Happy Customer Service Appreciation Week!

The first week of October is National Customer Service Week, a time where we celebrate and reward those in the customer service arena. And this week, the city of Durham, NC, has invited me to help them celebrate their dedicated public servants who keep service at the core of everything Durham does for residents and visitors.

Here are some of the tips I’m going to share with those professionals:

1. Learn to say, “I’m sorry.”

A marriage counselor friend of mine told me that the most important words in a healthy relationship are not I love you, but rather I’m sorry. I’m sorry is so powerful because it says, “I value our relationship more than I value my need to be right.”

Can you say I’m sorry even when you’ve done nothing wrong? Absolutely. Sometimes saying I’m sorry is just another way of saying I’m sorry that you were inconvenienced, or I’m sorry that this wasn’t resolved earlier.

Want to take the irate out of an irate customer? Get good at saying I’m sorry.

2. Practice saying, “Tell me more.”

From positive psychology research, we know that people let go of their negative feelings faster once they’ve labeled them and expressed them. So let them get it out of their systems. In fact, encourage it. Say, Tell me more…

Tell me more is a strategy some of the best telephone customer service agents practice. Customer service pros ask the right questions up front so they can begin to resolve an issue immediately. Then they say, Tell me more. Have you ever been on the phone with a service rep and heard dead-air space or clacking on keys? That service rep was helping you. But the best agents help you while simultaneously giving you an opportunity to label your feelings, share your story, and get your emotions out of your system by saying Tell me more…

Want to show empathy in a powerful way? Practice saying, Tell me more.

3. Always say, “Thank you.”

Yup, even if a customer rips you a new one, make an opportunity to say Thank you at some point during the call. Why? It’s so much better for an irritated customer to tell you than to tell your boss, write an op ed piece about your business, or appear on eye-witness news!

When a customer takes the time to talk with you, you now have the opportunity to fix things so that the same problem doesn’t impact others. Wouldn’t you rather have a neighbor see an alligator in your neighborhood AND report it to the authorities than to have that neighbor see an alligator, drive around it, and let you discover it after your cat disappears?

Want to make your customers feel valued? Always say Thank you, especially when they hand you a problem.

4. Ask, “Are we good? Is this better?”

Former White House chief of staff and current Mayor of the City of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel once said, “Never let a serious crisis to go to waste.” Outstanding customer service doesn’t mean flawless service; instead, it means brilliant responsiveness after something has gone awry. So, after you’re done resolving matters, it’s time to get positive closure. Ask, Are we good now? Does this take care of it for you? Is this better?

By asking the question and waiting for an answer, a customer is able to reflect on what just happened. And many times, the customer will be the one offering a Thank you.

Want to see how effective you are in customer service? Ask, Did that take care of things for you? Is this better?

5. Smile. Always smile.

It doesn’t matter if your customers stand in front of you, talk on the other end of a phone line, or sit typing words on a computer to you, keep smiling. Why? Smiling is stronger than a frown. In fact, studies have found that a smile is more contagious than a frown. If you want your customers to “catch your positive attitude”, give ’em a smile.

And even if research didn’t back up the link between a smile and outstanding customer service, you should smile just the same. Smiles have been linked to a longer, healthier life, greater intelligence, and overall life happiness.

Want to become contagious to your customers? Let them see, feel, and experience the power of your smile!

Special Thank You! To the thousands of folks I met while speaking last month in Virginia, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, welcome to my blog, and thanks for signing up. In the event you missed it, I wrote last week a blog entitled A Day in the Life of a Motivational Speaker so that you could meet the man behind the curtain…


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