Customer Service Reflections

By October 7, 2014design, process

I have come to realise my first job had possibly the greatest impact on my working life – and I am so glad that it did. I started work part-time while I was still in high school for a take-away pizza chain.

The training that I went through here formed an extremely solid basis for my customer service background. Other entry-level jobs I have had did not have a training program that was anything like this.

How does this all relate to branding? Customer service is the most important part of any brand. There is no point in investing in fun, innovative or creative branding or marketing campaigns if at first you don’t have solid customer service at the core.

I want to share two important acronyms I learned during my first job.

1. CHAMPS

CHAMPS was an acronym for:

  • Cleanliness
  • Hospitality
  • Accuracy
  • Maintenance
  • Product quality
  • Speed

It was the six customer service commandments. Each of these categories were broken down into further key points that were important to the entire company. To be a customer service champion you have to consider all of these pieces.

2. LAST

LAST was an acronym for dealing with complaints.

  • Listen
  • Apologise
  • Satisfy
  • Thank

Four important and basic steps which can also be used in day-to-day life and communications.

Listen

The most important step is the first – Listen. You must listen to what someone is saying – and not just hear them out, but really listen also understand. Let the customer talk and understand their position.

Apologise

The apology is also a way to show that you are understanding of the problem or issue; to calm the situation and start the process of working towards a solution. It must be a heartfelt apology (which will only be possible if you have first listened and understood the customer).

Some companies actively discourage employees from apologising as it can be seen as an admission of guilt. I disagree with this; the apology is important – but it does not need to be an admission of guilt. In difficult situations the apology can be simply: “I apologise for the miscommunication,” or “I am sorry you feel that way.”

Satisfy

If you have listened and then apologised accordingly, the satisfy step will be a breeze. You should have a clear understanding of the problem and be able to move towards a solution.

In some cases customers simply want their problem acknowledged – so by listening carefully, you have already provided a level of satisfaction. Fixing a communication issue, making something clear or even explaining why the issue occurred will lead to a mutual understanding; it doesn’t always have to be a freebie or discount on next purchase.

Thank

Thank the person. Even if the issue was not resolved there is always a reason to thank someone. Look for the positive, they have taken the time to raise an issue and discuss it with you. Thank them for their time and for bringing it to your attention. Maybe they have alerted you to a problem or suggested a change to your business.

Remembering LAST has helped me through many difficult situations. Breaking complex communication issues and conflict into simple steps.

There is one additional important step that I would like to add, and that is the follow-up. If you have listened and understood the customer’s problem and found a satisfying solution; then the follow-up will naturally occur. Being a compassionate person I always want to make sure that the same problems don’t happen to someone else. So fix it. Find a resolution, and make sure it is implemented.

I still use these acronyms each and every day. Every job has a customer service element or applications for these skills – from talking to your colleagues (internal customer service) to dealing with suppliers and consumers.

I have witnessed that dealing with a customer complaint is often the easiest way to win a customer for a lifetime. Handle the complaint with tact and use LAST, you will build last-ing relationships (see what I did there?).

Results

I have one example I would like to present in using LAST. As part of social media monitoring, I monitor online review websites for the brand. This is often a point where disgruntled customers will vent about experiences they have had. When a review was posted about a poor experience, I acted quickly and used LAST. The results speak for themselves, as the revised review reads:

It’s rare that I find myself revising my review of a business, but Jukebox deserved it.

I was initially dissatisfied with a set of (relatively expensive) business cards that came through blurry and a bit washed out looking. While the ordering process and customer service had been great, the product to me was not.

I put up a negative review, and within a few hours got a quick response from the company saying that they would look into what had happened. In the end, it turned out that the fault was primarily on my end; the files had not been prepared properly, and ultimately needed to be redesigned from the ground up…

I think this is a type of above and beyond customer service that we don’t often see nowadays, and warrants continued businesses — I know they’ll have mine and likely my organization’s going forward.

-Google+ review

I find that today I am applying this training across a long list of areas:

  • Client support
  • Project management
  • Problem solving
  • Networking
  • Conflict resolution
  • Team building
  • Business relationships

I was also lucky enough to work with some outstanding and encouraging managers in the pizza shop. I wasn’t as aware at the time, but I was surrounded by great management (that had their own training program). I learned a lot and look up to those manager still today as they continue to inspire me throughout my career. I was even selected for management traineeship myself.

Those are important customer service tools that I have used throughout my 14 years of working. I hope you have gained something from me sharing this. What was your first job and what did you learn from it?