To start talking about customer service, it is necessary to talk about something more general: experience. All of us desire pleasant experiences with anything, be it seeing the splendor of a sunset, having a warm cup of tea, or listening to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony on your device. However, nothing is ever perfect: sunsets sometimes don’t appear on a rainy day, tea gets cold and can end up being bland, and your device can break. In all such cases, certain contingencies are required to continue enjoying your experiences. One of these contingencies is customer service. Through this, you can ask for a new cup of tea or have your device fixed, allowing you to live life to the full. But what if you’re the one who does the fixing? Is it a bad thing or a good thing? For this, it is necessary to begin with a philosophical answer.
The Philosophy of Customer Service
The common view regarding customer service is that it is the simple interplay between customer and staffer; the former asks and the latter fulfills the request. “The customer is always right,” after all. However, an argument can be made against this as it is clearly a standpoint which views the staffer as a human tool; simple fodder for the customer to exploit. This is clearly a contradictory assessment, given what has been said earlier: all of us desire pleasant experiences. What, then, is customer service?
Customer service, simply put, is a conversation much like any other; the only confining aspect of it is that it is highly limited to a single topic, and just like any conversation, both parties desire the most pleasant kinds: one that solves and one that brings good relations. The latter, which means customer loyalty in its highest form, requires that staffers be at their best possible selves, therefore being the most human. After all, customers want to talk to human beings. This is a philosophy which goes back to the Greek world, which once emphasised ARETE– excellence, and the idea that one achieves true happiness through virtue. Customer service, therefore, is about excellence, and this is evident in the consequences: a customer becomes happiest with great customer service, and an agent becomes happiest when the desired outcome is reached.
Key Elements of Customer Service
Given what has been said earlier about customer service, it is clear that to break down customer service into its key components is to break excellence down itself. What is required to excel in customer service, then? This much is clear when one realises that excellence emphasises the highest values: courage, empathy, persistence, understanding and temperance. These are qualities that can be clearly seen in the most successful and top-performing customer service agents, and it is therefore necessary to go over each of these.
There is an often repeated quote by General Patton: “Courage is fear holding just one minute longer,” and it’s a fascinating one for several reasons: it acknowledges that there is fear. We abhor negative experiences to the point of fear, so in a sense, fear is human nature. It also understands that there is a reason why fear should be withheld. This is best expressed in a higher, grander purpose: excellence. Once this is achieved, customer agents will be more inclined to pick up the phone and get the sales pitch going.
Empathy means being sensitive about feelings and putting ourselves in other people’s shoes. Think of the irate customer: why would someone be angry? Surely there must be something else behind the anger aside from products malfunctioning; something you can personally relate with? They might think that something is unfair, or that they deserve better, and really, all of us do. Empathy, therefore, means always assuming a more general perspective, for it is the general things that unify us all. This sort of attitude is characteristic of excellence.
Persistence means having the grit to continue even in the toughest of situations, but what allows us to hold on? What allows us to keep having the grit and stay in your best possible self? Think of it as holding onto a rope: the intention is almost always to prevent a fall and get on top of the surface. Such is the nature of all those who persist: they know that there is something much, much higher. There will be many things that will hold back customer support agents, but one thing is clear: those who live up to the philosophy of customer service clearly see purpose in their perseverance.
Understanding is a concept which draws an abstract meaning from something figurative: it’s about lowering yourself and your pride to attain much higher insight; to stand under and realise that there is a reason for anything and everything. In customer service, understanding means the willingness to listen to customers from an unbiased point of view, to carefully examine problems and make prudent judgments based on these problems. All of this requires insight to purposes higher than the methods themselves, and the highest insight is excellence itself.
Temperance in its purest form means being able to moderate yourself and your emotions. This is manifest in nearly every area in customer service; while it is absolutely okay to be proactive, you need to listen to your customers and not get too overzealous, lest you end up complicating the problem-solving process. It also means being able to manage your stress; stress is a normal bodily response which allows you to stay more alert, but if it isn’t managed, it can seriously take a toll on your desire to work. Staying on top of your game and being excellent means moderating everything; such is why it is connected to excellence.
How to Solve Problems and Provide Excellent Assistance
Much has been said about the philosophy of customer service and its most basic elements, but how do we display excellent customer service in the most precise terms? After all, customer service is not just about peddling the word “excellence;” it’s about actively and constantly living up to the highest standards, and the highest standards means the most absolute application of key techniques and skills.
The first and most fundamental of these skills is critical thought. This skill is all about exercising the right judgment; when confronted with dilemmas and other problems, a decision is always required, and the most prudent decisions are often the most informed ones. In fact, it is even truer when customers are irate: excellent customer service means using the right techniques to address problems correctly. This specific skill can be tempered through training and other programs.
The second skill involves questioning. All conversations have certain themes, and the main theme of customer service is, without a doubt, problem-solving, thus it is necessary to question to gather as much information as possible. However, it’s not just a matter of asking the right questions, but also asking questions rightly; you must not offend or imply any personal bias while questioning, and the right language must always be applied. This is necessary to establish rapport and make customers provide the right kinds of information, and even other things such as adulation and approval of your company’s methods.
Third, to assist a customer means to have a keen understanding of your subject matter. If you’re in the car industry, you need to familiarise yourself with the various parts of a car, how each of these parts work, and even how to remove and then reassemble a car together to some extent. You also have to be updated. This skill requires relentless study of materials and research, and knowledge of these alone can help lessen escalation rates as you are able to solve even the most difficult problems.
The last of these skills is that of active listening. As a customer support agent, you need to be able to listen to problems, pay attention to the dispositions of customers through body language and eliminate your own biases. You must never be complacent just because someone speaks of familiar problems like “I can’t seem to restart my computer,” or whichever problems are rendered too common, for these can be precursors to other, more complicated problems. Always listen to complaints and inquiries to the full, and listen with all 5 elements of excellent customer service in mind. All of these are what will make you excel and be the absolute best, and it’ll make your job much easier!
The Way to Excellence
Much like climbing a ladder, customer service is a very fulfilling and rewarding job which has many challenges in store. Often, what really makes a good customer support agent is simply having an excellent mindset, which can be accessed by possessing a firm grasp of all its key elements and how to manifest them. Customer service isn’t all about simply earning a living, but also the exercise of your most human attributes, because one has a higher chance of achieving the best experiences by fixing and becoming your best possible self.