Tales of awful customer service are especially bothersome at this time of year. It seems everyone has a story or two. The retail clerk who doesn't know or doesn't care.  The airline automated attendant system with endless loops before you encounter a human being.  The angry fast food attendant who is mad at the world. Or even part-timers who may not be very well trained. You get the idea. 

It's easy to feel that the employment playing field has changed. For many businesses it's harder than ever to find really good team members. Sometimes it seems staff get hired because they're breathing, and not because they have the requisite skill set to be excellent with the public they were hired to serve.  Knowing you can't change who that organization put in place to assist you, is there anything you as the customer are able to do?  

There sure are.  Here are some reminders to help you get the level of customer service you should receive: 

1. Don't be shocked or put-off by obviously poor great service. You'll make it worse. Be realistic. In some cases it helps to lower your expectations temporarily.  You may be dealing with a new hire that may have received very little training.  They could have no experience. But there's hope. Read on.  

2. Understand that you can actually influence the type of service you get. The same way an angry customer can have negative emotions mirrored back their way, entering a service situation with a positive and upbeat demeanor can help influence the treatment you'll get back. We use this approach a lot. We were in Las Vegas and walked up to a visibly upset hostess. Instead of being insulted, demanding, or giving her back cold treatment, we said "Oh good! We're getting a cheery hostess who's going to take very good care of us!" She took a deep breath and we were rewarded with a big smile and helpful service. She may have just had the customer from hell. But she wasn't going to take it out on us. We weren't going to allow it. 

3. Plan how to win them over. In a perfect world it should be up to them to win you over. But for now, especially in the holiday season, the tables are often turned. Have a strategy and be ready to explain your situation clearly and confidently.  You may need to exert some effort if you want a pleasant experience.  

4. Sometimes it takes a second effort. Realize that the last few interactions your service provider endured or experienced may have been brutal. Do what you can to establish a friendly atmosphere. Smile and be in a positive frame of mind. Take control of the situation. By the end of the transaction, you'll probably be having a far more positive relationship. Be obviously friendly and smiling. It is contagious.

5. Accept the occasional situation where nothing works. Don't take it personally. And try not to get frustrated. Don't YOU be the bad guy. That salesperson or employee will be abrasive to the customers that follow you as he was to the ones before you.  

Before you enter into the next situation where you're depending on someone to provide you with service, think about ways you're able to affect the outcome.  A customer definitely can influence the service they receive. Take more responsibility to radiate your own good mood and attitude and see if you're not treated better.

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Reprinted with permission of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training. Nancy Friedman is a featured speaker at franchise, association & corporate meetings. She has appeared on OPRAH, Today Show, CNN, FOX News, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning & many others. For more information, call 314-291-1012 or visit www.nancyfriedman.com.

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