While handling unpleasant customers is a great lesson for the holiday shopping season, it's the kind of lesson that's useful all year. The holidays can turn even the best of us into a frustrated, snarling beast as we try to get plenty done in not much time at all, so for customer service, there's a real opportunity to win some customers over with a little extra push.
One point commonly agreed on is training. Customer service representatives need sufficient training to take on the worst customers. Focus on training that starts with acknowledging frustration and then working from that point. Make sure the reps have plenty of authority to address complaints, and watch how many customers go from frustrated to satisfied. This is also part of what's called a “customer obsessed” model; when the reps can address customer problems immediately, without having to consult a supervisor or get approval—or worse, have to explain why what the customer wants is actively forbidden by the business—problems are solved faster, and satisfaction goes up.
Also, remember that many problems are best solved without a rep. Don't forget the other channels of support; Web chat, text message, email or even self-service help customers get problems solved where these occur. The faster a solution arrives, the better the result. Also consider that some customers in the end are not worth keeping; the damage these can do to employee morale is beyond any value these might have in making purchases. Such customers will be identified by threats of lawsuits or to “expose” offending companies on social media.
TeamSupport offered up some remarks of its own in a recent blog on “bulletproof customer service”, throwing in the value of patience and tenacity in dealing with the frustrated customer. A customer who can tell that the rep in question is doing everything possible to help a customer is much less likely to be upset, at least with the rep. Clarity (News - Alert), flexibility and knowledge also come into play.
In the end, the best in customer service is to give away power to the customer service rep, not keep it in the C-suite for people who don't make contact with the customer or have any idea what's going on on the main floor. The customer service rep is the one who sees everyday problems, so leave the solutions up to the rep. Yes, there have to be some limits in order to protect profitability, but the fewer of these, the better for the organization.
Customers don't want to call customer service for a primer on corporate policy. Customers want solutions to problems. Giving customer service reps the necessary training and authority to solve problems will go a long way toward making happier customers. That means a better chance of return business, better cash flow, and a business that survives the holidays.
Edited by Maurice Nagle