People often moan about customer service. “It’s shite” they say. “I’ve been waiting on this phone for 3 hours” say others. “They were a right miserable sod” say more still. The world we live in today is bulging with customer care helplines, complaints offices and faceless customer-vendor relationships, which, psychologists might say, is a detriment to our social development and often leaves the customer feeling isolated, singled out and victimised. Indeed, on the flip-side, customer service operatives will tell you equal amounts of stories about rude and sometimes apparently stupid customers. Furthermore, people that work in the customer service environment undergo rigorous training on how to pander and placate angry and awkward customers which, more often than not, can sometimes fan the flames of discontent. So, in an effort to redress the balance I intend to give you, a customer, a simple several part guide on how to be a better customer and get the service you deserve.
Part 1 – Face to Face situations
Dealing with customer service people in a face to face situation is increasingly rarer these days. This is because it is cheaper for companies to pay for faceless people cooped up in a giant warehouse connected to a telephone system than it is to have people man offices on high streets. Of course this is bad practice as the company never redistributes the savings it makes from such a system back to the customer but because a small group of people have been surveyed on your behalf and have said they prefer to deal with people over the telephone, this is obviously what YOU want too. Of course it rarely is, so if enough people demand a return to high street offices maybe the high street offices will return. But I wouldn’t hold your breath.
If you are fortunate to be in a face to face customer service situation there are nine key things to remember:
1. Smile – Nothing is more disarming than a smile. Even if the person serving you is that horrid woman from number 46 who murdered your cat and called your mother a bad name, smile. They will be more unnerved than you. Keep smiling. You are there to give them money. They want your service. Not only for company profits but also so they still have a job. If you keep smiling you will keep them on their toes. Even if they are rude, unpleasant or it seems like they don’t want to be there. Smile. It wins.
2. Be polite – Rudeness gets you nowhere. Put yourself in their shoes. They’ve had a shit day doing shit work probably for shit pay. They probably don’t want to be there and probably would prefer to be sat at home watching Homes Under the Hammer or playing Guitar Hero. If you’re rude to them they’ll be rude or vindictive back. Plus they’ll think you are a twat. So be nice. Be polite. Don’t demand this or demand that. Ask nicely. With a smile. If they still refuse to provide the service you expect then that’s fine. Just ask their name and walk away. If they refuse to provide you with a name then walk away. Politely. Nothing unnerves an arsey sod more than asking for their name and as for walking away smiling and cheery….well that just gives them the willies.
3. Be prepared to walk away – If something is not going as you feel it should, perhaps there is fault in either their or your communication skills. In such a case, feel free to walk away. Keep smiling though. This tactic works with used car sales people and it works elsewhere too. If you are not happy with the service you are given then simply…go elsewhere. Yes it is a ball ache but if you go elsewhere they will be getting your business and the others will not. Indeed, you will find that if the same product or service is cheaper in your original choice, the competition may sometimes, try to match your original choices price.
4. Dash dash gnash gnash – If you are in a rush; don’t stand there flapping. Things take time. All things. It takes 3 minutes to boil an egg. Take it out of the pan too soon, you might die. Leave it in, you have hard white and yellow shit. Likewise, any bit of administration, filing, setting up of an account or procession of sale takes time. If you stand there flapping it won’t make people hurry up. Far from it. It can run the risk of them drawing things out. Plus the person serving you will think you are a twat. If you are in a rush to get something sorted. Wait until you have more time. If that is not practical, face up to the fact that you have procrastinated and it is you that is at fault, not the rest of the world. Accept your failings like the adult you should be. Alternatively, stamp your feet and cry like the spoilt brat that you are.
5. First Hour is free – Four words guaranteed to rile any customer service person “I Don’t Have time” because here you are. Stood in front of them. This is especially annoying to the customer service person if they’re already busting a ball sack to help you out in the first place. If you don’t have time, make time. If time is a premium to you, charge for it. If you do, you’ll soon find people will think you are a twat and your children, parents and friends probably loathe you too. If you genuinely do not have time, give the first hour for free. Then charge. Missing the start of Eastenders is not going to cause you mental distress.
6. Understand – If you are seeking advice, make sure you understand that advice before you leave. Nothing riles a CS rep more than a customer or client that does not listen and ends up coming back again and again with the same question. If you still don’t understand ask them politely for a demonstration or for them to write it down for you. If they refuse, go elsewhere if you can. If not…well….
7. Take it higher – If changing provider or vendor is not possible or impractical, take your displeasure else where. Remember, you should still be polite and smiley with no whiff of arse about you. Ask politely to speak to a manager. If they refuse, ask for the address of the head office. If they refuse still, calmly walk away smiling and look it up yourself. The Internet is like a huge answer page, you just have to know which puzzle you are doing before you can cheat. A good tactic to employ is to approach the manager’s manager. Often you will find that arsey staff are a result of an arsey or shite manager. Think and assess your situation. If the manager looks like a loafer, he probably is. If the manager is bronze and covered in bling, he’s a twat. Take your complaint to the next level by bypassing the manager if possible. Independent organisations, such as restaurants and shops tend to be managed by the owner. In this case, if you are unhappy, go elsewhere but ensure that you tell everyone you know of the poor service you have received. Indeed, if you find that you have received poor service in an independent place, another good tactic is to tell another customer, calmly and politely, how bad the service you have received has been. This can also work if you take a friend in with you who can pretend to be that customer. If you are dealing with a multinational, then addressing a letter to the CEO or to the Head of department can sometimes come up trumps. But instead of complaining about the poor serf that dealt with you, complain about the management rather than the CS staff. Because it is nearly always the management that are at fault.
8. Good for good – I’ve said this before a long time ago, if you have had good service – tell the company. Tell the person who dealt with you that you are pleased. Nothing pleases a CSR more than a compliment. If you have had good service write, in the first instance, to the management and, if possible, CC to the CEO because nothing pleases a CSR more than compliments from high up.
9. Don’t be a twat – Before you launch into a tirade about this that and the other, ask yourself, do you come across as being a bit or all of a twat? If the answer to that is yes, then congratulations! The first steps to rehabilitation is recognition. If you are comfortable with people you don’t know thinking you are a twat, then perhaps the best course of action is for you to go away and never interact with a single soul again. You twat. Everyone hates you. Even your cat. Perhaps if you weren’t such a twat things would go well for you. If you are uncomfortable with the thought that people might think of you as a twat, then it is simple….DON’T BE A TWAT. Easy! Was Jesus a twat? No! Was Mohammed? No! Was Buddha? No! Nice people get nice things, twats get all they deserve.
Be nice, smile, be polite and complementitive (yes I just made that word up).
Open the doors to a shiny new world where things go right most of the time. Sure things will go wrong sometimes. But that’s why we have CSRs and complaint departments.
This post originally appeared on Livejournal and Blogspot in September 2009 where it received little attention. As yet – Part 2: Telephone Customer Service has not surfaced. Some editing and sweary word removal has been undertaken.
Disclaimer: The majority of pictures used in this post were obtained via searches on Google images. Apologies if credits not given.