A friend of mine recently accepted a position at Boise State University, and documented the numerous customer service troubles he encountered along the way. It’s a bit long but worth reading. I’ve highlighted his main points here.
- As customers, we search for someone to blame, but only because we want a problem fixed. The person who caused the problem may not be the one to fix it. When working with customers, take ownership; connect the customer to the solution.
- Uncorrected little mistakes can become big mistakes. Responsibility lies with those who made the little mistakes at the beginning.
- Don’t try to hide mistakes. Take responsibility—)but more than that, take ownership of finding a solution.
- Capitulating early won’t provide the emotional win, but in real terms it may be cheaper than arguing. Even if we don’t consider intangibles like a positive brand image, word-of-mouth, repeat customers, or opportunity costs, our time and our employees’ time is valuable. Understand the cost of covering mistakes.
- Empathize, don’t patronize. We do this by taking ownership, sharing information and providing options.
You can see the recurring theme: take ownership.
I had problem with a major telecom when I last moved. (The other major telecom had caused me some significant trouble, so I switched.) I still had no service one week after it was to have been hooked up. It took eight hours on the phone (much of it on hold) over the course of more than fourteen calls to about five different customer service lines (all with horrible phone trees) before was I finally connected to a manager that promised he would personally make sure it was fixed. I was pessimistic, but willing to trust him. I wanted to trust him. He couldn’t, of course, fix it over the phone, but he did promise to call me back. (Which he did after it was fixed that evening.)
The simple act of someone taking ownership was enough to ease my frustration. I finally felt as if someone cared (empathy), he promised to call me back (information), and he followed through (trust). Why did it take so long to find someone willing to do that?
If you ever have to deal with customers, or manage people who do, head on over and read the whole thing.
Before you ask, yes, I know he’s using a knock-off of my design. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And, he asked politely.