LOGIN Request a call

How to Provide Exceptional Customer Service

Employee Management
February 17, 2021

About the Webinar

It’s a given: providing great customer service is the key to retaining clients and customers—and attracting new ones. And no matter how good your customer service is, there is always room for improvement. Watch our webinar, and learn where and how to up your game!  

Learn what customers want most from their service experiences and how to avoid getting off on the wrong foot. Plus, the seven habits of exceptional service reps (hint: they never forget the magic words).   

Plus, we’ll give you step-by-step solutions for dealing with difficult customers and saying “no” gracefully. If you work in customer service, you will be enlightened and inspired. Watch this webinar with your service team! 

What You Will Learn:

  • The difference between “good” and “GREAT!” service
  • Hallmarks of an exceptional service experience  
  • A playbook for handling difficult customers and situations

Contact VensureHR to Grow Your Business

Did you enjoy the webinar?

Share it with your community.

Providing Exceptional Customer Service
Play Video

About your Hosts

Robin Paggi

Robin Paggi

Training and Development Specialist

Robin Paggi is a human resource practitioner and trainer who bases her advice and training programs on real-world experiences. Her areas of expertise include team building, supervisory skills and communication. 

A California native, she holds an M.S. in Psychology, an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Human Resources, and an M.A. in Communication Studies. She is passionate about tackling pressing H.R. issues and dedicated to sharing her knowledge.

Providing Exceptional Customer Service

February 7, 2021 / 55:35:00

Emmet Ore

Well, hello and welcome, everyone. Thanks for being here today with us. I hope you’re all doing well and staying warm. My name is Emmet. I’m a marketing specialist at Vensure, and I’ll be your host for the next hour. Today, our panelist, Robin Paggi, will be talking about providing exceptional customer service. And as always, there will be a Q&A session at the end. So, we’ll do our best to answer all the questions that you guys have. But, if we don’t get to them, we’ll respond to those individually after the session. And as always, this webinar is brought to you by VensureHR, Vensure is the leader of 20-plus PEO partners with clients in all 50 states. Today, we’ll be going over factors that create a negative impression, what customers want, the basics of exceptional customer service, how to tell a customer no, how to handle a difficult customer, and lastly, we’ll have the Q&A session.

Robin Paggi

Okay, thank you, Emmet. Now, this might sound like a silly question, but why should anyone provide good customer service? According to a customer experience report, 86% of customers surveyed, stop doing business because of receiving poor customer service. I don’t know about you, if you care that much about whether you receive good customer service or not, but I do. And I have stopped doing business with a number of organizations as a result of receiving poor customer service from them. And I’m going to tell you about some of those stories during the presentation. But, I used to drive right by your grocery store to go to a different grocery store because I received better customer service at the one that was farther away from my house.

So, one of the things that we need to understand is that we probably are not working for a business that is the only organization that provides the goods and services that it does, meaning, chances are you’ve got competitors, and lots of competitors. And if you deliver poor customer service, chances are there is another business that does exactly what you do, that provides better service, and if so, you might lose your customers to them. So, we don’t want that.

Let’s begin with what not to do. Factors that create a negative impression. And we’ve heard about how important first impressions are, and one of the reasons they are is because our brains, once we’ve made a decision about something, is very difficult to undo that decision. And so, when people are encountering us for the first time, especially if we make them wait, then that casts a negative impression. Not saying please or thank you, poor nonverbal communication. Now, nonverbal communication is our facial expression and our body language, and it speaks very loudly. And so, when we are frowning or have our arms crossed, look mad, that type of thing, that casts a negative impression. Speaking loudly as if the person does not understand you or condescendingly, as if you are way smarter than that person. Not properly answering the phone or being transferred to lots of different people, or the call being dropped, and focusing on another task while serving the customer. Now, here’s my first example for you. I used to go into a little convenience store, and every time I went in there, the person who was waiting on me was on a phone call, and it was a personal phone call. They did not say anything to me during our transaction. They just completed the transaction while continuing on the phone. So, I gave them a couple of chances, because I thought, alright, well, maybe they had a really important call or what have you. But when I figured out that that was pretty much how they conducted business, I took my business elsewhere.

Now, I’m going to talk about each one of these elements in depth, in just a moment. So, just know that if you are engaging in any of these activities, there are really good psychological reasons that happen when you do so to the customer, that hopefully after hearing them, that will become a thing of the past for you.

So, let’s move on to the next slide and talk about what our customers want. Author Zig Ziglar, who is also a motivational speaker, said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” So what are they, what do you want? You want customers. And to get what you want, you need to give your customers, or potential customers, what they want. So, here is a list of things that customers want, and I’m going to go into these in detail. Now,

I got this information from the article, 10 Studies that Reveal What Customers Want You to Know about Them. And so, you might want to look that article up yourself so that you can get all of the details about it. But, in general, this is what customers want. They want you to know that you care about them, that you’re not just trying to make a sale. And how do you demonstrate that you care about them? Well, don’t try to sell them things that they don’t need.

