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Opinion: How to create impactful, valuable customer service

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We all have been there, at some point. We purchase a product or service that does not meet our expectations, resulting in that uncomfortable phone call or chat to a customer service representative.

I wonder what can take the experience from dread to positive.

A customer service department is the liaison between the customer and the company. Those representatives have to be knowledgeable and skilled at communicating the desires of the customers  when the product or service is not meeting customer expectations.

Customer service representatives follow the procedures the organization has provided, giving the best resolution to the problem that the organization can manage. We can also find that some organizations go above and beyond the guidelines to provide the satisfaction the customer deserves – like fixing an issue that was caused by a user error or replacing a product after the warranty had expired. 

The resolution may be a replacement, warranty fix or refund. One grocery store has the policy that if the products don’t meet expectations, the customer is refunded and given a replacement. Those are sensible solutions when you are a displeased customer. But customer service goes beyond providing the immediate resolution to the problems.

The feedback a customer can provide is an opportunity for improvement of the organization’s products and services. For instance, a product hits the market, but customers want to use it in a way that it was not intentionally designed for. Small design changes can happen, and customers can be sent a kit to serve those needs. In that case, and if it’s well received all around, the extra features can be added to all the products with no added cost to the customer.

Providing excellent customer service does not just mean creating a negotiable solution both parties can accept. It also means there is a process toward preventing and eliminating the problem from occurring. The departments should have created standards and policies to communicate the problem to other departments, suppliers, employees, etc. Customer service has a duty to communicate and provide data on the issues. Ultimately, they want to find and disclose the root cause of the problem, along with a corrective action plan for preventing that problem from occurring.

How can organizations increase the positive experience a customer may have?

  1. It starts before the product is even purchased. It starts in the concept phase of the product development when the product is first just a thought. It takes understanding what the customer is wanting and to apply the value to the product and service.
  2. It’s about maintaining the requirements and values the customer wants in the product or services. This is embedded in the culture of the organization by providing the necessary resources, such as training, tooling, materials, staffing, institutional knowledge, etc.

       3. Develop the skills and training in customer service to better understand the behaviors of displeased customers when they are reacting to an unfavorable product or service. Teach how to elevate the customer’s emotional distress to configure a solution that is best for everyone’s position. For instance, in a stressful confrontation, make sure you are maintaining composure. It is easy to react to a negative situation, but I suggest allowing a pause along with a pranayama, aka belly breath in yoga, to keep you from overreacting. Start out by telling the customer in a calm and controlled voice that you are aware of their emotional state, such as, “(Name) I can hear that you are angry the product did not perform to your satisfaction,” and you may go on to list the customer’s issues. By acknowledging their emotional state and what they are experiencing, it makes them feel heard and more willing to provide you with the same respect.

  1. Go above and beyond by creating value for the customer. By having ways to add value to the customer, we can keep their loyalty and refer them to future customers. Some suggestions include an upgrade in service, such as a standard hotel room to a suite or free oil changes to car customers who have had bad experiences. Maybe even send an unexpected handwritten thank-you letter to the customer for working with you toward a satisfactory resolution with the product or service.
  2. Follow up with the customer after the issue is considered resolved. Allow for more communication from the customer to determine if there is room for additional improvement and how they feel the solution meets their needs.

In the end, it is about creating value for the customer, and part of that is giving them the right product or service at the amount and time they want it in. In this way, value boils down to communicating and providing internal and external resolutions.  

Valorie Hendrix is the owner of Dynamic Empire Consulting. She can be reached at
valorie@dynamicempireconsulting.com.

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