There is a gaping chasm between what it takes to keep customers satisfied and loyal and what actually happens. Why?
Good customer service starts with the customer service representative. But not every employee hired to manage customer dissatisfaction is suited to the task.
The reasons for customer dissatisfaction are as varied as the people complaining. Yet, many customer service representatives address all problems the same way. For good customer service, cookie-cutter tactics don’t work. Sure, it’s fine to teach people to be “nice” and “good listeners.” Customer service goes beyond a friendly smile and answering all phone calls within three rings. Excellent customer service starts with speaking to each customer in a “language” he or she finds engaging.
By way of example, let’s look at four responses to a customer complaint. Each scenario represents one of the four behavioral styles identified through DISC testing for employees. Remember DISC? It’s the “universal language” of communication and assessed through CriteriaOne DISC testing for employees. As you read, try to visualize each scenario. Recognize the participants? Remember, each employee believes the response given the appropriate one.
We start with the first of the four behavioral styles: D style, the assertive employee. “Just tell me the problem and I’ll take care of it right now,” says the employee with a high “D” behavioral style. No beating around the bush. On the plus side, high D employees listen to the complaint and quickly offer a solution. This person is perfect when customer service means getting to the point, fixing the problem, and moving on to the next customer. But bear in mind that assertive behavioral type employees are impatient and relationship building is secondary to fixing the problem. Never put an employee who exhibits high “D” behavior across the counter from the customer who wants to vent. If you do, this customer service representative may cut-off the customer mid-rant. An explanation may come across as an excuse, with an apology that seems insincere. “Oh yeh, I’m sorry too” sounds more like one more thing on the checklist even if the intentions are straight from the heart. Remember, DISC is a language and two-thirds of the population hear an abrupt “tell me what you want me to do to the fix your problem” as cold and un-empathetic.
Let’s move on to the second of the four behavioral styles: the “I” behavioral type. “I” represents the influencer. This customer service representative offers explanations, over and over again. It’s next to impossible for a customer, who is lucky to get a word in edgewise, to vent. The influencer offers assurances, often not knowing if the promises can be fulfilled. Influencers measure results by good intentions. They trade on creating relationships, sharing personal information as a routine part of a customer service call. When the conversation winds down, the Influencer may have to ask a customer to restate the problem. “I’m sorry, what was your problem again?” she says. “I have had so much fun talking; I forgot to write it down.” As an employer, you have to make a choice. Do you want customer service staff to satisfy customer complaints or make friends with disgruntled customers? “I” behavioral types often are the naturals at communicating but the least likely to track the details and follow through, without a conscious effort to do so. Apologies sound like, “I can’t believe this happened to you too. I had the very same problem.” High I’s generally tell stories about themselves, hoping that company relieves the misery of customer dissatisfaction.
The next of the four behavioral styles is the “S” behavioral type, born to serve mankind, or so it appears. This person gets energy from cooperation. She is easy going, reserved, and listens well; a behavioral style most compatible with customers who need to vent.
The “S” behavioral type employee easily builds endorsement, making it comfortable for an unhappy customer to speak freely. “Have we (note “we”, not “I”) successfully resolved your problem?”, asks the high “S” behavioral type employee. This person gets energy from bringing closure to what she starts, so follow-up is a natural extension of a service call. However, this behavioral style is exhausted by confrontation and may go to great lengths to avoid any type of conflict. An irate, demanding, verging-on-hysteria customer eventually gets to the high “S” customer service representative who simply wants to resolve the problem and close the file. Open projects and unattended files in the inbox frustrate a high “S” employee. Apologies from the high S appear the most sincere and honest when they say “I really wish this never happened and I’ll do whatever I can to make this right.” And most people believe them, too.
The last of the four behavioral styles is the “C” behavioral type, as identified by CriteriaOne DISC. High “C” behavioral type employees are evaluators. They need to understand everything about everything. The employee with this behavioral style makes sure the problem never happens again. He provides a minutely detailed product history including product evolution and repair record. This customer service representative believes failure to read directions is the root cause of most problems. Skeptical to the core, the high “C” employee goes through instructions line-by-line to rule out operator error. He may ask a complaining customer to answer detailed questions to ensure that he gets all the facts. Because accuracy is important, questions must be answered in order. This customer service representative may want to assign blame, although it’s important that the right person (who may be the customer) or department be identified as the culprit. The high “C” behavioral type offers an apology after identifying the problem’s cause and only if one is warranted. If an apology is offered, expect conditions and contingencies, and assurances couched with “there really are no guarantees in life.” When you are finished complaining to the high C agent, you’re comfortable the company has the whole story but not sure anything will change.
So, which of the four behavioral styles is the best for customer service? The simple answer is the best style is SITUATIONAL. Flexibility is the essential core competency required from customer service employees. Interpersonal skills, listening skills, emotional stability, organization, and follow through are important, too. Good analytical and root cause analysis skills don’t hurt either. The key is the best customer service employees intuitively understand which skills to apply at the right time and with the right intensity. That’s how using DISC testing for employees can help a manager determine which employees are the best natural customer service fit, if they will be motivated by helping people and solving problems, and how they will relate to different customer styles.
How crucial is putting the right people in customer service jobs? You tell me. More than half of all dissatisfied customers decide against doing business with the company again. Ninety percent admit to complaining about the experience to friends, family, neighbors and anyone else willing to listen. The take home lesson for business owners is that dissatisfied customers WILL vent. It’s up to the employer then to choose the listener – will it be to an employee or another customer or prospect?