This One Customer Service Hack Will Keep Guests Coming Back


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We often view customer service through the lens of things we can do to improve the customer experience — things like staff service training, new ways for people to check out or pay, and techniques to close a service call. But what about the opposite? What can we remove from or change in our processes, procedures and operations that will make the customer experience better?

For instance, take any retail establishment. After shopping for a while, you arrive at the counter, and the checkout person asks, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” While this seems innocuous and is a very common practice amongst almost every retail transaction, is it helpful for customer service? Is this ask the right one, in the right context, and at the right time?

Related: 4 Ways to Provide Excellent Customer Service

Consider the question further. When you’re checking out, say, at a major retailer, your checker can’t act on the question they ask. If you said, “No, I couldn’t find X, Y, and Z,” what can they do? They can get on the intercom and call another person, requiring you to reiterate your need, and they must traipse off to find those items. If they decide to look them up to see if they’re in stock first, you must wait until they either identify that they are available or not and still waiting for them to retrieve them. The flow of the checkout process is interrupted, if not derailed.

In addition, you have a line of people behind you. If you stop to ask this question, and that process begins, the other customers are now delayed, and their checkout process is interrupted. Their customer experience is impacted. Alternatively, you may mention you couldn’t find the brand of shampoo you were looking for, and the cashier may simply respond with a shrug or “That’s too bad, I’ll let my manager know,” as they are again saddled with a long line of customers and have no method or mechanism to report it. The likely scenario is that the information never gets to the manager.

Related: Why AI Customer Service Will Get a Whole Lot Better in 2024

Maybe the product was out of stock. Maybe the store doesn’t carry it at all. But in the moment of being in the checkout line, there’s no way to identify instantly, which is the case, nor if there are alternative products the store carries that might address the customer’s need. In addition, there’s no opportunity for the store to identify and track these possibly repeated requests and identify how to add these items to store shelves. In essence, it’s quite a useless question. This example, amongst many other examples of terrible customer service habits that have become auto-pilot activities, is one of those you can simply remove at no cost and dramatically improve the customer experience.

Consider the litany of other useless questions and actions we take in the spirit of delivering “great customer service.” For instance, saying, “Your call is important to us – we will be with you shortly.” Or discussing on a phone recording all the ways customers can pay a bill online while waiting on the phone for a representative because they have a question about their bill. Or when a customer provides their information to an automated phone system, simply providing the same information over again to a live human.

Instead of examining all the things you can add to make the service experience amazing, start with identifying the things you can jettison. Why have a cashier ask a customer if they found everything they needed? It might be better suited to have someone on the floor by the cashier stands, asking customers if they found everything they needed before they start the checkout process. Instead of telling customers their call is important, don’t say it at all. Inform them about the actual length of the wait time, with the option for a call back at a time of their choosing.

Related: The 4-Step Secret to Exceptional Customer Service

When we consider what can be removed, it helps us focus on customers’ obstacles and frustrations, which likely include actions that we might automatically do because they’ve always been done that way. Looking at what steps and elements we can remove from the customer experience also helps us focus on making the things that count even better. We’re not distracted or wrapped up in protocol-driven platitudes, but rather actions and behaviors with a genuine, utilitarian impact. By eliminating the rote responses to customer needs, we enable our staff to become more genuine, have leeway to problem solve, and identify creative ways to impress and delight.

In short, we need to empower customer service staff to actively think and provide them with the tools and opportunities to act on their real-world observations and insights. We need to allow employees to identify actions that don’t work or don’t add value and toss them in the trash. We need to look at not just what we think might be courteous but also what the most beneficial statement or action is for the context of the customer. By applying the simple hack of eliminating actions that aren’t useful to customers, we can make the other things we do to deliver a great experience shine brighter.

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