Practical Application: Dealing with Customer Service Challenges

Instructor: Scott Tuning

Scott has been a faculty member in higher education for over 10 years. He holds an MBA in Management, an MA in counseling, and an M.Div. in Academic Biblical Studies.

People in direct customer service roles will always face challenging situations and customers. However, by using best practices, excellent customer service is possible even under less than ideal conditions.

Lots of Options with a Singular Objective

Have you ever been an upset customer? Did the service representative handle it well and address the situation in a professional and timely manner? If they did, you may remember it as an overall good experience. If they didn't, you may simply remember that you were all the more frustrated.

In the lesson about how to handle challenges in customer service, you learned about some of the different ways that customer service professionals can provide high-quality customer care even when conditions are challenging.

Sometimes these challenges are related to the customer themselves, and other times your own company's practices or policies may represent a barrier. Sometimes (hopefully not too often), the customers service professional's own attitude can even be a challenge. After all, everyone has a bad day now and then. The good news is that all of these challenges can be overcome if the right techniques are employed.

Let's walk through a few scenarios where you can apply your knowledge.

Scenario 1: Solving the Right Problem

Peter is the manager of a small retail cell phone shop in a mall. He is starting to get frustrated because sales for the store have been on a pretty steady decline for nearly three quarters in a row. Peter consistently saw customer survey results in which customers rated their experience in the store as ''poor'', but most failed to specify a reason why they felt this way. Of the small number that did try to explain, many had an explanation that wasn't complete or was not intelligible.

  • What does Peter know right now about the current state of the customer relationship?
  • Does he have enough information to try to improve customer service? If not, what information does he still need?

Luckily for Peter, he has a district manager who is very supportive. Peter scheduled a meeting with her to hash out where to go from here. She talked with him about customer service in general, but her insight about addressing this problem was both timely and important. She said, ''We need to run some numbers and see if we can correlate the common denominator at issue here.''

With a little help from IT, it became clear that a great deal of customer dissatisfaction was associated with the fact that sale items seemed to constantly be out of stock. Customers who came to the store looking for the bargains advertised in the paper were consistently arriving to find that the items were already gone.

  • Does Peter now have enough information to go about fixing the problem? If the answer is still ''no'', what further information is still missing?
  • If Peter attempts to solve the problem by increasing his inventory of sale items, what customer service strategy is he employing?

Scenario 2: Making a Scene

Let's go to our next scenario. When it comes to a customer service at XYZ Airlines, few jobs were loathed more than those on the ''Lost and Damaged Baggage'' team. The anger of losing a bag after enduring a long flight often ended up in hot tempers.

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