I’m a writer, not a customer service representative. But I work, strangely enough, in a call center. So I get to see lots of behind-the-scenes glimpses into customer servicing. I see the good, the bad and the downright hilarious. And it has totally changed my perspective on what constitutes good customer service.
A bit of background: I work for Kars4Kids, a car donation charity. People donate their cars to us and we sell them and use the proceeds to provide educational opportunities to children. Sounds simple, but not everyone gets it. Our reps field calls from people thinking we trade Kars for Kids all the time. But mostly they’re handling calls from donors who want to donate a vehicle. And doing a great job of it too, I might add.
So for whatever it’s worth, here’s my non-expert advice for customer service professionals everywhere.
Be Yourself and Listen
First and most important, BE YOURSELF! Unless you’re naturally condescending, rude or cantankerous, that is. If that’s the case, think of the most likeable person you know, and pretend you were them. But otherwise, just let your personality shine. Don’t try to be overly-professional. Don’t talk like an automated machine. Don’t follow a script. Don’t be sickly sweet. Just be normal.
There’s a woman here who I think is a customer service genius. When she’s on the phone with a donor, you would think she’s talking to an old friend. She just carries on a regular conversation, of course taking all the information she needs. She’s not merely friendly; she gives the impression that she’s genuinely interested in whoever she’s talking to. And who can resist liking someone who actually wants to listen to you?
It’s no secret that people like talking about themselves. Listen to what they have to say (even if it’s a complaint!) and remember what they said. Address their concerns honestly and straightforwardly. Be firm if necessary, but always be sympathetic. Even if company policy forces you to tell them something they won’t like, you can soften the blow by showing sympathy on a personal level. Speak to customers the way you’d like to be spoken to.
Customers are just people. It sounds like a no-brainer, but bears repeating: customers are people. People like you. Sure, people can be difficult. But treat your customers the way you’d like to be treated and you’re way ahead of the game.
About the Author
Wendy Kirwan is the director of media relations at Kars4Kids, a car donation charity that specializes in youth education. She holds a BA in business journalism from CUNY’s Baruch College.