The Key to Great Customer Service Is Making Them Feel Heard
Even if they don’t, make a big deal out of their problems
Imagine customer service boils down to a scenario where there are two different roads available. You as the provider of a good or service get to pick one, and the customer gets left to take the other. The essence of good customer service is picking the right road.
So, what do I mean by all this? Well, first off, let me explain what each of these roads represents.
‘No Big Deal’ — Road Number One
Road number one is the ‘no big deal’ road. If the service provider picks this road, it rarely ends well. The provider of the good or service believing that a customer hasn’t had a bad experience or is exaggerating the importance of their complaint is rarely going to end well from a branding perspective.
Think about it. When was the last time you had a really rubbish customer service experience? I’d wager a fair sum that at the root of that bad experience was the feeling that you, as the customer, weren’t being heard or understood.
‘This Is Really Important ‘— Road Number Two
The second road is the ‘This is really important’ chip. If a provider picks up this chip, they almost always go above and beyond to empathise with the view of the customer and leave them with an incredible customer service experience.
Again, think back to a time when you’ve had great customer service — even if the initial experience wasn’t good to begin with. Perhaps you bought a product that broke after the first few uses, or you checked into a hotel room that wasn’t up to standard, or maybe service at a restaurant was a little too cold. When you raised the complaint, and the person you were speaking to immediately heard you and sprung into action. They replaced the product whilst apologising profusely. Or maybe they upgraded you to a suite as a result of the trouble they caused because you had to move. Or maybe they provided a free meal to convince you that your bad experience was a one-off.
When this happens, it feels awesome, right? You feel seen and heard.
Both Roads Will Be Taken During an Interaction
Here’s the thing — both roads will be taken by different parties during any customer service interaction. So, if you, as the service provider, pick road number one and act like it’s no big deal, your customer will choose number two and act like it’s more important than it is.
The corollary is that if you pick road number two and act like the incident — no matter how small — is a really big deal, your customer will often underplay the importance of it because it feels like such a good customer service experience for them.
The art of exceptional customer service is to make the customer feel heard and make them believe that you’re committed to solving their problems.
Avoid Bad PR and Reviews by Picking the Right Road
Recently, I was staying at a hotel and after using three separate devices to try and connect to the Wi-Fi and spending almost 45 minutes battling with it, I just couldn’t get connected. I was at a loss, so I phoned the reception. They said they’d call back in ten minutes. Well, ten minutes passed. Then 20. I called again, and an exasperated voice on the other end said I was the only guest from a full house that was complaining of issues, so it must be my device. I calmly explained that I tried on three separate devices. The receptionist relented and agreed to send a technician to my room.
A hotel maintenance worker showed up, and the first thing he said was, ‘I’ve no idea why they sent me, I don’t know anything about computers. You should just go down to reception’.
At this stage, I’m now feeling like my time is being wasted. Reception has chosen road number one and clearly thinks this problem is no big deal. This cavalier attitude is just frustrating me further.
The resolution was that I had to use the hotel Wi-Fi connection in the common areas and spent three days without connectivity in my room while I was trying to balance staying on top of work with preparing to speak at a conference.
In the end, I complained again on check out, refused to pay the facilities charge, and I left a bad review on Google. Not a great outcome for the hotel, and here’s the thing. They could have prevented it all — and they didn’t even have to fix my problem to do so. In fact, if they had acted like they cared or empathised with my frustration at all, I would more than likely have felt much better. I would have believed they were at least trying to do something. Instead, I felt unheard and unappreciated. Instead, for my next trip to that same town, my only criteria is: different hotel.
Your customer service strategy should be filled with empathy and geared towards making your users and customers feel great about interacting with you.