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5 Customer Experience Basics to Avoid a Customer Service Nightmare

Erin Ollila
May 29, 2019

4 minute read

Consider this customer experience scenario: It all started when I called for a take-out dinner order, and the hostess told me she was too busy to ask the kitchen if there was an ingredient I was allergic to in the meal I wanted to order. I should’ve stopped the transaction there, but because I was in a rush, I ordered meals for my family, figuring I’d grab myself a bowl of cereal at home, and went to pick up their food. Unfortunately, the experience ended in a similar—though heightened—manner, with a manager yelling a few inches away from my face and about how she was refusing to honor a promotional discount I had (that was still valid).

While this was only one small example of customer mismanagement, it’s one I’ll always remember. The event made me wonder—what are the absolute minimum customer experience basics all businesses need to know and practice, and also teach to their employees, so they won’t be at risk for a customer service snafu?

In the vocal world of social media we live in, poor customer experiences can quickly turn into public customer service nightmares. Here are 5 customer experience basics to master in your organization.

Effective listening

Most people listen to what’s being said with the purpose of knowing how to respond. Effective listening, on the other hand, is about paying attention to the person who is speaking so that you can truly understand the point they are trying to make. This is where professionals can first identify the customer’s actual question or problem, and then take steps to improve their experience. A different type of listening involves simply allowing the customer to feel heard, in part out of respect, and in part to deescalate the situation.

In an interview for this article, writer Tara Bosler says, “If you just let an angry customer vent for a minute and then fix their problem the absolute best you can, the situation often diffuses quickly.” This advice has helped Bosler not only as a small business owner, but also as a consumer herself.

Speak kindly

Ever hear the expression, “Treat others how you wish to be treated”? Approaching your customers with kindness creates an atmosphere that good communication can thrive in. Kindness also helps to diffuse any issues that may arise.

Bosler says, “You may have said the same thing a hundred times today, but the person in front of you is hearing it for the first time. Say it kindly.”

Honor your word

What you communicate to the customer needs to be fulfilled. Period. This is one of the simplest customer experience basics you can teach your staff. If you commit to something, keep your word. Any rules that are set should be applicable to everyone.

This can be as simple as opening the store during the hours listed on the front door, and not at random times. Or, it could be something more detailed, such as refunding a portion of an order while discounting another section to repair an error made on your end.

Clear communication

“The simplest and most important aspect of good customer experience is great communication,” says Don Hill, a warehouse manager, in an interview for this article. Hill values an open line of communication between consumers and the businesses they choose to work with and buy from. “Customers should always have a clear understanding of what’s happening and why. It’s the business’s job to ensure they and the customer are on the same page, particularly when problems arise.”

Take responsibility

Did you mess up? Own up to it. One of the simplest customer experience basics is knowing how to take responsibility for your actions or the actions of your employees. Mistakes happen, and customers understand that. Hill says, “It’s better to give customers bad news clearly and immediately. They’ll always remember how well, or poorly, issues are handled. That’s the lasting impression.”

Erin Ollila
Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform – and even transform – its intended audience. After a 12+ year career in human resources, she's jumped headfirst into digital strategy. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media.
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