So what can dealing with a toddler teach us about delivering better service to our customers? I’d like to share a few observations that I’ve garnered from my life with my spirited daughter.
1. No Yelling. Oftentimes, this seems like a no-brainer. But in the heat of the moment, whether it’s a screaming toddler or an upset customer, it’s extremely tempting to simply yell back. Instead, defuse a tense situation by putting the focus on the upset party. Sincerely apologize to them for their being upset. “I’m sorry you’re upset” doesn’t mean you think the party is in the right, but what it does do is go a long way to having them understand that they are being heard. From there, cooler heads can prevail.
2. Be Clear and Concise. When you’re going through a difficult situation or conversation with a customer, try a method that I’ve found to be successful when dealing with my daughter. Give them your full attention, empathize with what they’re feeling with a short but sincere response—such as “I’m sorry that happened”—and ask them (even though you know what you want the next step to be) what they want the next step or outcome to be. Rarely will you hear, “I don’t know.” Instead, you’ll get to the heart of the matter, and you’ll know whether you’re willing or able to fulfill that desired outcome. What you don’t want to do is give them the opportunity to dredge up every complaint and get more upset. Keep them on course with input like, “What I hear you saying is that you want . . .” and then offer the solution.
3. Set Expectations. While my daughter has a very “spirited” streak, we’ve set expectations for behavior to the point that many times she’ll put herself in “time-out” when she bucks the expected norms. Similarly, you’ll want to be as up front and considerate as you can be with your customers. Make sure you have transparent terms, conditions, and pricing for your product or service and display your hours of operation as well as the times and ways that customers can contact you. Be consistent in the manner in which you respond to your customers, not only via contact methods and timing, but also in terms of policies on how or whether you support or refund their purchases.
4. Context Is Everything. When my daughter was 3 years old, her daycare teacher announced to me one day—in front of a gaggle of parents picking up their children—that my daughter shared how much my husband L-O-V-E-S Dolly Parton. What? I admit that I shuffled us out the door, a bit red faced, as quickly as possible. On the way home, my daughter told me that the teacher was reading a “Dolly Parton” book with a “big picture of Dolly” on the cover during her “no-nap” time. The teacher asked her a number of questions, including, “Does Daddy like Dolly?” Mystery solved. In the same way, you’ll want to take the time to interpret the context of your customers’ feedback to help you understand their motivations. For example, on Facebook or Twitter a customer might say, “XYZ Company sucks.” Responding with a message like, “Thank you for your feedback. I’d like to help resolve the issue. Do you mind emailing me at email@example.com so I can help?” not only assists you in unearthing a potential issue with your product or support, but it also shows the greater readership that you’re taking the time to care about your customers.
5. Rewards Work. Positive feedback is something everyone enjoys. When my daughter uses her manners and helps me or others, I’m sure to praise her and tell her how proud I am of her. When there’s a behavior that I know takes a lot of work to achieve, I’ll reward her with a special treat or toy. In a similar fashion, make sure that you reward all of your customers by thanking them for their purchases, feedback, and other interactions that help your business succeed. Go the extra mile to allow them to interact with you, whether it’s via your website, a survey, a phone call, an email, or a social media channel. Finally, identify your best customers and reward them with special discounts, more specialized support, etc. That extra attention might just come back to you in the form of high praise and referrals. I know I love hearing “Mommy is the best!” . . . and I do what I can to keep my best customer happy.Google+