Customer service is important. Arguably, not many will disagree with that statement. There is an adage that states, “If you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will.” If you are not doing what it takes to ensure customer loyalty, sooner or later the “greener pastures” of a competitor will catch their eye. Now, within the ebb and flow of any business cycle, some customers will always be looking or leaving. No matter how great the product or company, there will be some percentage of customers looking for a better fit, more features, better service, etc. Sometimes, customers just get bored and want a change for change sake alone.

Knowing there will always be a certain amount of fluidity within your customers is helpful to reduce panic over these defectors. However, many of these customers in potential transition can and should be saved from leaving. Customer service is the glue that can keep many of them from looking for those “greener pastures”. If it is true that customer service is important then why do so many companies miss on this concept? Answer: there are many myths that get in the way and hinder customer service. Let’s examine a few of these.

Customer Service Department

One of the myths in the workplace is that customer service is merely a department. Treating it as such will ensure mediocrity and inconsistency with how a company handles its customers because only the customer service department will be attempting to provide customer service. To truly build world-class customer service, every employee must understand and commit to serving customers. This idea should always be top of mind when hiring, training, and interacting with employees.

EVERY person is involved in customer service from the IT person to the warehouse worker and in between. For example, if IT is complacent about network security and a hacker can shut the system down for any length of time, would that affect customer service? If orders get picked and shipped incorrectly, would that affect customer service? What about if an overzealous sales person promises more than can be delivered, would that affect customer service? The answer to all these questions is yes. Of course, these situations affect customer service and the right approach to all of them is critical.

Quickly Solve Problems

Many people believe that customer service means finding and resolving problems in record time. No matter the situation, find the problem and fix it – ASAP. While problem resolution is significant, have you ever experienced a situation in which you communicated your detailed and intricate needs about a problem situation only to be met with a superficial Band-Aid being applied? Mr. or Ms. Fixit moves on confident in their ability to have solved another problem, meanwhile, you are left with an inadequate solution to the problem that treats a symptom but not the cause.
Good customer service requires communication. Nothing is as frustrating as being left in the dark when facing a complex problem. Companies that have excellent abilities to take care of their customers know that communication along the way instills confidence and understanding. Problems are complicated at times. While many can and should be solved quickly, the end goal should be a timely resolution in which the customer was kept in the loop as the solution was being devised.

Sympathize with Your Customer

“I’m sorry that happened to you.” The classic line of sympathy from many companies can seem very surfaced-based. People with problems usually want solutions more than sympathy. Feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity toward another person won’t necessarily make you understand the problem. Putting yourself in their situation to the best of your ability will. That is empathy and it goes much further that sympathy.

The way to begin to instill world-class service is to embrace the philosophy of empathy. This is the integral aspect of customer service. The ability to understand another person’s perspective is the foundation upon which all training should begin. Employees need to keep the end in sight by understanding what they do affects the perception and satisfaction of the customer. The best way to impart this within employees is to hire people that already have it. Empathy is extremely difficult to instill. It can be done but it requires a lot of time and work. It is much easier to hire those people that possess that skill and build your business around them.

Customers Are Always Right

This may be the biggest myth yet. Often, customers are dead wrong. Many times, they are so focused on being right that they cannot see the situation clearly. To shackle an employee by the premise that no matter what, the customer is right can be crippling to an organization. The employee isn’t empowered to do anything to remedy the situation and is forced to just “take one for the team.” This can lead to poor morale across the entire organization and ultimately poor customer service. An employee being verbally abused by customers will quickly become a former employee or worse yet an uncaring employee there for the paycheck.

Some people are jerks and should be “fired” instead of allowing them to monopolize company time solving ridiculous problems while receiving no thanks for it. Employees should strive to be respectful and helpful to customers. No one should be rude or abrasive. Rather, when a customer gets personal or abrasive, the employee has a right to remove themselves and not be a punching bag. When management supports those employees and lets the customer know, better customer service will result. The employee is empowered to help people who need it and not waste their time on complaining people. Every product or service is not for every person. Some people cannot be made happy. A company should spend time on the customers that need help and are loyal to their business.

Conclusion

While there are many things outside of a company’s control, customer service is not one of those. Customer service can be the lifeblood of an organization or it can be the reason why it fails. By realizing that everyone needs to be trained and understand the importance of customer service, a company can begin to set itself apart from its competitors. By offering timely solutions that are tailored to the customer and by keeping the customer in the loop during this process, companies can find and solve problems as they arise hopefully gaining customer loyalty. By empathizing with customers instead of offering superficial pity or sorrow, customers will feel as if their voice matters. By removing the barrier of the customer is always right, employees will be empowered to do what they do best, serve the customer.

Author David Bennett

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