The Cardinal Rules of Customer Service

By Nancy Friedman

International Customer Service Week falls in October. Even so, we at Telephone Doctor like to celebrate customer service all year long24/7/365. With this in mind, we want to share some special tips and techniques with you.

People Before Paperwork: How many times have you stood and waited while someone tallied up a batch of figures or counted a pile of money?  Then, only after they were done were you asked: “Now, how can I help you?”  And how many times have you waited while someone “fiddled” with something or wrote up a note, before they acknowledged you?  Reminder: Paper can wait. People should not. Paper won’t walk away, but the customer might. Drop what you’re doing and pay immediate attention to the customer.

Don’t Be Too Busy to Be Nice: In most interviews, managers and owners hear something like this from the applicant: “Oh, I love to be busy. If I’m not busy I get bored and unhappy.” Then they are hired, and one of the first things managers hear is the complaint: “Wow, I am so busy.” Well, being busy does not give you carte blanche to be rude. Let’s not be too busy to be nice. It’s not worth it.

Rushing Threatens Customers: Whether it’s on the phone or in person, avoid rushing people. Make each experience a great one. And remember, one-word answers make you sound cold and unfriendly. Slow down. Smell the roses. Stop rushing people. Use full sentences. Rushing threatens customers.

Don’t Use Military Language on Civilians: Simply put, company jargon should stay within your company. Mistakes and miscommunications thrive on company jargon. You, as the employee will be far more familiar and comfortable with the terms and abbreviations than your customer is. Some companies seem to have acronyms that would make the CIA green with envy. Use simple, easy to understand words with your customer. They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Be Friendly before You Know Who It Is: As a customer, have you ever been treated in a rather average – or maybe even below average – manner?  And then, when the salesperson realized you were a friend of the boss or someone other than an “average” customer, they brightened up?  Why wait to be friendly?  Why discriminate?  If you’re friendly before you know who it is, you’ll make a whole lot of extra points. When you’re friendly before you know who it is, you’re delivering the same great service to everyone. That’s the way it should be. Don’t discriminate.

“There Ya Go” Is Not “Thank You.” “Uh-huh” Is Not “You’re Welcome”: Count – starting today, just for one day – how many times people forget to say “Thank you” and “You’re welcome” to you. “There ya go” just doesn’t hack it. When customers spend money, they want to hear a big, smiling “Thank you, we appreciate your business.” And when we, as customers say “Thank you,” we don’t want to be grunted at with the old, mouth-hung-open “Uh-huh.”  Speak clearly. “You’re welcome” is a wonderful phrase. Please use it more often. And don’t be a grunter. When your customer tells you “Thank you,” immediately give them a great, big, smiling “You’re welcome.”

Nancy Friedman is president of Telephone Doctor, a customer service training company in St. Louis, MO.

From Connection Magazine October 2006]