Musings from Mike Atkinson on Internet strategy, usability, and more...

Exceptional customer service

You know how there are some people who just get customer service? And, of course, there are some who need help understanding the goals of treating your customers exceptionally.

Well, my alter ego is Mikey of Mikey’s Funnies – a daily humor email list that I’ve been doing now for almost 10 years.

Yesterday’s post to the Funnies was a cute story about a teacher helping a student put his boots on. Good buddy Nelson Zarfas from Church Art Works pointed out that it’s a great illustration of how to do good customer service. So, first I share the Funny, and then Nelson’s excellent insights:

A Boot Funny

The teacher was helping one of her kindergarten students put on his cowboy boots. He asked for help and she could see why. Even with her pulling and him pushing, the little boots still didn’t want to go on. Finally, when the second boot was on, she had worked up a sweat. She almost cried when the little boy said, “Teacher, they’re on the wrong feet.”

She looked and sure enough, they were. It wasn’t any easier pulling the boots off than it was putting them on. She managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the boots back on, this time on the right feet.

He then announced, “These aren’t my boots.”

She bit her tongue rather than get right in his face and scream, “Why didn’t you say so?” like she wanted to. And once again she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off his little feet.

No sooner than they got the boots off he said, “They’re my brother’s boots. My Mom made me wear ‘em.”

Now she didn’t know if she should laugh or cry, but she mustered up the grace and courage she had left to wrestle the boots on his feet again.

Helping him into his coat, she asked, “Now, where are your mittens?”

He said, “I stuffed ‘em in the toes of my boots.”

Nelson’s email:

When I read the Boot Funny, I couldn’t help but think it’s the perfect illustration for how not to solve problems in customer service areas. The key to success is to listen to the customer and learn their entire situation, including all the details, before you try to come up with the solution. Most folks will listen to the customer for a few seconds and then interrupt and offer a solution before they know all the facts. You just have to listen long enough to learn the whole story – then you’ll be able to solve the real problem and end up with a happy customer. Or, you’ll just have to put the boots on once instead of 5 times!

Great insights, Nelson! Thanks…


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