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7 Steps for Excellent Customer Service

Tue, Dec 2, 2014

Customer Service

Rarely does everything go to plan. There are hiccups, technical difficulties, communication delays and people are misunderstood. When the client speaks up about something it’s your job to respond in a manner that serves your business and solves their problem. Handle it poorly and your client will connect their customer experience to dealing with a bad company. Handle it well and they’ll sing your praise.

I’ve dealt with all these situations, and maybe more. I started off working in retail for ten years, whether it was on the floor, as a cashier, a front-end supervisor or one of the managers. When I started working at software companies I was on the front-line of customer support, as well as managing internal requests. Most of the time the customer or client came to me with problems. Occasionally I would spot something and take some proactive measures.

Say you have someone walk in or give you a call. They’re upset about something you did, or maybe didn’t do. Possibly they’re just confused or misunderstood you. Sometimes it actually was your fault. How do you handle this? The choice is yours.

Here's your action plan.

Actively listen to the customer

Listen to what the customer is saying, give some inclination that you’re listening to them, and let them know you understand where they’re coming from.

Get to the root of the problem

What the customer is complaining about may not be what the actual problem is. They’re complaining it takes too long to get something done, but in reality this could mean something in the process is broken.

Repeat the situation back to the customer

This is another part of active listening, and it serves to show the customer you’re on their side. You understand them, and you sympathize with them.

Brainstorm for a solution

Think of a solution that’s long-term, scalable and sustainable. A quick fix is fine so long as you have a plan for the future.

Explain next steps

What is it exactly that you’re going to do, and what should the customer do in the meantime?

Execute those steps

Make this customer your number one priority, within reason. Don’t just say you’re going to do something, make yourself accountable for getting it done. It’s also important to stay in constant communication. Let the customer know you’re working on a solution, even when there's no news.

Follow up with the customer

Once you execute your solution, get back in touch with the customer and make sure they’re satisfied. If not, an alternative solution may be needed.

It’s very, very easy just to give refunds and say this won’t happen again. Refunds are a quick fix and in some cases a fine short-term solution, but it doesn’t solve the long-term problem. Also, it sets a poor precedent for future business and customer complaints. As I tell vendors when I run into issues: "don't refund, don't apologize, just tell me what you're going to do to fix it."

Now it’s your turn.

The next time you have a customer complaint or difficult situation, put my plan into motion and start by getting to the root of the problem. From there you’ll be able to figure out the right solution to help them and your business. Leave a comment below when you do, and let me know how you handled the situation.

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