Have you ever encountered someone in the course of the day, while shopping or dining, that is providing service with, shall we say, less than an enthusiastic attitude? I’m not talking about even what many may think of as a “typical” retail mentality (no offense intended, I’ve previously worked in retail myself). Well, yesterday during lunch with a colleague, my customer service experience took on a whole other demeanor. At the time I couldn’t place it, but after a couple of hours, because the experience lingered in my mind, it came to me: I had met a human Eeyore! (Not a donkey, but you’ll understand in a moment.)
The “Animated” Eeyore
If you have ever had the opportunity to experience a Winnie-the-Pooh animated cartoon with the Eeyore character, then you may already have called to mind the character in animated—or not so “animated” —detail. Because Eeyore is not, to say the least, a lively character, he can at least be characterized as “stable.” When he speaks, his voice has neither highs nor lows. He doesn’t get excited. When he walks, he doesn’t hurry. You can’t imagine Eeyore running, yelling, or remotely being agitated. Eeyore is placid. If you have not heard the character’s voice, it is singsong, and almost as if he had no interest in what anyone’s decisions are—because they really wouldn’t affect his life. His general attitude is that there is nothing of any importance one way or the other; life would be miserable anyway, so what does it matter? (Think, “What would it matter to someone like me? Life is hard, so do what you want? I’m just going to watch and let things happen to me.”)
Eeyore the Likable and Effective Marketer—Say What?
Surprisingly, our human Eeyore was rather entertaining and likable as a customer service provider, perhaps because—much like his storybook character—he came across as somewhat endearing and idiosyncratic. His style certainly seemed effective as a means of selling additional products such as desserts and other “extras” without requiring additional effort in providing customer service (meaning attentiveness to the customer). This was quite remarkable when you think about it—the not-so-cuddly, not-so-friendly, and really somewhat negative style of a near-monotone voice with just a little “life” saying, “I’m here to take your order” but in a tone that really said “but I’m really not interested and I’d rather be somewhere else.” This actually came with lines and responses when asked about specials—again in a monotone voice: “Well, we don’t have specials, but I think I’m pretty special.” My lunch companion and I thought that either the guy is a closet comic or completely delusional. (Note: We actually decided that his mother would probably agree that he was special … let’s leave it at that.)
The Character of Customer Service
So, while some characters may work on an “exceptional” day when customers are in the mood for eccentric customer service team members, it isn’t a sound business practice to have a donkey (or any close relatives) serving the customers on regular basis (unless of course you are Disney!). So for those of us who need to provide outstanding customer service, where do we start?
- Become the customer: Do you like dealing with donkeys? No? You’re kidding. If you don’t like it, why expect your customer to?
- Follow the Golden Rule of Customer Service: Do unto your customer as you would have done unto you.
- Exercise care for the customer
- Customers may not always be right, but they are your customers
- Have respect for emotions, time, and contributions to your business
- Recognize customer needs
- Build relationships with your customers
– Acknowledge and recognize emotions
– Make it right
- Clarify the situation.
- Ask “What would you like to happen?
- Repair it
- Replace it
- Resolve it: Work with the customer, not against him/her
- If it is beyond your control, find out who is in control!
The Next Sound You Hear …
When it comes to the final analysis of your customer service, the sound you want to hear is a standing ovation and customers calling you and your team to give you more business—not “the business” if you know what I mean. What you don’t want to hear is the sound of customers stampeding out the door. Eeyore may be cute and effective for Disney, and funny upon occasion waiting tables, but a bit too blue to be a customer service “mascot.” So get some animation in your customer service, personify the characteristics that matter, put some zip in your step and a smile in your voice (and on your face), get out there and make the customer happy with your service and your business. They’ll thank you and your bottom line will thank you too.
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