5 Commonly Missed Courtesies

Through the years our group has done a lot of Customer Satisfaction Research for client companies in various industries and markets. Through this research we’ve identified which dimensions of service drive the satisfaction of our clients’ customers when they call. We’ve learned that courtesy and friendliness is a common driver of customer satisfaction and retention. You can deliver one-call resolution, but if you deliver it without good soft skills, you’re typically not going to drive satisfaction and loyalty or drive up your Net Promoter Score.

One of my professors in college constantly reminded us that "the difference between good and great is in the details". Here are five "details" – small courtesies – that can make all the difference in a customer’s mind:

  1. Friendly salutation – Customers don’t want to be greeted by robotic CSRs simply grunting out the name of the company and themselves. A friendly, conversational "Hi", "Hello", "Good morning", or "Good afternoon" can set a positive friendly tone from the start and differentiate you from the competition.
  2. "Please" – It’s amazing how often this word is missing in customer service. It’s especially important for setting a courteous tone when you’ve got to request several pieces of verification information at the beginning of the call.
  3. "Thank you" – Another one of those things mom taught us to always say, but often gets overlooked. "Thank you" for the opportunity to set things right. "Thank you" for being a customer. "Thank you" for my paycheck.
  4. "You’re welcome" not "uh-huh", not "yep", not "sure", not "you bet" (or "you betcha" in Minnesota or Wisconsin), and not "no problem". "You’re welcome" rises to a level of professional courtesy that tells the customer that you’re a pro – as in "a-pro-priate".
  5. "Thank You for Holding" – Placing a customer on hold is a necessary evil in Customer Service – no one loves being placed on hold and subjected to 60 second music loops. Acknowledge this, by thanking the customer for his or her patience when you return to the line. We find that this courtesy is almost universally forgotten without constant reminders.

What did I forget? Any other courtesies you’d add to the list? Feel free to click "comment" at the bottom of the post and add your two cents.

Flickr photo courtesy of Tomas’

  11 comments for “5 Commonly Missed Courtesies

  1. November 28, 2006 at 11:03 am

    Great points.
    I’d add: Use salutations such as Mr or Ms. unless your CRM software indicates the caller is a doctor or admiral. Do not use first names unless the caller tells you it’s okay.

  2. November 28, 2006 at 2:29 pm

    Nice additions, Glenn! The “Dr.” designation is an important one. They get a little touchy about that.

  3. November 28, 2006 at 2:48 pm

    Using “would you please” and “could you please” instead of “you need to” or “you have to” raises the bar.
    Instead of “You would have to call the manufacturer,” “you would need to call the manufacturer” does a lot more.
    George Walther wrote a book on this, Tom, that I think may be worth your time to talk about- he wrote both Power Talking and Phone Power.

  4. November 28, 2006 at 3:08 pm

    I couldn’t agree more, Brian. Telling a customer what he or she “has to” or “must” do is one to avoid. I love your suggestions, including the book. I will check them out.

  5. November 28, 2006 at 5:41 pm

    Hi Tom…
    One of my favs that I rarely hear these days “Thanks (or thank you) for calling!” Just an addition to your “thank you” category.

  6. November 29, 2006 at 6:58 am

    Nice one, Lora. It’s nice to be “welcomed” into a call rather than feeling like you’re just another “call” the CSR has to put up with on their shift. You’re absolutely right!

  7. November 30, 2006 at 3:47 am

    Another courtesy that does double duty is a statement that goes something like this, “Alright, let me get your information and we’ll get that order processed as soon as possible.”
    When you first figure out what your customer wants and what you have to do, a little phrase like this can work wonders, in that, it tells them what you are going to do next, so they don’t start saying “Hello? What’s going on next?”, but also, it lets them know you actually want to help them.
    I’m not crazy about working in a call center-but I still want my customers to know that I desire to help them. That part of my job I am serious about. If customers can feel that, even a little, they will come back. I don’t know if it’s something that can be trained into people that may not like their jobs, but its something to strive for. If you are a CSR that actually desires to help their clients, that is what we need to communicate, it is one of the most important courtesies-bonafide good will.

  8. December 5, 2006 at 10:56 am

    I agree with your 5 commonly missed courtesies. Here’s one more to add that can make a difference. Be sure to ask the customer for permission before placing them on hold.

  9. December 5, 2006 at 2:30 pm

    Good one, Connie! You’re right – too often you hear “Hold on” and then the customer is on hold whether they wanted to be or not. Much nicer to be asked than to be told, isn’t it?

  10. December 12, 2006 at 8:43 pm

    Tom, great post. I’ve just referred to it in my most recent post http://flooringtheconsumer.blogspot.com/2006/12/audis-human-element.html.

  11. December 13, 2006 at 7:13 am

    Thanks, C.B.! Great post!

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