Take Cues from Your Customers

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?

A Reader’s Response:

Your question includes the following three elements that revolve around customer communication: How should a rep decide on a course of action? How should a rep think about the chosen action? And how should a rep respond by applying the chosen action?

The answers to those vital aspects of customer outreach are summed up in the word “attention.” By remaining focused on customers’ needs, reps can solve problems efficiently, react properly and answer requests accurately the first time. In addition, paying close attention to customers’ words and actions minimizes self-conscious thoughts that can raise your stress level. Practice the following steps to increase your ability to think on your feet:

  • Anticipate customer needs. Choose actions that will impress the customer.
  • Pay attention to customers’ words and body language. Combine those sources of information to deliver the results your customers expect.
  • Allow the customer to take the lead on a solution. Customers should talk 80% of the time, while you listen and determine the best response.

—Magdy Fayed, Consultant, Training and Business Development

Response from the Editors:

You will raise your value as an employee by cultivating your decision-making skills. Handle more customers—more efficiently and effectively—by following these steps:

  • Evaluate the problem. Gauge the amount of time and effort the issue deserves. Pondering trivial matters only steals time from important activities. Ask yourself: “Who will this decision affect?” and “What will be the consequences if I make a poor decision?”
  • Ask for input. Consult with others in your organization. Include those who will be affected by your decision. Make sure you keep customers updated on the status as you contact the appropriate personnel.Example: A customer needs an emergency repair on an appliance. Your repair team will be visiting your customer’s area later that day, but you aren’t sure if they have time in their schedule to add another service call. Advise the customer that you have information on the repair team’s location, but you need to check their schedule. Assure the customer that you will call back in 10 minutes with a confirmed service call time and date. If you put the customer on hold, promise to check back after five minutes. In addition, offer your telephone number, so the customer can contact you if the telephone line is disconnected.
  • Solicit feedback. Ask team members or your supervisor to comment on your decision. Apply their observations when you encounter a similar situation in the future.

Quote of the Week:

“The single most important thing to remember about any enterprise is that there are no results inside its walls. The result of a business is a satisfied customer.”

—Peter Drucker

Tip of the Week:

What do customers want?

Remind yourself of the three broad categories of service your customers expect by posting the following actions in your work space:

  • Respond quickly to requests for information, services or products.
  • Adapt policies or procedures to accommodate their needs.
  • Accept responsibility for setbacks and solve problems.

—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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