4 Action Items for More Lucrative Customer Communication
After spending 4 hours on the phone with 4 different Verizon tech support people over a 7.5 hour period, I’m compelled to write about the sheer power that quality customer service can play in retaining customers.
This won’t be a rant- I’m floored by the quality of communication I received from Verizon tech support, which was nothing like the Internet Help Desk video that I linked to in a post several weeks ago.
Why This Matters to You
As a small business owner or solo entrepreneur, it’s almost impossible to compete with the big guys in terms of pricing, availability, functionality, etc. In his post 6 Steps To Layout Out Your Competitive Strategy, Timothy suggests that in order to become a contender in your industry, you first ask yourself, What does my company do better than anyone else?
And while just starting out you may not be able to call yourself better than your competition on many points, you can quickly become better than every other company in the industry in terms of customer interaction.
Not only does improving your customer interaction cost virtually nothing, but it is perhaps the one area in which it is easiest to beat your big competitors. Ironically, quality customer service is the one factor that is generally most important to customers.
4 Lessons Learned from Verizon Customer Service You Can Implement Immediately to Start Giving Better Customer Service
Because I was once the operations manager for a customer service department and a sales trainer for a big call center, I tend to reverse engineer the tactics of a phone rep whenever I call a company. Verizon (at least the DSL installation department) has obviously spent huge sums of money and invested a great deal of time in training their employees. Here’s a free 30 second summary of key points that I gathered over my 4 hours on the phone with Verizon:
1. Verbally re-state the problem to make sure that you understand it correctly
Whenever someone on the phone asks, how can I help you, I inevitably go into way too much detail that has absolutely nothing to do with the real problem. Until you pinpoint the real problem, you’ll just be wasting your time and theirs. Each time I called, the Verizon tech support folks would make it a point to first ask if they understood my problem correctly before they tried to fix it.
2. Continuously verbalize that you’re moving toward a productive resolution
Obviously we were experiencing some difficulty getting the DSL to work, but each tech support rep that I talked to made it a habit of regularly making statements like ‘that’s a good sign,’ or ‘looks like we’re going to be able to get this going with a few more tests’ each time they got a positive response to a question about how thing were performing in my end. Think about it- they could have just said ‘ok’ or ‘thanks’ or said nothing in response. I can’t tell you how much these positive reactions to little victories impacted my mood. Throughout the 7 hour period, I could feel tension swelling and each time I received reassurance that we were moving in the right direction I could feel that tension flood out of my body immediately.
3. Let customers flip out without taking it personally
I consider myself a pretty level headed person, but after 7 fruitless hours of trying to connect to the internet, I finally lost it with the tech support guy. ‘Please!’I said,
This is ridiculous! It’s been 7 hours now and I’m still not online! Can you put someone else on the phone or ask someone for some advice-not that I don’t think you know what you’re doing, but maybe someone else can offer a different perspective! Just do something!
This very nice person allowed me to finish my rant, even pausing after I stopped to make sure I was done. He then apologized sincerely for the inconvenience and then addressed the point in my rant by asking me if he would mind being placed on hold so that he could ask a mentor some questions. Wow!
4. Confirm that the problem was solved before hanging up
Many places will say ‘is there anything else I can help you with?’ before hanging up. But what struck me with Verizon is that throughout the many weeks that I have dealt with them on the phone for various reasons, they always end the conversation by restating my original problem (see point #1) and then confirming that it has been solved. This way, I don’t hang up after being sidetracked only to find that I never did fix the problem about which I called.
Service Untitled asks a good question, Is Customer Service Cultural? Maybe, but it doesn’t have to be. The people I talked to were in located in the US, the Philippines, and in India. Good, consistent customer service starts with a series of well defined processes.
Most people think of customer service as an afterthought, but there really is a science to the entire process and much to learn. C. B. Whittemore from Flooring the Consumer offers a wealth of resources in her post ‘Don’t Compete on Price.’
There is an endless amount to be learned about this very valuable yet undervalued piece of business. The Del Mar College Small Business Development Center says that customer service should be part of a company’s marketing plan.
At some point, I was thinking about dumping Verizon. But now knowing that they will actually listen to my problem and then work to solve it makes me want to stick around.’ So I’m sticking with Verizon and will pay them thousands of dollars over the next several years while I live here – perhaps throughout my life.
What do you think?
How important is customer interaction in your business? Have you had a great or horrendous experience with a company? What specific processes do you use to ensure that your customers enjoy working with you?