Now, I’ll give you an example of clothes shopping. And guys, I don’t know if you have this experience, but ladies, probably every single one of you has had the experience that I have. When you go clothes shopping and you try something on, and you come out of the dressing room, and the sales people go, “Oh, that looks great on you,” when you know it doesn’t look great on you. And they’re just trying to make their sale and get their commission, and they don’t really care whether you look great or not. So, I have a good friend who worked in the clothing business for a long time, and one of the reason she was so successful for so many years is because she was honest with her clients. She wasn’t brutally honest, but she would tell them when things didn’t bring out the best of them or didn’t make them look the best that they could be. And they appreciated that honesty because it demonstrated that she cared.

Now, one of the things that people want is to be treated how they want to be treated. And chances are you’ve heard me say this before because this has been a common theme in February, because we’re talking about communication, and any time I talk about communication, I usually make the statement—don’t treat people how you want to be treated, treat them how they want to be treated. Now, I didn’t come up with this. Many years ago, I was a waitress and I was at a mandatory meeting one day and I saw a training video about customer service that stuck to, stuck with me ever since. And it is the message I have passed on since then. So, one of the things that I learned as a waitress is that I really need to read the customer to try to find out how they want me to wait on them. Assuming that they wanted the same treatment that I want, did not give me as many tips as I could have gotten, I found out after I watched that video.

So again, I work a lot with personality styles, and one that I have been talking about is the DISC personality profile, DISC. So, if you have tuned in before, here’s going to be a little repetition of what you’ve heard before. But, repetition is good, it helps us remember. So, how do people want to be treated?

Well, there is a personality style that is called the Dominants personality style. And you can recognize these people because they are direct, fast-paced, and that’s how they talk. They tend to be loud, too. They want to get right down to business. So, if you walk up to them and say, “Hi, how are you?” They’ll say, “Great,” now this is what I want. So, they don’t want to chitchat and they don’t like it when people try to chit chat with them, or joke around with them, or tell stories, or ask a lot of personal questions or things like that, that some people think is giving really good customer service. To them, they just want to get in and get out. And once they’ve made a decision, they don’t want you to ask them if they’re sure about what they’ve decided. And, so to treat this person how they want to be treated, speak quickly, get to the point, and provide concise summaries, rather than lots of details.

But then, there’s the Influence style, and they’re fast-paced, too. But these folks are friendly, and upbeat, and joking, and talkative, and they want to have a conversation with the people who are talking to them. They want to be excited about the product and they want you to be excited about the product, as well. They want to get to know you a little bit before buying, and so, they might ask some personal questions and tell you personal information about themselves. And they don’t want a lot of details about the product, that they want to be able to discuss their feelings and opinions about it. And so treating them how they want to be treated means being friendly, engaging in small talk before getting down to business, and being a responsive listener, which means reacting to their jokes and their stories in a friendly manner.

Then there’s the Steadiness style. And these folks are also friendly, but they tend to be more quiet and soft spoken than the previous style. And they have a very calm, gentle demeanor, and they are interested in building a relationship, too. But, they are also very interested in all of the details. They want to know about the dependability of the product or the service being sold. They’re cautious. And so, they, they want to make sure that they’re going to be taken care of with warranties. Treating them how they want to be treated means being thoughtful, genuine, providing details about warranties, and not pushing them into making a decision. They tend to be indecisive and need a lot of time to mull things over, and if pushed, then their answer will be no.

And then there’s the Compliance style. And they can be recognized by their stoic demeanor and slow, methodical pace. Like the Dominant style, they don’t like small talk or personal questions. They rely on logic to make their decisions, not gut instincts. And they’re openly skeptical. So, they’ll ask a lot of questions. And they are cautious decision-makers. They don’t want to be pressured, also. So giving them research, lots of research, and data, and facts in a calm, straightforward manner is what they want.

Now, you probably noticed that I changed how I talked while I was describing those personality styles, and I was trying to reflect how they like to be talked to. You’ve got the Dominants and the Influence, who are pretty fast-paced, and loose, and want to go. And then you’ve got the other two styles, where you really need to slow it down, calm it down, bring the energy level down, and provide much more information. So, learning how to read people, and how to switch small changes, just very small changes in order to give them what they need, is more than likely going to give you what you need. And I learned that as a waitress—when I learned how to read people better. When I began to change my approach based upon the signals that they were giving me, I got better tips, and that’s why I was going to work in the first place.

