Believe it or not, most of the customer service interactions that go wrong are based on complete misunderstandings between the customer service professional and the customer. Any customer who complains is already on edge and ready for a fight. Customer service professionals need to be ready for this fact and respond appropriately to avoid escalating the situation. This can be done by simply keeping a positive, upbeat attitude and watching how you say things.
* Listen, listen, listen – You might be surprised that most customers tell you what issues they want to be satisfied if you simply listen to what they’re saying. Listen without comment or interruption. If they’re tight with information, ask open-ended questions designed to elicit answers beyond yes or no.
* Empathize – Try to put yourself in the customer’s shoes as they explain their problem. If you were the customer and only understood the business in terms of using the product, how would you feel if this was happening to you? The old golden rule about treating others as you would like to be treated works exceptionally well when it comes to providing positive customer service.
* Accept responsibility – Often times even if something is not your fault, it’s important to still accept responsibility for the problem, whatever it is. Even if it’s an act of God and outside of your ability to change, you can still apologize and seek to make things right for this one customer. If it costs you money, it can pay off later.
* Avoid trigger words – When discussing the issue with the customer, try to avoid words like “You”, “Should”, “No” and “It’s our policy” and instead use active words like “I will”, “I can”, “I’m sorry”, and include words denoting a positive demeanor like “I’m happy to do that, or “It’s my pleasure to do that.” Your words can either activate a bad situation or they can defuse a situation.
* Win/win – Try to identify solutions that will make the customer feel like a winner without your company losing out too much either. However, err on the side of losing money and keeping the customer happy in most cases. You can even make things appear better than they are by using positive turns of phrase. For instance, instead of saying “I can’t do anything about that until…” say something like “I’ll be happy to address that issue as early as…..” Note the positive wording rather than the negative wording.
* Follow up – No matter what happens, always follow up with the customer to ensure that they are satisfied with the outcome. You can create a lifelong fan from a customer by being willing to bend over backwards to deal with their concerns. They’ll feel cared for and recommend you to others even if something initially went wrong.
By keeping a positive tone in your voice if dealing with someone on the phone, or using positive complete sentences with lots of emoticons on customer service chats, you’ll go far in creating a positive environment for all your customers.