Outstanding Customer Service

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Service Recovery Skill #2: Talking & Listening


service recovery skill #2

(Reprinted with permission from the Winning at Work newsletter)

Service recovery skills will become an essential part of outstanding customer service  within the next two years.  This is the second of three issues with examples of these skills.

Last week we talked about the first step – setting ourselves up for success.  The next step is ensuring that we actually understand and appreciate customers’ issues.  It sounds simple, but there are four rules we need to follow to do this correctly:

1.  Assume Each Customer’s Problem Is Unique

The most common mistake people make when dealing with customers’ issues is ‘Lazy Listening.’  Lazy listening typically occurs within the first few moments of a customer explaining a situation.  E.g., when a customer says, “The delivery was promised to me by 4:00 today…” “My computer says it’s connected to the internet, but I can’t get on any website…” “I made a deposit in my bank account, but can’t access the funds…” or “I’m getting charged for data on my cell phone that I never used…”

Our brains, having heard these common issues hundreds of times before, instantly leap ahead toward the same solution that was applied to all the others.  We inadvertently stop listening, which causes us to miss those vital pieces of information that flags how this situation differs from the others.  The result?  An inevitably flawed solution, and a customer who is frustrated at not being listened to.

Don’t fall into this all-too-common trap.  Always begin with the assumption that the solution you provided your last customer is not necessarily the right one for this customer.

2.  Uncover Burning Issues

As we all know, asking questions and listening carefully for clues is critical.  But we need to do more that just understand the immediate problem.  We need to uncover any potential burning issues in the customer’s mind.

What’s the difference?  Here’s an example: Not being able to access the funds in a bank account might be a customer’s problem, but the burning issue is that they aren’t able to make a deposit on the house they are trying to buy that day.  That’s what’s keeping them up at night.

Solving the immediate problem is frequently less important than helping a customer deal with their burning issue.  To steal a line from the Rolling Stones, even if you can’t give a customer what they want, you might be able to get them what they need.

3.  Speak So Customers Can Understand…

Work on the assumption that your customers aren’t experts about your company.  They don’t know what your policies or processes are, or understand the terminology you use in your business.  Don’t explain things the way in which you would understand, explain them in a manner your customer will understand.

4.  … But Don’t Treat Them Like They’re Idiots

Just because someone doesn’t understand the difference between a wire transfer and an e-transfer, or know the difference between cash and cache doesn’t mean they’re stupid. It simply means they don’t have the same level of expertise in your business that you have.  Be patient, and whenever a customer tells you that they don’t understand something, apologize by letting them know you should have explained it a little better.

There are more service recovery skills of course ( A lot more), but if you can consistently master these, you’re off to a good start.  Stay tuned next week for the third and final instalment.  This is the one that can make you truly stand out from the rest!

(If you would like to have these and other Winning At Work issues delivered to your inbox, just visit this link )

Have Fun!


“If you don’t listen carefully to the problem, you can end up trying to solve the wrong problem.  If you try to solve the wrong problem, you end up creating a brand new one.”

Shaun Belding – Winning With The Customer From Hell – a survival guide

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2 Responses

  1. These are great! Points I am always working on to stay sharp. I just wish more businesses and managers would pay attention to these.


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