5 Words That Customers Hate, and You Should Too

Sep 25, 2013 12:35:36 PM / by David Einstein

5 Words Customers Hate Are your customers aghast at not getting excellent service from someone who is part of your company?
Mills Thompson, c.1900. Frances B. Johnston, photographer. Library of Congress.

Being completely buttoned up on the many elements of customer service is an essential part of the media sales job. There’s not a media seller out there who can be successful unless everyone who works around them is on the same page as it relates to excellent customer service.

One of the most important elements of customer service is taking ownership of a client call or request. I’d expect that most media sellers are pretty good at this, since their compensation is generally provided in direct proportion to their ability to maintain excellent customer service.

But what about the support folks around you? Does your assistant, production manager, traffic manager, or someone else who may interact with your client, take customer service as seriously as you do? Do they know how to effectively handle a call from your customer even though it may or may not be intended specifically for them? Do they take responsibility for that call until your client gets to the right person? It’s essential that everyone in your company understands and embraces this process, because passing the buck may be creating disgruntled clients.

In my view, Geoffrey James has written a blog that absolutely nails this concept. I, for one, am making sure that everyone in our company (especially those who don't normally take client calls) is helping to ensure the highest level of customer service and taking responsibility for any client who calls. We are determined to provide excellent and seamless customer service at every turn.

Here’s the blog from Geoffrey:

There are five words that every customer hates with a passion: "That is not my responsibility."

Regardless of whether you're in sales, support, production, marketing or management, if you say those words to a customer, that customer knows that your firm doesn't give a damn. And you've probably lost that customer, too. Here's why.

From inside your company, you know which person and group has responsibility for various aspects of your business. Therefore, if a coworker comes to you with a problem that's not in your bailiwick, you can send that coworker elsewhere.

The customer does NOT see your company that way. The customer doesn't care a rat's rear-end how your company is organized. All the customer sees is a person--you--who represents your entire company.

Therefore, if a customer comes to you with a problem, regardless of when or where or who you are, it's now YOUR responsibility to either fix that problem or see to it personally that the problem gets addressed in some way.

If you don't take ownership of the problem and instead just point the customer elsewhere, you are telling that customer that your company's internal structure and organizational politics are more important than the customer.

Customers hate that and rightly so.

Salespeople understand this. When a customer contacts them with a problem, they get right on it and work the issues until the problem is addressed. Unfortunately, employees who work outside of Sales don't always see it that way.

For example, suppose you're an engineer attending a conference. During cocktail hour you run into one of your firm's customers who surfaces a complaint about your company's support policies.

If you say "That's not my responsibility," the customer may understand intellectually that engineers don't set policy, but at a gut level the customer will feel that neither you, nor your company, cares enough to do something about it.

The only proper response to a customer problem is "I will help you." In the example above, the engineer should, at the very least, get the customer's contact info, then email the head of sales support describing the complaint, CCing the customer.

Similarly, suppose a customer accidentally calls your billing department with a technical problem. If the billing clerk says "this is billing" and then transfers the call to technical support, the customer will show your company doesn't really care.

Instead, the billing clerk should stay on the line while the call is transferred, wait until technical support has picked up, and then politely ask the customer if it's okay for the billing clerk to get off the line.

Can this be costly? Absolutely, especially if your phone system makes it easy for customers to accidentally get the billing department when they actually want technical support and if there are long wait times to get that support.

But the alternative is far worse: a customer doing a slow burn while on hold because an official representative of your company treated that customer as a nuisance to get rid of rather than the reason that your company exists.

Those are just two examples of an essential business rule:

The moment you're personally involved with a customer problem, it's your responsibility, not somebody else's, to ensure that the customer is satisfied.

There are no exceptions to this rule.

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Tags: media sales, customer satisfaction, Customer Service, customer service, Blog

David Einstein

Written by David Einstein