Is Your Customer Service Worse Than the Dentist?

John Krautzel
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Of all the customer service tips you're likely to come across, perhaps none are as important as this: make the customer's experience with your company a pleasant one. Bad customer service hurts your market position in scores of different ways, many of them hard to see, and will lead to a gradual drying up of your customer base. Given the importance of creating a positive customer experience, it's worth reviewing a few customer service tips to help you gain a subtle, but important, advantage in the market.

Most customer service professionals don't need to be told that bad customer service is bad for business. Whenever a customer comes into contact with your company, the customer service rep is the face—or the voice—of the company. Making a bad impression at this stage of contact can be disastrous. While not all customers follow through with their threats to take their business elsewhere following a frustrating customer service experience, a company rep who can't resolve an issue or, even worse, conveys a negative attitude to the customer will sour the customer's entire opinion of the company.

While most customer service tips focus on ways to engage the customer on a positive level, it's important to be aware of this negative aspect of the customer service world. A customer whose issue cannot be resolved satisfactorily, but who nevertheless enjoys a thoughtful, pleasant encounter with a company rep, will rarely come away frustrated. Even if the issue is intractable, the customer will at least feel the complaint has been addressed.

A negative experience, however, often has the opposite effect. Even when the customer's issue is addressed and resolved, the customer with the bad luck to talk to a badly informed, surly, or generally unhelpful rep will often reflect afterward on what a struggle it was just to get a straight answer. After an experience like this, the slightest inconvenience is likely to be viewed as evidence of your company's overall incompetence and lack of regard for its customers.

The phrase "pulling teeth" has lost much of its evocative baggage in our age of professional dentistry. When the term came into vogue, however, the process of extracting a tooth was a horrible ordeal. Making your customers wait to talk to a rep, forcing them to explain themselves over and over, and then failing to understand what they want creates an old-fashioned tooth-pulling experience that your clientele won't soon forget.

So are there any customer service tips that will help you avoid these dentist-style encounters? Really, the only customer service tips that work are the tried-and-true methods most reps have to learn on the job. Treat every contact with the public as a chance to show your company's best face. Come to the job well trained, well informed, and ready to learn more. Take every customer's concerns seriously, even—especially—when what they want is impossible. Perhaps most important: never forget that good customer service tips the scales in your favor when your customer is deciding whether to continue a relationship with you.



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