The four phrases of amazing customer service

in Managing by Mike Michalowicz
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Phases of customer service

I’ve grown my companies by focusing on great customer service. We didn’t always have the biggest names working at the firm, and we couldn’t always afford the flashiest equipment. However, what we did better than all our competitors was ensure that our customers were thrilled.

In fact, superlative customer service can be your very best (and cheapest!) form of marketing. Customers talk about their experiences, especially if those experiences are unexpectedly good. Sometimes even the most difficult situations can yield satisfied customers, depending on how you and your team handle the problems that arise. Even a failure to meet expectations can offer an opportunity for a great recovery and a happy customer.

Here are four phrases that will help you impress your customers with the service you offer:

1. “I don’t know, but this is what I’m going to do.”

You’re not always going to have the answer to every question at your fingertips, and your customers will understand that. What they expect in exchange, though, is honesty and follow-up. The key here is to make a clear commitment like, "I’ll call you by 5 p.m. with the answer,” and then keep that commitment. Even if it’s taking longer to get a problem resolved or to get the answer to your question, follow up with customers to let them know you’re still working on it. Customers want you to be honest and to keep your word. If you promise to call by 5 p.m., then you must call by 5 p.m., or you’ve betrayed your customer’s trust.

2. “I am very sorry.”

When you or your company make a mistake, the customer wants to hear you accept responsibility and apologise. Too many customer service reps have been trained to not accept responsibility, in some cases because they fear the legal record of having admitted failure. Realistically, though, the probability of a lawsuit is minimal, while the chance of losing a customer is virtually guaranteed. It’s important to manage the unhappy customer’s expectations while you apologise. Be genuine, and save your apologies for the instances when your company has truly made a mistake, rather than apologising to every customer displeased by circumstances that are beyond your control. The apology is only a step, albeit an important one, and the goal is to turn the failure into a success by determining what your company can do to make it right.

3. “Yes.”

“Yes” is what your customer wants to hear, and your goal should be to say that word whenever possible, especially if you’re working through a problem. Customers want progress.

Imagine two scenarios: Customer one calls with a complaint and asks for a 10 per cent discount. The customer service rep says no, finally hands the customer off to a manager, and 20 minutes later you have an angry, frustrated customer with a 10 per cent discount from the manager. Customer two calls with a complaint, and the customer service rep apologises and offers a 10 per cent discount. The cost to the company is 10 per cent—that's the same amount of money but call #1 took longer, involved two staff members, and left a customer feeling frustrated, while call #2 resulted in a customer who truly believes that your company cares about his business. Say yes to reasonable requests as soon, and as often, as possible; you'll leave your customers pleasantly surprised at how easily the problem was resolved.

4. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

Here’s your perfect wrap-up. Not only does this question give your customers the opportunity to bring up additional concerns, but it also lets them feel as if they're in control. They can ask for additional information or can thank you for your spectacular service. Giving your customers the opportunity to raise additional concerns lets them know you value them enough to spend time ensuring they’re satisfied. Even if the customer called with a problem, if your customer service team can work through a resolution and end on a positive note, you can earn and keep those customers for life.

Great customer service relies first and foremost on authenticity. You and your team must be committed to satisfying your customers, and being trustworthy is the foundation. If your customers trust you to keep your word, you’re more than halfway there. If your customers know they can rely on you, even if there’s a problem, that’s the rest of the journey.

This post originally appeared on OPEN Forum, an online community providing small business owners with information and advice to help them do more business.

This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.

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Mike Michalowicz

CEO, Provendus Group

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