Double Up: Be Fast AND Accurate

It’s great to respond quickly to customer issues, of course, but Fast AND Accurate is really the unbeatable combination. There’s nothing like talking to a support person who really listens on all cylinders, diagnoses your issue with probing questions, and then takes care of it definitely or escalates the issue to others who can do so. Customers gain confidence from these behaviors, and confidence means a higher likelihood of an ongoing relationship with your brand.

Management can help foster this by establishing a model where speed is not the  most important support metric.

Be Unfailingly Civil and Respectful

The customer is upset, baffled, or clueless about something. You’ve heard about that same something several times that day, so it’s old news to you. Remember, though, that for your customer it’s the first time. It’s THE important issue for him. In these cases, take a breath, remain patient and pretend it’s the first time you are dealing with the issue, too. Pretend you are on the 10th take of a movie scene, and as the actor you have to keep it fresh. And, remember: Thou shalt not make the customer feel stupid.

Content Tip: Address repetitive issues by changing or updating your support center self-serve articles or FAQ. Maybe the messaging is not clear. Smart teams keep on top of repetitive issues, improves messaging, and tracks the drop in service load.

Following Up: Make It Second Nature and Systematic!

Good manners and follow-through are crucial in customer service as in any other aspect of everyday life. In today’s customer model, service is another opportunity to build on the relationship. Don’t leave it to your memory if there’s a reason to follow up with a customer—(just like with your Aunt Dierdre, you need to know how important it is to send that thank-you note or birthday greeting). Use your tools and organizational talents to ensure that follow-up issues don’t fall through the cracks. Make them systematic, build them in and make them automatic). In the old days, it was a “tickle file” where you inserted a reminder to yourself by sticking a note on the future date. Today’s CRM tools make it easier to systematize follow ups. This is an impressive way to scale support—and it keeps the contact personal.

Own Up to Mistakes with Humility

Look, it might not have been your fault. But does that matter? If the customer has suffered or is unhappy because of an error on the company’s behalf, that’s a reason to apologize—in a meaningful way. Tell them in all sincerity—as a representative of your company—that you are sorry and that you’ll try to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Follow up in writing (in some cases, in public). That’s a powerful symbolic gesture that you and your company hold themselves to high standards and consider themselves accountable for service and support.

Bonus Tip: Even if the customer is wrong, or unreasonable, or just having a bad day, you can tell the truth: that you want them to be happy and that you’d like another chance to demonstrate how much you value their business.

Make Relationship More Valuable than Revenue

It’s a funny thing—service and support are not altruistic, not really. But when you make your customer’s success your uppermost goal, rewards follow. Focusing on the success of your customer, on understanding where his pain lies and how to alleviate it—that’s a foolproof way to improve your product, your company, and your bottom line. The customer who knows that you value his input, will take his issues to heart, and will move your product forward with his needs in mind—that’s a customer who will be more likely to stay with you even over a rough patch. Treat your customers’ success as you most important goal—it’s the gating factor to your own success.

Photo by Craig Berry