Alright. Now then, quality service, more than fast service. Now, we just talked about the fact that a lot of people just want to get in and out and people hate waiting. But here’s the thing, getting in and out is not as good as getting thorough, friendly service. So, yes, people do want to get in and out, but they don’t want to feel like they’re rushed. So, there is the quandary. How do I give thorough, friendly service and still get people in and out as quickly as I can? And so, that’s just a sweet spot that you’re going to have to find for yourself. Good service is better than fast service and both customer retention and satisfaction.

Loyalty programs. If you’ve got a Subway card or something like that, a Bom’s card, an Albertson’s card, or something like that, you’re probably part of a loyalty program. And customers like reward programs, but they’re much more likely to participate if the business uses something that’s called artificial advancement. So example, you go into Subway, you get a card and it says that you’ll get a stamp on it every time you come back. And after 10 stamps, you get a free sandwich. Well, if they give you the card with already a couple of stamps on there, that’s artificial advancement. And research has demonstrated, when you do that, then people are much more likely to continue coming back. Beginning a new task is difficult for a lot of people. Our brain automatically tries to sabotage us. But research has shown, that if part of the task is already done for us, that we’re much more likely to stick with it because we feel like we’re already in it. So, that’s artificial advancement. Also, as far as loyalty programs are concerned, this probably comes as no surprise, but if you’ve got a gold group, or a premium reward group, or something like that, people really like being part of a gold group, as long as there are people underneath them. So, if there’s only a gold group, people won’t like it as much. But if gold is better than the silver group and they’ve got people to look down on. Then they’ll like it much more. So, that tells us something about human behavior.

And the frugal wow’s. This is wowing a customer by a small, but very thoughtful action. So, that’s why it’s called frugal, because it doesn’t cost very much money. But, it does wow the customer. An example I read about happened at a company called Rackspace. An employee who is on the phone with a customer during a marathon troubleshooting session heard the customer tell somebody, in their background, that they were getting hungry. So, the employee put the customer on hold and ordered them a pizza. And about 30 minutes later, while they were still on the phone, there was a knock on the customer’s door that the employee heard. And the employee told the customer, go answer the door because it’s a pizza. The customer was wowed and it didn’t take much money to make it happen. So, while the cost of the gifts or the action is quite small, human beings cannot refuse a psychological construct that’s called reciprocity. Reciprocity is our natural inclination. When somebody does something nice for us, we do something nice in return. So, our brain is just wired to do it that way. And so, that’s one of the things that frugal wow’s helps with. You’re not spending much money on developing this feeling of reciprocity and people feel compelled to respond back. And an example of that is, that when you go to the mall and you’re walking around and people trying to spray you with perfume or give you a little packet of something. That’s because they know all about reciprocity. And they know that if they can’t spray you with perfume, then you will feel compelled to buy the perfume or at least engage with them. So, that’s what that’s about

Alright. Now we’re talking about personalization on the right-hand side of the slide. Customers will remember your business if you can remember their names. And so, remember,Cheers, you like to go where everybody knows your name? Well, that’s what that’s about. So, what is the sweetest sound we’ve ever heard? Our name. And research is demonstrating that people love hearing their name. And so, people tend to like you more if you can remember their name and use it a few times during conversations. But there’s a limit. I mean, you’ve probably been on the receiving end of this like I have, when somebody calls me up, “Hi, Robin. How are you? Good. Well, Robin, what I wanted to talk to you about today is, and Robin, what do you think about that? And Robin can we,” you know. So just a couple of times is good, but overkill then leads to the other result that you do not want. So, people often assume you are competent if you know their name. You can remember it, so that must mean you’re smart. And it’s a big part of our identity. So, if you can recall and use people’s names, they instantly like you better and they think that you are competent. Now, an example of those that I have, I, I like clothes and have a favorite place where I go in town. And one day my granddaughter was tagging along with me and she was probably 10 at the time, I guess. And so, I walked into my favorite store and the gals in there knew my name and, “Hey Robin, how are you? Haven’t seen you for a while,” et cetera. And my granddaughter looked at me and she said, “Noni, why do they know your name?” And I said, “Well, because I shop here a lot and they’re good at their jobs.”

So, next up is nice surprises. People like getting things for free and like them, even more, when they’re viewed as favors. But, they love receiving these favors as surprises. So, for example, Zappos. Did you know that Zappos automatically upgrades all purchases to priority shipping? You don’t have to do it, they automatically do it themselves, and they don’t even mention it, not on the sales or the checkout page. So, why should they do something like this if they’re not telling the customer that they’re doing something like that? Well, because the customer figures it out, and likes it even better because Zappos didn’t have to tell them about it. So, next-day delivery service is what Zappos provides. And what do they get in return? Happy customers who keep coming back. So, that kind of reciprocity is justified by about any cost. Sure, it cost money for Zappos to do next-day delivery, but that cost is multiplied when people come back and buy from them over and over again.

