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The Soft Touch of Service Recovery

February 28, 2024 By The Siren Of Support Leave a comment

The only purchasing activity worse than car buying, is appliance shopping. The competing features are endless, the delivery takes eons, and the satisfaction doesn’t even come close to that of hopping in a new ride and taking off. 

Our dishwasher broke five months ago. I despised the idea of hunting for a replacement so deeply that it sat, broken, in its cubby under the sink. We battled the dishes by hand through holiday feasts, major baking episodes, and daily life. By we, I mostly mean my husband, as he took over dish duty with no complaints. While he silently did the dishes day in, and day out, he was clearly worn out by the endless piles. He took the initiative (mostly due to dry hands and the never ending sink full) to shop for, purchase from a major big box store, arrange delivery, and install our dishwasher. 

The sparkly new dishwasher is quite impressive, it even resists fingerprints and has adjustable shelves. The dishwasher is perfect other than the fact that we received a manufacturer’s defect that worked for fifteen minutes and fried. Two days later and we have no resolution. Partly due to the weekend, but mostly because we got stuck in an automated phone queue from hell only to find out there was no one available to assist.  

While the whole experience was less than ideal, one good thing came from it. My brother and I were afforded a much needed bonding conversation where he was very forthcoming about his appliance purchasing experiences. 

Nick’s story is different from mine. He only buys appliances from a small local store who employs a reportedly wonderful representative named Amy.  During the call with my brother the quote that prompted this article was quite impactful, and a little funny. 

“I just call Amy when I have a problem, she always handles it. I’d rather pay a little more than I would somewhere else since she makes me feel special even though I’m probably the eighth idiot who knows nothing about anything that she’s talked to today”. 

Amy allows my brother to feel a bit less mentally impaired, makes him feel like he’s not just another caller, and never fails to provide a solution. 

Service and support issues are present in any industry, from mass merchants to mass transit, e-commerce to electronics and appliances to automotive. A margin of error is anticipated when utilizing man made products. Defects happen, it is inevitable. However, it is not that bad things sometimes happen, it’s how we as businesses respond and resolve the situations.

While we can’t all hire Amy, what can we do to provide that higher level of service recovery to our customers?

Never Talk Down: The everyday consumer typically knows less about the specifics of your product than the person providing support for it. As the representative it is their job to be the expert, yet remain humble and kind and not make the caller feel “stupid”. Do not allow one to demean or belittle the knowledge of the customer. They may know more than you think. They may be sensitive to your degrading tone of voice. The risk of losing a customer is worth grabbing onto every ounce of patience within reach. Remain calm, act as an equal, and be open to conversation. Never accuse blindly, and if you must provide correction, do so respectfully and with grace.  

More Than An Order Number: I am not Invoice number 78541154, I am Sari, and I have a problem. Treat each caller as an individual. While the service reps are potentially answering hundreds of calls a day, the only caller that matters is the one that is on the line now. Be present, use their name, and be sure to thank them for their business. Unless you are a producer of a one of a kind product and have the monopoly on it, your customer has other options. Pricing, previous problems, and product availability become less of a make it or break sales decision when your customer simply likes to buy from you. 

Solve the Problem with Confidence: Sometimes an answer is simply “I don’t know”, as long as it is followed with, “but I will find out and call you back”. Conversations that provide more questions than answers leave a customer feeling hopeless and insecure. The insecurity leads to frustration and fear. Present solutions with confidence and assure the customer they are in good hands. 

As I sit here and catch the sun’s reflection off of my new unusable machine I can only hope that Amy’s twin service sister answers our call.

In the meantime, I’ll just make sure to keep the dish rags clean and the hand lotion in stock.

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