Communicating Better with Your Customers: The Four Agreements
Customer service. Everyone has a customer-service story, whether good, bad or in between. This is certainly true for those of us who work in the industry—we not only need service as consumers, we provide it every day!
This puts us in an interesting position, being on both sides of the customer-service equation. We know how it feels to be the desperate caller who needs something on their account fixed, and we know how it feels to be the well-intentioned representative, trying to provide the best service we possibly can.
In light of this, I think the four agreements discussed in Don Miguel Ruiz’s book of the same name, are a great tool for developing awesome customer service. They help keep biases to a minimum, and promote effective communication. Let’s take a look at the four agreements.
1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
In short? Good customer service is honest customer service. When a customer calls, he can easily detect if you’re giving him the run around. Which builds distrust, and nobody wants to do business with someone they don’t trust. Telling the truth shows integrity, making it easy for trust to develop between you and your customer, leading to satisfaction all round.
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Customer service agents really must take this one to heart! When that desperate, disgruntled, sometimes aggravated customer calls, it’s not about you but more about the problem they need addressed. Reminding yourself that it is not about you, makes it easier to remove yourself from the emotion of it all, and make a bad situation better. Removing yourself from the conflict and being objective, will give you the much-needed patience to listen carefully and make things right.
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
This agreement is so simple but so important. Chances are you’ve found yourself in a bad situation that got worse because you made assumptions. We’ve all been there.
To avoid making assumptions with your customers, ask questions! And then ask more questions. Cover all the bases. There is nothing worse than spending hours trying to resolve an issue only to find out that your initial assumptions weren’t correct, so you’re solving the wrong problem!
At Phone.com, customers call in for help with provisioning their phones all the time. If I assume they are properly connected to their office networks and that their phones are the problem, I can end up escalating a device issue that does not exist. Instead, I need to verify that their network connectivity is correct before doing anything. Simply? Don’t make assumptions. It will save you time and unnecessary stress.
4. Do Your Best
Finally, do your very best. We live in a world where all people do is compare—judge the way they look, what they own, what they’ve achieved or not achieved. The list goes on! Sometimes comparison challenges us in a positive way, but many times, it has a negative effect on us.
Customer service agents are often concerned with their performance relative to their team mates, and companies can be concerned about their performance relative to their competitors. While I agree that there is a time and a place for competition, it should not be the main focus. For customer-service professionals, the goal should be simply doing your best—providing the best service you possibly can for the customer you are currently assisting. Your performance will vary from day to day, and you will not always hit the mark. However, consistent hard work and perseverance pays off and will be acknowledged by those around you.
To close, effective communication is a vital component of everyday life and business. And the more hectic our schedules get, the easier it is to forget that communication can be really simple: Be true to your word, don’t take what others say personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best.
Our methods do not have to be convoluted to be effective, and the four agreements certainly hit the mark in terms of simplicity. They remind us that there is a real person on the other end of the phone line. A person with whom you can form a bond and solve a problem. And isn’t this the goal of customer service?