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Customer service: how to improve it from both sides
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Customer service in today’s marketplace is very much a two-sided coin: There’s the business side and the consumer side. This week your Better Business Bureau has tips on how to make customer service a win-win transaction for both parties.
For the consumer
As the “customer” part of the equation, there are things that the consumer can do to make the interaction go more smoothly, especially with online transactions.
Most of us would rather deal with a real person instead of the automated recorded voices that are many companies’ first line of defense. Here are some suggestions for getting through to a real person:
• Instead of waiting on hold, an online service like LucyPhone will wait for you so you can hang up until a customer service rep picks up on the other end. LucyPhone will call you back and connect you when that happens. There are iPhone and Android apps also available for smartphone users that can speed things up in a similar way.
• When given the phone tree directory, wait until the end of the list for the “all other questions” option. That’s where the connection will be made to a live person. A “tech support” option can also connect you. Use these options even if it sounds like your question could be covered by one of the earlier menu choices. A live person always beats a robot.
• If prompted to say words, say “agent”, “representative” or “customer service.” (Speaking unintelligible gibberish can also prompt the phone system to connect you to a person.)
Once you are talking to someone at the business, it’s your duty to be prepared for that conversation by having done some research. These tips can help:
• Use a search engine to check whether others have had the same problem that you are calling about. Often that is the case and their posting about their experience can help you.
• Gather answers to potential questions ahead of time. Account numbers, passwords and ticket or confirmation numbers may be needed.
• Condense your story by leaving out mundane details. “Just the facts” is the best policy. Don’t make it an epic tale.
• Get the representative’s name and an order or transaction number for future reference.
• If you aren’t content with the help they offer you, it’s fine to ask to for their supervisor. Reps are trained for this.
• Throughout the process, be polite. Kindness can go a long way towards motivating the company’s rep to help you. Anger creates roadblocks.
For the business
One area in which small business can compete especially well with giant chains is the area of customer service. The fine art of excellent customer service can nurture customer loyalty and satisfaction. A few tips:
• Train your employees to treat customers considerately.
• Be sure employees are thoroughly knowledgeable about your products and services. They should know what they are selling and why a customer will value it.
• Respond quickly and in good faith to a customer complaint, otherwise, they will walk away to one of your competitors.
• Remember it is not personal. Customers simply want value. Set aside your emotions and deal with the facts.
• Don’t get caught up in side issues. Focus on the core problem.
• If the mistake was yours, acknowledge it and correct it immediately. It’s not only the right thing to do; it also impresses the customer, which can lead to continued sales to them.
For questions or concerns regarding customer service issues, contact your BBB by calling (800) 856-2417, or visit their website at