What’s Your Service Mentality IQ?

By Nancy Friedman, Telephone Doctor

Most of us in the customer service arena are very good. The reason is simple – we always carry a certain amount of a service mentality with us to do the job well. People often ask me: “Nancy, what is the key to good customer service?” My answer is simple – there is no one key. There are many keys – and they all need to be on your customer service key ring. So, let’s learn the seven service mentalities that will raise the bar for you and your company. See how many of these attributes you own.

Empathy: When someone has a problem, we need to empathize with them and show we understand the frustration they’re going through. What we don’t want to do, however, is tell a caller, “I know exactly how you feel.” You aren’t able to know exactly how anyone else feels, but you can empathize. That’s why empathy is key for a service mentality.

Here’s a better way to explain it. I had my wallet stolen a while back, at Disneyland no less. Everything was in it and the money was the least of my problems. Credit cards, check book, social security card, drivers license – all of it gone. Over the years, I have learned to be a “good” customer, so I called the first credit card company and told them of my plight. I said, “Hi, my name is Nancy Friedman and I’m at Disney and my wallet was stolen. Everything’s gone.” And I told her what was in the wallet. She said without skipping a beat, “Name?” I said, “It’s still Nancy Friedman.”

Where was the agent’s empathy? It wasn’t there! All I needed to hear was a simple, “Gee, that’s got to be so frustrating. Let me get the ball rolling to help you.”

Enthusiasm: We need enthusiasm whenever we help a caller. They need to know you are truly excited to help. Of course, we need to do this without going over the top and giggling our way through the conversation. Enthusiastic customer service people get the job done faster, simpler, and with a touch of class. How much enthusiasm do you show in your job?

Responsibility: This is one of the most important keys to a great service mentality. Be responsible for your job, your position, your client, and your call center. If you have answered a call on behalf of your company or a client, you have indeed accepted 100 percent responsibility for the call. “I wasn’t here,” “I don’t know anything about that,” or “It’s not my department,” does not reflect responsible customer service. Take responsibility for the call. You answered it. It’s yours! This is important in face-to-face situations as well. It’s the old adage, “don’t point, go show.”

Resiliency: This key is a little trickier. To be resilient, we need to have a mentality to bounce back from unfortunate events, setbacks, or other negative incidents. It’s really an attitude adjustment. One situation with a caller may be more difficult than another and when you get to the next caller, your resiliency needs to kick in to help you bounce right back to where it was before that negative event. Be resilient!

Ownership: This is a cousin to responsibility. So many times, we hear and see people in call centers who don’t want to take ownership of the problem. When you own the problem, you’ll handle it far better than if you don’t want anything to do with it.

Don’t forget, never take barbs from callers personally. They’re not attacking you. They’re attacking the problem. You’re just the lightening rod, not the target. So own the situation you’re working with; take ownership.

Balance: This is the fine line between “the caller is always right” and knowing what to do about the problem. I don’t believe the caller necessarily is always right. I do, however, know that callers always think they’re right. That is the perception we need to deal with at the time. Many times the caller is in error – they had the wrong date, the wrong receipt, the wrong information, or whatever. Yet, they’re bent on proving that they are right, so they think they’re right. We often times know they are not. That’s the key, not letting on that we know they’re wrong. It’s a balance, the art of creating a “win-win” situation. Once you have the key of balance, you’ll be better able to handle customer service situations.

Adaptability: Most of us learn at a very early age that everything doesn’t happen the way we want it to all the time. So we frequently need to adapt to certain situations. Learning how to adapt to all these situations can make you a top customer service agent. It’s related to your attitude. Why do some folks adapt easily and some are not able to adapt at all? It’s mainly because of attitude. It shapes how they handle a situation and react to it.

So, how did you do? If you have some of these “secret” ingredients of customer service, you’re well on your way to success. Even if you’re missing one or two, here’s your opportunity to learn more about them. Good luck – and may your service mentality be with you today and always.

Nancy Friedman is president of Telephone Doctor, an international customer service training company, based in St. Louis, MO.

[From Connection Magazine Jul/Aug 2005]

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