As some of you may know, I have a long history in customer service, over 20 years, in fact. I have seen the best and the worst. I have BEEN the best and the worst. My experience ranges from Sale to Support of both products and Technology. Basically, I think I know a thing or two about what good customer service is. So as I write this, I have to ask myself, why doesn’t anyone else? Is your bottom line so small that you can afford to have proper customer service? I begin to wonder sometimes.

I have decided that, for the benefit of those in the industry and for those of us that are considered customers, it’s time to lay down a few ground rules. This is what I expect of myself when I take or make a customer call. I’m not saying that every company needs to follow them but perhaps, look at them and ask yourself, “am I doing any of these and if so, what kind of effect am I having on my customers?”

Rules of the Road for Customer Service:

1.For God’s Sake get rid of your overseas customer service! No one likes them, no one wants them. There is nothing worse them trying to call customer service for a company here in the US and getting someone who, not only doesn’t live in the US but also has never used your product, never seen your products except maybe in pictures but has such a heavy accent that your customers can’t understand a word they are saying. Your customer base is here. Your customers are here, In the US. Not to mention, those of us in the US need the jobs more than they do.

2. If you are doing face-to-face customer service, clean yourself up! I find it appalling to go into a business for help and find the person unshaven, unclean, disheveled and completely nasty. I actually as for someone else when that happens to me. I refuse to work with someone that looks like they just climbed out of bed. All is shows me is that they have no pride in their work and are there just to collect a paycheck. It also shows that their management doesn’t care. And would it kill them to have a pleasant smile once in a while? For the love of God, your face won’t break.

3. Shut up and listen to your customers. Nothing is less helpful then to call in to customer service and have the representative interrupt you. Even the repeated “uh-huh” is irritating.  I get enough of those and I know that the person on the other end is not listening, they are just pretending to listen and probably sending a couple of text messages while you are trying to get their attention.

That is another thing, if you are on the phone with a customer, DO NOT stop the conversation to answer or look at your ringing cell phone. I was actually at a job interview when the interviewer’s cell phone went off. She actually stopped the conversation to answer a call from her boyfriend. So Rude!

4. Ask only appropriate questions when your customers call. Make sure that before anything else, you have a clear understanding about what the problem really is. Take notes and let the customer explain in detail what is happening. If more clarification is needed, ask the questions, don’t make assumptions and then proceed. And, for the love of God, if the customer is upset, let them vent. They have an issue, they may have called several times about it, let them speak and don’t tell them to calm down because then you are just patronizing them. It’s demeaning. You will find this will help you resolve 99.9% of your problems and have the issue resolved in only one call or visit.

5. Ask for the customer’s information, Name, Social Security or other identifiers only AFTER you know what the problem is. From there, you will be able to determine if, in fact, you are the appropriate person that this customer should be speaking to. I have called into customer service before and had people ask me for all my identification information and come to find out that they are not the right department or section, get transferred over to another person and have to do the process all over again. It’s rude and a time waster. Get the story first THEN, if you are the one to help, get the customer’s information.

6. One of my biggest pet peeves is when you call into customer service, the rep pulls up your information and starts spouting off the history of all the calls you have placed to them in the last 10 years. It takes away from the subject at hand and, again, wastes time. When I call in, I want a very streamlined call. No fuss, no muss. Besides, chances are, none of it has anything to do with the reason they are calling you today. If something comes up in the conversation that is regarding a previous call, THEN bring it up but not till then. Most people don’t like it when someone is tracking them anyway. They begin to feel like you are trying to be “Big Brother”. Leave it alone until if and when it is appropriate.

7. Don’t ask “How can I offer you great customer service today?” My back of my hair stands up as soon as I hear it. My answer is, “Start by not asking me stupid questions and put down the script, we have business to attend to.” That is the LAMEST opening I have ever heard. You are not the one that will determine if you offer great customer service, your customer does. IF I feel that I have received “Great Customer Service” then I will be the first to tell you and I may also ask for a Supervisor to let them know. I am the first to reward good work.

8. Stop with the survey crap! I can’t count the number of times I have been asked to “Please hold for a brief Customer Service Survey.” Stop it! I don’t care. They are stupid and lame.  In fact, once I am done with my call, I’m going to hang up. My opinion at that moment is not going to do anything to help you in improving your service. Here’s a thought for you, start doing some aggressive monitoring. Any, and I do mean ANY, customer service group that wants to truly help their customers will be monitoring and even recording all calls coming into that call center. If not then you really have no interest in what your customers think of you and are only interested in doing things your way.

9. Get rid of those stupid and endless automated answering systems or I.V.R’s. Face up to the fact that they are pissing off your customers and showing just how cheap you really are. If you simply must have one, limit it only to a few options with one option clearly offering to speak to a live representative. Short, Sweet and to the point, that is what people want anymore.

10. I tapped into this one before. Listen to your own calls, coach your employees and for God’s sake, Train these people appropriately. Your employees should be fully trained in all aspects of your service, up to and including proper customer service techniques. Customer satisfaction begins with proper knowledge of products and services. The moment that they are give false or improper information that is when you start losing customers. I can’t count the number of times I have called or gone to customer service and had been given the wrong information or the person I was talking to was just so unprofessional that I just wanted to slap them.

None of this should be new or mysterious. I have only begun to tap the surface of what real customer service is. It begins with companies truly caring about their customers and show them that they are not just a number. Fact is we ask customers are the reason you still have a business. Without us, there wouldn’t be a YOU. Think about it.

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