Published August 17, 2022

Customer Service: Can both sides win?

Customers are not always right; customer service reps have to stop apologizing
Tima Miroshnichenko/Pexels

A lot of anger these days over cancelled airline flights, broken internet service, lousy meals, you name it

Some of that anger comes out on social media - more on that to come - but in many cases, the customer service rep on the other end of the phone or chat line bears the brunt of a customer's anger.

And may actually fuel it.

Customer Experience expert, Marc Gordon, told Barrie 360 that customer service reps need to stop apologizing so much. Do it once, he said, then get on with dealing with the issue, which may include sharing a similar personal experience, perhaps with the same company.

"As soon as they say something to that effect, all of a sudden they go from becoming an adversary to becoming an ally because now you're in this journey together. And then say, 'Look, let me do everything I can to get you back on your way. Or if I can't do that, at least let me see what I can do to minimize the damage to the situation and get right to work.' The customer will gladly go along for that ride if they know that you are trying to help them."

Still, it starts with the customer. And the first thing to do is get over the notion the customer is always right and understand they're not always entitled to get everything they want.

"One, the outcome you're looking for may be unreasonable. So, if you missed your flight, asking for free flights for six months, that's not going to be a realistic outcome. The second point being that sometimes it just can't happen. So again, let's say you missed your flight. While the plane has left, you can't have that flight. It's physically impossible. So it can't be done. But what can happen is they can try to get you the next best thing."

And if you're still not happy, there's nothing wrong with asking for a manager. "You can never go too high up the ladder."

PODCAST: Listen to our conversation with Marc Gordon (and more local news)

As for lashing out on social media - posting pictures of a lousy meal, complaining about store-bought food that's bad, raging about a loss of internet service - resist that urge. Gordon said the outcome isn't going to change. It only gets a lot of people riled up.

Instead, Gordon recommends talking with the people who can help. "I think a lot of people in the hospitality industry want to create a positive experience, and they want to be given that opportunity. So, if you just call the manager over, or call your server over, and explain the problem, 99% of the time they are more than happy to change your order or fix what's wrong. And they'll probably 'comp' you something."

Simple techniques for customers to get the best outcome from a service representative, regardless of situation:

  • Be nice. Remember that the service rep you’re talking to didn’t cancel your flight.
  • Be empathetic. Your rep has possibly been yelled at for hours. Be the person that understands how stressed they must be. Don't view them as an adversary, but as a partner with the goal of making things right.
  • Let them offer a solution. Instead of making impossible demands like boarding a cancelled flight, let them offer a solution. You might be surprised what they’re able to do.
  • If that doesn’t work, ask for what you want. If the outcome isn't ideal, request something specific. Perhaps ask for a manager who has more authority.
  • Be reasonable. Free flights for life is not a reasonable request. Sometimes a small win is better than a big loss.

When it comes to managing customers, Gordon recommends a unique strategy.

  • Don’t apologize so much. Continually apologizing can sound condescending, especially when nothing is getting resolved.
  • Validate. Accept the customer’s feelings as legitimate. Let them know you would be upset too. Perhaps even share how you're personally going through the same experience.
  • Take the lead. Let the customer know you are focused on making the situation right. If the customer believes you're looking out for their best interest, they will be more accepting of the options you present.

banner image: Tima Miroshnichenko/Pexels

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