This article was originally published on the FCR blog on August 1, 2017. Click here to read the original.
I was in one of our contact centers the other day and had the opportunity to sit next to one of my awesome colleagues, Nicole. I listened in as she worked with a couple customers on the phone. As it would so happen, the very first customer she spoke with represented a business that’s about five miles from my house. Given that we’re an outsourcer and most of our clients are nationwide — many international — this was a huge coincidence.
This particular business had a piece of hardware that failed and the ultimate resolution was to ship them a replacement. The customer was concerned about having to wait through the weekend for the equipment — especially since it’s a busy time time for them. Nicole did a great job of coming up with a workaround to hold them over until the replacement arrived.
After the call ended, Nicole and I talked about the fact that I live very close to this business. She noted that we actually had one of these devices in-house. After some collaboration with our leadership and getting permission from our client, we decided to deliver the new hardware to the customer that day. I made the delivery a few hours later and the customer was absolutely delighted to have a better solution than the original workaround.
This story will likely derail a few readers who will undoubtedly say, “Sure you did a great job delighting ONE local customer. But our business is international and there’s no way to scale this sort of experience for ALL of our customers.”
These readers are correct in noting that this was only for one customer. For a nationwide or even international company, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to scale this particular solution. But that’s not the point. If you’re not careful, you’ll miss the sense of wonder and creativity that occurred in this story. Note how two people, Nicole and me, collaborated and found an opportunity to give a customer a better solution and experience. This is what I want to focus on in this article.
Finding your sense of wonder
For anyone who’s spent significant time talking with customers about the same, recurring issues all day long, it’s so easy to lose our sense of wonder. We lose our drive and motivation to find creative solutions and instead lean on policy and procedure. We lose that sense of purpose and curiosity one might find if they shadowed a brand new customer service representative who aims to leave no issue unresolved and no customer undelighted. Here are four things to help customer service professionals and leaders preserve that sense of wonder.
- Be creative. It should never be easy to say “no” or tell the customer, “That’s just how it is.” Always do your darndest to meet the customer halfway. Perhaps it’s instructing them on a workaround that will help them survive until a more permanent fix is in place. Other times you might be able to pull a few strings to ship an item faster. Maybe they aren’t even your customer and you take a few extra minutes to do a little research and send them to the company that can really solve their problem.
- Be collaborative. I recently heard Malcolm Gladwell talk about how our relationships with others are really an extension of our own brains and memories. We don’t have to remember certain things in complete depth if we know that someone else has that information. Teams work like this. It’s important to collaborate with others, whether it’s in person, via Slack, or another channel. Perhaps someone else on your team has a better solution for a customer than you simply based on their knowledge and experience.
- Never stop asking how we can improve. It’s so easy, especially with recurring problems to give up and accept them as status quo. For every customer you deal with and every problem you face, ask, “How can we make this better?” Keep a running list of those issues and be ready to share with others in your organization.
- Delight where you can. There will still be times where you can and should go above and beyond for your customers. When we connect with other human beings it’s only natural that we feel compelled to make sure they’re really taken care of. This might be as simple as sending a thank you note, or writing them a song, or sending a personalized video message. These opportunities are a whole lot of fun and can energize your team and organization and there are more opportunities out there than you may realize.
A fresh set of eyes
I can remember as a customer service manager those times when I’d step away from other “managerial duties” and jump on the phones. After not speaking with customers for a while, I’d encounter customer issues and say something like, “Holy cow. How long has this issue been going on? We have to fix this right away!” It’s funny what happens when you encounter an issue for the first time versus the thousandth time. This is a note to leaders to always have a practice of reviewing customer interactions and speaking with your agents so you’re never too far from the front lines.
The next time you encounter an issue where you’re either compelled to say “no,” give the customer a workaround, or make them wait an inconvenient length of time for a resolution, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this the most creative and complete solution I can offer to the customer?
- Have I collaborated with someone who may be able to help come up with a better solution?
- How can I make this issue better for the next customer?
- Is there an extra gesture I can do for this customer to show them my appreciation?
That’s it. Put a reminder somewhere and get these questions running through your head every time you interact with a customer. This will ensure that you never lose the sense of wonder required to consistently deliver great customer service.