Do you have a happy or sad customer?

Recently, I have been doing a lot of research on customer service and how to set yourself apart from your competition.  Through this research I have uncovered some great tips that I will share with you, but initially I want to expound on an observation I’ve made about the consequences of not paying attention to a customer’s emotional state. This might not at first seem important, but by the end of this article I am sure you will start to see just how critically important this is.

Let’s start off by defining who your customer is.  Immediately, you envision the person currently utilizing your service or products.  Typically, these people would be called your prospect, patient, client, shopper, patron, etc. Other people fall into this category as well, however, when you examine this a little closer.  A customer is not always only the person using your services. It could be the parents of a child in school, the family members of a parent using your services. It could be the candidate you’re attempting to hire or the employees in your organization, or even your manager or one of the company’s vendors. In brief it is everyone you come into contact with during the course of your work day.  Beyond your work day, the term “customer service” can be substituted for just being polite in your interactions with everyone you meet.

Now that we have defined who a customer is, let’s dig deeper into why understanding their emotional state might be important to a successful and positive interaction.  To do this, think of a child and his or her parent going back-to-school shopping.  In this scenario there are two clients you will be faced with, and both may have very different emotional states.  The child may be excited about going back to school, buying their new binders, pencils, and backpacks, whereas the parent is cranky about all the money they are spending, and trying to corral their children, the traffic, or crowds in the stores and malls.  In both cases, how they are feeling has a direct relation to the way you or your employee will need to interact with them.  For the child you will need to show that same excitement and for the parent you might need to just be courteous and efficient. Now let’s look at a new patient being referred to a Home Health Agency.  What could be the mental state of this customer?  They could be scared, feeling vulnerable, tired of being sick and within the healthcare system, ready to be home, and concerned for the potential financial burden they might incur.  Initially, the patient is not your only customer in this case, and each one of those involved may have one or more of the aforementioned emotions going on.  As an example, when speaking to Mr. Smith and his wife, your ideal customer service would lead with empathy, reassurance, competence and the timely nature of nursing, therapies, and caregivers. Whereas, when dealing with Mr. Smith’s daughter or son you may want to switch the focus of your customer service to being efficient, actively listening, and provide concise descriptions of services and cost.  This sounds easy, like basic information, but honestly, in most interactions, everyone is only thinking of themselves.  For instance, the cashier at office supply store in the first example might only see a grumpy lady and an obnoxious kid, or the staffing coordinator at the home health agency might be put off by the curt conversation Mr. Smith’s son is having with her.  In both cases the person who should be providing customer service has focused on themselves rather than the customer.

As you begin to read this list of best practices, think about your customer and their emotional state and how you would need to modify these best practices to be most effective.

Top 7 Customer Service Best Practices:

  • How your client initially interacts with you has nothing to do with you. Do not personalize a person’s attitude or behavior.
  • In face to face interactions look your client in the eye and in all interactions use active listening skill to determine what the needs are and the driving force behind their need or question.
  • Be concise in your response and only promise or solve issues that can be done at that time.
    1. Apologize and explain how you will get the information to answer the question or solve that problem. Be as specific as you can about the expected resolution time frame.
  • Follow up on what was promised by keeping your client aware of your progress, should the timeframe you set move.
  • Personalize your customer service by introducing yourself and using your customer’s name when appropriate.
  • Really, it’s that simple. This applies when you are face to face or talking to someone on the phone.  A smile can be heard as loudly as it can be seen.
  • Remember, this interaction is not about you.

In my 26 years in recruiting, sales management, and national sales as a trainer and now a business owner, I have seen communication and customer service lead to unbelievable successes and an equal amount of failures.  The primary causes of those failures occur when the person providing the service did not fully understand the “why” behind an attitude or question of a client.  Without that understanding even the best customer service plan will fail

About the Author: John Dalton is the owner of Optimum RTS, a medical employment and consultant company.  He has taught and consulted for clients that have just opened their doors to Fortune 100 companies.  He can be reached at jdalton@optimumrts.com and you can visit his website at www.optimumrts.com

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