Customer Service

Flipping Customer Experiences: 10 Training Tips

In today’s Advisor, a customer service expert provides 10 tips on how training can be used to help your employees turn negative customer experiences into positive ones.

Training can equip reps with tools to improve customer satisfaction, even when a customer lodges a complaint. Ron Kaufman, author of Uplifting Service: The Proven Path to Delighting Your Customers, Colleagues, and Everyone Else You Meet, offers 10 customer service tips that you might want to cover during training.

First, reps should thank customers for their complaint, Kaufman says. “When a customer gives you the opportunity to recover their service, be grateful.”

Second, “don’t be defensive,” he suggests. “You don’t have to agree with what they’re saying. But you do have to agree to hear them out.”

Third, “acknowledge what’s important to them” (e.g., quick service), Kaufman says. “When you agree with their value dimension, you’re telling them they are right to value this specific thing.”

Fourth, Kaufman recommends using “judo, not boxing.” Customers “don’t expect you to tell them that they’re right. Suddenly, just as you might do in judo, you’ve avoided a defensive confrontation, and you can spin them. In judo, you’d spin them to the ground. In customer service, you use the opportunity to show the customer that you’re now both on the same side and you can work together.”

Fifth, “explain the company’s desire to improve,” he says. “Show you are sincere about your commitment to do well in the areas the customer values.”

Sixth, “educate your customer.” Answer their questions, and give them additional, useful information.

Seventh, “contain the problem.” Move a customer with a crying child to a separate room, disconnecting them from their shopping experience and isolating them from other customers, or address an issue before it creates a public relations problem.

Eighth, “even if you can’t help, apologize,” Kaufman says.

Ninth, “recover,” he says. “Offer the customer something, and then explain that you’re doing so ‘as a gesture of goodwill’ or ‘as a token of our appreciation.’”

Tenth, “give serial complainers an out,” Kaufman suggests. Just before the conversation ends, be “genuine about welcoming them back and wanting them to be happy. Most people—including serial complainers—will reflect on their behavior later and feel awkward or even ashamed. You want their final memory of you to be powerful and positive.”