Heather Wilde, CTO at Roceteer, wrote an article in Inc. Magazine entitled, “What Working at a Call Center Taught Me About Customer Service…The customer may not always be right, but you can certainly treat them better.”
The essence of her advice to customer service departments and reps is to act more like caring, concerned moms and pops. At their best, parents make their kids feel comfortable and welcome, can empathize with their concerns, and empower offspring to make autonomous decisions. Companies should do the same.
In part, the article states: “During college, I worked in the call center for Kodak Digital Imaging. As part of our training, we were asked to go home and locate the phone numbers on 10 products in our own home and call their customer service lines. We were to evaluate the different types of communication that people used from different brands and give them honest feedback about the products…I heard a lot of different accents, and certainly a few similar customer service scripts — but most of all, I heard friendly people who were interested in assisting their customer…the principles are still the same.”
Ways to emulate mom and pop behavior include:
Put out the welcome mat. Wilde notes that people prefer a real live human, noting, “…determine what the ‘welcome’ experience should be from the customer side. What would make that first impression the most favorable, so that no matter the issue, they’ll still think well of you?”
Empathize with customers. According to Wilde, “Attempting to ingratiate yourself with the customer by sympathizing removes professional detachment. Instead, use active listening and empathize with the customer, which will build proper rapport.”
Encourage autonomous decisions. Wilde advocates ability of customer service teams to act autonomously to some extent. She points out that the best teams she’s worked with over the years had a common trait: “In the majority of issues, agents were empowered to make their own decisions to close a ticket. This is especially important for issues that don’t have a script-tree-type answer…To ensure you can do this in your own company, have an open conversation about why you created the customer service policy that you did. If your team knows why the rules exist, they’ll have a better understanding of when it’s okay to bend them without needing to call in a manager.”
Mom and pop caring in companies large and small is the coming wave. Companies catching and riding that wave look to have a bright future.
As companies grow bigger and more global, customer service in many quarters is feeling more like dealing with a caring mom and pop enterprise than a mega-company. That’s clearly the attitude of such companies as Costco, which has been making me feel right at home since 1999. (Full disclosure: I’m an unabashed, biased Costcophile with an article in the August Costco Connection that addresses building and showcasing customer loyalty and service in times both good and bad.)
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Mark Lusky | 303.621.6136 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience. Author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage. Mark (aka The Happy Curmudgeon) is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm.