20140404

 

The scenario is always the same: you find yourself dialling the customer service number and furiously hoping beyond hope that an actual person will pick up, only to be ultimately let down as you hear the false cheer of an automated computer system...

 

We've all done it. Hung up, yelled at it, and perhaps even thrown the phone. These are all reasonable reactions.

 

Customer service robots are possibly the biggest customer-deterrent that we could employ. After all, computerised answering systems imply that our time is more important than that of the customer.

 

What is it that keeps small businesses afloat in the sea of major corporations? It is simple, personable and one-on-one service that is no longer possible in the big box world.

 

Preventing your customer service system from feeling robotic is how to keep them coming back.

 

There are some old tricks of the trade that can prevent your customer service agents from sounding too much like our computerised counter-parts:

  1. Be wary of over-promising. Be realistic when offering solutions and avoid additional disappointment.

  2. Be timely in your responses as delays imply that you are too busy to attend to their needs.

  3. Avoid apologising insincerely. An inconvenienced customer will only be satisfied by action. Apologise and move on with the solution.

Do what the robot cannot do - offer interactive problem solving. An active listener (aka human being) can mutually work towards a solution that works for the customer as they can respond in kind to the customer's complaint.

 

Be available. That might mean checking with your customers to see if you are open when they need you. Customers will take their business elsewhere if they feel like they have to operate on your schedule.

 

Set up auto-responses promising a communication time frame for those times you know that you cannot be reached and encourage staff to respond to emails with out-of-office replies after hours.

 

Learn from a script, and then toss it. Encouraging employees to read directly off a list of predetermined responses is transparent. Customers will feel like you are not really hearing them. It also relegates them to being 'one of many' and derails the work you have put into to fostering each individual relationship in one fell swoop.

 

Humanising your customer service practices is one of the advantages of being a small business and redefining your company culture to include consistent, reliable and real-life customer service can help keep that edge.