To see into the heart of the customer, all we have to do is look inward. Each of us feels our needs are important and that when we talk, people should listen. But so much of the time we are not received as kindly as we feel we should be. The clerks and agents with whom we interact each day are often rude and in a hurry to be finished with us. They think of us as as a sale; an empty voice on the other end of the phone; someone with problems. But customers are actually living, breathing, busy people with kids, travel plans, dinner to make tonight, friends and family to support, etc. In short, they are just like us and all the people we love.What is the job of a customer service agent?
A customer service agent is in the business of providing support for people in need. Psychologists have a similar job – on a deeper level, of course – but the analogy holds. The job is to help, not to push away. Psychologists don’t take it personally when their patients are upset. They start their day acknowledging these challenges. The same should be true for customer service agents. Customers are asking for help from the clerk or agent in order to solve a problem. So the customer service agent’s job, then, is to objectively and sympathetically solve the customer’s problem. That’s not necessarily an easy task. It takes strength and finesse to do it well. But if the agent or clerk does it well, they will be rewarded with new and lasting customers.
What does it mean to “get customers?”
In business we use the term “get customers” in such a step by step fashion. We may as well call it “fix bike” or “assemble table” or even “pick up groceries.” We have a set of instructions and we go down the list until we’ve gotten all the customers, right? But it doesn’t really work that way. Customers are people and they are not available for “getting” (unless you’re in the slave trade). “Getting customers” should be more of a problem of how to “create a revolution” or how to “rally an army” because what we are really trying to do when we “get customers” is to “get people on our side.”
How to get people on your side
Powerful leaders and revolutionaries have mused over the same topic for centuries. This is the problem we should pose to ourselves when delivering customer service, remembering that the customer is a person in the consumer age with thousands of products to choose from; his communications with countless strangers on a daily basis are usually impersonal and unsatisfying; and that besides looking for a good product, the customer is undoubtedly also seeking a good company with whom to do business and hand over his hard earned cash. The friendly and helpful customer service agent will stand out in the sea of incompetence and attitudes he is often faced with. Being mean, aloof, or arrogant isn’t an option for an agent or clerk but simply being nice isn’t quite enough. To get people on your side, you must stand out. You must be sincere, helpful, sympathetic, light hearted but serious about the goal, and you must make the person feel important. Our closest friends show us these qualities on a daily basis and what do we do with friends? Return day after day.
Give them a sense of friendship and they will begin to feel dedicated to you.
How to be friends with your customers
- Answering phones If you’re not there for your army when they need you, they will find someone else who will be. When someone is not available to answer the phone or at least give a timely call back, a customer feels that the company doesn’t respect them, regarding them only as a payment. In this consumer age, people get fed up with feeling that they are simply somebody’s means to a monetary end. Customers will take their business elsewhere. There are plenty of fish in the sea, after all.
- Talking Invite them to discuss the problem and allow them to go on and on if need be. It may seem like an expensive waste of time for the agent to sit on the phone but listening makes the customer feel important and special and that is priceless.
- Sympathy Let the customer know that you understand the problem and how frustrating it can be and that your goal is to solve it. And before you get frustrated with their lack of understanding remember that you are an expert in the field and they are not. It is much easier for you to understand the problem than it is for them.
- Light hearted but serious. Taking a customer seriously makes them feel important but keeping light hearted helps ease the conversation.
- Laugh See if you can’t soften the problem by find something to laugh about. Apart from crying (and we don’t want to cause too much of that!) laughing is about the most human thing we can do. Remind the customer that you and the business you represent are human too.
It’s really not a hard science, just a concept we’ve forgotten in the rush of starting a business, working for one, considering the numbers, hearing the same problems over and again, etc. Acquiring customers, rallying an army, or building a following of any kind, is easily achieved if we first treat the people as friends.