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Sales Archive

Improving Customer Service – More Isn’t Better

Improving customer serviceMany organizations think they’re improving customer service by training sales and customer representatives to make small talk, asking how customers’ day, week, or trip is going. Asking questions and chatting with customers about personal matters is only good customer service if clients WANT to make small talk.

When room service delivers breakfast and the guest is standing in a towel, he’s probably not interested in talking about whether his trip is for business or pleasure and whether or not he’ll have time for fun while he’s in town. Improving customer service will likely require the wait person to get in and out of his room quickly. When a taxi driver talks with you, when you want return phone calls, his desire to chat probably isn’t improving customer service.

Sales and customer service representatives can also over communicate about business related issues. Last weekend I ordered some equipment online. Shortly after placing the order, a customer service representative called me because I’d provided different billing and shipping addresses, and he wanted to be sure that someone wasn’t fraudulently using my card. Focused on improving customer service, he asked me to call back before they’d ship my item, which I needed Monday and paid $32 to have sent via overnight mail.

When I called back, I got voicemail and left a message. Then I spent the day wondering if the guy got my message and if my order would arrive on Monday. Then he left another voicemail saying that one of the items I ordered was out of stock but he thought they might have it in another color. He then called again to tell me that they did indeed have the item in a different color and asked me to call back. When I called back, I was told that my order had already shipped. Three phone calls on a Saturday is not improving customer service.

You may be thinking this situation is an anomaly, but it happened to me again a few days later. I returned a pair of pants I bought online. I wrote a letter explaining for what item I wanted to exchange the pants. A customer service representative called to ask if I was sure about what I wanted, and asked me to call back. When I returned the call, I was told that my order had already shipped.

I suspect companies think they’re improving customer service by asking how a customer’s day is going and by calling customers personally when questions arise. Perhaps I’m too busy, but having to call a vendor to tell them that I meant to order what I ordered and I really do have a separate billing and mailing address, is not improving customer service. It’s time consuming and annoying.

I’m aware my preferences are not consistent with all buyers, and many customers appreciate calls from vendors and making small talk with wait staff, taxi drivers, and other service providers. But you won’t know what your customers want if you don’t ask them. Consider asking customers about their preferences when they buy something.

Here are a couple of questions you could ask, with the goal of improving customer service:

If we need to contact you, what method is best? Phone, email, or text message?

Taxi drivers, massage therapists, dentists, etc. ask, “Would you like a silent ride/visit?”

 What’s your definition of good customer service? Check all that apply.

  1. Get it done fast and right the first time.
  2. Get to know me. I’m happy to chat.
  3. Get it done right and ask all the questions you’d like.
  4. I’ll sacrifice pleasantries for speed.

Our customers don’t necessarily share our definition of good customer service. Small talk may suit some customers, while it alienates others. Read your customers’ body language and listen to their tone of voice. Do they look and sound like they want to chat with you? Do they happily provide you with detailed answers to small-talk related questions, or do they provide short answers and appear impatient? Listen, watch and adjust your behavior accordingly. Or preferably, ask what customers are expecting from you when they buy. Ask more. Assume less.

Improving customer service


Be Specific in Your Business Communication – Vague is Useless

Vague is useless. Being vague is actually worse than useless. Being vague instills doubt in the people around you and reduces your credibility.

When a customer service agent answers my questions with words like, “That sounds right, I think so, or that should work,” I hang up and call back, hoping to get someone who can give me an affirmative answer. People do this to you too, they just don’t tell you about it.

Watch your language. If the answer is yes, say “Yes.” If the answer is no, say “No.” “I think so,” says neither yes nor no. Saying, “I think so” tells people you don’t really know.

A few phrases to avoid and what to say instead:

Avoid:  “That should be done by Friday.”

Instead, be specific and give a final date. “That will be complete by Friday. If I can’t get it done by Friday, I’ll call you to let you know by 5:00 pm on Thursday.”

Avoid: “Sounds right.”

Instead, be specific and say, “That’s correct.”

Avoid: “We should be able to do that.”

Instead, be specific and say, “We can do that.”

Avoid: “I guess.”

Instead, be specific and say, “Yes” or “No.”

When I teach feedback training, the biggest thing training participants struggle with is specificity. “You’re difficult to work with.” “Your clothing is inappropriate.” “I just find you to be negative.” “You did a good job on that.” “It’s a pleasure to have you on the team.” All of this is vague and thus unhelpful to the feedback recipient.  And the same is true when answering questions and making promises.

Tell people exactly what to expect. Be specific. Even if they don’t like your answer, they’ll be happy to have a clear answer.


Increase Customer Retention and Satisfaction: I’m Losing Customers and I Don’t Know Why

Read my column in this week’s Denver Business Journal and increase customer retention, satisfaction, and service:

We’ve all had customers we thought were satisfied, and the next month they’re off our books and we don’t know why.
Your customers are under no obligation to tell you why they replaced you. In fact, they have no incentive to give you feedback. Why would customers risk your defensiveness? It’s easier for customers to disappear than tell you what they don’t like about your products or services.

If you’d like to read the column in it’s entirety, please visit: http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/blog/broadway_17th/2013/02/im-losing-customers-and-i-dont-know.html?page=all


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