Tips for getting what you want as a consumer
I do my best writing after something lousy happens that gets me all fired up. This week it happens to be responding to customer responses to a product defect. For the most part, customers have responded positively- thanking us for what we are doing to make the situation right. But there have been those few. The people who think that by treating you like you are not human will somehow improve the service they receive or improve your company.
Because it takes two to tango, it is only appropriate (and fair?) that both companies and customers learn how to work together. Here is how to get what you want from companies (and more importantly build great relationships and karma along the way).
Get real: companies are just a bunch of humans trying to do their best
This is especially true with front line customer service agents who respond to customer brutality day in and day out. Sure company policies may favor sticking it to the customer but the human being you are working with is usually doing their best. These agents are often yelled at, called names, hung up on. No one likes to be treated this way. And everyone wants to do their best. When was the last time you did your best when someone was yelling at you? And if you have run across that one bad apple, the .05% who is not trying to do their best, see my last suggestion!
Offer praise and criticism
When we are frustrated with a company the thing we forget is what is good about the company. In our angst about our own problem we neglect to provide a balanced message. Instead of communicating, ‘the fixer valve is not working but the rest of the product is perfect’ we communicate ‘this product is crap and you barely deserve oxygen!’ Try your very best to offer not only what you dislike but what you like. This will help your customer service human know that everything is not terrible.
Build a relationship
Some of the best relationships I have with customers have grown out of solving their problems. These customers as a result are the first on my list to offer discounts, freebies and test products. They are the type of customers that when I genuinely apologized and offered a solution responded with a bit of their own humanity (saying genuine thank you’s, offering praise). By reciprocating with your own humanity, you tell the other person that you are interested in more than just the transaction. You’ll be surprised at what happens.
Recently I was attempting to fix a problem with my DYMO label printer. It had been difficult to find a human in my time zone to work with and had not been a positive experience. When I finally talked to someone in customer care in Atlanta, I was a grump. It showed in my attitude and my tone. But as the conversation continued, I realized that this young lady was going to help me no matter what. I relaxed and began to enjoy the problem solving. She offered me a roll of free labels to replace the reams that had been trashed during the troubleshooting. We laughed about how to spell Albuquerque. A shout out to my unknown human friend at DYMO in Atlanta, GA who helped me!
If you are human you know the value of an apology. And you also know how easy it is to take your frustrations out on others. We do it all the time. The key is not in avoiding those feeling of anger and frustration it is in owning them and their impact on others. When you are mean to a customer service human, it hurts and can really impact their day. During our recent problem solving, one customer would not respond to my attempts to make things right. He continued to complain on the great interweb about how we were not fixing the issue. After reading the complaints, a couple of us were hurt, sad and in general dejected. And as a company owner I began thinking, is all of this really worth it?
As a customer, realize the impact you have on your fellow humans and apologize! Respond to attempts by customer service humans, whether small or large, with a thank you. Don’t underestimate the power of saying things like, ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I know this is not your fault’. Apologizing will help ensure you don’t end up on a ‘difficult customer list’.
Ask for someone else
Think the person you are working with is not trying their best? Ask for someone else. Frequently, the next person you talk with will want to work with you (if not to show off their mad skills to those who couldn’t help you). It may be that the person you’ve reached just got yelled at or has not been able to solve a single problem today. They just need a base hit and all they have is strikes. Getting another agent or supervisor often moves you happily down the path of getting your problem solved.
Building real relationships with customer service humans is good for you as a customer- you are far more likely to get what you want. It is good for the planet- each person that has a better day as a result of your interaction can offer that experience to another person who shows it to another person and bam- six degrees later, someone is being good to you! Yes, in real relationships, people show emotions- bad and good. So it is ok to be frustrated but remember to also offer your appreciation and respect. Saying things like, ‘I know it is not your fault’ and ‘Sorry for being a jerk’ go a long way with other humans. And If you treat them like they are humans you might be surprised at how they treat you back!