customer support operator is bombarded with questions and complaints

Contributed by AFFLINK.

Customer relations experts suggest that when a customer comes to you with a complaint, the best action to take is to apologize quickly and often. But, while apologizing quickly is usually warranted, a study from Harvard Business Review revealed that apologizing often can get us into trouble. 

To come to this conclusion, researchers videotaped more than 100 airport customer service representatives dealing with unhappy passengers, who had, for instance, had their luggage lost.

The researchers then categorized the tapes into two different groups:

•   One set of videotapes depicted customer service representatives apologizing throughout the customer interaction. They also showed the representative smiling and being cheerful throughout the interaction.

•   The other set showed the representatives apologizing once or twice, but that was all. Further, smiling and cheerfulness was replaced with a more serious, problem-solving attitude.

Here is what the study uncovered:

•   The representatives that expressed a great deal of empathy and tried to remain cheerful, did a poor job of satisfying the passengers. In fact, it backfired. Interviewed later, passengers indicated they did not believe the representative would promptly rectify the issue.

•   The second group did far better. These representatives focused on problem-solving and looking for solutions. Passengers said they felt confident their situation would be resolved.

So how can cleaning contractors and jan/san distributors use this study to improve their own client and customer relations?

According to Michael Wilson, vice president of marketing for AFFLINK, among them are the following:

•   Apologize at the beginning of the conversation and that is all. "The researchers suggest this should take place in the first seven seconds of the interaction."

•   Limit smiling and cheerfulness. Instead, move quickly into problem-solving.

•   Bring the customer into the problem solving process.

"Bringing the customer into the problem-solving process makes it a team approach," adds Wilson. "This also helps the customer feel their issue will be addressed promptly."