It Takes As Long As It Takes

 

Excellent customer service is always worth the wait

By Jeshima DeVine, Creative Specialist

 

Ms. Noname

I dropped in to the Transcript Office, to perform an audit on my progress.  I took with me an official transcript from my previous school, just in case.  There were about four people in the seating area.  The lone Ms. Noname was visibly unnerved by the ‘crowd’.

The receptionist, on the other hand, was quite cheerful and aloof.  She proved to be the kind of person who walked students in the direction of their quest, instead of giving a myriad of directions.  It was the first day of classes, so I was prepared for a wait.  The receptionist was also proactive.  She saw to it that we were all signed in and making progress while we waited.

When it was my turn, with Ms. Noname, I made my audit request.  I blinked.  I was rushed through a series of questions- cut off on every reply- the conversation ended in less than a minute.  I blinked again.  The interaction was so fast, I had to ask myself if I was sure that was all I needed.

Ms. Noname glanced at my electronic file and stated that they still had my transcripts from my previous enrollment.  I had already handed my sealed transcript to the receptionist.  She was headed to the copy machine with it.  Ms. Noname directed the receptionist to hand me back my (now unsealed) transcript, because they would not be needing another copy.  “We have everything we need.  It’ll be ready in a day or two.”, she asserted.  Two days later. . . I received an e-mail stating that my request had been rejected, due to the school needing a copy of my transcripts.  I grimaced.

What could have been done differently to make this a quality interaction?

Me first!

If you start your transaction with your primary focus on how fast you can get to the next person in queue, you have already failed.  That is not to say, that you should not be mindful of waiting customers.  Acknowledge the ringing phones, yes.  After all, impatient customers may lose interest, hang up or go into labor before you can get to them.

By no means do I want you to ignore those waiting patrons.  Greet them, let them know you are giving another customer the same quality experience that they will get, and ask them if they don’t mind waiting a bit.  Simply, focus on one customer at a time.  Even when you find yourself answering the same question, over and over and over again, don’t rush the person who starts out with the same question.  You need to fully understand their needs.  Treat the customer like they are #1.  The others can be #1, next.

Be present!

You cannot provide excellent customer service, when you are not mentally present with your customer.  You would be amazed at what wonders a little well-focused attention can do for the jaded customer.  I find myself often listening to customers rant about the crappy experience they previously had.  “I was on hold forever.” “This is my 3rd time calling about this problem.” “I’m having a terrible day!”  The fact that I simply let them talk proves to be enough to calm most people, and makes them more receptive.  We all want to be heard.  When you can satisfy that essential need, your customer can relax.

Your customer is not wasting your time rambling about their favorite tea or grandma’s garden.  They are giving you an opportunity to motivate them.  When a customer gives you a peek at what makes them tick, take note.  This is especially important with new customers.  This allows you to cultivate a lasting relationship with your best customers.  The next time that rambling customer calls on you, you will have an ice-breaker, a thoughtful thank you gift, or a tool for steering the customer in a direction that benefits both of you.  Your presence is a present.  Who doesn’t like presents?

Are we sure?

Do not assume you have every piece to the puzzle.  Do not assume anything.  Unforced errors can create exponential expenses and only a fraction of your productivity capability.  Take the time to review the order, measure three times, confirm the phone number or spelling of a name, confirm that you have all the parts, check the packing list, clarify the specifications.  There is not point to having a checklist, if you are not going to check the list.  Do whatever it takes to make certain your customer AND you have everything needed to complete the transaction.

If you can complete a transaction with 100% customer satisfaction, your customer becomes your marketing.  The key to giving quality customer service is to focus on the customer you are servicing.  Whether you have one customer or 1 Million customers- if your goal is to provide a quality experience- you absolutely MUST make every contact with your customers count.  And, that takes, as long as it takes.

Excellent customer service is always worth the wait.    -jd

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