She called asking a very simple question. Something seemed to be wrong with the paperwork and she needed to find out about the shipment. After talking for a few minutes, just as the conversation was drawing to a close, our customer service manager said point blank: “but this is not what you’re asking, is it?”
After a pause, she replied: “well, something is not right and I do not know what it is.” They then proceeded to talk some more, ask and answer questions, until they found the real reason why things weren’t going smoothly.
Customer service should be about service, and that is often done by staying in the conversation long enough to find out more than the caller is telling you. Why? Because especially in a b2b, but also in a b2c environment, the customer cannot always articulate exactly the real reason of dissatisfaction and because this is one more way you can touch you customers meaningfully.
Smart companies are in discovery mode all the time and hire people who can wear the explorer hat in all situations. Customers are notoriously poor at telling you what they will do in the future when asked directly. So you need to help them feel comfortable to come back with questions of their own by asking the right ones yourself. Here are some thoughts for consideration:
1. Are you measuring your solutions against the right problem?
As in the case with our manager, she had enough experience to know that the actual question posed was a reaction to a symptom and she needed to identify the cause. If she didn’t do that, she would continue to get calls and questions, use more of the customer’s time (and her own) and continue spinning her wheels on solving the wrong problem.
2. What’s the whole story?
We want to make the obvious connection with information, and we infer causality when there is none. Ask your customers to tell you the whole story and listen carefully. A great customer service person knows that she is not done until the customer gets to a ‘aha’ moment. And that’s the beginning of the meaningful question exchange.
3. Are you asking your questions the right way?
“What are the things you don’t like about our product?” is very different from “What things do you like least about our product?” When the order and the details of the question are wrong or inaccurate, your interpretation will fail. How you interpret the information you receive during your calls should be important.
In the course of your exploring, you will reach your moment of truth. It’s important to know which one it is because you may think you have a satisfied customer, when in fact this is only a temporary condition and in the long run satisfied doesn’t exactly equal loyal.
The moment of truth is also the point of real contact with your customers. A shift occurs and the two people on either side of the phone now view each other differently – from that point on, they are both on the same quest. The ‘aha’ is only the beginning, and that’s why I talk about conversations being the foundation of customer relationships.