I’m not a touchy, feely type of person.  I’m an expressive-driver, but when I’m frustrated I switch to driver mode. This means that my first tendency is to get things done quickly and efficiently, but I was recently reminded just how prevalent my expressive side can be when I am on the customer side of a business transaction.

When it comes to customer service, emotions are the deciding factor between loyalty and bolting to the competition. I had a recent experience with my internet provider that cemented this all too well.

A few weeks ago my modem crashed and quit working. I’m no tech whiz, so naturally I called tech support, but I left the call feeling frustrated and uncertain of when―or if―I would get internet service back. Above all, I felt like they really didn’t care. The conversation went something like this:

“Oh, we have a recall on your modem.  You’ll have to go to a dealer to exchange it for a new one.  But call first, as they may be out of stock.”

“Can they call me when a modem becomes available?”

“Afraid not.  They issue them on a first-come first-serve basis.”

I live in the country, but luckily, central to two city centres.  Surely, one of the four dealers between the two cities would have my modem.   Before going to the stores I call ahead, but no one is answering, so I leave messages.  Sometimes I get a live person, but sadly they tell me, “we don’t have any modems, but call back this afternoon as we might get some on today’s shipment.”

At this point I’m very frustrated and concerned because I have a home-based office and I can’t work without internet!

Three days later, I try my luck by walking into a dealer. Thankfully they had a modem! Just as I was about to get excited the dealer dropped the bomb, “I’m sorry, it’s not compatible with your monthly plan.  You’ll need to upgrade to the unlimited package if you want to leave with this modem.”

What?!  Now I felt ripped off.  It’s the company’s fault I’m without a modem, and now I have to start paying more to get back online?!

The purpose of this blog is not to rant about cable-internet providers, and fortunately the story now changes for the better.  This local dealer was awesome! He listened to me when I explained my plight, and he even called the company and advocated on my behalf to change my plan at no extra cost to me.  While he was waiting (yes, even the dealers have to wait), he started to look at my entire account. I’m hooked in for phone, internet and cable.  He asked lots of questions about how I use the services and what I need for my business. In the end, he was able to give me more for a lot less money!   He even suggested I cancel my cable (yes, reduce my services), since I was now getting unlimited internet.

This customer service rep was truly consultative.  He acknowledged my pain, asked questions, and offered solutions to fit my needs. I left with a huge smile on my face and felt genuinely appreciated as a customer.  After talking to the local dealer I feel more confident that I have the services I need to run my business.

This experience was a good reminder that customer service has a lot to do with the feelings of the customer. Empathy, understanding, and active listening are all key skills to practice when serving customers. If you’re serving customers, focus on feelings.