The 10 Commandments of Customer Service

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I’ve spent my entire adult life in customer service. Whether working for a high-end tech company delivering internal product, or my local grocery as a client-facing checkout clerk, I’ve been serving customers for years.

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While every product or service is nuanced, the end-user will be much happier with the result if you’re able to integrate these 10 Commandments of Customer Service into your daily approach.

1. Listen

It seems like every post about customer service mentions listening, to the point where that saying about being “blue in the face” rings rue. But truthfully, there’s a good reason this seems to be the most prominent point in customer service discussions. Customer service employees still don’t listen to their customers. According to Harvard Business Review, 56% of customers have to re-explain an issue when speaking to customer service. In short: stop assuming you know exactly what your customer is going to say, because even if you know some of what they’re saying, you may miss a nuance that proves you’re part of the problem, not the solution.

2. Anticipate Your Customer’s Needs

For seven years, I worked as a server, and I think it’s one of the most difficult jobs to do well. Sure, you can deliver your table’s beverages and meals after they’ve ordered them, and you may even receive a solid tip for that service. But what separates a solid server from a fantastic server is the ability to anticipate needs.

Don’t spend your day just reacting to problems, spend your day seeking out ways to help your customer before they realize they need help. By exceeding and anticipating your customer’s needs, you’re building an emotional bond, which fosters loyalty.

3. Be Appreciative

A year ago, my husband ordered a pair of shoes from Zappos. The shoes arrived quickly, but to his dismay, were too large. He called Zappos where the rep apologized and said they’d overnight the correct size, along with a pre-paid return label to return the wrong shoes. He’d have been happy if they stopped there, but they didn’t.  

A few weeks later, the representative who helped sent him a handwritten thank you note expressing her appreciation. She and Zappos recognized that their customers are the reason they exist in a meaningful way.

4. Don’t Use Jargon

Comedian Eugene Mirman has a great bit about his awful experience with a particular airline and the issue with his purchase of an “L Class Ticket.”  (Disclaimer: adult language).

In the bit, Mirman comedically reveals several flaws in the airline’s process, but one that stuck out to me was the use of airline jargon. Your customer doesn’t understand all your internal categories and lingo, and they really don’t care. They don’t care why you can’t do something, and they don’t want to hear that they didn’t spend enough (especially on a product that might be expensive) to get the perk or accommodation they’re hoping to get. Explain the facts, but avoid the jargon. Your customer will thank you.

5. “Always Do More Than is Required of You”

Wise words from Gen. Patton.

My brand new apartment complex has 1GB internet, which I signed a new contract to get. Two days prior to moving, I found out that the high-speed internet wasn’t available for install the day it was supposed to be, because the demand for it is higher than the number of techs qualified to install it. The salesman apologized, and then bent over backwards to make it right, even spending an hour on the phone with corporate to find a solution. I later learned that was a problem the sales reps could pass off to someone else, but he did more than was required and secured my loyalty.

6. Be Friendly

Our moms always told us to be nice, and they were right. According to a survey by Harris Interactive, 73% of consumers say friendly customer service reps can make them fall in love with a brand. A little kindness and warmth can go a long way to securing happy and loyal customers.

7. Be Right, Not Quick

There’s little worse than being told the wrong thing after you’ve already had a negative experience. A 2013 customer experience survey revealed that 82% of customers view accuracy and quality of information as the most important attribute of customer experience. Make sure the answer you’re giving is right, not just speedy.

8. Focus on The Positive

“It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”

When Facebook changed the wording for “Hide/Mark as spam” to “I don’t want to see this,” engagement increased 58%. Small tweaks make a huge difference.

The lighting company Osram Sylvania discovered that using positive phrasing instead of negative can increase customer satisfaction up to 18.5%. Instead of only focusing on what you can’t do, or what has failed, focus on the service and solution you can provide.

So don’t just say “I don’t know,” or “We can’t do that.” Instead say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out for you” or “We can’t do that, but we can do this.”

9. Be The Solution

Few people who are upset about a product failure want to know whose fault it is that they’re experiencing frustration, they want to have their problem solved. Sometimes that requires transferring someone from one department to another, but often you can be the final solution for the customer, if you’re willing to stretch a little beyond your “job description.” If you’re able to solve a problem, even if it isn’t your “job,” do it. You’ll only buy more customer goodwill.

10. Be Empathetic

Products or services delivered poorly, or not at all, can be incredibly frustrating. We never quite know what else is going on in someone’s life besides their immediate problem that brought them to us. The empathy you offer a customer can not only help expedite the resolution of the conflict, but can also secure loyalty and happiness.

Conclusion

They’re not the most famous of the commandments, trekked down Mount Sinai by Moses himself. But they were hard won through my own blood, sweat, and tears serving customers in myriad industries and roles. Hopefully these 10 Customer Service Commandments have been helpful to you.

What customer service commandments did I miss? Let me know in the comments.

Looking for Customer Service software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Customer Service software solutions.

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About the Author

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Page Gerrick Denny

Page Gerrick Denny is currently a commercial lines underwriter for a publicly traded insurance carrier in Arizona. With eight years of experience in a variety of insurance roles with companies varying in size, she has learned the importance of providing caring service to all her customers.

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