Customer Service is the Top Priority of Your Service Desk

Business team working on computers and wearing headsets in call center.jpeg  This entry is written as part of "The End User Advocate" blog series, an informal examination of IT processes and the people who interact with them.

Across the modern enterprise, we hear a lot about customer service. It's in our company mission statements, service level agreements, and the ideology that is prominently displayed on our website. Yet for all the technological innovations designed to service our customers, often times the real motivation behind their deployment is not improved satisfaction but cost reduction.

I'm not implying you can't reduce cost and improve customer service at the same time, but cost reduction is the primary motivation with the hope of improved customer service as the result. We all know a good customer service experience when we have a positive result, but in complex organizations there is difficultly to duplicate and systemitize. There's clearly no silver bullet but there are some tips that no matter what technology is in use, good customer experience can improve interactions with your end user experience.

I was reminded of a couple great posts by Mike Michalowic, a serial entrepeneur who founded several multi-million dollar companies. While not in the ITSM space directly, there are many of his insights to be univerisally applicable for effective customer service.

Michalowic recently wrote a blog, "4 Phrases of Amazing Customer Service", where he discusses simple verbiage staff will forget to say as part of a service interaction. "I don't know but this is what I'm going to do..." sounds simple on the service but the key is that the response is both an admission and an action. It's easy to figure out when someone doesn't know the answer, so instead of bluffing your way through an interaction, admit you don't know the answer and take action regarding how you're going to find the anwser.

The following phrases, "I am very sorry" and "Is there anything else I can do for you?" both express empathy. The key to expressing your action is to make sure you performed the action to begin with! I can't tell you how many times I've had people ask if there was anything else they could do for me when there was no resolution to the initial problem. (And in my opinion, that's just frustrating.)

Finally, Michalowic advocates using the word "yes." I think there's nothing more frustrating when asking for support and I'm told that nothing can be done to resolve the issue. I'm not saying that you should cave to every customer demand, but I am saying that many times "no" or "can't" is an issue of enablement, not ability. Is the service desk staff equipped to resolve issues or make excuses for them?

50 Questions for Building ITSM Requirements

In another article, "The 51 Best Customer Service Tips For Entrepreneurs", Mike shares many excellent suggestions that I believe to be universally applicable. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Use active listening. One of the best experiences customers can have is knowing that they are understood. It is essential to listen to your customers. Let them know you have heard and understood their need by effectively rephrasing and communicating what they have told you. This ensures that you and the customer are on the same page while also letting the customers know that their voices have been heard. It is a win-win situation!

2. Let them rest assured. Customers want to feel confident in your ability to guide them through the fray. Let them know that you have their best interest in mind. Be present, communicate often and always follow through.

3. Dump the script. The thing about scripts is that they can be memorized. You know the essence of what you should say, now you need to customize your response so that it addresses the specific needs and desires of your customer. The only way to do that is to listen and respond to the conversation at hand. Get off the script, and get engaged.

4. Use a pleasant tone. Sound like you love it! You should sound like you enjoy what you do and you are ready to do business. Keep your tone energetic, crisp and clear. Speak at a moderate pace - not too fast and not too slow. Be interested.

5. Please and thank you. Good manners will take you far in small business. There's nothing wrong with being effective and a pleasure. Be a little ball of sunshine to your customers and let them know by actively expressing that you value them. Thank them for calling, and be grateful for the opportunity to interact with your customers.

6. No waiting. Never leave your customer on hold for more than 30 seconds. If the interruption is that important, take down your customer's phone number and get right back to them as soon as you are done putting out whatever fire caused you to eject from the conversation in the first place.

7. Follow up. Whenever handling customer complaints, always follow up after the complaint has been resolved. Follow through on all commitments. (Automated emails can help keep the customer in the know)

8. Remember the other 93%. It is said that communication is only 7% verbal. The rest is tone of voice and body language. When you're communicating digitally, you have to remember that your tone won't be captured with one or two word answers. Take some time to flesh out a response that does a better job of creating a positive customer experience. When you meet in person, watch your tone and body language and pay attention to your customer's tone and body language as well. (Oh, but you are on the phone, you say. Well, smile, because your customers can "hear" it.)

Let me know how you help your staff improve their customer service in the comments below, because excellent customer service is exactly what every Service Desk should be trying to achieve your end users.

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