The Customer’s Perspective: A Dozen Ways to Get Better Service
By Brad Cleveland
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes… and shape your services accordingly
I am often asked – both by individuals and journalists who write for consumer-oriented publications – what consumers can do to get better service when interacting with organizations. The following are the usual tips we provide:
1. Be prepared. Know what you want and have relevant information ready (account information, statements, credit card, etc.). Jot down the essential issues you want to resolve, and keep the dialog focused on those things.
2. Avoid busy hours. Just like the road system, contact centers have “rush hours.” Monday mornings tend to be worst, midweek (Tuesday through Thursday) afternoons or evenings are often best. Ask the organization when, for future contacts, the best times are to call.
3. Give the process a chance. For example, dial the recommended number and enter the information requested by the system; the best organizations use that information to handle contacts more effectively.
4. Find the escape codes. Often, hitting zero, zero then pound, or saying “agent” or “representative” once the first menu options are presented will get you to a person (first check for a menu alternative that gives you that choice). Alternative phone numbers may also be available.
- Be accessible
- Treat me courteously
- Be responsive to what I need and want
- Do what I ask promptly
- Provide well-trained and informed employees
- Tell me what to expect
- Meet your commitments and keep your promises
- Do it right the first time
- Follow up
- Be socially responsible and ethical
5. Be courteous. Many agents handle from 50 to 100 calls per day – they respond best to customers who are polite and specific about what they need.
6. Request “hot” transfers. If your call has to be transferred to another person or location, request that the initial agent stay on the line to ensure the transfer is successful and bring the secondary person up to speed. (The alternative is for the agent to simply transfer the call with no introduction – a “cold transfer.”)
7. Ask for a manager. If you feel the agent doesn’t have the necessary information or authority, ask for his or her manager; once transferred, verify that the manager has the means to address your situation.
8. Keep a record of contacts. Knowing when you called, who you talked to (name, badge or extension number) and what was said or promised will help you later if a repeat contact is necessary. The organization will most likely also be keeping a record of interactions, but the level of accuracy and thoroughness will depend on the systems they have and on agents’ input.
9. Pool your resources. Financial institutions, travel companies and others often reward higher-volume customers with better services. Concentrating your business with specific companies may put you in a higher tier.
10. Buy the level of service that makes sense. For example, computer firms often offer technical support options. If the service is important to you – and if available – it may be worth paying extra for a higher level of support.
11. Try automated services. Like ATM machines at banks and kiosks at museums, grocery stores and airports, you may like the organization’s automated Web and phone services if you give them a try.
12. Make your views heard. If you encounter poor service, send an email, write a letter or talk to a manager; the best call centers capture these comments and share them with the executive team. If an organization provides chronic poor service, posting your (accurate and constructive!) comments in appropriate online communities can help compel change. Or, of course, take your business elsewhere.
Granted, these are not new or revolutionary ideas,but thinking them through can help put you in customers’ shoes. In fact, here’s an idea for an upcoming meeting with your management team: Brainstorm the steps each of you take to get better service when you interact with other organizations. Then refocus the conversation on your organization’s services – and watch how that shapes the discussion.
This article was originally published by ICMI, www.icmi.com
Copyright Brad Cleveland.