THE PRESSURE COOKER
Customer Service can be a daunting task. Everyone has different personalities, different wants, different needs. With that in mind, the first thing you need to focus on is that initial greeting. First impressions are key. Chances are, they already have an impression of you before they walk in the door:
You’re a minimum wage high school dropout who knows far less than they do. Ergo, you’re beneath them.
Now, this can either manifest itself in an outward display of condescending superiority, or overly kind pity. Either way, they’re thinking you’re not too bright, so we have to flip them on that. Part of success is proving that you know your business.
With that in mind, greet them.
You don’t have to be overly cheery or anything—just greet them like you’d greet anyone. Appear interested, but not eager.
A big problem in customer service is not having that middle ground—either the person is overly engaged to the point where it comes across as fake, or they’re totally blasé about the whole thing, giving an air of total boredom. You want to seem normal; normal means you’re safe; it means you’re trustworthy.
Sounds tough, huh? Feeling the pressure yet?
Basically, you have to be yourself. If yourself isn’t that great, be the person who you’d like to be—be the person who’s cool, calm, collected and engages people with ease.
IT’S NOT YOU—IT’S THEIR MEDULLA OBLONGATA
There will come a time when a customer will get angry. Indignant. Straight up pissed off. Maybe it’s your fault, but those in customer service know that more often than not, it totally isn’t. But that’s irrelevant—they’re yelling at you.
In such a situation, some may be inclined to crumple; some may get mad back at the customer. Neither of these will solve your problem. It is up to you to stand firm while also keeping your wits about you.
Special Note: You are a human being. The customer is NOT always right. They do not get to talk to you as if you are beneath them. Sure, they can think whatever they want, but you do not have to accept or take verbal abuse of any kind.
Oftentimes, customers get angry at things beyond your control. Typically, their issues pertain to things that come down from corporate, like the rules of the rewards program or whatever is happening to them at home. Sometimes, people just show up angry, and there isn’t anything you can really do about it.
Once you can accept that you can’t do anything, and not let their mood affect your demeanor, that’s when you really win. Even if your overall pleasantness doesn’t get them to budge, you win because, you aren’t allowing them to rub off on you. That’s one of the last things you want—letting the customer dictate your actions. One of the most important things of customer services is both knowing and accepting that no matter what, you are the one who is in control. That is your power; you can’t let them rob you of that.
I have to encourage you to repeat this to yourself; “It’s not me—it’s them.”
NO SOUP FOR YOU!
After an exchange that has gone south, they’re ready to call for the manager. They want you reprimanded; they want you reported; they want you out.
The first thing your manager is going to ask you, what happened, and what did you do?
Let’s examine your bedside manner. How do you talk to your customers? What do you notice? The answers are: Like I care, and I notice everything.
Once I took my dog to the vet with my ex-wife, and the vet came out, the epitome of clinical, not even glancing at the dog, and just began talking to us. He was supposed to perform a surgery for our dog.
My Ex-Wife: He isn’t touching our dog.
Me: Why not?
My Ex-Wife: Did you see how he ignored our baby? Didn’t pet him, or say his name… No, no he is not coming near him with a scalpel or anything. He is clearly not a dog person.
She was right.
The vet was disinterested, cold, and therefore, not deserving our trust, or our business. The same applies for you.
Now, I’m not saying you have to go and be anyone’s BFF, but you’d be surprised by how far paying attention, and a pleasant smile can get you.
If they have a dog, pet it. If they’re wearing something with a particular logo, talk about it. Any room for common ground, grasp it and don’t let go. This allows the conversation to evolve organically. You don’t need a script or to fake anything—find that common thread between you and the client. We’re all human, right? If you can manage that, I guarantee there will be soup for you.
WE’RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT
Now, let’s say you’ve taken the “pet the dog” approach to the client. You were engaged and invested, took in the details and talked to them in a friendly manner. But boy, that medulla oblongata just won’t let up.
What do you do? What shouldn’t you do?
Do remain calm. Getting worked up does nothing but ruin your blood pressure.
Don’t yell, or raise your voice, as it can be misconstrued and used against you.
Do ask for your manager, as they can bear witness, and be in your court when a customer gets out of line.
Don’t be crass. They will bait you, and call you out of your name. Don’t fall into this trap. Besides, the best insults don’t use profane language at all.
GET THAT DIRT OFF YOUR SHOULDER
Remember: Customer or not, they’re a person; you’re a person. No matter who they are, or what they do, they put their pants one leg at a time just like you do. They eat, they sleep and breathe, just like you do. Titles and status don’t matter; it’s a mental hurdle we put ourselves over because of what society dictates.
That mentality puts a cast on a bone that isn’t broken; it’s just gonna make you experience atrophy.
People are people. Some are nice and some are jerks, but they’re still people. Because they are people, they can be wrong. The customer is not infallible, and they should not be treated as such. And remember, like details, you matter.