4 Secrets For Getting Awesome Customer Service


“You’ll have to wait.” “It’s our policy.” “We can’t do that.” “We’re kinda busy right now.” We all know the familiar sounds of bad or mediocre service about to happen. We cringe and suddenly feel the irony of being the sufferer while at the same time being the source of revenue!

Thousands of articles have been written on how to deliver excellent service to customers. Unfortunately, far fewer have written about the other side of the relationship—how to ensure you, as the customer, receive excellent service. Time-tested practices can land you the best table at a restaurant, an upgraded hotel room, or expedited service from the contact center agent. I asked seven world-famous customer experience gurus to share their secrets for being well served. Their counsel proves it is no accident; it is carefully crafted with a heavy focus on nurturing a great relationship. Here are four secrets for getting awesome treatment.

1. Be the Attitude You Want to Receive

Enter the service encounter with the expectation that greatness is about to happen, and it should happen to you. Visualize being served well. Then, let your upbeat attitude and confident expectations come from that terrific mental picture. Avoid making demands. Instead, put your energy into creating a lighthearted, authentic connection. “Kindness begets kindness,” says Shep Hyken, author of I’ll Be Back. “How you start a conversation, being friendly and respectful, gives you the best chance at ending the conversation with the results you want.

Remember what your mom taught you about first impressions? Those first ten seconds are crucial to influencing the reception you will receive. Provide a Steinway smile and your best eye contact. Let your initial greeting telegraph a warm and unmistakable message of joy and ease. Optimism is infectious. Help your service provider view you as a trusted friend, not a cranky customer eager to complain.

2. Be Crystal Clear About Your Expectations

“It’s remarkable how often people complain about ‘not getting what they wanted,'” says Jay Baer, author of Talk Triggers. “Yet, the way they articulate their desire was like a stream-of-consciousness poem recited in a beatnik coffee shop after three espressos. Before you ask for anything from a service provider, practice how you will say it. So many service ‘deficiencies’ can be avoided with more precise phrasing from the customer.”

Communicate more than a mere request for a specific task. Make sure the service person knows the result you hope to achieve. Imagine arriving at a restaurant, for example. You could leave it to chance what table you get. Or, you could say, “I would like your most romantic table…one with a view, quiet, and away from the traffic flow. And your best wait staff person would be a plus!” It always helps to add a personal touch to your requests. “Express genuine interest in the service staff by being observant and using names,” says Steve Curtin, author of The Revelation Conversation. “As a transaction concludes, I might say, ‘Thank you, Kelsey. I appreciate your help.'”

3. Help the Service Provider Deliver Greatness

Most service people want to give excellent service, but barriers sometimes can make it difficult. Be a willing helper in negotiating obstacles. If the barrier is a foul mood, try a quick tease or a sincere compliment to turn sour into sunny. If the barrier is a silly policy, offer an inventive suggestion that helps you get what you want without putting the service person at risk. But remember, sometimes a “no” is an unshakable “no!” Be assertive but never pushy or aggressive. Use your best manners—”please,” “sirs,” and “thank you’s.” A chilly initial reception will generally thaw if you are persistent in your cheerfulness.

“Show empathy towards service providers, especially when they are understaffed and dealing with difficult situations,” advises Marilyn Suttle, author of Whose Your Gladys? Jeff Toister, The Service Culture Handbook’s author, suggests asking service providers for advice. “It leads to better service for two reasons. First, it demonstrates respect for their expertise, which makes employees feel good. Second, employees often have special insights that can help you have a better experience.”

4. Always Lace Your Encounters with Affirmation

Ron Kaufman, the author of Uplifting Service, offers this advice: “Start by sharing your name and asking theirs with genuine curiosity. That might sound like, ‘Hello George, I appreciate your help today. Thank you for taking a moment to help me.’ During the interaction, listen for what this person needs to know and try to provide that in whatever sequence and level of detail they need to help you. If you have background information or details about the situation, let them know and ask first if it will be helpful. Service providers are people, just like the rest of us. They appreciate being treated like real people.”

“Whoever you speak with has a life, with worries and concerns, just like you. And they deserve dignity and respect, just like you,” advises Jeanne Bliss, author of Would You Do that to Your Mother? “If by chance they can’t get you the outcome you want, let them know that you know they’ve done their best. They may be hamstrung by rules they don’t agree with or love, just like you. Always take good care of the human on the other end of the service relationship.”

Never view a service encounter as a single transaction but rather the start of an important relationship. Assume you’ll be back and be generous in expressing your gratitude for great service. Praise service people to their superiors. Follow up with a note or call. The next time you return, you’ll get their red carpet best!

Don’t wait for outstanding service to come to you. Instead, take charge of elevating the encounter from “pretty good” to “I wouldn’t go anywhere else.” Servers like great customers just as much as customers like great servers. Serve from your heart and you will be served in the same fashion.

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