Take Away From a Nightmarish Customer Experience

John Krautzel
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A customer service nightmare can feel impossible to overcome, particularly when it goes viral or tarnishes your public image. Whether you're dealing with a small-scale snafu or a huge disaster, it's important to learn from bad experiences and use the lessons to improve your service program.

Build Flexibility Into Policy

Company policies provide guidelines for individual workers and help maintain consistency across multiple branches. In some situations, however, adhering to these policies can do more harm than good. Take United Airlines, which denied boarding to two girls in March of 2017 because of their leggings. Since the girls were standby pass riders, who are prohibited from wearing form-fitting leggings, the company stood by its decision. By sticking to policy instead of allowing the passengers to board, the agents turned a simple situation into a viral nightmare. Your customer service department can learn from this incident and similar situations by giving employees the power to flex policy when it's clearly the better choice.

Practice Emotional Management

After being berated or talked down to by an angry customer, even the best customer service agents can snap and respond in kind. Unfortunately, other consumers don't always hear both sides of the story — when the incident is reported, all they hear is that an agent was rude and unprofessional. If your employees have this problem, it's a good idea to provide training in better emotional management. Teach workers to maintain a positive attitude and disagree with customers without insulting them. Striking the right tone can be difficult during a heated service call, so it's important to encourage employees to practice staying calm and pleasant while validating the caller's needs and emotional state.

Use Language Carefully

Language can be one of the biggest pitfalls of customer service. Agents, in an attempt to reassure or please callers, may use words that can be interpreted incorrectly. If you're dealing with complaints about false claims, teach workers to use clear, unequivocal language. Don't say, "We guarantee delivery in one business day" if you use an outside shipping service. Instead, opt for, "We send orders via UPS' overnight service. Orders received after 3:00 PM Eastern Time are sent for shipment the following day." This method creates clear expectations and helps customers plan accordingly.

Create a Predictable Process

When you're dealing with the public, predictability is crucial. A circuitous online ordering system can upset customers and cause delivery errors, and an unnecessarily complicated phone system can escalate an innocuous complaint to a viral disaster. If your customer service problems arise from confusing and complex systems, both before and after a purchase, it's important to simplify. Clean, predictable processes help both customers and agents avoid bad experiences.

Customer service is an evolving field that changes with new technologies and shifts in the market. By learning from your service-related disasters, you can build an agile and effective program.

Photo Courtesy of CWCS Managed Hosting at Flickr.com


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