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Is the customer to blame for the fall of customer service?

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There is something that is lacking these days across both sides of the counter.  Grace, kindness, and patience is in short supply and it affects everyone.  There are times, my office receives a call from a client who is upset about something.  Their rates went up or no one from claims has called them back, or something along those lines.  Let me say, my agency and the companies I represent are not perfect.  There have been, are, and will be mistakes made along the way.  If a mistake is made on my side of the counter, I do everything I can to make it right and take those incidents very seriously.

The thing is, in my industry and many others, most mistakes are temporary and can be fixed.   My first District Manager told me that early in my career and it gave me great confidence to service my clients knowing that we could make things right.  If there was a billing error or a policy cancelled because someone made an error, those are easy fixes and usually can be handled with a simple phone call or email from my office.

It is the initial interaction that still surprises me.  It’s when a customer calls and is hostile right out of the gate.  My team who answers the phone are immediately put on their heels before they even know what is happening and have to go into a defensive, troubleshooting mode.   For example:

Customer. “Why the hell are you raising my rates?”

Suggested alternate statement:  ” I need your help.  I noticed my rate has increased.  Can we take a look and see why, and see if there is anything we can do to get that down?”

The phone generally isn’t the problem.  It’s email.  The internet and email has created this massive brick wall between people.  For some reason, people feel it’s ok to be very aggressive and flat out nasty when they are sending something to complain about.  It is a full on epidemic on Facebook or Twitter or blogging sites, where you can hide behind the computer anonymously and hammer away at someone’s thoughts or beliefs.  It is worthless banter that does no one any good. It’s an ugly sport.   I am all for a good debate, but I believe there should be some basic unwritten ground rules built around respect and dignity.

Some people take this kind of aggressive state, and use it towards someone who has the ability to actually help your cause.

I got an email last week from someone whose rates we have raised and it went something like this.  “Why are you raising my rates?  I have been a loyal customer, and referred you and this is the thanks I get?”  They typed that out and just pushed the send button.

Do you want the people who have the ability to help you, help you because they genuinely want to, or because they feel threatened?  My response was a carefully thought out message, offering them the chance to sit down and take a look at everything and see what we can do.  I also reminded them they had a $20,000 at fault claim last year and that can affect premiums.  I never heard back from them.

Why not approach a situation like that and just ask for some help or understanding?  99% of the time it was a simple error that can be fixed.  Other times, the mistake was the client’s.

“Why the hell did you cancel my policy?!”

“Because you didn’t pay your bill”

There are times my companies and I don’t see eye to eye. They initially will not give me the support I need to fix something.  I always start those conversations, with “I need your help”.

I believe this instantly opens that person up to finding a solution, in a calm productive fashion.  Take a deep breathe the next time something doesn’t go your way.  Try a different approach.  Ask for help instead of demanding something be fixed.

 

 

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