(This article was written by Micah Solomon and appeared on forbes.com.)
Whenever customer service employees or others in customer-facing positions are working with the public, they’re onstage.
This is true whether the interaction is in real time (phone call, Zoom session, or in person); nearly real-time (text message or chat); or asynchronous (creating and sending an email).
And there, in the public view, in direct contact with their customers, they’re either improving the customer experience or diminishing it; either making things better for customers or making things worse: bringing thoughtfulness to the interaction or showing disregard or even rudeness; displaying empathy or implying antipathy.
In other words, there’s no indeterminate “no man’s land” that’s neither good nor bad when you’re providing customer service. Every action has a consequence, as I teach in my customer service training.
Here are five principles that you should be included in your customer service training. Each is essential in allowing employees to improve the customer experience:
- Learn to offer commitments and then keep them.Be time-aware: it’s helpful to customers to know both what you are going to do for them and when you’re going to do it. Safelite Autoglass parsed thousands of customer comments and determined that this one improvement would be transformational in the eyes of their customers: knowing precisely when the service technician would show up in their driveway. They then revamped multiple systems to be able to achieve this.
- Look for chances to add “everyday wow” to your customer interactions. Zappos, of course, is famous for various legendary, over-the-top examples of wowing customers. But Zappos’ real secret is what I call “everyday wow,” which, happily, is something that every employee can learn to achieve with almost any customer. Strive, like Zappos, to distinguish the customer service experience for every customer, on each and every phone call. The connection can be made via anything that authentically relates to the customer. Hear a dog bark, connect over your shared love of pets. Hear a kid in the background, do likewise.
- Have a customer service recovery framework in place so that when customers are upset, you’re prepared to systematically make things better.This is one of the master skills required for an exceptional customer service experience: being prepared ahead of time for things to get heated and knowing how to respond when they do.
- Remember that how you say (or write) something is often as important as what you say. There are common words and phrases that can come off as belittling or hostile, and others that that can signal caring and thoughtfulness—and it’s essential to learn which are which. When, as a customer service consultant, I start working with a company on their customer service refresh, this is one of the first things I work on: creating a customer service lexicon with discouraged phrases and superior substitutions.
- Strive to keep a fresh attitude every time you pick up the phone, every time you respond to an email, every time you respond to a live chat or text message. Even if this is the 15th similar conversation you’ve had today, the experience is the only one of its type for that customer, and it needs to be as fresh for them as it was for your first customer.