February 24, 2012
While I was waiting to pay for my muffin and juice at a Minneapolis airport restaurant, a gentleman stepped up to the counter and asked the cashier if he could get change when she opened the register.
“Absolutely not,” she replied. “I’m way too busy to be giving out change.”
“Please?” the man asked.
“No,” she said. “Just look around you. Can’t you see we’re short-staffed?” The cashier could have easily made
The cashier could have easily given him change in less time than it took her to make excuses for denying this simple service request. Instead, she lost a potential customer and left a bad impression on everyone who was standing in line.
The cashier could have completely changed the situation by saying, “I’d be happy to, sir. Can you give me a few minutes while I take care of these customers first?”
It’s that simple. No matter what industry you’re in, your customers want you to focus on outcomes, not obstacles.
There are times when it is difficult to deliver great customer service. Organizational barriers such as short staffing, computer problems, vendor delays, phone system problems and other issues will get in your way. Customers understand that these things can happen, but they don’t want to hear them used as excuses for poor service. Instead, they want to know how and when the problem will be resolved. If they have been inconvenienced, they want to know what you will do to make it up to them.
On a trip to present sales training for a company in South Dakota, my connecting flight was delayed three times. I was going to be late for the scheduled workshop. I called my client every time I received a schedule update so he could make adjustments on his end and communicate the changes to his team. I didn’t just show up late and then make excuses that the airlines messed up. I kept him posted and offered him the option of running the workshop a little later. Because I knew his team had already put in a long day, I tightened up some of my material in order to get them out at a reasonable time for dinner. Then, I extended a discount to my client and treated the team to dinner to thank them for their patience.
Use “solution-oriented” language when communicating with your customers.
Customers want the opportunity to explain in detail what they want. Don’t try to guess what they need or offer a solution until they’ve had an opportunity to tell you.
Most customers, especially business-to-business customers, are looking to buy solutions. They want to know you are on their side and that you are positioning yourself as a partner in their success.
When you don’t know the answer, admit it, or you can hurt your credibility. But quickly follow up with a response that lets your customer know you are not giving him or her the brush-off. They want to know that you will help them find the correct answer.
Tell your customer you realize it’s your responsibility to assist them in their service request. Reassure your customer by confirming that you fully understand what they need.
Customers trust vendors who keep them apprised of the status of their orders. Whether the news is good or bad, stay in touch with your customers to give them updates.
Whether it’s a due date, a follow-up phone call or another promise, make sure your customer can count on you to deliver at the promised day and time.
If the customer is not completely satisfied, do whatever it takes to correct the problem.
Demonstrate your sincere appreciation through follow-up calls, hand-written thank-you notes and invitations to your customers to give you honest feedback on their service experience.