Bad Customer Service Is Not So Funny: Five Secrets to Giving Outstanding Customer Service
By Ed Sykes
The following story tells how a customer experience went
from funny to sad in less than 24 hours, and five secrets to
creating an outstanding customer experience.
Recently, Joy and I were invited to go to a local comedy
club. It was one of those clubs where you eat dinner while
listening to the comedians.
We had a very enjoyable evening with our hosts. The
comedians were funny and the meals were delicious. The
server gave us our check for the meals and, after perusing
the bill, gave the waiter our credit card for payment. I
noticed that the waiter went to all the tables he served at the
same time and collected all the receipts and credit cards,
cash, and payments at the same time. We were a little
concerned that the payments would be applied to the wrong
receipts. However, we assumed the best and assumed the
server had an organized system for applying the payments to
the right receipts.
We were wrong!
We checked our online account balance and saw that there was an incorrect charge of $75 in addition to the normal charge. Not only that, the overcharge resulted in this account being over the limit which resulted in an additional overlimit fee of $39. Suddenly, it was not so funny.
The following are five secrets to resolving a customer
service situation and creating a great customer service
Walk the Talk
Joy telephoned the comedy club at 10:12
a.m. of the morning she found out about the overcharge.
She was greeted by a voiced mail message that said, "No one
is available to take your call after business hours. Please call
back between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. or leave a
message." That's what she thought she did.
If you promise to answer the phone between certain hours,
then answer the phone between those hours. If you promise
the customer a solution, additional information, etc., then
make sure you deliver. Walk the talk and don't offer
Listen with Empathy
When Joy called back after leaving
a message on the voicemail and not getting a response, she
finally got someone on the phone. Joy explained the above
overcharge situation and the customer service "expert" said,
"Are you sure the charge is incorrect?" Wrong answer.
This person had already judged/assumed the customer to be
incorrect or incompetent. Along with this judgment, as Joy
explained our situation, there was no response from the
customer service person during the conversation. Empathy
means putting yourself in the customer's shoes and feeling
the customer's pain, gaining an understanding of the
situation, and communicating that you understand. Some of
the things that this customer service person could have said
to show empathy are the following:
I appreciate your sharing this information…
I can understand how you could feel that way…
I can see how that would be an inconvenience…
Take Ownership and Apologize
When Joy mentioned
the $75 overcharge, the customer service person said that it
was our bank's fault although it was clear that the comedy
club initiated the charge. Take responsibility for creating a
solution for the customer. Show ownership by saying the
We will investigate this for you immediately.
I will create a solution.
Let's make this charge go away.
Let me have you talk with someone who has the answer for
you. It will take (whatever amount of time). Can you wait?
We will make this happen for you.
I will personally take care of this for you.
In our situation, the customer service person could have
said, "Ms. Fisher-Sykes, I apologize for this overcharge and
any inconvenience it caused you. That is never our
intention. Again, my name is (name of rep). I will personally
investigate this for you immediately and correct this
Taking ownership shows the customer that someone is in
charge, that someone cares, and that someone can move to
the end result that really counts…creating a solution for the
Create the Solution
All your actions and
communications with the customer must move to creating a
solution. Joy asked the customer service person when the
charge would be removed and the rep said, "I don't know; I
guess soon." Does this answer move us closer to the final
answer or solution? NO. It leaves the customer unsure
about the solution and creates more anxiety and questions in
the customer's mind.
Correct Way: All the rep needed to say was, "Thank you for
asking. We will immediately initiate the removal of your
charge today. The charge, along with any overdraft charges,
will be removed from your bank within the next 48 hours."
Move towards creating a solution, create the solution, let the
customer know what the solution is, get the customer's
approval and commitment on the solution, and act on the
Offer an Incentive to Come Back
Remember, treat your
customer every time as though it is the first time to impress
that customer. You may only have one opportunity to
impress that customer. To say the least, we were not
impressed with our comedy club experience. Joy even
mentioned in the beginning of the conversation that it was
our first time at the club. There was no reaction from the
customer service rep.
Correct Way: "Ms. Fisher-Sykes, I am saddened to hear
about this situation, especially since it is your first time at
our establishment. We like to make each customer's
experience at our club a positive memorable one so that you
want to come back again and again and tell others about our
club. We want you to come back to our club. Here are two
complimentary passes to our club so that you can come back
at your earliest convenience."
If you can't give the customer a monetary incentive, give the
customer a perceived incentive. It could be a special call
with advanced information on your establishment's
promotions or, in our case, it could be seating at the front
table of the club to make us feel special.
Apply these five customer service secrets, and your
customers will laugh all the way back to your business,
organization, and government agency.
About the Author
Ed Sykes is an professional speaker, author, and success
coach in the areas of leadership, motivation, stress
management, customer service, and team building. You can
e-mail him at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org, or call him at
(757) 427-7032. Go to his web site, http://www.thesykesgrp.com, and signup for the newsletter, OnPoint, and
receive either free ebook, "Empowerment and Stress Secrets
for the Busy Professional," or "Secrets of Outstanding
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