Three Times Silence is the Best Option

John Krautzel
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Good customer service is what separates great businesses from average ones. Make a great product, then stand behind it by offering professional customer service. That is how a business develops lifetime customers and converts consumers of other brands.

As a basic rule, the best approach to customer service is to be friendly and helpful. There are, however, three circumstances in which the best customer-service strategy is simply to be quiet.

The customer-service mantra is, "the customer is always right." This is not always the case in reality, but it is good practice to behave as if it were. That said, there are several approaches truly expert customer-service providers need know: when to be strong and direct and when to be quiet.

A customer who has had a negative experience usually cannot be talked out of his opinion. If a diner thinks his food is undercooked or badly prepared, that is unequivocally the case. With subjective determinations you never win the argument.

Listen to the complaint without interrupting and, if the interaction is in-person, maintain eye contact. Once the customer has completed relaying his complaint, the best tactic is to review his claims point-by-point, so they are clear. Then, regardless of your personal opinion, apologize for the fact (in the customer’s eyes) he did not receive adequate or exemplary service. Then find a solution.

The solution could be as simple as replacing a defective item or offering a free dessert. A satisfied customer and his positive word-of-mouth about the way your business handled his complaint is worth much more than the minor cost to the business.

From the management perspective, keeping silent is often the best customer service. A manager may not be the direct customer-service provider, but he must always maintain that level of composure.

As a manager you must be prepared to hear complaints from customers and from employees. Think of dealing with employees as a form of indirect customer service. If they are comfortable airing feedback about the workplace, they are more likely to have positive interactions with customers.

The same approach holds for listening to employee complaints. Listen attentively. Apologize. Solve. It is also important for workers to understand that the management supports them.

The third instance in which remaining silent is the most-effective customer-service strategy is perhaps the most important. If a customer threatens any form of legal action, pretend your Miranda rights have been read to you and keep quiet. The best course of action is simply to be polite, but stay silent. Avoid adding any fuel to the fire.

It takes a unique personality to be an effective customer-service representative. It requires patience, attentiveness and persistence while maintaining poise and self-confidence. The ability to read situations and perceive when it is best to be strong and when it is best to be quiet is what makes the best customer-service truly stand out. The person who embodies those attributes is the person you want representing your business.

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