Three Quick Steps to Exceptional Customer Service

Posted by Dave Dec  /  April 11, 2024  /  Professional Development, Training   —   No Comments ↓

Three Quick Steps to Exceptional Customer Service

Whether you are collaborating with customers, students, staff, or patients. Anyone you serve will call on you for help. Customers, prospects, patients, students, staff, taxpayers, citizens, and other businesses. Even your managers and leadership team may be considered the people you serve, so let us call them all customers. Here are three things you can do right now to beat stress when you deal with people who need your help.

Listen Actively and with Intent

First, just listen. Let the other person talk without trying to fix anything. This is an important communication skill that will serve both the person you serve as well as yourself. They may just need to vent. They may be so flustered that they need to get things off their chest before they articulate what they need from you. Do not try to fix anything right away. Let them talk. People like it when they are heard by anyone, especially in customer service. Customers need to be heard by you. Do not interrupt them. Let them finish. When your customer is finished, tell them you understand and even if it is not your fault, tell them you are sorry this is happening to them. Make sure you are sincere. If what they need is not clear, ask open-ended questions so they can best explain what it is they need. You will hear their tone of voice change and the customer is now equipped to get to the point. However, this can only happen if you truly listen to them.

If you have a script or list of questions you need to run through for compliance or any other reason, do not do this until you are done listening. Say your hello with a greeting by asking “How may I help you?” and then listen. Be sure to let them know you need to ask them some questions before you begin.

Active listening is the foundation of exceptional customer service. By allowing your customers to fully express themselves without interruption, you demonstrate that you value their perspective and are genuinely invested in understanding their needs. This builds trust and goodwill, which are essential for turning one-time customers into loyal, lifelong brand advocates.

Letting a customer vent or get things off their chest first can save time in the long run. When people feel heard and understood, they're often able to more clearly articulate the root cause of the issue, allowing you to provide a more targeted and effective solution. Attempting to try to jump in and "fix" things before the customer has had a chance to fully explain themselves can lead to frustration on both sides, as you may end up addressing the wrong problem entirely.

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Active listening also gives you valuable insights into the customer's emotional state. By paying close attention to their tone, body language, and word choice, you can tailor your approach to meet their needs. Is the customer angry and confrontational? Approach with empathy and de-escalation tactics. Is the customer anxious and uncertain? Provide a calm, reassuring presence. This level of personalization is what transforms good customer service into an exceptional experience.

Remember, in many cases, your customers are coming to you already feeling frustrated or distressed. The simple act of listening without judgment can be incredibly powerful in diffusing tense situations and making them feel heard, understood, and valued. Mastering this foundational skill will serve you well in building lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with your customers.

Empathy: Your Secret Weapon for Exceptional Customer Service

This is your superpower. No matter how dreadful things get, we all want someone to see our side of our issues. Customers are the same way. While you are using your new listening skills, listen for their pain points, thank them for their honesty with you, and assure them that even though you may not know exactly how they feel, you understand what they may be experiencing.

Remember how it feels to be the customer trying to get help. Keep in mind what it may be like to walk in their shoes. Once again, always be sincere.

Empathy is the secret weapon of truly exceptional customer service providers. By tapping into your ability to genuinely understand and share the feelings of your customers, you can transform even the most challenging interactions into opportunities to build lasting trust and loyalty.

When customers are experiencing frustration, stress, or any other negative emotion, what they crave most is to feel heard, understood, and validated. By actively listening to their pain points and expressing sincere empathy, you communicate that you see the situation from their perspective. This can have a powerful de-escalating effect, helping to calm frazzled nerves and open the door for a more productive, solution-oriented dialogue.

It's important to remember that even if you've never encountered the customer's specific issue before, you've likely been in their shoes at some point. Reflecting on your own experiences as a customer seeking help can cultivate profound empathy and allow you to approach each interaction with genuine compassion. This ability to empathize and relate on a human level is what elevates customer service from merely satisfactory to truly exceptional.

