When teaching communication techniques to client personnel, we sometimes get pushback from participants. It might be an employee saying “If I do what you say, I’ll be with the customer FOREVER.” Or maybe a manager will tell us “I don’t have time to greet, clarify needs, confirm my understanding, ask if they need anything else, etc.”
Just like you probably don’t want to spend exorbitant amounts of time with individual customers addressing needs and working through issues, most customers don’t want to spend a ton of time on those topics talking with us either. Their time is valuable, too.
So let’s shift our thinking away from “great customer service means spending lots of time with customers” to the following thinking: Great customer service means spending Quality Time with customers.
We went through an exercise with a client on the topic of “Quality Time,” and here’s a synopsis of what we found. Many customers define “Quality Time” when:
- Their time with you is uninterrupted and not rushed
- They are getting the time expected (employees not showing up late for a meeting, for example)
- Employees are focused on them (i.e., not appearing distracted during the conversation)
- Staff “pause” their other tasks (e.g., typing information on the computer) to emphasize something or provide a moment of clarity to the customer
- Staff educate the customer so they can be more independent.
These are key methods of enhancing the Quality of the time spent with customers – without necessarily spending more time:
- Actively listening – don’t be passive in the discussion (nod, paraphrase their need/issue, ask questions)
- Ensuring customers feel as though they are part of a dialogue (describe the process your working through or include them in discussions you’re having with co-workers)
- In face-to-face situations, including those who are with them (family members or friends) in the discussions
- Explaining procedures, processes up front so they know what to expect
- Conveying your own calm demeanor, particularly when you’re in the middle of an especially busy/hectic environment (picture a retail business during the holidays).
Don’t buy into the assumption that great customer service equals your spending undue amounts of time with customers. Instead, buy into the belief that the time we do spend must be high quality.
Provide Quality Time to Customers.