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Is the customer always right? Really?

'Wrong Way' photo (c) 2006, Dallas - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/The customer is always right.

It’s a lovely thought… if you’re a customer. Of course, no one is actually, truly, always right. Customers — along with some politicians, children, and Charlie Sheen — may think they’re always right, but frankly, life is just not that simple. There are times when even a customer will be wrong about something.

In many cases, the best approach will be to treat the customer as if they were indeed right. Offering a discount when a customer doesn’t technically quite qualify can be a lot less expensive than losing a long-time customer for good.

In other cases though the mistake or misinformation may be so significant that there is just no way you can let it go uncorrected:

“I’m truly sorry, but no, the Buy One Get One Free special that we had last year is no longer being offered, and unfortunately it never applied to every single item in the store.”

“Sorry, but I’m afraid the Kids Eat Free special only applies when someone else buys a meal.”

Whether right or, well, wrong, though, every customer deserves the same respect and dignity they would get if they were indeed right. And if you do need to tell a customer that this time he or she is not right, stop first to ask a few key questions: [Read more...]

How can you calm an angry customer?

'Cheer Up' photo (c) 2009, signal the police - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/In our last post, we asked, “Have you kissed a customer today?”  It’s a great way to let someone know you appreciate the privilege of working with them, especially when things are going well and you’re both feeling the love.

Alas, not every day in customer service — or anywhere else for that matter — goes quite so well. On one of those bad days, you may feel like every customer is out to get you, and before you know it, your voice starts to pick up an edge that’s not there on your good days. Your customers can hear it even if you can’t. Now it’s spreading and they’re beginning to sound a bit edgier too.

The downward spiral is now well underway.

Have you every tried using a “kiss” to get a bad day back on track? Yep, you’ve probably guessed that we’re not talking about a “real” kiss here. But when you’re in the midst of a disconcerting conversation, a virtual customer service kiss may do a lot to pull things out of the spiral and moving on target again.

The next time a call is first beginning to spin out of control, what would happen if you tried inserting something like these into the discussion? [Read more...]

Have you kissed a customer today?

'Kiss statue at St Pancras' photo (c) 2007, David Sim - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/If you work in customer service, you already know that there’s something about caring for people all day long that can bring out the best and worst in people.

On a good day, it can feel great to know you’re solving problems, helping people, and forging part of a solid reputation for your company as a place that cares for its customers.

Granted, on a bad day, a customer service job can be one extremely demanding way to earn a living. But we’re going to leave that side of things for our next post. For now, let’s focus on the sunny side of customer care.

To make a good day even better, have you tried kissing a customer? Okay, well maybe not actually, really, you know, kissing them. But have you tried a virtual customer kiss?

Try sincerely offering a comment like one of the following during a conversation that’s going well. The effect can be magical for you and your customer! [Read more...]

Do you care too much about what customers say?

'Hurt' photo (c) 2010, Nicu Buculei - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/No professional likes to make mistakes. However, as much as we work hard to make every day error-free, mistakes sometimes get out there, and can end up teaching us our best lessons in life. Some though can be costly… even deadly. And in a call center, few mistakes are as debilitating as taking customers’ complaints too personally.

It is of course great to empathize with callers, to feel their frustrations and share their disappointments. There is great value in  strategically listening to a caller’s complaints or objections; those words are signposts to help us understand what the real problem is, and how it can be fixed.

But sometimes, when the most caring agents start to get too attached to the people they serve, or maybe when they take such pride in their work that any unresolved complaint is seen as a personal failure, their empathy can turn to atrophy. [Read more...]

Does it really matter if you smile on the phone?

'smile!' photo (c) 2006, seanbjack - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
Smile!

It’s probably the advice that’s been given more than any other by customer service and call center consultants, not to mention poets, songwriters, therapists, and mothers. But it still bears repeating, because lots of customers will tell you that salespeople and call center agents still don’t do it enough. Smile!

Why?

Your smile can reassure, and bring hope to a gloomy situation. It can turn customers into loyal friends, and let people know they’re welcome and valued. A smile can build someone’s confidence that you really can fix their problems. [Read more...]

Give your call center a front-end alignment

'Driving to the test' photo (c) 2009, Ben+Sam - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Do you know where you’re going? Really? Whether you’re driving a car or a call center, you’re going to run into trouble sooner or later if your direction is even slightly different than you want it to be. That’s easy to understand on the highway; probably more than you want it to be. Just a few seconds of veering off course can have some pretty awful consequences. In a call center though, the outcome of poor direction can also be disastrous, but a lot harder to spot until you’ve hit a guardrail… or gone over a cliff.

The front tires in your car work best when they agree with each other, responding in tandem to the directions sent from the steering wheel down through a surprisingly intricate series of links and supports. When it works well, all those individual parts work so smoothly that you tend to think of it all as just one unit. You just tell the car to go one way or another, and it does.

However, if those front wheels lose their alignment, things start to go subtly wrong. The car will start to drift one way or another. The ride will get a whole lot bumpier. Those individual parts will start to show wear and tear long before they should. And before you know it, you’ll be replacing parts and spending money that you would much rather have spent some other way.

What happens when a call center loses its front-end alignment? [Read more...]

“Hello? Are you there?” Don’t make me guess.

waitingphoto © 2006 Celine Nadeau | more info (via: Wylio)I waited. Was she still there? Had she heard my question? Had the intercom broken? Silence.

Somewhere, in the distance, a coyote howled.

“Hello?” I ventured. “Are you still there?”

Static crackled, and then a voice. “Yes, yes I’m here,” she answered. More static. Was I ordering a burger or trying to connect with the space shuttle? And then, finally, the update. “I’m just trying to get an answer to your question.”

Really? That’s what she was doing? I had asked what toppings were on the new Extra Deluxe Burger that they had constantly advertising recently. I was kind of surprised that that information wasn’t readily available to the staff. Was I really the first one to ever ask this?

But what really surprised me was that [Read more...]

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