It really does not matter what industry you are in, or whether you provide a service or a product, the essential tenements of customer service are the same.
The first and more natural form of customer service is reactive. It consists of the following progression:
- You receive a complaint or are somehow made aware of dissatisfaction. It is imperative to respond quickly, without excuses, and honestly.
- This phase is essentially about listening, showing empathy, and trying to ascertain what the customer expectations were and how the customer perceives they were not met. It is imperative to detail and documents what the customer has been promised, by whom, and in what timeframe.
- Then you need to get the customer to agree on what an acceptable outcome would be moving forward.
- Now is the time for research, you need to go back to your service providers, compare the information given to you by the customer and ask them honestly for their version of what happened.
- Comparing version A (customer) with version B (supplier) it is then up to you to determine how get from A to B in such a way it that the customer perceives the original expectations have been fulfilled or exceeded.
- This is where it gets really fun. A really great customer service Rep is nothing but a problem solver. If you look at it as doing the minimum to get your complaining customer to shut up, you’re missing boat. To me there was no greater satisfaction and being able to take a completely unhappy customer and making them so delighted with the process that they become the biggest advocate for your company or service.
- Here the selling goes both ways, but at this stage it usually negotiating with the service provider to get them to agree the original expectations that were promised to the customer, what resources are required to reasonably get those expectations fulfilled, and agree on how soon that can happen.
- Communication on both sides is critical. The side that usually fall short, is keeping the customer abreast of the day-to-day efforts you are making, and progress that is happening on his behalf.
- When you believe that you have resolved all the issues, restored performance to meet the customer’s expectations, it is crucially important to have the customer agree. Most often they will be very appreciative, and happy to document the turnaround and all the efforts made on their behalf to make things right. This is when they become not only good references, but advocates and the subject for testimonials.
- The last step in the process is to return to your supplying team, share with them the success of your customer service effort, their part in it, how much you appreciate them, and if possible name them specifically and the customer testimonial.
After repeating the steps many many times, the process becomes second nature. A truly enlightened supplier will by nature intuit this procedure. When this happens one can predict many of the steps of this process and create a similar set of positive customer experiences proactively.
Although in a perfect world predictive customer service would preempt much of the pain and duplication of efforts, and the steps outlined above. In actual practice sometimes it is actually a benefit to walk a customer through the steps of pain, to endear them. As they say “the selling begins when the customer says no,” so sometimes endearing yourself to a customer begins when you really blow it, then make it right.
In my former life as a Semiconductor Capital Equipment salesman, I walked into a situation where we were eight months behind on a one year $2,000,000 retrofit program. It took me almost a year to get everything cleaned up, and within a few months after that I ended up selling them an additional $14,000,000 worth of equipment.