Have you ever noticed how much more likely an upset customer is to publicly express their distaste than a satisfied customer is to publicly praise your efforts? You may have heard scary statistics about how on average customers will tell 15 people about a negative experience and only tell 10 people about a positive one or only 1 out of 10 happy customers will leave a review.
That’s a tough pill to swallow but it makes providing an amazing customer service experience every time super beneficial and a way to stand out from the crowd.
How to Provide Great Customer Service
1. Stay present
You can bundle a lot of customer service skills under this umbrella. By staying present you are able to actively listen, pick up on tone and emotional cues, think more clearly, and honor the customer by focusing your energy and attention on them. Another huge benefit to staying present is it allows you to be more mindful and in control of your own emotions. It’s so easy to get swept up by one negative comment that derails your whole day and mood, especially in customer service.
When you're mindful of your emotions you can recognize these feelings creeping up and consciously decide to let them pass by without getting dragged along for the ride. Quick tips for staying present: declutter your workspace, practice meditation, do one thing at a time (when possible).
Whether your customer can see your face or not, a smile goes a long way. It’s a signal of acknowledgment. People feel seen, heard, and valued when another person smiles at them. This can be the first step to validating your customer by letting them know their presence is valued. A smile can change the tone in your voice and even be heard over the phone but more importantly, a smile can change your perception of the situation entirely.
3. Always, always, always respond.
Realistically, you’re not going to be Johnny-on-the-spot every time and that’s alright. What isn’t alright, is going radio silent on a customer because you don’t have a solution for them. Not responding sends the customer a signal that they are not valued. Everyone wants to be heard, especially when they are seeking help. If you don’t have the answer yet, let them know. Reach out to them before they have to contact you for an update.
4. Be honest and concise
If you don’t know, then you don’t know! If you are presented with a problem or question that you don’t have the answer to, one of the best responses you can give is “I’m not sure but I will find out for you.” or “Let me check with my team and get back to you.” etc.
An honest answer like that is actually useful (when followed through with, of course). Rambling, spitting out assumptions, or making up an answer on the spot is not useful. Not only do you fail to solve the customer's problem but you also waste their time, risk giving false hope, or an incorrect solution altogether. Set clear honest expectations and follow through.
5. Show empathy
Easier said than done, right? Empathy can be a tough thing to embody but it will skyrocket your people skills if you apply it. I used to think empathy meant imagining yourself physically in someone else’s shoes in the exact same context. That concept never clicked for me. It wasn’t until a stranger showed me some serious empathy (at the DMV of all places) that I was finally able to experience my empathy “Aha!” moment.
What I realized, is that empathy is not about putting yourself in someone else’s physical shoes, empathy is about putting yourself in someone else's emotional shoes. It’s not about connecting over the situation, it’s about connecting over the feeling. I went to the DMV to register my car and get a new license but what I really needed that day at the Fontana DMV was a win. I desperately needed something to go my way after what seemed like an endless streak of failures and the angel sitting behind window number 14 made that happen.
I think what she recognized in me was the feeling of defeat. I’m guessing she’s experienced that feeling at one point in her life and was able to resonate with me and change my experience at the DMV entirely. You may not be able to solve all the world’s problems but you can still create an amazing customer service experience through meaningful connections and lasting impressions.
6. Ask questions
Ask early, ask often. Check-in with your customer to make sure you are on the same page and are fully understanding their needs. Ask questions, paraphrase what you heard, and repeat it back for clarification. This shows that you are engaged and serious about working toward a solution together. It also better prepares you to tackle the issue after you’ve established a solid understanding.
As consumers, we might not know specifically what we need or what is wrong half of the time, we just know something is not performing as we expected. Uncovering the disconnect between expectation and reality can open the door for more holistic solutions instead of bandaids.