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a blog by Don R. Crawley

Keynote Speaker on
IT Customer Service and Compassion

Bringing humanity into the world of technology

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Customer service work can be a tough job, whether we’re supporting computer users or retail customers. Some common mistakes, which can be easily avoided, will undermine the customer service experience.

Here are five common mistakes guaranteed to ruin customer service experiences and kill good customer service:

  1. We seem like we don’t care. Support situations can fail when we don’t sound or act as if we care, are concerned or appreciate the customer’s or end-user’s situation. Maybe we actually do care, but in order to convey our caring, we’ve got to choose compassionate and empathetic words and phrases that show we care. No one can read another’s mind. Try saying things like “I know this is very frustrating.” “I’m sure I would feel the same way if I were you.” “I am so very sorry.” “If there was anything at all that I could do, believe me, I would.” Try an honest expression of sympathy, saying something like, “I’m so sorry that happened to you.” It’s amazing how much of a calming effect that can have. Of course, use your own language to express your sympathy and empathy to avoid sounding scripted and phony.
  2. We don’t listen. Too often we try to jump in with solutions, and don’t allow our end-users and customers to finish describing their problems or venting their feelings. We need to show the customer or end-user that we’re listening by what we say, and how we say it. Sometimes, it helps to understand that obnoxious users and customers are often embarrassed because they made a mistake and want to blame it on someone, perhaps us. Showing that we’re interested in what they have to say often helps us establish rapport with the customer. Active listening techniques, including asking to make sure we understand what they have said can go a long way toward fostering a good situation. By saying, “Let me make sure I understand what you said.” we are reaching out to our customer, showing that we care, and showing that we actually are listening.
  3. We let the user upset us. It is easy to allow the customer’s or user’s attitude to irritate or annoy us. Our customers pick up on this through our tone of voice and use of language, or our silence, and this can fan the fire. We can make it a personal challenge to see how many upset users and customers we can turn around. Don’t take upset users’ and customers’ ranting and raving personally. (Admittedly, that can be easier said than done, but it’s critical for success in emotionally-charged support situations.) Don’t get emotionally hooked. When we let users and customers “push our buttons”, we lose. When we respond emotionally-with anger, sarcasm, or blame, we can’t respond rationally. When things heat up, we can cool off by saying that we need to research the situation and possible solutions, and ask if we can get back to the user or customer at a later time.
  4. We use the wrong words. Some trigger words cause users and customers to become more difficult. Some of these are “can’t”, “you’ll have to”, or a flippant “sorry about that”. Be sure to offer users and customers an alternative. Choices provide users and customers some say in how they want to proceed. Instead of saying “I don’t know,” try “Let me get you an answer,” or “Let me find out for you.” Be careful about using tentative language such as “I think” when answering customer questions. Customers don’t want to hear speculation about answers to their questions. They want straight answers or an assurance that we’ll get them an accurate and complete answer.
  5. We focus on ourselves instead of seeing it from the customer’s or user’s point of view. Sometimes we might think our customer or end-user is making too much out of a small issue (and maybe, by our standards, they are). The point is that if the issue, whatever it is, seems like a big deal to the customer or end-user, it is a big deal, regardless of how we might feel about it. We must always look at customer or end-user issues from their perspective, just the same as we would want a customer service rep who’s helping us to try to see our problem from our perspective. No matter what, it IS a big deal for our users or customers, and they want us to acknowledge that.

It seems like I run into these five problem areas regularly. It’s really not that hard. When we act like we care, when we give our customers the benefit of truly listening, when we maintain our composure, even in the face of angry or upset customers, when we choose our words carefully striving for positive language, and when we try to see the situation from our customer’s perspective, we can avoid these five customer service killers.

For More Ideas on How to Improve Communication and Customer Service Skills

Bring my one-day IT customer service training seminar onsite to your location for your group, small or large. Click here for the course description and outline.

Customer service book for IT staffPick up a copy of my IT customer service book The Compassionate Geek: How Engineers, IT Pros, and Other Tech Specialists Can Master Human Relations Skills to Deliver Outstanding Customer Service, available through Amazon and other resellers.

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