Now, then we have time more than savings, so we talked about time a lot. Here’s one of the things to consider, people want to save time more than they want to save money. So, think about beer commercials, and specifically like cheap beer commercials. So, I’m talking your Miller Lite. And no offense to those of you who like Miller Lite, but it’s an inexpensive beer. But, they don’t advertise the fact that it’s inexpensive and that you’ll save money by buying it. No. What is their big thing that they advertise? It’s Miller Time, and that is not an accident. Research reveals that selling time over money can make customers more receptive to buying. And the rationale is because time is a scarce resource. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. You can’t get it back. And therefore time is more meaningful to money. Now, we like our money, but if we lose our money, then we still have the opportunity to get our money back. But we can’t get time back. And how we spend our time says more about us than how we spend our money. So, if people think that a period of time is associated with a product, it’s Miller Time, then that can be much more effective than reminding them that they’re saving money.

And then finally, a memorable experience. Because we can get similar goods at similar places all over town, or all over the country, or all over the world. Businesses need to provide customers with a memorable experience to bring them back. And providing exceptional customer service leaves them with a good memory. Especially because it seems like not everyone is trying to provide exceptional customer service. A lot of people, it seems, aren’t even trying to provide good customer service. I don’t know about where you are, but before I was shut into my house for the last year out and about, it just seemed like people really don’t care about providing good customer service anymore. And so, exceptional customer service is just providing the things that I’m talking about.

So, let’s go on to the next slide, and let’s look at the basics of what I’m talking about. Now, when we talk about people want a memorable experience, where are, where have you gone that you’ve gotten a really memorable experience? If you said Disneyland or Disney World, then that’s no accident. That is what they try to do, is to provide a memorable experience, so people will continue to go back. And what I’m going to tell you now, the basics of customer service, is from Disney. And so Disney has a nice little book out on customer service, and they do customer service training all over the place. And this is what they train their people to do. Now, when you go to Disneyland, or Disney World, or what have you, it’s a different place, as you know. One of the things the, the employees are not called employees, they’re called cast members. And they go through extensive training, regardless of what their job is, even if it’s just to sweep up the trash along the way, extensive customer service, so they play the role of the perfect cast member. And this is, what the training that Disney provides. Now, if you just take a look at this, this is not rocket science. This is not new information that only Disney has figured out. This is just common sense stuff. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t do it.

So, I want to tell you about these things and I want to tell you the psychological reasons behind why each one of these things are important. So, first of all, making eye contact. A lack of eye contact demonstrates a lack of interest. It sends feelings of insecurity, deceit, annoyance, or general disliking from the ignored person. Now, one of the things we have to remember is that we live in a global community, and eye contact is different in the United States than it is in other areas of the world. There are some countries that making eye contact is a sign of disrespect. But in our country, it is a sign of disrespect if you are not looking at someone. And mostly that is because our culture has taught us that. If you were like me, you were taught to look at me when I am talking to you. And if you don’t, then that’s going to be a problem for you. So, that is why a lack of eye contact has such a psychological impact on us, because it goes against what our culture has taught us is the appropriate thing to do.

Now, I want to give you an example. I’m going to tell you a variety of my stories to demonstrate my point. I was at the grocery store and I approached a checkout stand at which the checker was involved in a personal conversation with the store’s security guard. So, the security guard was purchasing something, but the purchase was complete, and but the, the checker was involved in a conversation with him. And so, she just kept the conversation going while she began to ring up my groceries that I put on the conveyor belt. She didn’t make eye contact with me or acknowledge me until she had finished her conversation with her coworker, and then she turned her attention to me. Well, it was too late at that time.

I was an unhappy customer, and the reason for that is because I felt ignored. Now, you might be saying, but she was engaged in a conversation, it’s only the polite thing to do to finish up that conversation before you turn your attention to someone else. Not when it’s your coworker. And so that’s one of the things that customers have a difficult time with, is when you when they approach you, and you are continuing a conversation with a coworker before you get to that person. Well, what if you’re talking about business? You can talk about business later. And so, when the customer approaches, the conversation should cease and all the attention is on the customer.

Smiling. Experimental data shows that smiling is not only expected during formation of relationships, it is also necessary. And why is it necessary to smile at someone? Because that smile tells them immediately whether we are friend or foe.

So, that’s one of the things about us as humans. When we are approaching other people, we need to determine whether we’re going to get along with them or whether they’re going to be a problem for us. And our brain is designed to pick that up very early on, and it is designed to send us into the fight or flight syndrome if we think that person is a threat.

