Capitalize On Your Power to Please

A Reader’s Question:

I have a hard time making quick decisions during customer conversations. How can I train myself to think on my feet and offer quick responses?

Response from the Editors:

Make a difference in customers’ lives by applying special care to your service interactions. Use the concepts in these mini case studies from “Best and Worst Customer Service” and “Your Raves – Good Customer Service Stories and Best Practices” to delight customers and gain their loyalty.

  • Find alternatives. A customer visited a Sears store to purchase a rugged raincoat for an overseas trip. He was disappointed to learn that the store did not stock the raincoat; it was available only through the catalog. With his trip a few days away, he had no time to place a catalog order. When the rep took the initiative to call the catalog department and place a rush order on the coat, the customer was delighted.

Lesson learned: Think creatively when you encounter a difficult request or problem. The Sears rep evaluated available resources and developed a solution.

  • Lend a hand. An exhausted shopper at a Harris-Tweeter grocery store appreciated assistance with her wheelchair-bound mother. During checkout, the customer asked to pick up the groceries at the curb instead of having to manage the bags and the wheelchair. The cashier obliged and added an extra service. She not only took the groceries to the curb but also stayed with the customer’s mother while the customer pulled the car to the curb.

Lesson learned: Add special treatment to customer requests.

  • Fix errors quickly and completely. A mother contacted Schleich, a toy manufacturer, about a faulty figurine her son received. The gift was purchased overseas, so the mother could not return it to a local store. Reps at the organization’s headquarters in Germany responded quickly to the customer’s e-mail message and promptly sent out a replacement. In addition, the reps mailed a letter apologizing for the inconvenience.

Lesson learned: Acknowledge problems and offer solutions. Follow up to ensure customer satisfaction. Schleich reps sent a personal letter by international mail to demonstrate their concern.


Quote of the Week:

“You have to perform at a consistently higher level than others. That’s the mark of a true professional. Professionalism has nothing to do with getting paid for your services.”

—Joe Paterno


Tip of the Week:

Maintain a fresh delivery

You have to explain the same policies repeatedly to different customers, sometimes several times in the same day. After repeating yourself numerous times, it’s understandable that your frustration could tempt you to be curt or even rude. However, keep in mind that your customers are hearing your explanations for the first time.

So before responding to a routine question, pause, take a deep breath and think to yourself “This is the first time I’ve told this customer the information.” And then offer the person a polite answer.

—From the editors.


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Each issue of the First-Rate Customer Service Forum offers you tips for improving your customer service skills. Plus, you have the opportunity to request advice on your most vexing customer service problems—and receive feedback from your peers and our panel of editors!

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