How (and WHY!) we create an outstanding client experience

Have you ever been trying to complete a form on a company's website or paying a bill online, and something goes wrong and you realize you will need help from their tech support group? What is your first reaction? Do you groan inwardly or possibly mutter a NSFW expletive with frustration? Why is that? Because in order to get in contact with someone it is usually a long and painful process. Solving the problem isn't usually that hard, but getting to someone that CAN solve the problem is. If you call their 800 number, you get an automated attendant and might have to enter in 5 or 6 option numbers before you get to someone. Many times they have to transfer you to someone else. Most of us just try and hit "0" as quick as we can in hopes that we get a...PERSON on the line that can help us. You can explain your issue to an actual person and hope that they understand you and can respond quickly and resolve the problem.

Many of us might go years using a company's website to shop or pay bills and never have to call, but if you DO have to call, that is that company's chance to really cement why you chose them as the provider of whatever service you are using or for you to get so frustrated or angry with the service your received that you stop using them altogether or find a way to submit a scathing complaint to the company or write a blistering Yelp review. Or all of the above. That one interaction with a live person can make a lasting impression and that is why customer service representatives need to always remember a few things when interacting with customers.

First, as the person a customer is calling for help, YOU as a customer service rep or tech support person are the expert. They expect you to be the one to listen to them and pinpoint their problem, then fix it. Fast. They could have already tried to call in a few times and gotten disconnected or misrouted. Maybe they have been on hold or hit several options and been waiting for what feels like forever, or they have tried looking online and solving it themselves and been unable to and are frustrated. It is up to you to patiently, diligently, and with understanding and some compassion listen to them and figure out what is going on and then resolve it. If you display impatience with them or they can hear in your tone that you're rolling your eyes at them for their annoyingly simple question, (simple to you, the expert), that is going to make them even more frustrated. Even if you solve their problem or answer their question, if you make someone feel stupid you have left a bad taste in their mouth as a representative of your company. Don't do that. Before each call you take, you need to take a mental break, take an actual deep breath before you pick up, smile, and answer each call brightly and be ready to listen and help. You're talking to a live person and you could really help turn a bad experience around and people will remember the good service they received and associate that with the company you work for being a good choice.

Talk to that person like YOU are a person. Talking in a monotone and reciting the same mantra like you are about to fall asleep or are bored to death already sets the tone for the customer to think they're going to receive sub-par service. If you sound bored or exasperated that you have to talk to someone, or you're basically an automaton in Nikes and jeans, customers are not going to be very confident that their needs are going to be met. This is just like meeting someone for the first time. You greet them and you can at least act like you are happy to meet them and add some life to your voice and say, "Hello! Thanks for calling Afoundria, this is Donovan. How can I help you today?" Then listen. I've said listen five times as of right now. There's a reason for that. Many times you hear the same issues over and over and when they say a certain keyword you think you know what the problem is before they have even finished speaking. Don't assume. Listen. Let them finish. Don't sit there thinking of what you're going to say in response and edgily wait for them to finish talking so you can say what you've been waiting to say. Sit back, breathe, and LISTEN to them. THEN figure out what you need to do. Ask questions to be sure you are on the same page and when you know what the problem is, let them know you're going to fix it for them. "OK, great, let me pull that up for you and we'll get you squared away Mr. Scott!" While you're working on the issue you can ask them where they're calling from or other light questions and use their name a couple of times at first so you remember it and they realize they aren't just a "number" or another caller. Listen to them, talk to them, and help them.

I mentioned earlier that as the customer service rep or tech support analyst that "YOU are the expert." Be that expert. Learn your product and continue to learn more about it. Learn about other areas. If you have to escalate an issue or ask for help, make sure you follow up and see what needed to be done to eventually fix it so that next time, you can do it yourself if possible. If you get sent to training, pay attention, take notes, respect the fact that the company spent the time and money to help you learn more and use that time to improve your knowledge and skills. Ask co-workers or your supervisor about certain problems that have come up and how they've resolved them. Develop your own system so that you have everything you need available to quickly respond to customers' needs and questions. If you are fumbling around and saying things like, "Um, uh, hold on, not sure what's going on here, ohboy..." They are going to be shaking their heads and asking to be handed off. It is OK if you don't know something, it is even OK to tell the customer you don't know something, just tell them honestly and assure them that you are going to find out what you need to know and will be right back. Then find out what you need to know as fast as you can and get back to them. Apologize for making them wait. Then make sure you answered their question or met their need. If you need to do some research or escalate a problem, make sure you follow up with them and that they got what they needed. That really goes a long way to show people that they matter and that you want to be sure they were taken care of properly. Be the expert!

I am lucky in my job as a client experience specialist to be able to speak to many of the same customers over and over. I get to know them. I learn about where they're from and their kids and some of their interests. I learn how they use the system and the things they like and don't like or want improved. As I get to know these people better I always remind myself that they are still a customer first, and still need their problems fixed quickly and efficiently. You can't slack off thinking, "Aww, she won't care, no big deal." Always keep the professional relationship first and take care of business first and foremost, then you can chat once they are taken care of. Be cognizant and respectful of their time. If they say they are in a hurry or need something fast for whatever reason, knuckle down, don't rush, but get what they need done and verify it is complete, then let them go. Talk later. Doing all of these things can really help cement a great relationship with your clients and if they are getting great service then they'll tell others about it. You will get referrals. They will give testimonials and answer your surveys with glowing responses. They will want to invest more in your company. As a company you need to ingrain the importance of great customer service to EVERY employee. It will pay dividends in many ways, some of them unexpected. I helped one of my customers clean up her infected laptop that was so bad she had to bring it in to us. We spent over an hour cleaning it up and did research on what to do before she got there. When we were done it was twice as fast and no more problems and she was very thankful and left. The next day we got sent an edible arrangement that was made with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. They. Are. My. Favorite. I ate almost all of them.

Provide your customers with great service, and you might get some peanut butter cups of your own! Just don't touch mine.