“I reject your reality and substitute my own.” – Adam Savage of Mythbusters
When I first heard this quote, it made me laugh.
It’s a polite way of saying, “You’re wrong and I’m right.”
It reminds me of a recent experience at my favorite sandwich shop, a national chain.
I had an issue with delivery to a client location I had ordered from many times before and was now being told, “Sorry, that’s out of our delivery zone.”
No problem, right? I called the second closet location less than a mile away, but was told by the second location, we were outside their delivery zone.
Typically, this wouldn’t bother me, however, they had delivered to this client’s location for years and now just said, “Sorry, you’re on the north side of the street and we only deliver to the south side of the street.”
In fact, there wasn’t any store willing to service this particular area. As it turned out, they had been delivering outside their zone and a new owner came in who played by the rules.
But they didn’t tell us this. They denied having ever delivered to us and said call another store. In essence, they said, “You’re wrong and we’re right.”
I was going to let it slide – I wasn’t that hungry after all – but my colleague was not. She wanted her sandwich! She hopped on the phone with corporate to get to the bottom of this issue. After a bit of back and forth with customer service, who would only confirm there was no store covering that area, she was connected with the vice president of customer service.
In Steps Wonder Woman
This woman was amazing. I’m still in awe.
She kindly apologized for the inconvenience, took copious notes about our experience, and offered to look into the issue. And that she did.
By the end of the day we not only received a call back with an explanation, but were asked if we would mind speaking with a regional manager, who wanted to make sure these issues were appropriately handled at a local level moving forward.
Additionally, she was going to work with corporate customer service to ensure they were explaining delivery issues using appropriate messaging that stayed true to their overall strategy.
And the best part?
We were sent gift cards for our inconvenience.
In about seven hours, I went from never eating there again to being a loyalist.
Right the Customer Service Wrongs
Following are four reminders we can use to handle customer service the right way:
- While the customer may not always be right, you shouldn’t tell them that. Handle customers complaints/issues with kid gloves. Arguing that you are right and they are wrong will get you nowhere. Whether it was your fault or not, the words “I’m sorry” go a long way. It doesn’t mean you personally were the person at fault. Apologize on behalf of the company, or the employee involved.
- Handle every customer service inquiry with the same importance. What may seem like a small matter to you is not to the customer calling or asking to speak with the manager. Each and every customer should be handled as if they are your only customer. Thank them for their business, and mean it! People can tell if you are not genuine. It shows in your demeanor, body language, and tone of voice. As Laurie McIntosh said, “You are serving a customer, not a life sentence. Learn how to enjoy your work.”
- You are never above stepping in to handle a customer service issue. If you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business. So whether you are the CEO or a sales associate, remember customers are not a commodity, and they can take their business to a competitor at any time. I wouldn’t have thought the VP of customer service would have cared whether we received delivery service or not, but she did. Not only that, she went over and above what I would have expected. I knew she cared. I knew the company cared. And I knew they cared about me.
- Take a look at the bigger picture. As you resolve customer issues or inquiries, don’t be complacent in that person walking away happy. Take this as an opportunity to learn. The information you garner from customers is invaluable. It may unlock the key to other issues within your organization.
In my case, the local managers needed to better understand corporate policy, and all involved needed a refresher on corporate messaging.
Customers are the most important part of any business. Keeping these simple points in mind, and going above and beyond expectations will turn an avid customer into a true loyalist.