“It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator,” said writer Maria Popova. “Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange…”
When I hired my first staff member at my gym, we read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie together. As I grew my staff over the years, we continued to re-read that book every year. Each time I read it, I always take something new away from it and I am pleasantly surprised by its simplicity. The core principles taught by Dale in 1936 are still relevant and, more importantly, they still work 85 years later. In short, the core idea is that you can change other people’s behaviour and get what you want simply by changing your behaviour. This book is usually read by salespeople and managers looking to improve their people skills and make more sales.
Experience in customer service gives you a new perspective on “How to Win Friends” because you are no longer trying to get someone to buy your product, you are trying to get them to stay with it and each customer interaction is an opportunity to resell the product and service.
At Gym Lead Machine, our customer service is just as important, if not more important, than our product. We have real humans behind every email and we have real discussions about clients and their struggles behind the scenes to figure out how best to help them. We have very few angry or bad customers, but when a company grows from 0 to 800 clients in two years there are bound to be some pissed-off people along the way.
I’ve been one of those pissed-off people, especially when I was a gym owner. I had a thousand other things on my plate and when something broke, I fired off an email that was less than cordial because I was paying for service that should be working perfectly 100% of the time. My mortgage depended on these systems working and it was “downright disrespectful” that a company would let this happen to me: a paying customer. More times than I would like to admit, I would get a response from the customer support a few hours later and I would look back on my initial email with a clearer head and be embarrassed at my language and anger in the request. I didn’t provide them with anything to help me and I probably did not make them want to help me by being an asshole.
We have all been on the receiving end of poor customer service as well. Some companies that have terrible auto responders or bot. Some take forever to respond. Some just never seem to read our emails properly and give us the wrong answers to a problem we didn’t even have. Companies big and small struggle with providing top notch customer service for many reasons, but largely because meeting each and every customer expectation is hard.
So how do we do better? How do customers and customer service reps come to some amicable communication model so that we stop being upset with one another, focus on the problem, and get shit done?
No matter what side of the communication you are on, here are some tips to help GSD without pissing each other off.
Take a Beat
You will catch more flies with honey. Writing or calling while angry is not a good look. We’re all aware of “Karen” and “Chad” characters, and none of us want to be one. Name-calling and accusations usually occur when an event has just happened and someone is triggered. As a rule, never write an email when you are ticked off. Take a beat and call or write when you have processed those emotions or have had time to step away for a few minutes (or hours).
It’s All About Context
Instead of just stating the problem, give the support team or the customer a little context. Tell them what you were doing and the outcome you are trying to achieve. There are usually many ways to solve the same issue, so giving the person on the other end of the email exchange context will help them solve the problem in the most logical way possible for you and your business.
Send a Screenshot or Loom Video
This might be my favorite piece of advice and it’s also why I love email support. Sending screenshots or loom videos is the gold standard when you have a technical problem. Linguistics and nomenclature are usually different from business to business. When one customer uses “client journey” and someone else uses “pipeline,” as long as we are looking at the same picture, we can solve the problem faster without sending confusing emails back and forth for days on end.
Most customer service teams pride themselves on speed and efficiency. Trying to cipher through an email with bad grammar, punctuation, or no page breaks makes it very difficult for the reader to break down and categorize the problem or the solution. I know I’ve often skipped past poorly written emails to answer more well-written and “easier” tickets and then circle back to the former once I’ve poured myself another coffee. Use bullet points, capitals, and separate paragraphs to separate thoughts and themes. The Gym Lead Machine support team swoons at a well-written email; it’s a special treat.
If you are a client and doing all of the above and still aren’t getting anywhere with a support team that is meant to be helping you, then that company is failing.
If you are part of a support team and can’t get anywhere with a client after asking for what you need and flexing your patience muscles. Then the client may not be a good fit for your company. It is notoriously hard, if not impossible, to change someone’s behaviour (it is also not part of your job description).
A company should go over and above, be creative, employ empathy and work hard to meet your needs within their capabilities.
A customer should meet your support team halfway by writing well and giving them the details they need to help them.
But if you just keep butting heads, it may be time for a breakup.