Great Customer Service starts here

2 Golden Rules of Customer Service

by Daniel Matalon on April 26, 2013

We used 2 simple rules of customer service that made 1-800 GeeksOnTime a superior service company in an industry not normally known, especially at that time, for service excellence, technology support.

In 2005 we won a coveted Best Customer Service Executive award by the American Business Awards (known as the Stevies) beating out  Wyndham Hotels. As far as I am aware, that is the first and only time an IT company went head to head with a hospitality company in a service category and actually won. Yeah. Now, beyond the bragging rights, there were some underlying reasons for this success .

I know the 2 Golden Rules.

GOLDEN RULE # 1

YOU DON’T HAVE TO ASK PERMISSION TO SAY YES

The first rule we put in place was that no one on our customer service or helpdesk team ever had to ask permission to say “yes” to a customer.  We used to say that your job was to say yes and you should not have a rule against doing your job. So, if a customer wanted a price break, to receive free service, or to have us stray from policy in any way, our staff was completely empowered to make a decision and say “yes”. They did not have to come and ask superiors or “Mommy and Daddy” for permission to spend money this way.  Of course, we were faithful managers and we did look over their shoulder to review such decisions. And they would be responsible for justifying these decisions if asked but even if we disagreed with them, we would always stand by their decisions. They represented the company and their word was our bond.

GOLDEN RULE  # 2

YOU DO HAVE TO ASK PERMISSION TO SAY NO

As it is the job of customer service to say yes to a client, the 2nd golden rule was that the only time which our staff was required to ask permission was if they were going to say “no” to a customer.  It would be like asking permission to stray from their job.

Too often, customer service staff get their emotions in the way of their work when they become “activated” by upset clients. It is easy to happen in service roles because a big part of our job is to solve clients’ problems and they are often in some level of frustration (and emotionally activated) when they contact us. When their emotions are flying, it can set off our own.

All of us at times may see a customer as “unreasonable” “unruly” or downright abusive and it is human to react to that unfairness we feel. But none of this is personal. Let’s face it. Customers just want results.

Since it is our job to serve these people, and not to defend our company, saying “no” should be as weighted carefully as attempting to defy the laws of gravity. A “no” is not only a likely loss of a customer, but a likely word-of-mouth negative publicity cycle as well.  And with the Internet a bad customer experience can possibly go viral as well. So saying no is a dangerous thing, even when following policy to do so.

Yet there are times in which a “no” is indeed necessary. If a client’s request puts the business truly at risk, then saying no is necessary to protect the mother ship. (Notice I did not say “causes a loss”. A one time loss of cash to keep a customer is fine whereas a compromise of the entire company system to say “yes” can hurt the company’s ability to serve other customers).

So the best way to reasonably say no but ensure that it is well reasoned response(and not an emotional reaction) is to get 3rd party input from a supervisor or a colleague. That person can offer some   less passionate review of the circumstances, look for alternatives, and put some check-and-balance of needs into the process. This ensures that if/when an eventual“no” comes down, it has been thoroughly reviewed and carefully considered as to what is in everyone’s best interests.

Don’t Let It Worry You

Many managers and business owners are afraid of rules like these because they fear that without clear “do’s and don’ts” guidelines, their staff are going to be irresponsible and spend their money foolishly giving customers everything that they want.

But staff’s self interest will always protect you. They want the company to survive and they want a job to come in to. They won’t “give away the store” the way one might fear. Furthermore, having a role in which they are empowered to make their own decisions will activate their brain and help them want to stay on a job that demands creative solutions. And the result?  You will have a team that works with passion and a customer service group that clients notice, appreciate and trust.

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