Smiling has, for ages and ages, demonstrated you don’t need to be afraid of me. Monkeys even smile at each other to demonstrate we are friend, so don’t hurt me. And so, one of the things that happens with smiling also is that when we smile, it makes endorphins released into our body. Endorphins are our happy drug. And so if you want to feel better about life, smile. Seriously, it’s that easy, because just, even if it’s a fake smile, just making the sides of your mouth go up, makes endorphins released in your body. And then the other thing is we go back to the reciprocity thing. Chances are when we smile at somebody, they’re going to smile back at us, and then that automatically makes them happy. And that’s what we want with our customers. We want them to be happy. So to help make them happy, smiling at them can go a long way.

And I know a lot of people are working from home right now, including me, and smiling when you’re on the phone or when you’re on a Zoom call, is also important because people can tell when you’re smiling or if you’re not smiling just by hearing your voice. So, that’s the aspect of smiling that we all need to keep in mind.

Alright. Greeting and welcoming each and every customer. Now, you probably walked into places like Subway or places like that. And by the way, I’m not endorsing Subway…I’m not an owner and I don’t get a kickback. It just come to mind. You go into a Subway store and they look up and say, “Hello,” or something like that. So, that might happen to you at various places. And that is very intentional because if you greet somebody right away, it automatically starts making them feel welcome. And if you do not greet them, and you don’t make eye contact with them, and you don’t smile at them, it’s like being snubbed. It’s, you remember how it is to be ignored, especially when we were at school and people would ignore us and how painful that is. Well, that is a real pain. It’s so, it’s such as real pain as physical pain is. Research has demonstrated that when we are snubbed, or isolated, or given the silent treatment, or anything like that, our brain reacts the same way as when we are punched in the stomach. And so, that’s one of the reasons it is so important to greet and just acknowledge people’s presence, so that they feel like they are connected. Hopefully, everybody understands how important human connection is because of this pandemic. I hope that’s one of the best lessons that we take out of this whole thing is how much we need to connect with other human beings. And so, remember that when we are going back into our workplaces, how important it is to acknowledge people just even through eye contact, if you can’t say hello.

Alright. Next up is seeking out customer contact. And so again, hard to do that when we’re on the phone and such. But, if you are in a physical space where your customers are, this means approaching customers to offer help instead of customers having to ask for it. So, here’s an example of what not to do. I was in an electronics store trying to buy a TV. So, I went there expressly for that purpose—I am buying a TV today. And I could not get anyone to wait on me. An employee rushed by while I was standing there in front of the TV I wanted and assured me that somebody would be right there. And after a few minutes, another employee told me the same thing. And so finally, a third employee approached me and asked, “What’s up?” Oh, okay. You know I was an unhappy customer at that point. Having to ask to be waited on was ridiculous, especially when I was about to spend hundreds of dollars. And then being treated so casually just added fuel to the fire. So, here’s one of the things about customer service as well. Different generations respond differently to what happens in customer service interactions, and one of the things, older people tend to want more formality, and younger people tend to be okay with less formality. This young person coming up to me and saying, “What’s up?”, was too informal for me. And so, that’s one of the things, when you’re reading people, age, their age can give you a clue as to how you should communicate with them.

Alright. So, provide immediate service recovery. That is the process of making things right after something has gone wrong with the customer’s experience. An experience I had at a local print shop illustrates a poor attempt at this process. I had ordered hundreds of bookmarks from a print shop and made arrangements to distribute them with some people who are in Rotary with me at a local elementary school. So, I ordered the bookmarks. I made arrangements. We’re going to go to this elementary school on Friday around noon, and we’re going to hand out these bookmarks. And so, when I placed the order, I was promised that it would be ready on Friday, and that’s the day we’re going to go deliver them. When I arrived Friday morning around 10:00, to pick them up, the order wasn’t ready. Okay, my bad. I should have asked for a specific time that it should be ready. But I told the print shop owner about my predicament, that I needed to be at the school by noon. It’s 10:00, I need to be there by noon. Could I get my order by noon? And he said my order would be completed that day as promised, but he couldn’t tell me when. So, I canceled with the school, canceled with my fellow Rotarians, and was embarrassed about having to do the whole thing. About an hour later, so this is 11:00, I received a call from the print shop telling me that my order was ready. I don’t know whether the owner felt bad after I left and decided to rush the order, or whether it would have naturally been completed by then. What I do know is that if he would have put in a little effort to find out when my order would be ready, I wouldn’t have had to cancel with everyone. And so, again, trying to recover a situation that has gone bad.

