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Bad Customer Service Is Not So Funny: Five Secrets to Giving Outstanding Customer Service

The following story tells how a customer experience wentfrom funny to sad in less than 24 hours, and five secrets tocreating an outstanding customer experience.

Recently, Joy and I were invited to go to a local comedyclub.  It was one of those clubs where you eat dinner whilelistening to the comedians.

We had a very enjoyable evening with our hosts.  Thecomedians were funny and the meals were delicious.  Theserver gave us our check for the meals and, after perusingthe bill, gave the waiter our credit card for payment.  Inoticed that the waiter went to all the tables he served at thesame time and collected all the receipts and credit cards,cash, and payments at the same time.  We were a littleconcerned that the payments would be applied to the wrongreceipts.  However, we assumed the best and assumed theserver had an organized system for applying the payments tothe right receipts.

We were wrong!

We checked our online account balance and saw that therewas an incorrect charge of $75 in addition to the normalcharge.  Not only that, the overcharge resulted in thisaccount being over the limit which resulted in an additionaloverlimit fee of $39.  Suddenly, it was not so funny.

The following are five secrets to resolving a customerservice situation and creating a great customer serviceexperience:

1. Walk the Talk – Joy telephoned the comedy club at 10:12a.m. of the morning she found out about the overcharge.She was greeted by a voiced mail message that said, “No oneis available to take your call after business hours.  Please callback between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. or leave amessage.”  That’s what she thought she did.

If you promise to answer the phone between certain hours,then answer the phone between those hours.  If you promisethe customer a solution, additional information, etc., thenmake sure you deliver.  Walk the talk and don’t offeranything less.

2. Listen with Empathy – When Joy called back after leavinga message on the voicemail and not getting a response, shefinally got someone on the phone.  Joy explained the aboveovercharge situation and the customer service “expert” said,“Are you sure the charge is incorrect?”   Wrong answer.This person had already judged/assumed the customer to beincorrect or incompetent.  Along with this judgment, as Joyexplained our situation, there was no response from thecustomer service person during the conversation.  Empathymeans putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and feelingthe customer’s pain, gaining an understanding of thesituation, and communicating that you understand.  Some ofthe things that this customer service person could have saidto show empathy are the following:

  • I appreciate your sharing this information…
  • I can understand how you could feel that way…
  • I can see how that would be an inconvenience…
  • Please tell me more…

3. Take Ownership and Apologize – When Joy mentionedthe $75 overcharge, the customer service person said that itwas our bank’s fault although it was clear that the comedyclub initiated the charge.  Take responsibility for creating asolution for the customer.  Show ownership by saying thefollowing:

  • We will investigate this for you immediately.
  • I will create a solution.
  • Let’s make this charge go away.
  • Let me have you talk with someone who has the answer foryou.  It will take (whatever amount of time).  Can you wait?
  • We will make this happen for you.
  • I will personally take care of this for you.

In our situation, the customer service person could havesaid, “Ms. Fisher-Sykes, I apologize for this overcharge andany inconvenience it caused you.  That is never ourintention.  Again, my name is (name of rep).  I will personallyinvestigate this for you immediately and correct thissituation.”

Taking ownership shows the customer that someone is incharge, that someone cares, and that someone can move tothe end result that really counts…creating a solution for thecustomer.

4. Create the Solution – All your actions andcommunications with the customer must move to creating asolution.  Joy asked the customer service person when thecharge would be removed and the rep said, “I don’t know; Iguess soon.”  Does this answer move us closer to the finalanswer or solution?  NO.  It leaves the customer unsureabout the solution and creates more anxiety and questions inthe customer’s mind.

Correct Way:  All the rep needed to say was, “Thank you forasking.  We will immediately initiate the removal of yourcharge today. The charge, along with any overdraft charges,will be removed from your bank within the next 48 hours.”

Move towards creating a solution, create the solution, let thecustomer know what the solution is, get the customer’sapproval and commitment on the solution, and act on thesolution.

5. Offer an Incentive to Come Back – Remember, treat yourcustomer every time as though it is the first time to impressthat customer.  You may only have one opportunity toimpress that customer.  To say the least, we were notimpressed with our comedy club experience.  Joy evenmentioned in the beginning of the conversation that it wasour first time at the club.  There was no reaction from thecustomer service rep.

Correct Way: “Ms. Fisher-Sykes, I am saddened to hearabout this situation,   especially since it is your first time atour establishment.  We like to make each customer’sexperience at our club a positive memorable one so that youwant to come back again and again and tell others about ourclub.  We want you to come back to our club.  Here are twocomplimentary passes to our club so that you can come backat your earliest convenience.”

If you can’t give the customer a monetary incentive, give thecustomer a perceived incentive.  It could be a special callwith advanced information on your establishment’spromotions or, in our case, it could be seating at the fronttable of the club to make us feel special.

Apply these five customer service secrets, and yourcustomers will laugh all the way back to your business,organizationArticle Submission, and government agency.

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Ed Sykes is a highly sought after professional speaker, author, and success coach in the areas of leadership, motivation, stress management, customer service, and team building. You can e-mail him at, or call him at (757) 427-7032. Go to his web site, , and signup for the newsletter, OnPoint, and receive either free ebook, "Empowerment and Stress Secrets for the Busy Professional," or "Secrets of Outstanding Customer Service."

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