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Jeff Matlow
November 01, 2018

The 5 Tenets of Great Customer Support

You probably already know that I am a stickler for great customer support.  I despise bad customer support and have been known to share those horror stories with the hundreds of thousands of people who read some of my ramblings.
As for good customer support, well, there's just nothing special about it.  It's forgetful.  It's mediocrity.  But with just a wee tiny bit of extra effort, that mediocre exchange can turn from good to great. 
The quality of customer support from a company not only represents the overall brand, but it defines the company's internal culture. Whomever is talking with a company's customers is exactly how those customers will perceive the brand. 
frustrated customer
If you have a volunteer who is angry at life and, hence, rude to your participants - those participants are walking away with a bad impression of your event and your company. 
That's why for imATHLETE, both our hiring and firing decisions are based on adherence to culture and our 7 Core Values
Great customer support is the byproduct of a great culture. 
Whether we are talking with event directors, athletes or vendors, we have 5 Tenets of Great Customer Support that we live by. They aren't a great big secret, which is why I'm sharing them with you.  If every person in every company did this, it would be a better world. 
1. Acknowledge
People want to feel like they've been heard. Period.
Imagine that you just became a member of a gym. You woke up at 5am to get to your new gym for the first time. When you got there, all the exercise machines were broken.  It's early, you're tired, frustrated and just want to exercise. You complain to an employee and the first thing the employee responds with is an offer to pay more money to extend your membership. 
How would you feel?  You definitely would NOT feel like you've been acknowledged.  Most likely you'd stomp out the door, go eat a stack of pancakes and cancel your membership.
The first step in great support is to make sure you acknowledge the issue.  Repeat it back to them so they know you understand. By first acknowledging what they are saying and how they are feeling you can begin to quickly diffuse a situation. 
2. Validate
Right after acknowledging is validating the person's feelings.  Whatever they are feeling, they want to feel empathy from you.
If you have kids you probably know what it's like when a person's feelings are not being validated.  Picture the kid that says "I'm lonely" and the adult that responds with "Too bad. Figure it out." How is that kid going to feel? Definitely not like their feelings were acknowledged and validated.  
3. Focus on the Solution
This one seems so obvious but it is often forgotten. The entire reason a customer service conversation is happening is because there is a problem.
be the solution
Maybe it's not an issue with your event. In fact, maybe you don't think it's an issue at all. But it is an issue to the participant, so much so that they spent the time to find you and tell you about it.  So gosh darn it, just focus on getting to the solution.
Don't harp on the person's attitude - they're probably angry anyway. Just calmly work with them to get to a solution.  Sometimes the solution is just acknowledging them and validating their thoughts with empathy.
4. Hold your Ego
This is a tough one for many people but it's important.
Let's face it, sometimes participants just act like jerks. They will tell you how to do your job, they will boss you around, they will inform you that everything is your fault. They may be right or they may be wrong. But none of that matters with customer support.
Responding with your ego means needing to prove you're right and they are wrong. That is not productive in any relationship, including great customer support.  Hold your ego. Right and wrong doesn't matter.  What matters is empathy and a focus on the solution.  That type of approach keeps people calm and helps them realize when they themselves have screwed up.  
5. Be Human
happy runner
All humans want to talk to other humans. They don't want to talk to machines. And they don't want to talk to humans that sound or act like machines. 
Be yourself. Don't read from a script. Be natural and honest and let them know they are speaking with a real person - one that has a personality, a sense of humor, a life, a story and a desire to help. 
* * *
customer-experience-3024488_640I wish there were a better acronym, but here you go - the 5 steps to remember:
- Acknowledge
- Validate
- Focus on the Solution
- Hold your Ego
- Be Human
Please help me in my quest to create a world of great customer support.  We all need it.  We all deserve it.
For industry insights, follow I Am Jeff
For interviews, features, and fun, follow the imATHLETE blog.


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