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How to Deal With Customers

Customers are the life blood of any business. Without a sufficient number of customers a business can't make a profit. If a business can't make a profit, they have no need for you as an employee. The short version of this is; no customers - no job.

In a customers eyes, you are the company. In actuality, you are a representative of the company and anything you say and any commitments you make are legally binding to the company. If a customer is having a problem with your company's product or service, even though it's not your fault, you should offer an apology on behalf of the company and offer to do what you can to solve the problem.

Example: "I'm sorry the logo fell off the tail gate of your brand new ford truck. Let me see if I can get someone to snap a new one in for you right away."

The most important thing when dealing with customers is to have good listening skills. An important part of listening is to reflect back what a customer tells you, and if the customer is expressing any feelings about their problem, it's important to recognize those feelings.

Example:

Customer: "I bought a new ford truck last year, and this is the third time the logo has fallen off the tail gate."

Employee: "This is the third time the logo has fallen off the tail gate of your truck that you bought just last year. That must be annoying. I'll put a note on your ticket that this is the third time this has happened".

One problem when dealing with customers is that you never know how much knowledge they have. Some customers may have more knowledge about your product or service than you have. Another customer you may not understand a thing you say. If a customer doesn't understand what you're telling them, just keep repeating it in simpler and simpler terms.

Example:

Customer: "Why does it cost $500 to replace a simple seal?"

Employee: "It cost so much because they have to pull the transmission to get to the seal."

Customer: "I still don't understand why it costs so much to replace a simple seal."

Employee: "Yes, the seal is simple, but to get to it you have to pull the transmission, and, to pull the transmission we have to remove the drive shaft."

Customer: "There's nothing wrong with the drive shaft".

Employee: "True, there's nothing wrong with the drive shaft, but there isn't enough room to get the transmission out without removing the drive shaft, and you can't get to the transmission main seal without backing up the transmission because the seal is on a pump inside the transmission bell housing."

This dialog could continue on until the customer finally understands all the work that must to be done to replace a transmission main seal, justifying the high cost.

Then there's the customer who has their own ideas about things. Sometimes you just have to pacify them, while explaining that the company only does things the company approved way.

Example:

Customer: "I'm not going to pay $500 to replace a simple seal when all you have to do is dump a can of sealer in there."

Employee: "I understand what you're saying, but company studies have shown that sealer plugs up valves in the transmission while not reliably stopping leaks, so we don't use sealer, we only do seal replacements."

You may be familiar with the words "sympathy" and "empathy". Sympathy is feeling compassion for another person. Sympathy is good. Empathy is experiencing the feelings of another person. In other words, putting yourself in that persons place. Empathy is better. Empathy is what you need when dealing with customers.

One important part of empathy is having respect for the customers time. Sure, you're getting paid by the hour, so you have all the time in the world. But the customer is on their free time. You wouldn't want someone wasting your free time, would you?

So when a customer comes in, get off your cell phone, exit your chat session with fellow employees, and stop munching on those Cheetos. Focus on the customer.

Customers are always in a hurry, and they are very unhappy when they have to wait in line. Do you like standing in line wasting your free time waiting for service? There's that empathy again.

When there is a line of customers, sometimes a complication arises when dealing with a customer. There should be a procedure for putting that customer to the side for a moment to serve the next customer in line, until the first customer's complication is resolved.

Another problem arises when, as a customer approaches the desk, the phone rings with another customer. There should be a procedure for dealing with phone customers relative to in-person customers. I feel that in-person customers should have priority over phone customers, after all the in-person customer took the time to come in person, whereas the phone customer is sitting comfortably at home.

So if there's a tie, you should answer the phone (so it doesn't keep ringing) and put the phone customer on hold. Then serve any customers who arrived at the desk before the phone rang.

Example: "Hello. Hilltop Ford. Can you hold while I finsh with my desk customer?"

Example: "Hello. Hilltop Ford. I have a line at the desk, would you mind calling back in ten minutes?".

A problem can also arise when one customer wants to ask a thousand questions or hold a long conversation while another customer is waiting. I feel that after helping a customer for a reasonable amount of time, say five minutes, you need to say, "excuse me while I check on this other customer". If they can't release you from their long conversation for a minute to take care of a waiting customer, then you're not dealing with a person who deserves your service.

The secret to dealing with customers is empathy. Put yourself in their place. How would you like to be treated? This is not a new idea, in fact it's called the Golden Rule; "treat others as you would like others to treat you", and it was first expressed by Confucius in 530 B.C.

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