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People Serving People: Keeping Customer Service Human

I recently had a talk with Mike Miller, my friend and a fellow mystery shopping provider through PRIMO Solutions. We had a great conversation about customer service, specifically what constitutes good customer service and how companies can use training and mystery shopping to improve it. Mike was pretty up front about his feelings on this: He told me that in his experience, the customer service at most companies flat-out sucks!

Customer Service center at 23d Street downtown...

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But it can be fixed — good customer service doesn’t have to be rocket science, and in fact revolves mostly around empowering your employees to be more than just robots trained to follow procedure blindly. Too many companies keep their customer service folks tethered to company rules, time limits and scripts, and that limits them from actually doing the service part of their job.

So here are Mike’s and my top 3 tips for keeping your customer service human:

Customer service isn’t a vacuum.

Your company’s customer service isn’t going to be very successful if it doesn’t integrate with the rest of your company. I’ll write a longer post about this later, but suffice it to say that if your sales team starts making promises that other members of your staff can’t follow through on, you’re going to have a customer service nightmare on your hands.

Communication is key — you have to work to avoid that silo mentality.

It isn’t about speed; it’s about being thorough. Some companies have incentives for their employees who wrap up their service calls quickly. Speed is good and definitely works wonders for the bottom line, but it’s more important to be thorough and do things right the first time. Sure, it’s great if your employees can resolve an issue in record time, but be sure they’ve also taken the time to understand the problem and solved it in a way that won’t result in a customer calling back weeks later with the same issue — or something worse.

Do more listening than talking.

This is pretty self explanatory, and it goes with the above point. If your customer service employees work from a script in the call center or have very specific parameters they work from, be sure they know it’s okay to step back from the script once in a while and just engage with the customer. They may find, if they listen closely, that they’re more than “happy to assist with that” and actually want to help make the situation better.

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