The key to great customer service is within you

More companies than ever seem to be talking about their commitment to providing great service these days, yet surveys show customer satisfaction overall is low in most industries. In my new book, Driving Loyalty, I outline a series of steps companies can take to turn every customer and employee into a loyal fan. But what can customers themselves do to get better service, especially it comes to solving a particular issue or dispute?

The truth is, customers often hold the key to getting better service, especially since a lot of companies haven’t taken the time to build a customer-centric culture across the organization. That’s why mastering the steps below can allow you to have a good experience, regardless of whether the person you’re dealing with has been trained to deliver good service or not.

1. Be a great customer. A good attitude is contagious. If you are pleasant and easy to work with, the person behind the counter is likely to follow your lead and provide a more welcoming experience. If you’re grumpy and demanding, you’ll likely walk away disappointed.

2. Practice the three C’s and be Calm, Cool and Collected. When the service you receive isn’t as good as expected, your initial response may be to become angry, or even threaten to get even. Instead, remember that the individual you’re dealing with often isn’t even the cause of your frustration in the first place.

3. Don’t be shy. Many people don’t take the time to complain about bad service and just accept it. If you want things to improve, you have to stand up. Let companies know when you’re unhappy and escalate when necessary and take part in various surveys to make your voice heard.

4. When a problem arises, be clear about the issue. In dealing with disputes, calmly explain the problem and let the company know what you expect in return. Don’t assign blame. Just state the facts and clearly lay out your case.

5. Be reasonable and willing to compromise. In requesting a resolution, be sure to ask for something realistic. If your cable goes out unexpectedly for a day or two, requesting a few days of free service to compensate is perfectly reasonable. But demanding a whole year for such a minor convenience is likely to fall on unwilling ears.

6. Watch your words. When responding, be mindful of what you say. For instance, if your problem isn’t resolved to your satisfaction, instead of barking out, “I demand to speak with your manager right now,” why not respond, “I appreciate that you’re doing the best you can. Could you please put me in touch with someone who might be in a position of authority to resolve this situation?”

7. Learn and use the other person’s name. When teaching employees how to deliver great service, I always remind them to address customers by name. A person’s name is magical to them! The next time you’re at the store, turn the tables by addressing the clerk by his or her name. You’ll notice his or her face will shine brighter and service levels will dramatically improve.

8. Join a loyalty program. Most companies today have some kind of loyalty program and members generally get better perks. Members of airline loyalty programs, for instance, often get better seats, extra free services and are more likely to quickly be rebooked when flights are cancelled or delayed.

9. Use social media – but only as a last resort. If you all else fails, you can take your case to Twitter or Facebook. Many companies monitor social media postings and try to handle issues quickly, to prevent them from spreading or becoming viral.

10. Deliver praise and follow up with thanks. Just as customers like to be acknowledged and rewarded for their business, companies and employees love to hear when they’ve done something right. If someone gives you good service, tell them. They’ll be sure to remember you and make your experience even more pleasant next time.