Thursday, June 23, 2011

Customer Service is not for Sissies!

imageThis article was written by Jerry Margolin, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

There is a tendency in the market place to put “new hires,” or the lowest paid personnel in places of trust such as Customer Service, the switch board, (if you are fortunate enough to have one) and other important places. Your Customer Service Department is not for the faint of heart or your newest employee. The people responsible for dealing with the public must be trained and allowed to make decisions dependent on the length of time they have been employed. There must be some leeway to make those decisions, while speaking both for the client and the customer. A trained employee capable of making decisions is a must if you consider your company to be a quality operation. Customer Service is not a training ground. The employee should be allowed to be a decision maker within reason, an experienced employee, and have a positive attitude, be easily likable, and someone who has been with the company for a long time. He/she will be making decisions as to refunds, future discounts for appeasement, etc., while also making decisions handling problems. It should never be left for a new employee unless their experience is lengthy and tested.

Often customers are angry, the product has been shipped later than expected, mishandled, or some mistake has been made. It takes a strong, pleasant, likable personality to handle the job. Sometimes, the problem is something that the customer caused, and either doesn’t know or doesn’t care. How you handle the situation determines whether they will return or not.

The truth is that Customer Service can make or break a company. It’s how you react that your customer determines whether your company is “customer oriented,” rather than just another place to purchase goods. Did you show concern, or did you argue? Placing the blame with the customer may save you money, but it costs you in the long term. When something goes wrong you have an opportunity to shine . Customer Service personnel should always like people, and be sympathetic to their problems. Sometimes they are right, and sometimes they are wrong, but they are always the customer. One of the most important things that you can do is to remain calm, and perhaps offer a compromise, such as a discount on a future purchase, or at least something which makes him/her feel they got something positive for their time. If the customer continues to be upset and you can’t do anything, you will have to determine whether you should make a final offer, or that that particular customer is someone that is not salvageable. Always remain sympathetic. You can’t win them all, but this method is a lot more effective than “Sorry; you’re a day past warranty”.