The Customer Experience Series: How You Say It Matters More Than What You Say

Enough about leadership with this series for a while; let’s jump back onto the front lines.

Great customer service from a frontline employee comes from being aware: aware of your surroundings; aware of the rules; aware of your strengths; and, especially, aware of your customer.

What do you mean, aware?

Great poker players, salespeople and customer service reps all have a common trait: They can read people. Moreover, they use their ability to read others to benefit themselves by changing their own approaches when the opportunity arises. They are selfish and that’s not a bad thing in poker, sales or customer service.

Provided you’ve hired good people and you have good rules in place, when your frontline employees are selfish, their day goes a bit smoother. Their day goes a bit smoother, because issues didn’t escalate. Issues didn’t escalate, because they solved minor inconveniences before they could become issues.

They were aware of the customer and they ensured that tiny hurdles and miniature hassles didn’t become major events causing a bad customer experience.

Awareness includes ‘how’ you say something…

The typical employee response to customers inquiring about something outside the norm is to spout company rules in ways that create bad experiences. For example:

Customer: “I’m looking for Blue Widgets.”

Typical Employee: “Sorry, Blue Widgets are reserved for VIP Customers only.”

Ouch. Our frontline employee just told a potential customer why we cannot help them, instead of offering a way we might be able to help. We’ve taken someone wanting to spend money with us – someone who had a specific need that they felt we could solve – and we’ve turned them into an enemy of us and our alleged VIP program.

Let’s look at this same exchange when the frontline employee is aware of how they say things:

Customer: “I’m looking for Blue Widgets.”

Aware Employee: “Excellent. All I need is a little bit of information from you and you’ll become a VIP Customer eligible to purchase Blue Widgets.”

Both employees essentially said the same thing, right? You must be a VIP Customer in order to purchase Blue Widgets. But, the employee who was aware of the customer detailed how we could help the customer, not how we could not.

A subtle difference to most employees, but a huge difference to the customer.

Next up in the series: Prevention is 100% of the Cure.

(If you’re catching this series for the first time, you may want to begin with the first post in the series: Why Does Good Customer Service Matter?)

About TheManager:

Steve Stauning, creator of The Appointment Culture and an expert in The Customer Experience. He is also an extremely popular keynote speaker, writer, and industry consultant. Learn more about Steve at