The Lost Art of Customer Service

Too many times I have listened to a recorded menu repeat, or a vendor (whom I’ve never met), treat me less than friendly. Regardless of industry, service to your customer and relations with colleagues and vendors is the absolute key to continued success. handshake

There are a myriad of checklists for effective customer service. These are my contributions with a side of personal experience.

  1. A machine just doesn’t understand. This is a personal pet peeve of mine. I automatically like a company less if I can’t speak to a real, living, breathing person within two, that’s right, two, automated menus. I understand you’re receptionist is overworked and tired of hearing the same request over and over again. Or for that matter, that it’s cheaper to record a message than to pay a receptionist. But believe me when I say, it’s not in the company’s long-term best interests. Whenever possible, have a person pick up the phone and direct the call accordingly. Technology has come a long way but people still reign.
  2. Friendliness and helpfulness doesn’t mean you’re having a good day. If we’re really honest with each other here, we can admit that all days are not good days. Pay particular attention to your interactions on the less-than-good days to make sure you are still being respectful and helpful when necessary. Clients, vendors, even coworkers, shouldn’t feel the brunt of your bad day.
  3. Honesty is usually the best policy. The most common reasons we lie: We don’t know the answer; we want to make ourselves look good; to avoid conflict. Everyone does it, but that doesn’t excuse it. In an increasingly technological society, whether you like it or not, word will get out somehow. Be honest about your experience—it will show if you aren’t and pay off in the long run if you are. Be honest about project status—if a client has ruled out a venue, let that venue know so they can move on. Be honest about your work—if you haven’t had time to (or forgot) to do something, you’re better off asking for more time than spinning a web that not even Charlotte could get out of.
  4. Répondez s’il vous plaît. “Please respond” is a phrase that is useful for more than just head counts. We all know someone who let’s emails sit in his/her inbox, or still needs a second or third reminder to get back to you. Don’t be that person. Others are frustrated by that person. Mark your tasks on a list or set calendar reminders, whatever you have to do to remember to follow up.
  5. Know to whom you speak or to whom you’d like to speak. This is a toughie for a variety of reasons, mainly because when you are just starting out with a client, vendor or company, things are still a little hazy. This is the time for questions. Ask, ask, ask and thus rid yourself from blame of faux-pas. If you’ve worked with the client, vendor, or company, leave the excuses behind. You should know who to speak with, what their job entails and who can get you what you need. The trick is to avoid wasting someone’s time and contributing to their practice of #2.

The bottom line is that businesses stay in business because they provide value to the customer (even down to the telephone operators and accounting department). Train yourself and your employees to respond with respect, in a timely, honest and knowledgeable manner. What are your suggestions?

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