Tweaking your speaking can improve customer service

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There are many things that combine for good customer service. At least one isn’t complicated and costs absolutely nothing, writes Michael Hess in “Ban this Language from Your Customer Service Vocabulary” for BNET – the CBS Business Net.

“The very specific ways in which we speak to our customers can make all the difference,” Hess claims. “The qualities of real customer-focused speech can be so subtle as to seem like nuance. But this is an area in which a little goes a long way."

Hess offers several examples of how not to speak to customers. On the other hand, if you’re the type who gets a bang out of subtly rubbing them the wrong way, I’ve reversed Hess’s recommendations into easy three-step guide you can clip out below and give to all your staff members that want to be equal opportunity annoyers:

1) “You need to / You’re gonna have to / I need you to.” Lots of people find these irritating, so use them liberally to get on their nerves fast. Hess points out these are commonly used in some level of control, like flight attendants (as in “I need you to turn off your laptop”) and it’s delivered in a passive-aggressive, condescending manner.

But there’s really no place for haughty down-talking in customer service. You don’t want to compromise anyone’s authority. Try: “I’m so sorry for the hassle, but you could really help me solve this for you if you could track down the serial number.” There’s a universe of difference between that and “You need to find me that serial number if you want me to help you.”

2) “I don’t know who told you that, but…” – this gem is guaranteed to exasperate them! It’s an all-too-common response that, among other things, tacitly suggests that the customer is lying. If you think the customer’s wrong, has misunderstood or is even bending the story a bit, this one will belittle or subtlely lay blame on him!
Hess suggests. “Let me see if I can get the right information to try to resolve this for you.” Truth is, this is no place for pride or defensiveness. Take it on yourself to keep the customer’s frustration from escalating and try to help solve the problem in the best way possible.

3) “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do” (or any variation thereof). This classic will drive the customer round the bend, literally! It’s use may be the single biggest cause of lost business for companies of every size. Wipe these words out of your vocabulary.

The better way - find something you can do. There is almost always something that can be done. Likely it’s not all the customer wants, but can you do some percent? How about a gesture that will, at least, make the customer feel better? Remember, it costs a lot more to get a new customer than to keep an existing one.

You may think that some or all of this sounds so obvious, but the fact is very few businesses consistently stress the art of customer-focused speech. Specifically, Hess advocates taking time to regularly ask all your employees to consider “tweaking your speaking” in order to provide the kind of service your customers will extol to others.


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