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10 Steps To Receiving Great Customer Service.

Updated on January 24, 2011

Businesses today are focusing more resources than ever on delivering great customer service. And why shouldn’t they be? Customers today are more tech savvy and connected than ever, and simply providing a product or service no longer differentiates one business from another.  Companies now need to worry about things like customer retention and satisfaction in addition to simply selling products. That means empowerment to the consumer (you and me) and, hopefully, a better shopping experience as well. But even the best satisfaction guarantee can still provide a frustrating service experience. Here are ten tips for you, the consumer, to help navigate the waters of customer service and help ensure you get the best experience you can.

10. Be Friendly and Positive.

Every interaction you have with a store employee is the beginning of a relationship, be it a short or long one, so why would you think being negative or angry (even if you are angry) would be a good start to that relationship? Once while working the returns counter I had a customer throw a pair of shoes on the counter and snap "You keep screwing this up and I'm done shopping with you idiots. Give me my money back!". The very next customer in line came up and started her return like this (said with a smile, I might add), "I've been struggling with this for a couple of weeks now and I just don't think it is worth the frustration any more, can you please help me return it?" Both of those customers got what they wanted. But which of those customers do you think it was easier for me to deliver great customer service to?

9. Understand The Store's Policies.

This step will save you a lot of time and frustration. Typically stores will have a statement on their website or somewhere in their store as to what their return policy is. Once you've read and understood it, you need to ask yourself if what you are asking for falls under that policy. If a store states that returns must be unused, within 30 days of purchase, in its original packaging, and come with a proof of purchase, you probably won't have a lot of success with an opened 6-month old broken toy without a receipt. Take the time to get to know different store's policies and shop at the stores with policies that best fit your needs.

8. Choose The Day And Time Wisely.

Obviously your schedule will dictate when you do most of your shopping. However, if you have some flexibility in your timeline you will be able to find moments when employees have the ability to give you more focused attention. If you need to be fitted for a dress, for example, the Saturday afternoon before prom probably isn't going to be the best time for you to get the help you need (especially if alterations need to be made), but a Tuesday night the week before might be a great opportunity. If you're not sure, feel free to call ahead to ask when those appropriate times might be.

7. Give Them Time To Help You.

I understand that there is a threshold after which something is taking too long. But being impatient with an employee only creates pressure that could lead to more mistakes being made. Items sometimes get lost in the warehouse and occasionally paperwork gets filed in the wrong area. Trust that the employee is doing their best to help you and give them the time to do their job. If they feel like you are patiently waiting for them, they will go above and beyond to get you what you want or need.

6. Know What You Want And Communicate It Clearly.

A customer service representative's job is to work within their companies policies to meet your needs. If you aren't able to communicate what that is, you make their job very difficult. I recently had to make back to back contact customer service calls to my cell phone provider. The first interaction left me frustrated and angry. The second call resulted in me receiving great customer service. When I was done with the second call I thanked the person helping me and he replied, "Thanks for being so clear in what you wanted, it made my job easy." Can you guess how each of those conversations started? The first, "Why is my phone bill this month so outrageous?!", and the second, "Can you help me figure out what services I don't need so I can lower my monthly bill?"

5. Have Clear and Reasonable Expectations.

This is probably the most important step as far as having your needs met. Lots of people (including myself from time to time) do not realize that their expectations might just be a little too high. Asking yourself questions like, "Have I used the product in a manner consistent with its manufacturing?" (i.e. Using your iPhone as a coaster for beverages), "Have I subjected the product to above normal wear and tear?" (i.e. Running a marathon in new Italian dress shoes.), "Was this a reasonable time period for this product to last?" (i.e. Did I really expect my 6 year old to fit this jacket until he was 15?). In the example I used in Number 6 I asked the cell phone company to cancel some services I wasn't using to lower my monthly bill, which they did. Had I asked them to reimburse me for months of services I paid for but never used it would have been an entirely different story.

4. Recognize When You Need To Move Up The Ladder.

Sometimes the person you are talking to isn't able to meet your needs. It could be for many reasons ranging from not having the appropriate authority to not knowing how to do perform the task. You could also simply feel like they are unwilling to help you. When this happens it is okay to ask to speak with a manager or someone who is better able to help you. In some cases this can be a relief to the employee as well as to you.

3. Be Willing To Compromise.

There will be times when your expectations will not be able to be met. At that point a willingness to give in a little bit can help you leave the situation without feeling like you were taken advantage of. An example would be accepting a merchandise credit or a gift card instead of cash back. Or perhaps getting a deep discount on a similar product. If faced with an employee who says they won't be able to meet your expectations don't hesitate to ask, "What can you do for me?"

2. Control Your Emotions.

It is okay to express your disappointment in the service you receive. It is okay to tell someone you are unsatisfied. It is never okay to yell, curse, make a scene, or throw a tantrum (I have witnessed all of the above and it is never pretty). Remaining calm, collected, and reasonable will always go far in ensuring you receive great customer service.

1. Provide Appropriate Feedback.

This is equally important for those times when you receive great customer service as well as times when you left disappointed. Managers love to hear about when their employees did an outstanding job. Your comments could even come into play in a performance review or their next raise. Conversely, a manager wants to know when their customers are dissatisfied as well so they can follow up with an employee or even contact you to fix the problem. Many stores have gift cards set aside to help repair relationships with customers. If you don't speak up, how will they know? Most stores have an area on the sales floor where you can leave feedback, or typically you can find a place on the company website as well.


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    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      It's nice to read something about how customers should behave. Many articles have been written on how sales reps should provide their service. But it's true, a sales transaction is a relationship between sales reps and clients. Each person must do something to make the relationship work. Very insightful. Great hub.

    • Jack Salathe profile image

      Jack Salathe 6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Thanks for your comment, Lanea! It's a wild world out there in customer service, someday we'll all figure how to get along:).

    • lanealanea profile image

      lanealanea 6 years ago from Orange County, California

      Great Hub Jack! I totally relate about the customer service part ha. Keep on a writing.

    • Jack Salathe profile image

      Jack Salathe 6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Thanks for the comment! As someone who works in retail I often find myself frustrated after certain customer interactions. Hopefully this helps people avoid pitfalls that can leave everyone feeling angry.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      Very, very good stuff here. Keep writing!