This article was originally published on Toister Performance Solutions, and is republished here with permission.
Let's be honest with each other for a moment.
We rarely take immediate action when we read blog posts. Most of the time, we read something, decide if we like the idea or not, and then move on. The most many of us do if we're really inspired is share the post with someone else.
I hope this post is a little different. Here are seven simple customer service tips you can go use right now. Your challenge is to pick one and try it.
Tip 1 Visualize Great Service
Successful people in many professions—from business to sports to music—prepare themselves mentally by visualizing themselves succeeding.
Here's how you can do it, too:
1. Write a short thank you letter to yourself from an imaginary customer.
2. Read your letter every day for 21 days.
3. Try to receive customer feedback that matches your letter.
Here's what I wrote when I recently did this exercise:
Thank you for helping us get our employees obsessed with customer service.
Here's an actual message I received via email a few days later:
There is no question in my mind that we are becoming a better company in part because of your teachings. Thank you very much.
Tip 2 Break the Ice with the Five Question Technique
We know a little small talk can help put customers at ease, but many of us are not natural conversationalists.
The Five Question Technique can help change that. Just think of five different questions you can use to break the ice and possibly learn something about your customer that could help you serve them better.
Here are the five questions I created before I recently facilitated a two-day workshop. I used the questions to break the ice as I greeted arriving participants.
1. What brings you to the workshop?
2. How did you discover this program?
3. What is the biggest challenge you are working on?
4. In what city are you based?
5. What do you do for your company?
The questions helped participants feel more comfortable talking about themselves and the answers told me a little about their needs.
Tip 3 Listen for Emotional Needs
Customers often have underlying emotional needs that need to be met for them to feel they've received extraordinary service.
For example, a customer may describe a problem they've had with your product or service. A good customer service rep will try to fix the problem. An outstanding customer service rep will understand that the customer also has the emotional need to be acknowledged for the time they've wasted and the disappointment of experiencing the problem.
You can uncover emotional needs just by listening carefully. The next time you serve a customer, pay careful attention to how they are feeling and try to identify the emotions they are expressing.
Understanding someone's emotions can lead to far better service.
Tip 4: Give "Preferential" Treatment
Repeat customers like to be acknowledged. One way to do this is by learning their preferences and incorporating them into your service.
For example, I often go to the same local coffee shop. Lupe is usually at the register taking orders in the morning, and it seems like he knows everyone's name and regular order. His knowledge speeds up the line while still making every customer feel special.
You can start learning about your customers' preferences by observation. Take mental notes about what your customers like. If you use a customer relationship management (CRM) system, you can even record those preferences in the computer so they're easier to remember.
Tip 5: The Partner Technique
You'll have better luck serving angry customers if you make them feel like you're on their side. This is called the Partner Technique.
Here are some examples of using partner behaviors:
- Shift your body language so you're both facing the problem together
- Listen carefully to customers so they feel heard
- Use collaborative words like "We" and "Let's"
It's hard to be upset at someone who wants to help us. Most customers naturally calm down when they realize you are listening to their issue and trying to be helpful.
Tip 6: Take a Deep Breath
We experience an instinctive reaction to angry customers.
Called the fight or flight response, we either naturally want to argue with an angry customer (fight) or try to get away from them (flight). The trouble is we aren't supposed to do either.
You can counteract this natural instinct by recognizing the symptoms and then taking a deep breath. That deep breath gives you just a moment to pause and make a better decision.
Tip 7: Give it Some Extra Shine
I learned this tip from one of my clients, a plumbing company whose plumbers use a very effective customer service technique. They always take care to clean up the area surrounding their repair work so it has a little extra shine. This small step creates a positive impression for three reasons.
- Plumbing repairs are often necessary because of a leak or some other mess, so this extra service saves their customers some effort.
- Plumbing problems can be very stressful, so putting some extra shine on the repair helps the customer quickly feel better.
- Cleaning up the area spotlights the plumber's high level of workmanship, giving the customer the confidence that the repair was done correctly.
Not all of us regularly clean up messes as a part of our job, but there are ways we can put some extra shine on the work we do. Find that opportunity and you'll stand out too!
Now it's time to pick at least one of these tips and try it!
For more on this topic, read NewVoiceMedia's whitepaper, Using emotional connections to create exceptional customer experiencces.
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About Jeff Toister
Jeff is the author of "The Service Culture Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Employees Obsessed with Customer Service. "
He is also a nationally recognized employee training expert and a sought after speaker with more than 20 years of experience.