Prior to conducting our Customer Service Workshops, we sometimes have to meet customers to access what the level of service of the company is like. Having interviewed a number of customers here in Singapore, many revealed that what was lacking in our service providers is the human touch. We observed that most service providers were so focused on the facts or fault finding, or on just solving the issue, they seemed to forget the human aspect of the interaction. Namely being less “automated” in their responses or having more empathy.
A number of customers said that “being heard and respected” was more important to them than having their issues resolved. The majority said they would prefer that the staff communicate with them either in person or by telephone, instead of e-mail or text messages.
Here are some steps to take (VET):
1. Validate the customer’s emotions.
Notice the customer’s facial expressions, observe their body language and listen to their tone of voice, the speed or the pitch. Any change could be telling you that there is something wrong. Recognize that their feelings are real. You could say “I understand what you must be going through” or “I sense you are feeling…”
2. Explore with the customer what they are going through.
Ask questions to find out what is the underlying fear, anger or disappointment. Give the time to speak, without interrupting, justifying your actions, making excuses or blaming others. You could say “That must be so frustrating for you, please tell me more about the issue.”
3. Transform the energy to something useful and effective.
Let the customer know your immediate actions of what you are going to do next. Do not focus on all the things you cannot do and then gather agreement from the customer. By providing an alternative, you give the customer an opportunity to consider other options that may not have occurred to them. When you are unable to offer a solution or alternatives, ask the customers for suggestions like “What would you like us to do now?” or “How else can we support or help you?”
Remember that there will be times when you have to say no. When you apologize sincerely and inform the customer of the facts, it would be hard to argue with the truth. Customers usually respond positively when they understand the reason you are unable to meet their request or what prevents you from meeting their needs. Saying “It is company policy” is an excuse, that means nothing to a customer. Be gentle and ensure that the customer does not feel personally rejected. It is important for you to keep calm and manage your voice (or you may sound impatient or frustrated). Your effort demonstrates that you value their business and are willing to help. This can turn into a gain for both your customer and you.