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Monday, July 9, 2012

10-Point check for Customer Service : Part II

You might be interested to read part I before proceeding to read this section of the write-up.

Point 6: Is your customer service personnel trained to handle complains?

Complain handling is traditionally seen as the most important concern for the customer service department.  Effective handling of customer complains could open up new opportunities for sustaining a long term customer relationship.  As already noted earlier, the opportunity of emotional bonding with customers is best served not when customers are happy, but when something goes wrong and unhappy customers show up or call for redressal. However, handling complain is not an easy task since customers vary by expectations and nature of problems could also have variety in itself. Simply knowing rules of engagement and a printed manual with lists of problems and solutions are not what we are talking about. Complain handling goes beyond the boundary of a printed manual. It is about empathy- an essential part of service executives ‘ personality- it is about connecting and communicating while putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

Point 7: Do your customer service personnel stay calm with irritating customers?

Not all customers behave well while interacting with service executives, specifically in situations when things go wrong and they expect the kind of redressal that might not be allowable by the company. This type of behavior, sometimes, might be based on legitimate claims from customers’ part. Having said that, it is not service executives’ job to match their behavior with that of customers! In many cases, even trained executives can cross the line and get involved in an argument with customers. Once an angry customer shouted to an executive, saying that she feels sorry for him because he could not find a better job rather than to work for this lousy company! Ok, it seems like a comment (or insult) at personal level, which is inappropriate per se. However, despite how inappropriate the customers’ comments are, learning to stay calm and helpful is the ultimate test for customer service executives’ career.  Letting customers to vent out anger is a way to cool down the situation at end.

Point 8: Are your customer services executives trained NOT to assume?

Assuming customer’s problem before completely listening to it, is another problem that arises out of so called printed “service manual” that is usually provided during training session for service executives. Every customer problem should be treated uniquely, addressing it to the point by carefully listening to it. Stop assuming, start listening – that is the key in understanding customers here.

Point 9: Do your customer service department “follow-up” with customers?

After getting a lead, or closing a sale, or handling a complain – we often assume that things are running alright now. In many instances, this is not right. A sales lead must be followed up, a sales must be traced to customers and see if things are alright with him/her, a well-handled complain must be followed up to see if the customer needs further help or not. This is something that most customers are not expecting, thus opening up an opportunity to delight them with their decisions to buy or for contacting the service department.

Point 10: Are your customer service executives happy with the company they work for?

You cannot expect to pass all the previous 9 tests if the last test fails you. Customer service executives are your internal customers.  A group of unhappy internal customers cannot make external customers happy. The job satisfaction may not only flow from competitive compensation packages, but also from the external prestige and excellence that your product commands in the market. A poorly designed product with minimal branding effort will automatically fetch in a lot of complains. Who does want to listen to complains (and more complains) all day long, feeling the pain of faking a smile and keep saying sorry to address aggrieved customers? Of course, some of them will keep acting and faking to keep the job, but most will keep looking for places elsewhere, resulting in increase of employee turnover at the end.

This routine check of your customer service department will not only ensure a smooth running of your service engine, but also would prevent it from breaking apart that might necessitate expensive repair later on.