Shep Hyken on the Freshdesk Blog

Customers Are People, Not Numbers

Written by on April 20, 2016

If we were to conduct a study to find out the least liked (but commonly used) statements in customer support, I believe this one would be near the top: “Your call is very important to us. Please hold for the next available agent.”

More often than not, the wait time following that recorded statement is long enough to make the caller wonder just how important he or she is to the company.

Another frustration is when you finally get through to customer support and they are impersonal and treat you like an account number. They seem to just be going through the motions as they unenthusiastically question you about your account number, Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, etc., before asking how they can help you.

I guess it basically comes down to an attitude of apathy. Which is exactly the opposite of what the caller wants to hear. The customer who calls with a problem or concern wants to know that someone cares, and after all, isn’t that the customer support rep’s job? They were hired to answer questions and solve problems — as well as other important responsibilities. They should:

1. Solve customer problems.

This lies at the heart of their job.

2. Serve as role models.

With a title like “Customer Support Professional” or something similar, they should deliver a great experience for the customers, and in doing so, they set the example for others in the company. Good behavior leads to more good behavior. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true, but an attitude of caring for the customers can be contagious, and passionate employees delivering excellent customer service can inspire others.

3. Be brand ambassadors.

Being a brand ambassador is a 24/7 job. It goes beyond working hours as the customer-focused employee is always looking for opportunities to promote his or her employer, and would never consider speaking badly of the company.

4. Make the customer feel important.

Every customer deserves to be treated with respect and attention. While any  given caller may not be the biggest or most important customer, the support professional should never make the customer feel anything less than important. And for the few minutes of interaction with the customer, the company representative should ideally make that customer feel as if he or she is the most important.

5. Restore confidence.

This one may be the most important of all. Solving customers’ problems is expected. The key is to do it in such a way that also restores confidence. That means with the right attitude and a sense of caring, empathy, and urgency.

Janet Poklemba, a customer experience manager for a home warranty company, shared her customer service mantra with me when we met at a recent conference. Her company sells home warranty policies, and customers call to request service when a covered item in their home needs to be repaired or replaced.

The mantra is simple and effective, and perfectly sums up what support reps should always keep in mind:

We are people helping people, not people processing claims.

Photo credit: Hand in Hand Foundation

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