If you’ve come here, chances are you are looking for a solution to your support woes. Trust me, I get it, it can definitely be painful at times! Some days you may even want to throw in the towel.

I‘ve worked in customer service for over ten years in both B2C and B2B marketing environments, including retail, business and IT. And when it comes down to customer service, no matter what or who I was supporting, I followed a similar strategic approach.

Start Friendly

A critical part of your job is knowing how to balance being personal with addressing the issue in an effective way regardless of the medium you are communicating.

One of the best ways to start off an email is to address the issue and to talk to the individual on a personal, friendly level. Starting with “Hello, John,” and then stating “I’m sorry to hear that you are having an issue” gives the customer the impression that you are willing to work together to find the problem. The same approach can be used when answering the phone. Your tone matters and even smiling matters too. According to Michael Coburn, Nestle placed mirrors at phone reps’ stations!

Be Empathetic

Once you’re got off to a friendly start, you’ll notice most people are ready to open up! This is when you need to build empathy and put yourself in their shoes. For some businesses, every minute of downtime can mean substantial revenue lost. Reaffirming you understand and that you care is critical at this stage. A 1993 study around the Peak-end rule found that people judge an experience by its most intense point and how it ends.

Don’t Be Robotic

Anywhere I have ever worked usually has a ticketing system and a process for handling customer support. This was usually some form of knowledge base with step-by-step instructions on how to resolve problems.

The challenge, though, is that people hate being served by robots! With email, support tickets, and live chat, you need to show your customer that you are more than just text on a screen. It is easy to get caught up in following a process. When solving problems, be human, throw in some humour or build rapport. Just whatever you do – don’t come across as reading a script!

Adapt To The Situation

Every situation is different, in some instances you may need to work harder to show empathy and in others you may get the sense they are in a rush.

Here are two unique situations that illustrate when different approaches are appropriate:

Issue Type: Important and business critical
Issue: Website unresponsive, database error, cannot login.
Clients Emotions: Anxious, agitated, worried, concerned, impatient.
Response Type: Provide client with reassurance. If available, give the client information about the situation to try and diffuse the tension.
Next Actions: Be apologetic, have empathy and think about the position that they are coming from.

Issue Type: Low – not urgent
Issue: Spelling error needs to be corrected.
Clients Emotions: Patient, friendly, understanding.
Response Type: Lighter dialogue, tell them that you are working on addressing the problem, show your personality.
Next Actions: Once the problem has been resolved, sign off with something that will stand out like “have a great weekend,” for example.

Leave It Open Ended

At the end of your contact with the customer, even if the issue is completely resolved, it is always good to leave off on “If you have any other questions, do not hesitate to send me an email.” With this approach, they end the conversation but you also leave them in a position where they feel like the issue has been resolved but will feel comfortable reaching out to you if another problem arises in the future.

Bad Customer Service Affects Everyone

The long-term impact of bad customer service can impact all areas of a business. A report by the people at Zendesk uncovered some interesting stats about how consumers and their future buying habits are influenced by customer service. Another study by Ancora Learning found that “better human service” as the most sought after improvement desired for Customer Service Reps. Remember, no business is perfect, but I have found that following my approach has allowed me to enjoy my job while hopefully brightening up someone’s day!

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A Life Worth Celebrating

Ellie is a budding fashionista, an aspiring equestrian, and an avid dancer and gymnast. She also has a rare metabolic disorder, but she doesn’t let it define her.