The 5 Tenets of Great Customer Support
News flash: it's not too difficult to provide great customer support. Can't we all just get along?
You probably already know that I am a stickler for great customer support. I despise bad customer support and have been known to share those horror stories with the hundreds of thousands of people who read some of my ramblings.
As for good customer support, well, there's just nothing special about it. It's mediocre. It’s forgetful. But with just a wee tiny bit of extra effort, that mediocre exchange can turn from good to great.
Why Great Customer Support is Important
The quality of customer support from a company not only represents the overall brand, but it defines the company's internal culture.
Whomever is talking with a company's customers determines how those customers will perceive the brand.
If you have a volunteer who is angry at life and, hence, rude to your participants - those participants are walking away with a bad impression of your event and your company.
That's why, in my companies, culture is key. Getting the right people on board with the right attitude means everything. All of our hiring and firing decisions are based on adherence to our own company culture.
Great customer support is the byproduct of a great culture. As it turns out, there are 5 key aspects that define great customer support and, guess what, I’m going to share them all with you right now. Exciting, eh? I thought so too.
The 5 Tenets of Great Customer Support
Whether we are talking with customers, vendors or partners, we have 5 Tenets of Great Customer Support that we live by. They aren't a great big secret, which is why I'm sharing them with you. Honestly, if every person in every company followed these basic rules, we would be living in a better, happier world.
People want to feel like they've been heard. Period.
Imagine that you just became a member of a gym. You woke up at 5am to get to your new gym for the first time. When you got there, all the exercise machines were broken.
It's early, you're tired, frustrated and just want to exercise. You complain to an employee and the first thing the employee responds with is an offer to pay more money to extend your membership.
How would you feel? You definitely would NOT feel like you've been acknowledged. Most likely you'd stomp out the door, go eat a stack of pancakes and a few strips of bacon, then cancel your membership.
The first step in great support is to make sure you acknowledge the issue.
Repeat it back to them so they know you understand. By first acknowledging what they are saying and how they are feeling you can begin to quickly diffuse a situation.
Right after acknowledging that you understand and hear the person, the next step is validating the individual's feelings. Whatever they are feeling, they want to feel empathy from you.
If you have kids you probably know what it's like when a person's feelings are not being validated. Picture the kid that says "I'm lonely" and the adult that responds with "Too bad. Figure it out."
How is that kid going to feel? Definitely not like their feelings were acknowledged and validated. Odds are that kid is just going to get angry.
3. Focus on the Solution
This one seems so obvious but it is so often forgotten. The entire reason a customer service conversation is happening is because there is a problem and the person wants a solution.
Maybe it's not an issue with your company. In fact, maybe you don't think it's an issue at all. But, honestly, your opinion doesn’t matter.
You know that saying “the customer is always right”? I actually think that the saying has a typo, because, empirically, the customer is NOT always right. If the customer says “the food is cold and it’s meant to be served hot”, but the food is actually supposed to be served cold and it says it right there on the gosh darn menu (Cold Noodles)… well.. the customer is definitely not right.
What the saying should be - and where the typo is found - is that “the customer’s opinion is always right”.
In other words, the customer is entitled to their own opinion and, for them, that opinion is right. It doesn’t mean the facts are right, by any means. Nor does it mean the customer is right. But it does mean that everybody is entitled to their own opinions and everybody is entitled to having their opinions acknowledged - regardless of whether the noodles are cold or hot.
In the customer support world, acknowledging the opinion and focusing on the solution to the problem is critical. After all, the person’s opinions are so strong that they spent the time to find you and tell you about it. So gosh darn it, just focus on getting to the solution.
Don't harp on the person's attitude - they're probably angry anyway. Just calmly work with them to get to a solution. Sometimes the solution is just acknowledging them and validating their thoughts with empathy.
4. Hold your Ego
This is a tough one for many people but it's important.
Let's face it, sometimes people just act like jerks. They will tell you how to do your job, they will boss you around, they will inform you that everything is your fault. They may be right or they may be wrong. But none of that matters with customer support.
Responding with your ego means needing to prove you're right and they are wrong. That is not productive in any relationship, including great customer support.
Hold your ego. Right and wrong doesn't matter. What matters is empathy and a focus on the solution. That type of approach keeps people calm and helps them realize when they themselves have screwed up.
5. Be Human
When somebody picks up the phone to talk to customer support, they usually want to talk with another human. They don't want to talk to a machine. They don’t want to talk to a machine that sounds like a human. And they don't want to talk to a human that sounds or acts like a machine.
Be yourself. Don't read from a script. Be natural and honest and let them know they are speaking with a real person - one that has a personality, a life, a story, maybe a sense of humor, but mostly a desire to help.
Great Customer Support, In A Bad Acronym
I wish there were a better acronym, but here you go - the 5 steps to remember in creating great customer support:
- Focus on the Solution
- Hold your Ego
- Be Human
Please help me in my quest to create a world of great customer support. We all need it.
We all deserve it.
Let me know your thoughts, leave ‘em in the comments
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