And another way of doing that is providing proactive communication. And proactive communication means, you know that something has gone wrong or could go wrong, and so you alert the customer about it before they find out about it. Now, here’s an example that happened that actually was a really good thing. I had taken a picture to a print shop. And I already had the frame and I already had the matting, I just wanted the business to insert the picture and provide the backing. Well, while completing the task, an employee accidentally nicked the matting that I had provided and created a little tear. And so when I went to pick the picture up, the employee told me about that, and she said, “Sorry about nicking this. And if you want us to provide you with new matting, we will do so at no charge.” I probably never would have even seen the nick in the matting, had she not told me about it. But the fact that she brought it to my attention, and then offered to replace it for free because it was their mistake, that got repeat business from me. So, alerting people letting them know that something can go wrong or did go wrong and that you’re trying to fix the problem will help immensely.

Now displaying appropriate body language at all times. As I said, our facial expression, our body language, even our tone of voice, is considered body language. And so not smiling, looking bored, looking upset, yawning loudly are examples of inappropriate body language, because it communicates something. It communicates negative messages to our customers, even when that’s not our intent whatsoever. That’s what people think because people read body language. And one of my favorite quotes is by Ralph Waldo Emerson. And the quote is, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” People believe what they see more than what they hear. And so, that’s why our body language is so important. For example, if somebody says to us, “Have a nice day,” do you believe them? No, of course you don’t. So, that’s why we really have to pay attention to what our facial expression, what our body language, and what our tone of voice is conveying, because that’s what people believe more than the words that we say.

And so, preserve the experience, and again, this is Disney who created this list. And to them, it’s the magical guest experience, always focusing on the positive rather than rules and regulations. And on that, I would say one of the ways to preserve a good customer service experience is don’t let your customers catch you talking badly about your employer, about your coworkers, or about your working environment. My niece was hospitalized, and when a nurse entered her room for the first time, my niece asked how the nurse was doing. And the nurse proceeded to tell her how awful her day had been because of her poor working environment. That’s not what you do. Your customers are not people that you tell that information to, and that’s preserving the magical experience.

And then thanking every customer. One of my favorite poor customer service stories happened at a bookstore. After silently handing me my change, the cashier pushed my purchase across the counter toward me and just looked at me. That was it. Never said a word to me. Just, here’s your change. Here is your magazine and be gone. She didn’t say, “Thank you, Have a nice day, don’t let the door hit you on your way out,” nothing. So I just stood there and I said to her, “No thank you?” And she asked, “Thank you for what?” She genuinely did not understand why she should thank me for shopping at the store where she was employed. So, again, bookstores. Bookstores are going out of business. You can get anything you want from Amazon. And so, when you provide a product or a service that lots of other people can provide, thank your customers for choosing you.

Alright. Let’s go on. Now, there are some times that you cannot provide the customer what they need. So, how do you tell them no? Well, seeing the word “no”, releases stress chemicals in our bodies, and hearing it releases even more chemicals, and by the way, saying it releases even more chemicals. So, you don’t want people to be stressed and you don’t want to be stressed. What you can do is turn the no into a yes, by focusing on what you can do for the customer, not what you can’t do. So try to avoid saying no as much as you possibly can. Here’s an example. If a customer asked me, “Can you get this to me today?” And I can’t, instead of saying, “No, I can’t,” I would say, “I can get it to you tomorrow.”

Alright, so focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do, and apologize when you need to, because there are just times that you’re not going to be able to turn that no into a yes. So, apologize for those situations. I’m sorry, that is not something I’m going to be able to do for you. But, as much as you possibly can, you try to figure out what you can do, because apologies only go so far. And explain the situation, as much as you can. Explain why something can’t happen or why it can’t happen right now. I mean, here’s a situation: my parents had arrived at a medical facility for something that my dad needed and the appointed time came and went without him being seen. But, while they waited, my parents are both there, while they waited, several patients who had arrived after they did came and went. And, so when my parents were finally seen, the medical examiner explained, “Oh, sorry for the wait. The equipment that we need to for your appointment was being fixed, and the other people who came and went, they didn’t need that equipment.” Okay, well, that’s a good explanation, but it would have been nice if they would have told him before then, because while he waited and all these people came and went, all he did was get much more frustrated. And so, he was very grumpy when they finally got to him. Had they just come out and explain the situation, then that would have alleviated the situation.

And the other thing is, don’t overcompensate. When you can’t do something for someone, don’t give them lots of free goodies to make up for the denied request. This sets a bad precedent that can end up costing you money in the long run. So, own up when there’s absolutely no way you can provide what the client wants, but try to do as much as you can to provide them with something.

Alright. And then let’s go to how to handle different, difficult customer because despite our best efforts, people are going to be difficult sometimes. And, I know because I am a difficult customer, you probably already figured that out. But, one of the reasons that I’m a difficult customer is because of the customer service I receive. So, what do you do with a person like me when they become difficult? Let’s move on.

Bill Gates said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” So, you definitely want to learn as much as you can from the experience. While the experience is happening, remaining calm. And I know that is very difficult to do, because one thing, when you get somebody in front of you who is upset, it is difficult to just remain calm. We feel attacked. We go into the fight or flight syndrome. But, you can’t run away and you can’t fight an unhappy customer. So, what you can do is just coat yourself, and get that little voice in your head telling you, “Remain calm, they’re not mad at you, they’re mad at the situation.” So, not taking it personally, they don’t even know you. So, they’re not getting mad at you, they’re getting mad at the situation. Use your best listening skills. Let the angry customer tell his or her stories without interruption. So, you might know what the situation is and all of that, but if you interrupt, you, it will make it seem like you are putting another barrier in front of them, and they will try to destroy that barrier by talking over you. So, focus on the customer. Don’t look at your watch, your phone, your computer, other people, and ensure your facial expression and body language, and tone of voice demonstrate that you understand the customer is upset. One of the worst things that you can do is smile at somebody who is mad and letting you know that they’re mad. And the reason for that is they think that you don’t get it. If you’re smiling at me, you do not understand how upset I am.

And so, I’m going to get even more upset, so that you do understand. So, have the appropriate facial expression of concern, empathy, and your tone of voice demonstrates that as well. Now, that doesn’t mean that you get upset, too. It just demonstrates that you understand their pain and you’re feeling it, too. Actively sympathize by repeating what the customer said, using a similar language is possible. So, just basically, okay, so to make sure I understand this correctly, this is what happened, et cetera. Apologize gracefully, even when it’s not your fault, and don’t throw one of your coworkers under the bus, while you’re at it. Just say, “I am so sorry that this has happened to you,” and then find a solution because that’s what they really want. So, just trying to figure out what we can do for you.

So, this happened to me. I was the difficult customer and I was having a situation with some folks. And when I was talking to somebody who was affiliated with the situation, she did this to me, exactly. I was talking to her about how these poor people had not done what they were supposed to do and whatever the issue was. And she listened to me intently and when I finished, she said, “I understand why you’re angry. They didn’t do this on time. They were supposed to do that and they didn’t do that,” and she just got angry with me and she said, “Alright, well, this is what I can do for you.” And that calmed me right down. And I knew she was using this little list on me while she was doing it. And a voice in my head was saying, right on, you know exactly how to handle this situation, so good for you. And so, as someone who has been on the receiving end of this little format, it works.

And then, after you have interacted with the difficult customer, and they have gone on their way, take a few minutes on your own and go walk around the block, because chances are you’ve got a whole lot of stress chemicals inside of you that if you don’t release them, they are just going to make you very unhappy. So, go take a walk, take some nice deep breaths, clear the air, talk about it to somebody if you need to, get it out of your system, and then go back to work.

Alright. So finally, I just want to tell you that providing exceptional customer service provides your business with the opportunity to continue to serve customers. So, that’s why we do it. That’s all I have for you. Do you have any questions for me?

Emmet Ore

Thanks, Robin. Looks like we do have a question here. I’ve heard the phrase, “the customer is always right.” Is the customer always right?

Robin Paggi

No. And, yeah, that’s one of the things that was really popular, the customer is always right. There are situations where the customer is being too demanding or being acting inappropriately. And because people have heard the term, the customer is always right, they’re afraid to do anything about it. The example that comes to mind, because I do so much harassment prevention training, that’s one of the things that I tell people in training, is that your customers don’t get to treat you however they want to treat you. And, if you have a customer who is treating you inappropriately, then it is important to tell somebody who can do something about it. And so, I’ve had people who were baffled at the fact that they could tell customers that they had to stop their inappropriate behavior, or send them away, or what have you. So, you want to distinguish between a difficult customer and an inappropriate customer. A difficult customer is one who is trying to tell you, “My needs are not being met, please do something about it.” That’s a difficult customer. An inappropriate customer is one who is saying or doing things that are violating our social norms, or workplace policies, or things like that. And so, just know the difference between the two. You don’t have to take everything from customers simply because they’re the customer.

Emmet Ore

Excellent. How would you advise someone who is very dry? What can someone do, or remind themselves to do, and do it when an enthusiastic attitude isn’t in their nature?

