Rethinking Traditional Customer Service

20 Mar 2020 By: Matthew Harmer


For anyone who works in the service industry, I’m sure the words “the customer is always right” have a bit of a triggering effect on you. You might cringe or shudder as I do. Because even though we’re in customer service, sometimes the customer is just WRONG

But even when the customers are so wrong it’s painful, they’re still right because…well… they’re the customers. 

Solving challenging customer service issues can be quite simple: empathize and apologize and don’t forget to smile! 

So, why do companies that follow these policies still fail at times? Because, when your team members overzealously abide by these guidelines, they can convey ingenuity. Additionally, their drive to be efficient may instead communicate a desire to solve customers’ problems quickly (as opposed to thoroughly). 

With these points considered, rethinking traditional customer service methods might not be a bad idea.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to provide customer service that serves as a response to the consumer’s reactions rather than to the problem itself.

Authenticity Over Empathy

Is there such a thing as being too polite? 

Traditional thinking would say “no.” However, scripted politeness can come off as false empathy. 

No matter how many “thank yous” and “I understands” you offer, you still can come off sounding stiff and impersonal. 

If your team is going to give robotic, canned responses, you aren’t really connecting with your customers. In order to build a genuine and lasting relationship, it’s important to avoid hiding behind regulations. Show your clients that you are human. Offer an example of a time you felt slighted as a customer. Relate to them on a consumer level. 

“Hey Margret, I’m so sorry this happened. I know how frustrating it is. It’s happened to me before too, so I always try to pay kindness and understanding forward, especially when im helping my customers.”

By encouraging your staff to be personal and natural, your customers will feel more comfortable and at ease.


Don’t JUST Apologize

While customers like to know that their concerns have been heard, most of them are not looking for a grovel-fest

The use of “sorry” is actually associated with repeated steps and longer resolution times. In fact, a benchmark study by Zendesk found that customer satisfaction decreases each time a representative says the word “sorry.” 

Instead of focusing solely on the issue at hand, your team should acknowledge the problem, and then direct their attention to finding a satisfactory solution. 

Here again, personalization comes into play. Different people may consider different resolutions to be satisfactory. Therefore, it’s important to allow your staff to have at least some authority and flexibility.

Also remember, not all issues are going to have a solution. 

If you can’t solve their problem you should still try to offer something. Acknowledge the customer’s complaint as they’ve expressed it to show you understand what they’ve said. 

If you feel it will further strengthen the customer’s relationship with your brand, you can even consult with upper management to offer the customer something more nontraditional.


Going the Extra Mile

You’ve fixed the problem, yet still, sense discontent on the other end of the line. What gives? 

If your solution requires the customer to jump through hoops (i.e. excessive hold times, repeating their personal information, re-explain their issue’s history, etc.), then there’s a good chance they aren’t feeling warm and fuzzy inside. 

Customer service is time-sensitive. The faster you can arrive at a solution without inconveniencing the customer, the more likely you’ll retain that customer for the future. 

Get together with your team to brainstorm ways that you can make customer interactions more convenient. Find ways to prepare, so less legwork needs to be done on the spot.


Rethinking Traditional Customer Service is Personal

The digital age of customer service is productive, but, most of all, it’s personal.

In a matter of seconds, customer service reps can have all the customer’s information pulled up in front of them. They can see previous service records, a history of notes on the customer and their past complaints, and they can easily tailor their responses based on how that customer has responded in the past. 

This ability is convenient for both the customer and the customer service agent. When the agent is able to quickly review that customer’s history, they can greet the customer directly by name, and offer previous information making the interaction extremely personal. 

Consider the following example:

“Hi, Mrs. Grant! It’s Jason from ThatBigComapny. I see here last time we spoke, you mentioned having an issue with XYZ, has the solution we offered been useful for you or are you still experiencing issues? I also see here that you upgraded your service with us, thanks so much for being a loyal customer! How are you liking the new service?”

Customers will develop a sense of loyalty and security from feeling heard, understood and remembered. 

So, does that mean the customer is always right? Maybe not. But, one thing we can be certain of is when you rethink your approach to traditional customer service, the customer isn’t the only one who wins. 

Customer Service
Small Business