Improve Customer Service
If you want to excel in customer service the first thing to do is try to understand the customer. What people say is not always what is really bothering a customer when they contact a company about a problem. I recall a story about one of the great catalogue companies, although I do not remember which one. It took place back in the times before catalogue buying was really fully established. I believe it was about a farmer who needed a new pump to water his herd. He could not find what he wanted locally at a price he could afford so he ordered one from the catalogue company. When the pump arrived he hooked it up to his system threw the switch and nothing happened. So he wrote to the company and told them that their pump did not work, his neighbors were making fun of him for buying from a catalogue and he still had to haul water by hand for his cows.
The company wrote back saying that their pumps were quality tested and inspected before they were shipped. They further said that they farmer had probably not installed the pump properly.
What is the real customer service problem that the company needs to address
What is of the most concern to the farmer is that he feels embarrassed with his friends and neighbors for having made a bad decision in buying from the catalogue company. In other words his pride is hurt. The company has to not only satisfy the complaint and see that the pump is fixed but assure the farmer that he had made a wise decision to buy from them. I don’t recall how it was settled but if I were doing it I would have sent out a technician to fix or install a new pump. The company would have lost money on the pump, but made it up in additional business. By telling the farmer that he was too dumb to install the pump properly only heightened the blow to his pride and he would have bad mouthed the company to everyone. By fixing the problem in a positive way the farmer could brag about how great the company was.
Lesson learned: determine what the real problem is.
2. Don’t ignore customers
Back in the 1960’s our family delivered a newspaper motor route. My mother was delivering the morning papers and found she was getting low on gas and took time out to fill the tank. This was before self-service gas stations. She noticed that the attendant was serving another driver before her and questioned the attendant about it. “He told her that the other driver had to get to work.” Now why had he thought it important for the one driver to get to work but not for my mother to get going on her work? In those days it might be because she was a woman and he figured she didn’t have a job. Whatever the case, it was discourteous to ignore a customer in order to serve another one. What he might have done was ask her if it would be an inconvenience to her if he waited on the other car first because the driver had to get to work. He should not have assumed she had nothing better to do than wait around.
3. Address people by the way they prefer.
For some reason back in the 1950’s it became common to address people by their first names. My mother found it very disturbing to have complete strangers address her in such a familiar fashion. I imagine other people did as well. I found it disturbing when neighborhood kids called me by my first name and wondered if the parents ever taught them any manners. So as not to make similar mistakes with customers, find out how they prefer to be addressed. My first name is Don. It is not Donald, yet I constantly get letters and such addressed to me as Donald. A rule of thumb I follow is to address people they way they sign themselves. If someone signs their name as Robert, I address them as Robert, not Bob. If they sign as Bob, then I address them as Bob. I find it insulting that people don’t think I know my own name.
A variation of this is the advent of the term Ms. for women. I use it if the woman uses it. However, while some women insist on using it, others want to be addressed as Miss or Mrs. It is best to know the preference or try to avoid it altogether.
Another situation brought up in a writing course concerns how to address people in letters. The teacher told about an office where the secretary was sending letters to the sales staff with the salutation dear Mr.____. The teacher said that was wrong, it should be Dear Bob, or Ray. Salesmen don’t have last names, he said.
It all comes down to knowing your customer and how the customer feels. Try to treat them the way that will make them feel best about themselves so that they feel good about you.
© 2012 Don A. Hoglund