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Customer service best practices:Online support January 8, 2012

Have you ever spent time in a call center or worked in any form  of customer service? Everyone says you should work at least one service job in your life to better appreciate what those people go through. Usually, this refers to restaurant services, but I’d have to argue that retail services is equally as challenging and does not result in a tip at the end of the experience.

I know this statement is unfair because I have never worked as a server, but I think it is important to recognize retail customer service as a demanding field as well. It’s easy to complain about something, but it’s even harder to listen to the complaint and resolve it with a big smile on your face.

It started when I was 17. I was working at Toys R Us on Christmas Eve and was faced with a very unhappy customer who accused me of being blind and racist when I literally exchanged no words at all to her. How do you listen to someone throwing drastic accusations at you and manage to still smile and offer to assist them with their needs? It’s not easy!

Knowing what it is like to be on the other side of customer service doesn’t necessarily guarantee you will be an angel when you have your own problems as a customer. You know the feeling. Your furnace broke, your computer froze  or your Christmas gift didn’t show up  on time, or at all. It’s time to talk to someone, but the dread of waiting on hold on the phone or in line at a store makes you re-think your situation and in turn, gives you more time to spend with your problem making your angrier.

I think the most brilliant move in customer service is the ability to chat with a representative online. My first attraction to this method is that I don’t have to wait long to talk to someone! The representatives are extremely timely. I also like the fact that you can surf the net while they type and entertain yourself. They can also send you to helpful links which is less confusing in type than over the phone. I also like that I don’t have to talk to a person. I think typing something calms me down and I don’t get as worked up about my situation; that may have something to do with the surfing the net component as well.

I recently contacted Sony to question why my three month old computer was freezing and going blank. It’s funny because you can always pick out their scripted phrases like: “I’m sorry to hear that,” “Thank you for confirming,” and “I understand your frustration.” Here is an excerpt from my online support chat:

My representative was very helpful and listened to my questions. I have also used online support with Charter, Sprint, Dell and an apartment complex- to name a few. Not only does online chat support ease the pain of customer/company interactions, it also benefits a company’s sales. Answering a question before the potential customer leaves, and the ease with which it can be answered, increases the chances that a person will purchase something for the first time. It also can relieve a customer’s anger so they might return again.

When given the choice, I always turn to online chat support to resolve my issue before calling, emailing or putting on shoes and visiting the store. What is your preferred method of customer service?

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