Banish excuses to impress your customers
by Betty Hintch, editor, First-Rate Customer Service Forum
Remember, customers don’t want to know why your service was less than satisfactory; they want to know what you’re going to do about it. To customers, reasons sound like excuses. Here are the top seven excuses to avoid:
1. “I was tied up dealing with another customer.”
What you should have said: “Thank you for holding. How may I help you?”
Why: Customers don’t care why they were on hold. They just want their needs addressed quickly.
2. “I didn’t receive that message.”
What you should have said: “May I ask you some questions to better understand the situation?”
Why: If you did not receive the message, you must start from the beginning. Be sure that you do so quickly and professionally. But in truth, there is no excuse for not delivering or receiving a message. If you take a message for a co-worker, it’s your responsibility to see that the person receives it.
3. “I have to check with my supervisor.”
What you should have said: “May I take your information and call you back with an answer by 3 p.m.?”
Why: Unless customers specifically ask, don’t tell them that you must speak to your supervisor. It’s excess information. Customers are concerned only with the bottom line; just make sure that you call them back with the right answer. And be sure to call them when you say you will.
4. “I didn’t take that order.”
What you should have said: “Please give me your purchase number, and I will take care of your order immediately.”
Why: Customers are everyone’s responsibility. A “that’s not my job” attitude will drive customers away. Cooperate with your co-workers to fill customers’ needs.
5. “I’m new.”
What you should have said: “How may I help you?”
Why: Part of your training is to practice delivering excellent customer service. Speak confidently and take notes as customers speak. Ask a supervisor or co-worker for correct information if you’re not sure. Customers will never know that you’ve been with your organization for only a short time.
6. “My computer is down.”
What you should have said: “Please give me your name and phone number so that I can process your order as soon as possible. I will check the stock and call you back by noon.” You can mention that your order system isn’t working, but quickly explain how you’ll take care of the customer’s need.
Why: When technology fails, your organization doesn’t close down, and your work doesn’t stop. You must take care of your customers all the time.
7. “That’s not our policy.”
What you should have said: “I’d be happy to take care of that problem for you. But it may take some extra time. I’ll call you back by 5 p.m. today with an update.”
Why: Policies are good to have because they help you give consistent service. But policies can also prevent you from doing what is clearly in your customer’s best interest. If you will lose a customer, consult with your manager about making an exception. You may not deliver exactly what the customer wants, but often you can offer a compromise.
Gain more insights into how to avoid seemingly harmless comments that can damage service and drive away customers. “Seven Things Never to Say to Customers,” guides you to use the right words that translate into great customer service.
Last month’s poll
Forum readers are split on the top challenge facing them during the upcoming holiday season. They said handling an increase in orders and effectively dealing with frazzled customers were the two areas they expect to struggle with.
Managing the stress of increased workloads and demanding customers requires flexible and creative service delivery. “Achieving Excellence in Customer Service” is a special report that includes new ideas on how to exceed customer expectations and treat complaints as opportunites. Put one on the desk of every service rep to maximize your bottom line this holiday season.
Special thanks to those who provided feedback to last month’s survey. Read on to share your most effective method for calming angry customers.
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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!