Sincerity is key when expressing empathy. Customers can sniff out even the slightest hint of insincerity, which can quickly erode trust and undermine your efforts. Approach each interaction with an authentic, heartfelt desire to understand and support the customer. Your empathy should radiate through your tone of voice, body language, and the words you use.

Related Blog: Make the Job You Have the Job You Love

Mastering empathy is a superpower because it allows you to defuse tense situations, build stronger relationships, and create memorable experiences that keep customers coming back. Pairing empathy with active listening, and you'll be well on your way to delivering the kind of customer service that transforms one-time buyers into lifetime customers/advocates.

Keep Your Cool: Don't Take It Personally

Let's face facts: when people call you for help, they are typically not calling with pleasantries. More often than not, they are upset and they are frustrated. However, it's important to remember, that it's not about you. This moment is about them and your product/service. They are currently having an unpleasant experience and you are the one they are calling/consulting to help fix that.

Do not take their anger, frustration, or anything else personally. This is about their issue, and you are the representative for your organization. By the time they contact you, they may feel you stand for or represent their problem. Of course, you do not, which is why you cannot take this personally. Listen to them with an empathetic ear and help them with the utmost sincerity.

Maintaining a professional, non-personal mindset in the face of customer frustration is critical for providing exceptional service. It can be all too easy to take angry or confrontational behavior personally, but doing so will only escalate the situation and prevent you from finding a resolution.

Remember, your customers are not upset with you as an individual – they are upset with the problem they are experiencing. You just happen to be the representative they are interacting with. By keeping this in mind and not internalizing their emotions, you can remain calm, focused, and better equipped to handle the situation effectively.

Related Blog: Staying Positive on the Job

Approach each interaction with the understanding that the customer's anger, while understandable, is not about you. It's about the issue they're facing, and they're turning to you for help. Your role is to be the solution, not the problem. Responding with an empathetic ear and a sincere desire to assist, rather than taking offense, will go a long way in diffusing tension and getting to the heart of the matter.

This ability to stay composed and not take things personally is a hallmark of exceptional customer service professionals. It allows you to maintain control of the conversation, keep the focus on resolving the customer's issue, and ultimately deliver an experience that leaves them feeling heard, understood, and satisfied – even during stressful situations.

Remember, you've likely been the customer in a similar position, feeling frustrated and seeking assistance. Reflecting on those experiences can help you cultivate the necessary detachment and professionalism to handle even the most challenging interactions with poise and grace.

A Powerful Perspective Shift: Seeing Things from the Customer's Side

In your life and work, you are often the customer. Consider the above steps when it is your time to call customer service. Remember the high number of calls they received that day before talking to you. Your kindness and your empathy will go a long way for them.

It's easy to forget that we all wear the "customer hat" at various points in our lives. When the tables are turned and we find ourselves on the receiving end of customer service, it can provide invaluable perspective and empathy for the challenges that frontline representatives deal with.

Reflecting on your own experiences as a customer seeking assistance can be a powerful way to cultivate greater compassion and understanding. Remembering the frustration of being passed around, the anxiety of not knowing if your issue will be resolved, and the relief of finally connecting with a helpful and understanding representative can inspire you to bring that same level of care and attention to your customer interactions.

Keeping in mind the high volume of calls and inquiries that customer service teams often field daily can help you approach each interaction with greater patience and understanding. The representative you're speaking with has likely already dealt with numerous stressed or upset customers before you. Your kindness, empathy, and willingness to work collaboratively can make a world of difference in their day, and in turn, the quality of service you receive.

When you make the conscious choice to see things from the customer's perspective, it unlocks a profound shift in mindset. Instead of viewing customer service interactions as a frustrating necessity, you can approach them as an opportunity to make someone's day a little bit better. And in the process, you may find that your experience is significantly improved.

Remember, we're all customers at the end of the day. Tapping into that shared experience and treating others the way you'd want to be treated yourself is a surefire way to create exceptional customer service – both as the provider and the recipient.

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