Companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to attract consumers’ attention. With one phone call, the entire bank of good will can be withdrawn.
How well trained are the agents who handle the calls for your clients? Have you ever stopped to make a call to your own office? Have you tried to purchase something? Have you tried to cancel an order? You should.
You need to know exactly how your customers are being handled. Calling in and asking for a service or a product is the best way. And you probably will not need to do it more than once. You will know exactly what the customers are getting when you call in. One or two of your agents may be great. But they should all be great. It should not matter who the customers speak to when they call in.
Everyone knows there are varying degrees and levels of customer service. This should not be the case, but it is.
The following is a true story, though the company will not be named (to protect the innocent – or perhaps the guilty?) I recently made a call to a direct mail company. I had a simple order: one pair of children’s sandals. The first agent I spoke with was OK. I thought to myself, people are accepting OK – which is really just average – as good customer service today. That is sad. Being OK is not good. It’s average.
Well, the order was simple enough, even though I had the audacity not to have my customer ID number. I had torn the page out from the catalog that was mailed to me and did not have any information from the cover. You would have thought I committed a cardinal sin. Well, we got through that part and finished the order. It closed with a simple – and I might add, average – “Is there anything else I can do for you today?” Without offering a specific something else or being told what else is available, it is a useless question. Was there a sale on other children’s clothing? Did something happen to match what I was purchasing? The agent let the perfect opportunity for upselling or cross-selling pass by.
A few hours later, I realized that I had ordered the wrong color sandals and called the same number that I placed the original order with. It was like night and day. I wondered whether I had the same company. This agent was downright cold, uncaring and unhelpful. She was so unhelpful that she told me to call yet another phone number to get the customer service department. I was close to canceling the order. Yet, I proceeded to the other number, where another agent helped me with the color change and sent me on my way.
I wonder what would have happened had I called to cancel my order. “Cancel my order” are about the last words any company wants to hear. Yet once in awhile, someone will call in with that command. And what do you do? How do you react? How do you handle the situation?
You can be passive and answer, “OK, thanks.”
Or you can be average and say, “Well, all right. Thank you for calling.”
Or you can be proactive and try to find out why, then do what you can to save the business.
Consider the proactive position because that is really the only response that matters.
When a call comes in with those most disturbing words, “Cancel my order,” the first thing the customer needs to hear is words of sympathy. “I’m so sorry to hear that” should be the standard response and operating procedure.
Then, when you receive the cancellation, you need to express a sincere desire to assist. “OK” is the last thing to tell someone who wants to cancel. It is simply not OK to cancel an order. Never approve a negative. Instead, try: “I’m very sorry to hear that. What seems to be the trouble?” (Or “What happened?”)
Then, act upon the trouble. If the problem is resolvable and you are empowered to do something about it, do it. If you are unable to handle the problem, transfer the call to someone in your organization who can. Asking a customer to call yet another number (even though it is toll-free) is a cumbersome piece of service.
The second person who speaks with the caller needs to be sympathetic again and offer concern and apologies. The customer can never hear too often that you treasure his business and do not want to lose it.
In many cases, you will be able to handle the complaint and save the order. But, under no circumstance do you want the order to be canceled because of a customer service problem. Do something special that the customer will appreciate whether or not you keep the business. The customer will remember when you went above and beyond to keep his business. Your offer will go a long way.
Everyone involved in servicing customers must realize that each customer is important to your organization. Large orders, small orders. Simply, customers create jobs, including yours.
It is important to be proactive in customer service, and that involves making every call a genuinely satisfying experience for the caller, even those calls that involve a problem. Let every customer know that you are receptive to his needs, that you value the business and that you want to exceed service expectations. Make your customers want to do more business with your company in the future. n
The key to proactive customer service is the degree of responsiveness. Rather than being disinterested, be interested. Rather than being wooden, be warm. Rather than being mechanical, be human.
Your proactive approach to customer service can make things happen, can create a positive situation and can seek out opportunities.