Customers Are People, Not Numbers

It sometimes frustrates me, and I’m sure it does you as well, when you call to get customer support and you hear that recording, “Your call is very important to us. Please hold for the next available agent.” And, then they make their customers hold for a length of time that would make most people wonder if their call really was important to them.

Or how about when you finally do get to the customer support rep and they don’t treat you like a person. They are impersonal and treat you like an account number. They answer the call with a stoic and less than enthusiastic tone of voice and follow with a series of impersonal questions about your account number, the last four digits of your social security and your mother’s maiden name, only then do they ask what they can help you with.

It frustrates me when the customer service people act with apathy. Don’t they care about us? After all, aren’t we the people that pay their salary? Don’t they know what their job is? Here is my thought. Even though they were hired to answer questions and solve problems, they actually have a number of very important responsibilities.

  1. They are hired to solve customer problems. Isn’t that what customer service people usually do?
  2. They are role models for others to emulate. Good behavior leads to more good behavior. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. So, when employees step up and deliver a great service experience for their customers, it sets the example for others in the company. It has a contagious effect as others catch the passion that these excellent employees have for helping their customers.
  3. They are brand ambassadors for the company they work for. This goes beyond the hours that employees spend at work. A brand ambassador is a 24/7 job. Never speaking badly of the company, these excellent customer-focused employees always take advantage of opportunities to talk up their employer.
  4. They make their customers feel like customers. While any given customer may not be the biggest or most important customer that they have, they should never make the customer feel as if they are anything less than important. And for the few minutes, they are interacting with their customer, they may make that customer feel like he or she is their most important.
  5. They must restore confidence. This one may be the most important of all. Solving their customers’ problems is expected. The key is to do it in such a way that also restores confidence. That means with the right attitude, a sense of caring, empathy and urgency.

I spoke with Janet Poklemba, a customer experience manager for a home warranty company at a recent conference. The company sells home warranty programs and when something breaks, customers call in to place a claim for service. Her customer service mantra for her employees is simple and effective, and is the perfect way to sum up this short article:

We are people helping people, not people processing claims.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For more information, contact www.hyken.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

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