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Customer service training and customer service consulting don’t have to be dull to be effective. I advocate the opposite approach, believing that the more colorfully you frame service principles and best practices in customer service training or in a customer service consulting initiative, the more memorable and sustainable they’ll be.
In that spirit, here are three of my better-known customer service principles that are both essential and colorful to boot. I hope you find them useful for your organization–and a bit of fun as well.
1. Don’t yuck a customer’s yum. As an employee, you’re unlikely to agree with all of a customer’s choices, from how they order their steak to the perfume they put on–no doubt in excess–earlier today. So you need to gird yourself against the possibility you’ll visibly, or—even worse–audibly registering your disapproval.
Most basically, the principle of “Don’t yuck their yum” means:
• Don’t contradict a customer unless it’s absolutely necessary. This includes both direct contradiction and more “diplomatic” expressions of disapproval, like the employee in my anecdote here who unsubtly critiques a customer’s incorrect pronunciation by repeating the mispronounced word correctly–within his earshot and the earshot of his date.
• If it is necessary to correct a customer (as will be the case if there are health, safety, privacy, or security implications to the error, and you either need to stop the customer from continuing to make the error now or prevent them from repeating it in the future), make it seem like a mistake that anyone could have made, thus helping them to save face and avoid any damage to their self-esteem.
2. The Italian Mama Method of comforting and winning over an upset customer: A secret of customer service recovery.
If you’re face to face (or phone to phone, or terminal to terminal) with a customer who’s upset, a customer to whom something bad (in their opinion) has happened, consider putting the archetype of an adoring Italian mother to work for you. She’s the spirit behind the approach to customer service recovery that was first proposed in the customer service bestseller, Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit, which I co-authored with Leonardo Inghilleri, who himself is as Italian as they come.
Here’s how this hypothetical, doting, parent might respond after her toddler takes a tumble:
Oh, my darling, look at what happened! Oh, you skinned your knee on that walkway, my bambino; let me kiss that terrible wound. Shall we watch a little TV? And here’s a lollipop for you while I bandage you up!
Minus the baby talk (which, of course, I don’t advise), this Italian mother makes a good model for how react to service failures. While it’s very much an exaggeration, the exaggeration is intended to make the following point clear: that it works much better to express your empathy to an upset customer rather than to take the more typical approach, which we might call the Courtroom Method:
Let’s sort out the facts of the situation. What was the angle of the concrete in the sidewalk at time of impact, and were you wearing proper protective clothing per the user’s manual at the time your knee impacted the concrete? And I need to ask, young man: Were you exceeding the sidewalk speed limit?
To repeat: This is an exaggeration to make a point. But the point is extremely important if you want to succeed in working with upset customers: Before you rush to solve a problem—or, worse, to assign blame—take a moment to acknowledge that the customer is upset and feels wronged.
Bonus: If you want more help with customer service recovery (turning upset customers around), you might want to look at my 5-step AWARE methodology for customer service recovery. If so, please let me know, and I’ll send you a printable version for your office use.
3. The Red Bench Principle: Customers are at the center of their own universe. Make sure they feel like they’re at the center of yours as well.
The Red Bench Principle takes its name from a bench outside my daughter’s nursery school, years ago, in a story I tell in my most recent book, The Heart of Hospitality. The morning that my wife and I took our daughter to her first half day of nursery school, the cheery teacher collected our daughter from us outside the classroom, where we were sitting together on a red park bench. When the teacher brought our daughter back to us at noon, my wife and I were again sitting on that same red bench. It wasn’t until two or three weeks later, as the routine continued, that we figured out that our daughter believed her parents were sitting on that red bench each day throughout the entire morning, awaiting her return.
I find this a good reminder of the nature of the relationship of a business to its guests. Because customers–adult customers–generally share these dependent-child qualities, the last thing they’re considering are the other obligations, interests, or activities of their service providers. Customers assume, until you prove them wrong (which would be a mistake) that your world revolves around them—all the way and all the time. When providing customer service, you benefit from encouraging this impression rather than becoming resentful that a customer is presumptuous enough to be thinking this way. It’s a credit to your business, and to your level of service, if they believe that you’re truly all about them all the time.
While it may seem corny to you to embrace this impression, it will resonate with a customer, because it’s already how they think of the world themselves. For example, say Mrs. Smith calls in. The one thing you recall about her is her passion for cats. Answer the phone in that case with:
“Oh, Mrs. Smith, I was just thinking about you! Are you up to 13 cats by now, or are you still holding steady at 12?”
Even though this is a slight exaggeration (you weren’t thinking of her that very moment, but this colorful character has crossed your mind since the time she last did business with you), it will sound authentic–and welcome–to a customer, because their reality is that it’s believable that you would have had them at the very top of your mind the moment they called in.
March 14, 2019 at 08:06PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs