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How to give patrons happy experiences not Twilight Zone

 

hands caring for customer

 

 

As a veteran professional from the service sector, trust me when I say that it takes years to build a relationship with a customer and just one major goof up to jeopardize that relationship. You need to know how to keep a customer.

One simply cannot downplay the important role that client facing employees or outsourced customer service representatives plays in being the face of a company.

Armed with the knowledge that the customer really is King (or Queen) and the presence of other service providers for the same service who would love to have their patronage, what is good customer service all about?

 

The story of how an internet service provider sent me to the Twilight Zone

 

Early 2014, newspapers were abuzz with 4G services and my internet service provider decided to move their core technical people into upgrading the system to cash in on the action.

It appears they also revamped their Customer Service Staff by enrolling part-time youngsters but forgot about induction training because the evening shift was manned by staff who obviously had not been trained to handle queries from customers with serious problems during the upgrade or had any real knowledge of the products that the company sold. It was as good as talking to a voice mail service except here there was a human reading spouting answers from a screen and looking for variations of possible frequently asked questions.

Here’s the story of my horrific trip to the Twilight Zone that forced me to walk away from, an up to then, highly trusted service provider after almost 8 years.

It all started on the morning of the first Sunday of January 2014 when I could not access the internet with my dongle card. Normally when this happens, it means an upgrade is in progress and services are restored after a few hours. The Customer Service Staff knows what is going on and informs the customer. I did not think too much about it and went about my weekend routine.

The fun started at 7.30 in the evening when I still did not have a connection and did a reset which normally worked but not this time. So I called Customer Service where the rep told me to uninstall my software and reinstall it as the problem was at my end.

I explained that the original installation had been done 8 years earlier using a CD and that I did not know where the CD was so if anything went wrong, I would be in trouble.

The rep told me that the software was installed in the Dongle and I should proceed. I was assured that if anything went wrong, I would be assisted in downloading the software.

No second guessing but when we tried to reinstall my software, there was nothing to be installed and the rep told me that it was my fault that I uninstalled it.

I was admonished for not having 2 internet service connections and nothing could be done about it until I got a connection. When I asked to speak to his supervisor, he disconnected my call.

After that, I was on the phone trying to find someone of the right seniority and 3 hours later, I finally got through to a real employee of the company who apologized for what had happened and informed me that my model of the Dongle did not have built in software which was a new product.

In any case the software that his junior had mentioned was not available for download as I had an older model of the Dongle and the company had discontinued providing the software download. He promised to report the matter at a higher level and proceeded to inform me that I needed to take my computer and Dongle to the nearest service centre which was 50 kilometers from my house.

It was taken for granted that I would do whatever was required to undo their mistake and I was expected to step out of the house in fog ridden Delhi and travel to some unknown place because they were The Company.

As you would have guessed, I did step out on Monday morning and based on the recommendation of my computer guy, changed my service provider. The way I saw it, why would I want to pay 2 service providers for the same product?

Once my new connection was in place, I  called The Company’s disconnection department and after narrating my story asked them to terminate the connection as I did not have a working Dongle.

It seems that damage control only comes into play once the customer has left because after that I received dozens of calls offering to send someone to my house to provide me with a CD to reinstall my Dongle and I could use both service providers!

Perhaps the damage control department had not realized it but Elvis had left the building.

Then to my amazement, the threatening calls started telling me that I had to pay extra money since I was disconnecting the services mid-cycle and I just told them that if paying extra money meant that I was seeing the last of them, then so be it.

As I found out from the franchisee outlet where I went to make the final settlement, I was not the only one who was changing service providers. Quite a few disgruntled customers were walking in because their present connectivity had gone haywire and other horror stories. I thanked my stars that I had taken prompt action.

 

Customer is the boss say the ocean waves

 

Out of the Twilight Zone and into the Light

 

Fast forward 2 years later, I am still peaceful and happy with my new service provider whose customer service is much better and I can manage any upgrade of my connection and payment without having to have any human interaction if I so desire.

On the one-off occasion when I have needed to make a call, there are friendly voices at the other end and no one troubles me with cold calls for sales. I receive emails whenever they have a promotion or if they believe there is something that could be useful for me. Guess what, I’ve even done upgrades and changed plans as needed with no problems!

I often wonder whether my previous service provider, a market leader and a highly reputed company known for being at the forefront of technological initiative and market penetration of the internet in India had ever thought through their upgrade project or did they just jump into it real time because they thought their customer base would accept bad service in lieu of better service in the future? Friends who had used their service and jumped ship before me had similar tales of woes.

Had they really trained their staff to deal with disaster management which is what this migration required?

I’ll never know and frankly, I don’t care. What I do know is that this company was again in the news recently for all the wrong reasons and clearly I jumped ship at the right time.

 

How to provide good customer service

 

The contrast in the service delivery and customer support of the two companies is so apparent that this week’s blog post is dedicated to what I believe are important tips that will help anyone who provides services to handle their customers better; whether you are engaged in over-the-phone customer service or operations involving interaction with customers.

 

How to keep the customer sign

 

 

Always Wear A Smile

 

Start every call with a smile. The caller may not see it but he will definitely hear it in your voice. Company B staff all sounded supportive and happy to be there for me on a national holiday. In a face to face interaction do smile and look helpful but don’t sneer or sound patronizing!

 

Put Yourself in the Customer’s Shoes

 

The fact that the customer has to talk to you means something is wrong and needs to be addressed. You are the face or voice of your organization and a lot depends upon the empathy that you are able to display. This will help you to choose the right words.

 

Listen and Be Attentive

 

There is nothing more irritating than a Customer Service Representative who keeps on asking the same question repeatedly. Listen to key facts and make it a habit to note down what the customer is saying. Paying attention to important details saves time and will give an impression that you are really serious on being of help. I had to repeat my complaint details each time and that really got my goat.

 

Watch Your Tone of Voice

 

Irate callers usually make a Customer Service Representative equally irate. But you should not allow yourself to be “infected” with their emotions. Remember, the customer is always right. So no matter how the customer is getting on your nerves, remain patient, understanding and again, empathetic. While it is normal for you to be annoyed, just make sure it doesn’t show in your tone.

 

Make a Recap

 

Once you have gathered and written down all the pertinent information you need from the customer, do a recap to make sure you get all the details correctly. Give the information that the caller needs and wrap up the conversation, making it clear that resolution was made or is being processed.

 

 

Final Words

Placard with rule for not breaking customer relationships

 

As a guideline, keep in mind that politeness and patience go a long way. Even better, be honest with the customer. If there is a problem technical or otherwise, inform the customer of a specific date or time by which the problem will be resolved and not the 48-72 hours estimate. If you do give an estimate, make sure the work will be done by then otherwise take the initiative to call the customer and explain the situation. If you don’t know the answer, tell the customer that you will revert and consult a senior who knows how to solve the problem.

 

These are my 5 tips for good customer service. Have I missed any? Do share your views and what you expect from your service providers staff in the comments box below.

 

PS. If customer service stresses you out, would you like to try the Burnout Self Test? Click on the image below to access the test of fill up the form below. Don’t worry, I don’t inundate email boxes with floods of messages and I don’t share emails. You will receive messages from me about twice a month with news, resources and offers and can always unsubscribe if you want to.

 

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16 Responses to “How to give patrons happy experiences not Twilight Zone”

  1. Tamuria says:

    Oh wow, I’ve had experiences like that one and it really makes your blood boil. I hate that these big companies don’t give their employees the proper training and that the employees don’t care enough about the job to do some research. All your points for good customers service are spot on but I especially like being honest. If someone is trying to help me sort a problem I’m much less offended when they take time to get advice from someone who knows, or point me in that direction, then when they waste my time with bad and wrong recommendations.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      You are spot on Tamuria. There is no crime in not knowing the answer to a question that a customer is asking and admitting as much and then escalating the issue to a senior colleague who is in a better position to help. I guess people are scared to lose their job and companies are not bothered with attrition at a telephone desk level. The point is that there is a lot of competition at cut throat level in this market and with regulations passed by the Government, very easy for a customer to shift loyalty and business to another service provider who listens to the customer and trains its employees.

  2. Over the past many years I have lamented that companies skimp on training people in their customer service department. When I come across knowledgeable, trained individuals, it clearly shows & I do express my appreciation.

    I did have a similar experience with a host company & lack of knowledge on my part was costly.

    As a small internet business, we do our very best to provide great customer service. And based on comments it is noted. We follow all the points you list.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Sadly Roslyn, many companies are in the throes of cost cutting and often outsource their services or hire youngsters who are looking to earn some extra cash while studying. No matter who is placed to man the Customer Service Desk, they need to be trained as they are the first point of contact for the customer with the company. The fact that the company in my post was gearing up for 4 G and I would have been upgraded made no sense when I didn’t have the connection thanks to their error.

      Like yourself, I try to provide the best service possible because I don’t want people to feel they have been sent to Limbo.

  3. Kimberly says:

    Good tips! Customer service can wear me out, but it is so very important! It’s good to keep these points in mind!
    Thanks!

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thanks Kimberly. Keeping in mind that we only phone customer service when we have a problem and may be distraught makes the going easier, though some customers can be difficult. 🙂

  4. As someone who is all about fairness and exceptional customer service, your experience brought back a slew of incredibly unpleasant and time consuming situations that I’ve experienced in my own life, Vatsala. With service providers being among those “memorable” ones.

    One of my commitments, is when I have a fabulous customer service experience to make sure to let their supervisor know about it, as often the only feedback they get is when someone has a complaint. My goal is to shine a light on people who deserve to be acknowledged. You remind me of me, with your persistence and perseverance. Sometimes I wonder if it is worth it and people tell me to “pick my battles”. I tend to fight for what I think is only fair. Happy you are finally out of this 2-year ordeal and that you are happy with your new provider and their customer service team!

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thank you for sharing your insights, Beverley. Your goal is one that many of us can relate to. Incidentally, the ordeal happened 2 years ago and for just 1 night of no internet and a few days of harassment. I would not have put up without an internet connection for 2 years. 🙂

  5. K. Lee Banks says:

    Excellent post! Poor customer service is definitely one of my pet peeves. And ironically, I have also had a similar experience with losing access to my blogs on numerous occasions when the service provider had issues.

    Very frustrating, but fortunately my web host is also a friend. She plays the “middle man/woman” and is the first one we contact when there’s an issue, and then she deals with the hassles. She recently suggested and made a change in service provider precisely because of the scenario you described.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Karen. It is a much bigger issue than many of us would realize. Quite often we do need a middle-person to help us out. In the situation that I narrated, the staffer at the other end could see the length of my patronage and yet didn’t consider it necessary to treat me with courtesy. They lost my business when I wouldn’t have left if they had handled the situation that they had created with courtesy and tact.

  6. Delia says:

    I truly believe that one of the most important skills that people in Customer Service role need are emotional intelligence and listening skills. Absolutely crucial.

    However, they are probably given the least of training in these areas. All they get is a list of preset answers to possible questions. They aren’t able to truly listen because they’re basically trying to find the boilerplate answer as soon as possible so they can serve it to you.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      That is true, Delia. There are times when I have actually told the person on the other side that he or she needs to stop scrolling to find an answer and just listen to me or transfer me to the supervisor. 🙂

      Sadly, corporates talk of training but do little for those employees or outsourced staff who are the first line of calling when there is a problem. Not good for reputation management.

  7. Ian Campbell says:

    Service providers really do take their customers for granted. I have had similar experiences over the years and have been “blamed” for issues that were later proven to be at their end. Good customer service does not seem to come naturally to some providers (in many areas) so if you can provide it with your business, you will already be ahead of the competition.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thanks for sharing your insight, Ian. You are absolutely right about providing good customer service in one’s own business to be ahead of the competition. When we treat our customers the way we want to be treated, we open up avenues for referrals that are priceless.

  8. Charlotte Campbell says:

    This site has provided a plethora of information. I found it very insightful!

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Welcome to The Karmic Ally Coaching Experience Blog, Charlotte. Delighted you found the information beneficial.

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Meet your coach

I work with driven, passionate, talented and ambitious professionals who've hit a speed breaker in their business or career create their desired breakthrough reclaiming control of their situation with customized strategies and tactics that work.

Using a combination of intuition and analytical skills, I help my clients identify their real issues with exercises to still their mind and allow their inner feeling to emerge in a place of confidentiality and trust. 

When my clients first come to me, they are not in a very happy place and need clarity about themselves and their chosen vocation. Their professional problems are playing havoc with other areas of their life. They know they need to take radical steps to change the status quo but they also know that they need support and accountability to get them their desired result.

 

I really get it, because at one point, I also experienced getting lost in my work rationalizing decisions that were detrimental to the other aspects of my life. I’ve struggled with and won battles of stress management, life balance and career decisions to emerge in a place where I can confidently say that I live my desired life according to my personal Manifesto and have created a business that provides me with a platform for my desired lifestyle and self-expression for myself. I want that for you too!

 
I adhere to the Certified Coaches Alliance Code of Ethics and Standards. A copy is available on request.
1st place BCB 2012
Email: Vatsala(at)karmicallycoaching(dot)com Phone:91 9818517664
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