Monday, October 18, 2010

Customer Focused Service: Say Yes, Not No

Last week, the entire staff at headquarters participated in a day long workshop focused on customer service training. The workshop, conducted by Brenda Robinson of the Robcan Group, introduced some interesting concepts to the staff here including the idea that internal relationships affect your external service. One of the major focuses of the day, however, was the idea of always communicating positively with your customer. Here are a few points that I took away from the day:
  • The first 8 words of an e-mail or phone message are the most important. A lot of people will not read beyond those first 8 words without being given incentive. So make them positive and reassuring.
  • When faced with a challenging situation or dilemma, ask yourself "what would work"? Brenda gave a very humorous anecdote relating to the differing ways her and her husband like to fold towels. They ultimately decided that stuffing the towels in the cabinet was all that was really needed - it got the job done and eliminated the arguments. When thinking about how to best serve your customer think about "what would work"? Sometimes existing policies impede our ability to serve our customers well; perhaps its time to review and revise them.
  • Good customer service must include, involve and engage. Involve and engage your customers in deciding how to best serve them.
  • When you have to say 'no' to a customer, don't start with the word 'no'. Give them the 'why' first - the reason you are ultimately having to say no - and they are more likely to hear you.
  • Don't stop there though - give them options and alternatives if you have to say no. Make them feel like you've done everything you can to help them, even if you can't give them exactly what they've asked for.
  • And lastly, don't actually say the word 'no'. Use positive language. We are all so accustomed to saying 'sorry' that we don't realize it actually has a negative effect. Avoid words like: sorry, unfortunately, regret, can't, inconvenience, rule, only, have to. Instead use positive words/phrases such as: I'll do everything I can, the next step is, etc.

The kind of thing Brenda was describing reminded me of a blog post I wrote a few months ago called "Do Libraries Send Mixed Messages?" . It involved the use of signage in libraries, and that instead of telling our patrons what they can't do, we should be telling them what they can. In many ways consistent use of positive language is a whole new way of thinking. How often do we say 'sorry' or 'unfortunately' in a day? It may take some real effort but in the end we will end up with happier, more satisifed patrons.

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