Making Your Customer First By Treating Them LAST
It might seem like a strange title but in this article we are going to look at a simple, foolproof and surefire way to both provide great customer service and deal effectively with any customer dissatisfaction.
Every customer service manual you read will tell you that the customer has to come first and I agree. But, what do you do when you have a dissatisfied customer? And how do you turn them from dissatisfied to happy? It is in these times when I would encourage you to treat the customer LAST. No, I don’t mean leave the customer till the end of your day. No, I don’t mean forget about the customer. What I mean is to follow a very simple customer service methodology which will resolve most (if not all) customer service difficulties.
Let’s look at what we mean when we say leave the customer till LAST. LAST means Listen, Ask, Solve and Thank.
When a customer has a complaint and is dissatisfied the first thing they want is to be heard. The number one complaint that customers have is that retailers or service providers simply don’t listen. You know yourself that when something is wrong, when you’ve got a complaint or when you’ve got a trouble, what you want to do is to share it. In the process of sharing, what you are really looking for is for someone to listen to you, you want to be heard. So the first step in the LAST methodology is to listen. Listen to what the customer is saying. Look for what the real issue is. As is so often the case in communication issues, the words with which the customer first presents, may in fact not be the real problem that they have. And that takes us to the next point.
The next point is to ask. The best way that you can let the customer know that you are listening to what they are saying and that you want to help them is to ask them questions. If you are not sure what the problem is, ask. There are a whole series of questions you can ask. They may be questions like: “What can I do to solve this problem for you?” “How can I make you feel better?” “What is it that troubles you the most about this?” Each of these is an open-ended question which requires more than a yes or no answer from the customer. By asking open ended questions you will more readily get to the crux of the issue and that will help you to better understand exactly how the customer is feeling and what it is that they are seeking.
Asking open ended questions also lets the customer know that they are being heard because it gives them an opportunity to see if you understand what they are saying and to provide you with more detailed information. Asking open ended questions will then enable you to move to the next stage.
The next stage is to solve. This is about taking charge of the situation and finding a solution which matches your business service ethic and customer satisfaction ethos and also keeps the customer satisfied. Great businesses have a ‘no customer leaves unhappy’ policy and those policies reap great rewards. So now that you have listened to the customer and asked the questions, you should be able to bring about a solution. If you can’t think of one single solution then it is okay to think of several and put them to the customer. You might say something like “Okay, there are a couple of things we can do here, we could do a, b or c, which one suits you best?” Once you have found a solution which matches your business ethos and keeps your customers satisfied then you are well on your way to completing the process. But, there is still one more step.
Now you need to thank your customer. It may be easy to think that if the customer has come to you with a problem and that you have solved it then the customer should thank you and, in most cases I am sure they will. What is important here though is to thank the customer for raising the issue with you. We all know that an unsatisfied customer will tell up to 10 times more people about their unsatisfactory experience than a satisfied customer will. For that reason, you need to thank the customer for raising the issue with you and for giving you the opportunity to be able to solve it rather than you never knowing there was a problem and them telling all of their friends and associates how unhappy they were in dealing with your business.
Great businesses use the LAST process and I encourage you to embrace it and make it part of not only your day to day business operations but more importantly, an integral part of your team training program. Otherwise, by default you may find your team applying the IFO principle (ignore and fob off)!