MaryBeth Perrin
February 28, 2013 8:00 am

In June last year I scored a totally sweet job with an evening wear company. It’s the kind of job I have always wanted. A step up the industry ladder, oodles of promotion potential and its part of my job to look cute everyday. What I am saying is it’s a total win.

Another part of my job, the actual paying part, is to assist our retail customers with dressing their Bridal Parties, or sometimes just reassuring a grandmother of the groom that she is an important part of the day and that no, wearing a nice dress instead of a pantsuit isn’t overstepping. 99% of the women I talk each day are a stirring mix of excited, nervous and unsure about their own tastes. These women are a delight.

Thus evolved my Top 3 Tips For Getting The Most Out of Your Customer Service. “But this is their job!”, I can hear you exclaim, and you’re right, it is. It is their job to resolve your issues as best as possible. However it is also your job as a reasonable human being to act as one.  I have been guilty of doing all the wrong things (but no more!) so it is with a guilty conscience that I write this.

 Being terse right from the start isn’t going to get the human being you are speaking on your team.

  Remember, if you are contacting the company for the first time, no one there has any idea that you have been having issues. They don’t know the lady at the store was mean to you or that you were sold a dress without the shawl. These are human beings with the same level of patience for being talked at and insulted you would have. The good ones cover it well but frankly, they aren’t robots and you want them to help. Mistreating the person on the other end of the phone is not the best way to achieve this.

I hate that I have to say this, but just don’t even go there with the threats. Telling them you’ll have them fired because they are unable to do exactly what you want just creates an impasse between yourself and the company. If the person you are talking to is really getting on your last nerve, try hanging up on them (it’s not kind, but it feels good), taking a few deep breaths, maybe doing something else for a minute and then calling back to get a different person. It might help. I once lost my mind on someone at an unmentioned phone company. (Imagine a quick, short run. Yeah, them.) She talked to me like she was my long lost Southern mama. Calmed me down, soothed my temper and got me refocused. I hope she got a raise. I’m serious.

“I have looked over the entire Internet”

This once cracks me up. You would be surprised how often I get this in emails from disgruntled customers who, apparently, took a 2 month journey to the ends of the internet and back before coming across our (companyname.com) site. I want to give these poor souls a hug and help them remember the good in the world. They’ll need it after the horror show they must have seen when they travelled to the darkest corners of the internet trying to find a party dress.

Also, try to keep it short and answer just the questions you are being asked. Telling your whole life story is not relevant to where you can find pants in Montana.

These days a customer service person isn’t reading off sheets in a big binder. They are punching the information you are giving them into a computer system which then tells them what is possible. Which brings me to…

The customer service agent cannot rewrite company policy or make an item magically appear.

 When they tell you that something is against company policy, they are telling you that as someone who does not make company policy. Got it? Here’s why this is important…

The people who make company policy are not the ones who answer the phone. The people who make company policies hired the person answering that phone. They set policies based on numerous outside factors which have little to nothing to do with you as an individual person. I know. It’s hard sometimes when you’re really really wanting something and you can’t get it. It feels, in that moment, like that jerk on the phone won’t let you have it. I know how that feels. Now that I am that jerk on the phone I can tell you this. Some decisions are legally mandated, others come from decades of experience and some, yes, some are whim but none are made by or can be changed by the person you are yelling at because you’re unhappy with the answers they’ve given.

The same goes for when they tell you something is out of stock. Asking “Do you think you could just find one somewhere?” is pointless. In a free market society such as ours, the point is to sell what you make, not hold on to that last dress so ‘Cathy from Orlando’ won’t have it to wear to her son’s wedding. Instead maybe try, “Is there something similar you can recommend?” You’ll both be much happier and ‘Cathy’, girl, you’ll have your dress.

There are over 7 Billion of us here on earth, let’s make the best of it.

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