They're not suited to your given
purpose, so they're not appropriate. But how do
you stop these sentences before they come out of your mouth? This
leads us to the next step.
3. Know your
"hot buttons" and don't get sucked in.
Certain words or phrases used by customers push our buttons. Examples:
"What are you gals doing over there anyway?" "It's your fault." "Let
me speak to the man who knows something or who owns the company."
"You must have lost my payment." "Why is your product
so expensive?" Be aware of what your "hot buttons" are.
Make a list; read it over; desensitize yourself, so the next time you
hear one of them, you do not have to lash back with a defensive
remark, or a "yeah, but." Instead, you can ...
4. Push the
"pause button" to gain control. Our "pause button" separates us from the animals. My cat,
Linguini, is a stimulus-response machine. When he hears the sound of
the electric can opener, his response is consistent and predictable.
He will come running, and howl incessantly until the stimulus is
removed - until the sound of the can opener stops. Linguini has no
pause button. He can't pause at the kitchen door
and before he expends all that energy, check to see if it's my tuna fish or his. He
doesn't know the difference. (I do.
It's about a buck thirty-three.)
Some customers you know act like stimulus-response machines. Their
upsets are consistent and predictable. But your reaction doesn't have to be. When you are
aware of your hot buttons and one gets pushed, you can pause - very
briefly - and choose the appropriate response. One appropriate
response -- suited to your given purpose and efficient at the same
time -- is described in the final step of customer service.
5. Give the
customer 6-second empathy.
Using empathy is demonstrating with words that you understand what the
customer is saying and how they are feeling. It is a statement that is
calming, comforting, positive, and specific. A good one takes only six
seconds. "I understand how frustrating it is not to get the
information when you want it." 6 seconds. "I understand how
easy it is to get impatient with that machine." 6 seconds.
"It sounds like you're very upset. I see you need
our full cooperation." 6 seconds. A sincerely empathetic
statement can defuse a hostile customer. It also gives you time to
think of the response you can make which will satisfy your customer
(i.e. achieve your purpose) while staying within the boundaries of
your company's policy. These five steps
have proven effective for thousands of people and will prove effective
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