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Cultivating Positive Relationships Customer Service Empowerment Techniques

Once the force is with you, rinse and repeat

Engaging and exercising your Customer Force of 1 abilities isn’t always a one-time opportunity. Once relationships with key higher-ups are established, there may be reasons to reach out subsequently.

My favorite example, of course, is Costco. (Why would you expect anyone else? 😊) Years ago, I had an issue with a third-party company partnered with Costco. I wound up talking with an influential executive, who ultimately directed me to the appropriate representative with the partner company. While the resolution in this case was muddled at best—due to the policies of the third party—it established my confidence in this executive as a can-do, go-to contact in the future.

Another time I approached her after ordering an appliance from Costco. As anyone who’s contracted for appliances to be delivered and installed can likely attest, the process can be confusing and confounding—especially when there are a number of details about what installers will/won’t do.

Having experienced less-than-satisfying clarity from the third-party company Costco contracted with about the rules of the road, I reached out to my established contact. She quickly routed me to a customer service specialist who took care of everything I needed—and offered me a $75 credit to boot—to compensate for my time and trouble.

Just last week, I reached out to her again about another third-party partnership snafu. Within a couple hours, I had a Costco customer service escalation team member on the line. While he couldn’t unilaterally solve my problem, he did get me on the line with a third-party representative who knew her stuff. She confirmed clearly that the issue I was experiencing tied to an impending snowstorm that had swamped the system and forced delivery delays. I was completely satisfied that I’d been given accurate and complete information—knowledge that will inform my decision-making going forward.

This type of “gateway” contact is invaluable, both in terms of saving time and toil. Instead of having to meander my way through the executive offices trying to find and connect with an appropriate representative, this Costco exec has made the outreach very efficient.

That said, of course there are limitations to what any company can and will do—as there should be—when it comes to customer service resolutions. A reliable, trustworthy contact is instrumental in getting to the bottom of any situation. While it doesn’t always guarantee 100% resolution, you can at least feel you’re getting straight information from the best source in a particular situation. Depending on what that information is, you can then move on—without being encumbered with nagging doubts about continuing the quest.

When possible, it’s a good idea while initially engaged with a potential “gateway” contact to establish the rules of engagement going forward. In the case of Costco, it has proven to work multiple times. However, years ago when I had an issue with Kaiser and was able to connect with the president’s chief assistant—a move that ultimately resolved my problem and then some—I subsequently found her unhelpful. This was a one-and-done outreach. But it was a valuable one.

Whenever possible, establish ongoing customer service relationships versus one-time transactions. Your time will be better spent and your outcomes likely will be better as well.

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While customer service departments and representatives generally are doing a better job of addressing consumer satisfaction in a timely and complete manner, it’s not always sufficient to rely on others to move the process forward. In some cases, the impacted customer needs to go further and farther to pierce the normal routes and get needed attention and resolution at other levels—typically higher up the food chain. While the challenge can seem daunting, it can be surprisingly straightforward and satisfying.

Mark Lusky

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Mark Lusky
mark@marklusky.com

Mark Lusky (aka The Happy Curmudgeon)
is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm. He’s a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience, and author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage.

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