Robin Paggi

Well, that’s one of the things. We all have the different personality styles inside of us. It’s just that some come much more naturally to us than others do. And if we dig deep and practice, we can bring out those other styles. And so, I understand what it’s like to be somebody who has a dry personality style, and doesn’t like to chitchat, and smiling doesn’t come naturally, and all of that. And you need to work on it. And you need to work on it because of your own self-interest. So, it’s not being fake. One of the things I think Shakespeare said is, “Practice the part and you will become it.” And, one of the things I like to remind people is that when we go to work, we don’t get to be our natural selves. We have to be our professional selves and we act professionally. And sometimes it is an act. Now, it’s not necessarily being fake. Being fake to me means saying something like, “Emmet, I think you’re great in every way,” and then telling everybody else, “No, I don’t.” That’s being fake. But when I go to work, I need to be more smiley than comes naturally. I need to be more interactive, than comes naturally to me. And I do all of those things because that is a professional environment and I am paid to act professionally. So, interacting with my clients. I’m more patient than I want to be. I explain more than I want to. So, we do these things in order to get the results that we want. And when our employer pays us to get results, those are things we do to get results. So, I would tell that dry person, dig, dig deep and bring out the more smiley, the more communicative, the more interactive, the more whatever that’s hiding deep down there. And the more they do it, the easier it will be.

Emmet Ore

Excellent. Should there be no distinction in that internal and external client should be treated nearly identical?

Robin Paggi

Yes, I totally agree. Internal customer service. And so, that’s one of the things that sometimes people have a difficult time wrapping their head around, is that these aren’t my customers, these are my coworkers. Well, the way that I explain it is that your customer is someone that you need something from so that you can do your job, and your coworkers are people you need something from so that you can do your job. So, yes, I would treat external clients and internal clients the same, because they are all clients. So, and that’s one of the things I see people sometimes going to work and again, being their natural selves and thinking that they can talk to people however they want to. Well, you can, but you might have an unhappy consequence as a result of that.

Emmet Ore

During your TV purchasing experience, you mentioned that older folks should be spoken to with more formality than younger people. Can you please explain how this is not discrimination to treat one generation differently than another?

Robin Paggi

Yes, we communicate differently. And so, it’s not treating somebody differently, it’s communicating differently. And so, that’s one of, an example I give, is that when you’re talking to children, you probably don’t talk to them the same as you do to adults, you modify your style so that it’s more appropriate for them. And so, it’s the same thing with different generations, just like it is the same thing with different personality styles, et cetera. You don’t talk to your boss the same way that you probably talk to your best work friend. You don’t talk to your parents the same way that you talk to your buddies. And so, we change our style according to our audience. That’s what we’re supposed to do in order to get better results from them. So, it’s not treating them differently, it’s communicating with them differently.

Emmet Ore

Excellent. So how do you request good service when it hasn’t been provided?

Robin Paggi

How do you request a service when it has not been provided?

Emmet Ore

Yeah, I guess I’m understanding here that it’s, How do you request better service if it hasn’t been provided? You know, how would you? Yeah.

Robin Paggi

Ah. I give little mini-customer service workshops wherever I go, whether people want it or not. So, what I do is I ask to speak to a manager and I let a manager know in as nicely as a way as I can, because one of the things that because I’m a trainer. And so, when I am receiving poor customer service, I usually think it’s because people have not received the training that they need. And so, and that’s usually the case, because a lot of people don’t do like Disney does and spend six weeks on training people before they set them free in their theme parks. So, lots of people are just thrown right into a job without a lot of training. So to me, poor service equals poor training. So, I alert the manager that I think someone needs some additional training. And that’s what I did when I was in the bookstore, and I didn’t get a thank you from that gal. And, she didn’t understand why she should tell her customers, Thank you. I, I asked to speak to her manager and I told her manager that I think she needs some additional training. And the manager said, “Well, her last day is a couple days from now, so whatever.” But, that’s what I would do, when I’m not getting the service that I think I should be getting, then I alert somebody to the fact that they might want to invest in training for their crew.

Emmet Ore

How do you handle a situation when your marketing department always says yes, but the customer service sometimes has to say no?

Robin Paggi

Well, that is a common conflict between marketing and research and development, and sales, and customer service, and that type of thing. And that’s where the internal customer service really comes in, is being able to communicate with each other that we’re all on the same team. And if we are not able to deliver the service that you are saying we are going to be able to deliver, that’s going to hurt all of us. So, let’s work together so that we’re on the same timeline so that we can, as a unit, provide the best service we can to our clients.

Emmet Ore

Excellent. Okay, well, that’s all the questions we have and we’re just about out of time here. So, if you do have any other questions, just contact us at webinarhrhelp@vensure.com and we’ll get back to you. And, thank you once again for joining us today. Tune in next week for the last installment in the series on Communicating Like a Leader.

On Demand Virtual Webinar Library

Explore our ever-growing library of free webinars to stay up to date on current HR best practices, trends, and insights from human resource practitioners and industry experts.

Celebrating PEOs!

VensureHR joins the nationwide celebration, reflecting on an industry of excellence in providing payroll, employee benefits, compliance assistance, and HR services to thousands of SMBs across North America.

Tracking Convertion image