Benjamin Wey is a financier and a journalist. A graduate of Columbia University, Benjamin Wey has two master’s degrees and almost two decades of operational experience in the fields of marketing and management science. He shares his thoughts and advice with our readers:
One of the big complaints in business these days is that there has been a decline in the quality of customer service since “the good old days.” A lot of that is the inadequate training of the customer service employees. Some of it is also rigid policies of big companies that seem designed for their benefit and not the customers. At the same time, though, some of it is how the customer with the grievance approaches the issue.
Remember the four “P”s, and you’ll find that you get much better customer service — or at least, it will be less irritating.
The first “P” is politeness. In all likelihood, the person who is going to deal with your complaint is not the person responsible for your dissatisfaction. Yelling abuse at someone who merely works at the same company is not going to get things done for you any quicker or better. In fact, it will probably create a situation where this previously neutral person now dislikes you, and you can expect the bare minimum of help. Also, some companies allow employees to hang up if you use profanity.
If by some strange twist of fate you are dealing with the person responsible, it’s OK to show that you aren’t satisfied, but once again, is the person more likely to help if you attack them personally or professionally? Decent manners will prevent the other person from getting defensive.
The second “P” is pinpoint the problem. What is it that needs fixing specifically? Did the burger come without ketchup? Did the wheels fall off the car? Did the pants not fit? This is what customer service representatives are there to address. They are there to fix your problem. They are not there to listen to you tell of your 10 year relationship with their company. They don’t really need to know that this inconvenience means you missed the first inning of your kids’ Little League game. A great many companies judge their customer service reps by how many calls a day they can handle. The longer you talk, the more you make them look bad. That won’t help either.
The third “P” is propose a solution. If the wheels fell off your car, maybe you don’t want them put back on. Maybe, you’d rather have a new car. Or maybe you just want your money back. The customer service rep isn’t trained to read minds. Tell them, politely, what you would like done, and be realistic. The chairman and CEO of an airline is not going to come to your house to apologize for lost luggage.
The fourth and final “P” is pliability. You are being polite, you have explained the problem concisely and you have proposed a solution — all without passion. Now, you also have to consider bending a little bit. Being pliable means accepting a solution to the problem, even if it isn’t the solution you originally sought. If you want a new car with all four wheels attached and company policy doesn’t allow for that, maybe you will have to settle for getting your money back.
Do the four Ps guarantee that you’ll get excellent customer service each and every time? Of course not. They simply improve your odds.
Benjamin Wey is a financier, professor and a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine and other media outlets.