At Your Service — Taking ownership of the situation
06/05/2012

The runaround — no one likes it. Customers want to talk with someone who can help them.

This subject always ranks high as a source of frustration for company leaders and more importantly for their customers. I hear stories of customers being passed along to several people before they are helped.

In larger organizations, there tends to be greater specialization, so the customer needs to be directed to a different person or department. There are times when a customer may not know what they want, so the call may be initially misdirected.

We do know, however, that customers want to:

  • Receive prompt service.
  • Speak with someone who can help them and cares about their needs.
  • Avoid having to leave a voicemail.
  • Talk with someone who is knowledgeable.

These are minimal expectations of a customer, yet too often they don’t receive this level of service and it is frustrating. Your customer’s time is valuable and they want to talk with someone who can help them in a quick, competent, and professional manner.

Here are some techniques you can use to minimize customer frustration and to better service their needs:

  • Start with your receptionist. For those organizations that have a receptionist, make certain he or she is trained to ask the right questions, so the call can be directed properly from the start. Continue to refine those questions so you can get the caller to the right person or department the first time.
  • Use a warm transfer. In a warm transfer, you are talking with the person you are transferring the call to. This accomplishes several key elements of good service. You are making certain that the employee is available to take the call and you can provide information on the nature of the call. Customers resent having to repeat themselves and the warm transfer helps to avoid that. If you make a cold transfer, you are just transferring the call and do not know if the call was answered. When you use the warm transfer, you can get back to the caller if the employee is not available. At that time, you can offer to take a message or direct the caller to employee’s voicemail. This is part of taking ownership.
  • Provide reasonable expectations. When you take a message or if you need to get back with the customer, let them know when you will get back with them and check with them if that timeframe is okay. Also, let them know what to expect when you do get back with them. Again, this is taking ownership of the situation and your customers will appreciate that. Don’t leave the customer guessing as to what and when something is going to happen.
  • Be assuring and confident. In reality, you may not be able to help the customer immediately. The situation may require research or you may be busy at that particular moment. It happens. However, assure them that you will find the answer. Let them know they are in good hands.

Everyone in your organization needs to be on the same page regarding taking ownership of the situation and helping the customer. Your customers need to know that servicing their needs in an exceptional manner is how you operate.

Barry Himmel is senior vice president for Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, Ohio-based consulting company offering sales and customer service training, marketing and mystery shopping services for the equipment rental industry. He can be reached at 614-766-5101 or barryhimmel@signatureworldwide.com. For more information, call 800-398-0518 or visit signatureworldwide.com.