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Expert Answers to Biz Questions

Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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The Biz Question

How do you deal with a long-term (pretty large account) customer, whose contact is incompetent? We've had to save this customer contact from her own mistakes many times, and so her work has gotten sloppier as a result. She also calls with late orders, after being told many times that it makes our life very difficult. The folks who have to deal with her give me a rough time during customer service training about this particular customer.

They ask me, "How far do we go for a customer?" When I reply, "As far as you need to." They scoff as if I don't understand real-life situations. Any concrete tips I can give them in the next training session?


Answer from our Guest Expert Donna Hall of The Right Answer, Customer Service Consultants

Dear Dave:

You're right! You need to always go the extra mile for any customer, no matter what! The true essence of customer service is showing off your four-star quality service all the time to all of your customers. Perk up the next training session with these tasty tips to help your staff blend better with your customers -- even the challenging ones.

Take the Bull by the Horns

Take a tip from Stevie, the "Wonder Bread Boy" -- "I just called to ask, are you ready to place your order today?" In essence, take the bull by the horns. Don't wait for this valued, albeit frustrating, customer to contact you. Instead, assign someone to reach out to her first. Because you know her track record, by calling her regularly or before an important deadline, you and your reps get some control on the situation. You're also in a better position to tackle any potential pitfalls before they can grow into full-blown problems.

Create a Friendly, Schmoozy Checklist

You've heard that old saying, "Put it in writing!" So consider putting together a checklist or packet of instructions for your client (s). Maybe this will help her get the procedures right. This way, she can look over your checklist, along with notes thanking her for her past business and consistent orders. She'll be impressed with such a thoughtful, forward-thinking, service-savvy organization.

Consider sending her friendly reminders about upcoming deadlines, special instructions, or needed info. Always end your written correspondence with an offer for further assistance. You want her to see your company as the top dog when it comes to building long-lasting relationships with its customers.

Serve up a Personalized Service Pro

Dave, some customers need a little more zing in their coffee than others. Is it possible to give this very large account customer her very own special customer service pro? Let her know she's a valued customer and her account is very important to you. How would she like her own special service pro to contact?

Now that would be taking personalized service seriously, wouldn't it? In the next training session, get together with everyone involved and discuss all the scenarios that have taken place with this special customer. I'm sure there are several pros among you who would relish the challenge of creating a special customer/client bond with this customer. In no time, I bet you'll soon be hearing what a delight it is to work with this client! Make her feel special while staying on top of her work and her deadlines.

What's Good for the Goose Is Good for the Gander

Finding creative and effective ways to deal with this challenging customer can help you create department service policies that will benefit all your customers. In your next training session, discuss how you let customers know when and how to get info to you. Ask questions like:

  • Why is this customer worth all the effort?
  • What's our policy on hard-to-work-with customers?
  • Should we provide more written instructions to all our customers?
  • Do we thank our customers for their business often enough?
  • How can we go the extra mile in every customer situation?
  • Did we go wrong somewhere to cause this situation?
  • What could we have done better?
  • Should all large account customers have their own personal service rep?

When you solve this customer's situation, you'll be even more ready for the next one, or better yet, you'll be able to nip potential problems in the bud.

Set the Example Yourself

Remember, empathy is a very useful and valuable characteristic when it comes to service finessing. Looking for a solution as opposed to simply focusing on a customer dilemma helps make you a bona-fide, problem-solving customer service pro. Being "Up with People" is what service is all about, so show your staff by your own deeds that it's cool (and less stressful) if they look for ways to resolve the problems they may be having with a customer.

By taking a challenge and turning it around, they'll come out on the winning end. And your organization will get a reputation for being aces when it comes to providing service that just can't be beat.

Donna Hall of The Right Answer

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