When I was starting Junior High, my mother was appointed the head of the bereavement committee at the church we were active in.  This meant that anytime someone in the congregation died, the church office would call our house and give her the information. This was before cell phones, and call waiting. In fact, most people didn’t even have answering machines yet  Since I was old enough to have friends that would call, I was taught how to properly answer the phone, just in case it was someone from the church. 


As I got older and began to better understand her process, I would grab the notebook and fill out the form she had created. Then I would activate the calling tree, I had become her committee assistant, plus it didn’t hurt that I sounded so much like her on the phone that even my Grandmother couldn’t tell us apart.  Mom insisted that an important part of anyone’s education was to learn how to deal with people.  She had her work cut out for her, I was a shy introvert who preferred animals and books over social interaction.  To break me out of my shell, she placed me in drama and vocal classes. In High School, she required that I take at least one professional development type class, so I chose DECA. An organization that only taught professional skills to students, but also had us compete against other schools and districts. I went on to win awards in DECA competitions. While all this gave me a great foundation on dealing with people, it isn’t ultimately 

1.     Ask questions:  A lot of times I will tell a customer, “Please bear with me, I have a lot of questions to ask so I can narrow down which of the directions I am thinking about is what you need.”   I will then proceed to ask open ended questions to clarify exactly what their issue is, most of the time, (especially when dealing with software issues) the problem is rarely how the customer describes it.

2.     Customers lie:  This seems a horrible thing to think about people, much less say out loud. But the truth is that a lot of time the way the customer is trying to describe a problem, is not how you are understanding the problem. On top of that, what they think is the problem, most of the time, isn’t what is wrong. In most cases, it isn’t the customer intending to tell a lie, but you can’t always take what they are saying at face value.  This is when #1 comes into play. Ask clarifying questions to help determine what the real issue is.  The receptionist doesn’t know that the IT team ran an update last night that is now making their computer incompatible to the software. The IT team does not know that the office manager tried to run a manual backup and deleted their scripting to the automatic backup.

3.     Customers want to feel valued: We all do. A customer wants to know that you respect them and you respect their time.  People do not do business with companies, they do business with people. 

I recently went out to eat at my favorite restaurant, and realized that the last few times we had been there our favorite waiter had not been available. Based on past conversations with him, I suspected that he had moved on to other opportunities, he was due to graduate, and was growing in a different direction than the food service industry.  Usually we could see Austin* stopping by the tables saying hi and chatting up different customers even though they were not at his assigned table. Staff that trained under him, usually did very well with this company. About two months before he was due to graduate, one of the new managers started doing table rounds somewhat following the path that Austin took. Ever since then, this manager now does table rounds most of the days when he is there. Like Austin, he remembers little details about the regular customers and welcomes the new ones walking in the door the first time. 

 

The number one thing that has made me successful in customer service, is that I understand that the most important thing is that all people have value.  It doesn’t matter if it is the CEO, the customer that you see almost every day, the new customer that walks in the door for the first time, or the team that comes in after hours to clean the office.  Every single one of these people have value, and not a single one of them has more value than the other. We each have our places in making the world function. The CEO wouldn’t be able to do their jobs, if the maintenance crew didn’t maintain the building. 


Carrie

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This is the official blog of Helpy, the open source helpdesk platform.