In my early days as a writer, I worked on the side as a customer service rep for Direct TV and a few other smaller companies. I learned a lot about good customer service while I was there and have added to that file of knowledge with the following years of running my own business. Today, I’d like to share my findings with you.
During my training for Direct TV, we were forced to watch The Fish! Philosophy video. I found it surprisingly helpful, even after I laughed at the name. It is a customer service technique often used to train new employees at call centers to create a less stressful work environment and a better experience for the customer.
The theory was first created by John Christensen after watching how the employees of Pike Place Fish Market treated their customers. With a change of attitude, the little fish market increased their sales by 400% in 20 years. Using their four techniques, businesses can give good customer service, all while improving their own work life.
1. Choosing Your Attitude
This concept is the first major step to changing how you relate to customers and how you feel about your job. Choose to approach your day positively. Don’t focus on the negative aspects of your business; focus on the things you enjoy. For example:
- Remember how happy it makes you when a customer thanks you for your hard work.
- Keep in mind the feeling of satisfaction you get when a caller hangs up the phone and you know you did your best to help them.
- Think about the co-workers that you enjoy working with.
Part of choosing a happy attitude is being able to set aside personal problems when you arrive at work. Here are some things to try before your shift begins:
- As soon as you get to work, put yourself into “work mode” by getting your work area set up. Put away personal items and adjust your chair. You get the idea.
- Take five deep, cleansing breaths. As you breath out, visualize pushing out the stress and worries. This sounds silly, but it really works.
- The University of Cardiff in Wales found that people who smiled, even when they weren’t happy, became happy. So, when you are in a bad mood, try smiling anyway. You may find that after a while your attitude matches your facial expression.
If you choose to go to work with a positive attitude every day, then it will shine through in your conversations with customers.
2. Play at Work
Pike Place Fish Market found that throwing fish, yelling and being silly energized them and their customers. As a customer service representative I didn’t have a lot leeway on how much I could play at work, but you can. Have fun with the customer. For example, inject a little fun into your lines.
Instead of saying:
“How can I help you today?”
“How can I help you on this fine winter’s day?
“It’s a beautiful day inside my cubicle. How can I improve your day?”
Customizing your standard opening can put the customer at ease and can make you feel creative.
3. Make Someone’s Day
Many people dread calling a business to complain as much as they dread the dentist. You can turn an unpleasant experience into a good one simply by helping them with a happy voice and genuine concern. Caring about your customers can make all the difference.
4. Be Present
The key to caring is being present. Being present means that you pay attention to what your customer is saying. It is natural to want to tune out and focus on something else when your customer is angry or rude. I’ve been guilty a time or two! In these cases, just remember the customer isn’t mad at you, personally, he’s mad at the situation. Listen to what the customer has to say and don’t interrupt. Interrupting may cause you to miss an important piece of information.
Also, some people aren’t very good at articulating how they feel or the problem they are facing. Sometimes they will come to a conclusion in a round-about way that doesn’t make sense to you. Still, you need to pay attention so that you can connect the dots.
Once your customer is finished speaking, show them you care by repeating back to them the points you understood. Then, ask if you missed anything. For example,
“Okay, Ms. Smith, let me make sure that I understand your problem. You said that your cable was working fine this morning, but now when you turn on the television there is only a blue screen and you made sure that your cable box is on. I’m I on track so far?”
I’ve actually said that at least a dozen times in real life.
Your customer will appreciate that you are taking the time to listen and understand. Plus, you will benefit because you will be better prepared to address the problem.What do fish and customer service have to do with each other? #customerservice Click To Tweet
Customer service is a high-stress position. Choosing a positive attitude, playing at work, making someone’s day and being present are all great techniques that lead to good customer service. Give them a try and you will find your customer service scores rising and your job satisfaction growing, as well.
Five Steps to Defusing am Angry Customer without Blowing Your Fuse
As a call center representative, I came across angry customers on a daily basis. You wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve been called. Simple techniques such as staying calm and using an even tone can make a big difference. These techniques can calm the customer while leading to a more productive conversation and the ability to retain a customer.
Good customer service incorporates these five steps, below.
You can usually determine the emotions of a customer within the first few seconds. When you come across an angry customer, it is important to simply listen to them before trying to defuse the situation. The customer may just want to vent his frustration. Sometimes, after a person is given the chance to express extremely ticked off feelings, things will calm down and he will allow you to solve the problem with no further trouble.
It may be helpful to jot down the major points of the customer’s problem on a notepad. Angry customers tend to go on tangents. Oh, man, do they go on tangents! Keeping notes will help you to find an answer to the problem more efficiently and has the added benefit of maintaining your focus.
Of course, if the caller is threatening, using violent language or swearing, follow your company’s policy guidelines. Don’t have those? Make some and be sure to write them down and put them in your business’ policy file. (Don’t have a policy file? Facepalm. Get one right away!)
It’s perfectly alright to hang up or to ask a customer to leave if they are screaming profanities or threatening you. Don’t feel bad. You don’t need customers like that!
2. Remain Calm
It is important to stay calm during a call or customer confrontation to prevent the situation from escalating. Here are a few tips to try:
- Focus on using an even tone while you speak. Using an agitated or angry tone will simply infuriate the person even more.
- Remember that the customer isn’t angry at you. It is the situation that is making her angry.
- Take a few deep breaths to calm your nerves while the customer is talking.
3. Repeat Information
When your customer has finished talking, it is important to make her feel as if you are on her side. One way to do this is to apologies about the problem, and then repeat an abbreviated version of the customer’s story. This is where your notes can help since they will allow you to hit on the pertinent points without going on a tangent and you will be sure to accurately relay the information.
Repeating the major points of the customer’s story will not only make him feel you are listening, it will also give the customer a few moments to calm down. You may be surprised at how much calmer the customer will seem when he starts talking again.
4. Avoid the Hold Button
Many new customer service representatives will often put an angry customer on hold, believing that the hold time will allow the customer a moment to calm down. I have found that to be completely and utterly the wrong move. Being on hold usually makes people even madder, escalating the situation. Think about it. Do you like being on hold when you call a company? Does it calm you down? No, I didn’t think so.5 tips for handling one of the most troubling business problems#goodcustomerservice Click To Tweet
Some customers believe that hold time allows representatives to talk trash about the customer without being heard. Others believe that they are put on hold so that the representative doesn’t have to deal with the problem. A customer’s imagination will have plenty of time to think up negative reasons for the hold time. Believe me, I’ve been accused of these!
Instead of putting the customer on hold while you research the problem, keep him on the line. Talk to the customer. Let her know exactly what you are doing to solve their problem. For example,
“It seems to me that you may have a billing error. I’m pulling up your bill, Ms. Jones, and taking a look. I see that you where billed on the first of the month and the payment was made automatically through your credit card. You said you changed your method of payment, so now I am going to take a look at the notes on your account to see when that change was made.”
Talking to your customer throughout the process is calming. She will feel you care enough to stay with her throughout the entire process.
5. Give Your Caller Options
Once you have researched the problem, now it is time to take action. Tell your customer what his options are and how soon each option can be implemented. A lack of control can enrage the customer even further, so, if possible, make sure to offer more than one option.
Dealing with customers are part of owning a business. Listening, using the FISH method, staying calm, repeating information, avoiding the hold button and giving your customer options are all vital to making your customers happy and keeping them coming back for more.