Customer Service Observations & Suggestions

A few customer service observations from someone who after a decade abroad is back in the USA for just a few months….  China’s customer service has an enormous range….from very good to the atrocious.  Customer service in the USA is more consistent.  I worked in restaurants, in the front of the house (ie not in the kitchen) for 6 years, so I find myself catching customer service details when dealing with a business.

I’ve been back to the USA for a little bit over 2-months.  Acclamation is still a process.

Most of the time spent thus far was in getting mine and my family’s life established.  Lot’s of forward movement, but lot’s of steps back, such as spending half a day on the phone with the social security office to find out what’s taking so long to process my wife’s social security card (she is the expat now).

Ive dealt with a mountain of other companies and organizations;  car dealerships, reality companies, insurance agents, purchases for home life, retail, getting reacquainted with restaurants in the Carolinas;  in short, lots of back and forth with customer service reps from various industries.

Get the “Sorry” Out:  Folks will say “sorry” about a wait or apologize for a happening that is a typical circumstance of the business.  A basic example is when someone has had me on hold and they say “sorry for the wait”.  If it’s been a normal wait time, you don’t need to be sorry or feel sorry.  As a customer (and me personally), that makes me feel uncomfortable when you apologize for something that is just a part of the process.  Customers who are not as nice as me, will also take your kindness for weakness;  so when you say “sorry” or apologize, it gets their dander up and puts them in a position of getting heated because with those words, you alerted them to the fact that you did something “wrong” – although you didn’t.

“Sorry for the wait”

Or

“Thanks for your patience while we were collecting your data”.

One is dead-end, one shows the customer you were mindful of their wait while you were working FOR THEM.

As you know from this blog I work in manufacturing in China and have had to work with the staff in NOT apologizing to the customer when nothing wrong took place.  The Chinese on a service level tend to be humble and apologetic but if they’ve got a buyer on the other end of that email who is a firecracker, every “I’m sorry” stamps in that buyer’s mind that “something is wrong”.

Buyer education is the key and that’s a different post.

Less Asking More Doing:  I’m standing at a service counter waiting for the employee to come assist.  Instead of walking up to the counter ready to close a sale and professionally represent their brand, they holler up at me, “Do you need help?”  They just put me in a position, to as equally uncouth, holler back, “Yesssss!”.  They want to make sure I verbalize my need for assistance.  So what’s the big deal, Jacob?

What’s better?:  The two of us hollering across a business like we live in a barn or they come up to the counter and say, “What can I get for you today?”

Or, “Here’s are deals, here’s the good stuff, what can we get for you?”.  I could think of 50 more examples.  One is proactive, one is ho-hum.  One gets the job

Customer Service: Always At "The Ready"

done, one shows me that you really didn’t care if you helped me or not.

If you’re in the position of serving a customer (and really we all are, whether it is a buying customer, a colleague or a boss…they are all buying “YOU”), don’t put the other person in the position to ask.  If you see a need, fill it.  It’s that simple.

Before you ask the question, say to yourself; “If I go ahead and do the extra step, is it going to cost me, is it going to waste more time and hurt the company?”.

Or “should I go ahead and collect the extra data, make the extra effort, include the extra (x)?”

If you can go ahead and do it and it’s going to nail the sale, help the customer, please the company…why not go ahead and do it?

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  • This is one of the most insightful posts I have read in a long time. The lack of thought that goes into how we are treated as customers is a revelation isn’t it! Jacob this post is bookmarked by me for future reading and use. Well done and I dare say excellent job.
    Billy

    • Good morning to you Sir Billy from the sunny Carolinas. Yes indeed, a lack of thought goes in to a world of customer service.  Mainly it’s because people have a “to-do list” mentality, a “checklist” mentality.  They don’t have the heart of doing the best possible job possible and bringing their efforts full circle.  How to inspire more “heart” in people? Is self-inspiration possible?  

      • It is the only possibility as far as I have seen. People who think things through, as in your post, come up with a solution: do the job right. People who don’t just get paid to follow the script. This is always an opportunity for any line of work to stand out and win the landscape for their business…Billy

  • Jacob:  And this is why those who provide us with great customer service stand out so well.   The art of the ask and needs assessment is dead to the majority of those in customer service as they have never had the time to learn.   Companies do not spend the time to train anymore, to have their clients understand value, brand and marketing.    It is a real shame.

    Talk soon.

    Ben

    • Good to see you Ben.  That insight brings up some questions:  why have the companies and individual folks NOT had the time to learn?  Is it personal priorities or have a value service and willing attitude changed in this day and age?  

      Why are the companies not investing the time?  Is it b/c of the economy or something deeper?  Perhaps it’s because of corporations and faceless entities instead of Mom and Pop’s striving for the customers’ business?  I’m thinking out-loud here…

      Definitely agree…it is a shame and I think in many ways helps to continue any economic woes the West may face.