Customer Service  Readiness – Designing for the worst situation

Customer Service Readiness – Designing for the worst situation

by Anindita Lakhani

Associate Partner, EnKASH

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At a cinema multiplex, one day, I noticed a huge amount of commotion at the food stall. It was a movie interval time and a whole lot of people were screaming away at the food stall staff. The staff, instead of pacifying the customers, were rudely retorting. The anger levels only went up further.

The counter staff had booked orders before the movie started, to be delivered at the seat during the screening. However, being short staffed and with some employees being new, they had either failed to deliver the food item by the interval of the movie or had delivered at the incorrect seat.

During the interval, the dissatisfied customers all rushed to the counter creating a very unpleasant situation. The scene only worsened with the staff getting flustered and engaging in verbal altercation.

As a person who has worked in the service industry for years, I could not bear to see
(a) the plight of the customers as well as the service personnel and
(b) the glaring gaps in the way the counter was being managed.

Which brings me to my topic of this write up

At any service outlet, the frontline staff are expected to do a range of activities, right from making the customer welcome, to servicing the requirements, to delivering a customer delight moment; and ultimately, ensuring that he or she leaves the counter satisfied and happy.

Thus the counter staff have to master the art of customer management and the science of the service procedure; that is, be human and a robot at the same time. But how often do businesses  equip their frontline adequately, to handle scenarios such as the one mentioned above?

Are the front line teams equipped and trained to handle the worst case scenarios?

If we review the incident mentioned above and analyze as to where the fault lies, the root of the problem may not be in the behavior or incompetence of the staff; it may be more to do with their unpreparedness to handle the situation with alternate solutions.

The frontline teams, more often than not, are youngsters with enthusiasm but little experience or maturity.When they haven’t been prepared for the worst, the stress of the situation hits them and their behavior could take a turn for the worse.

Most often, the training of the service staff is focused on the nuances of being at their best behavior and the words and phrases to be used. But can just sweet talk enable them to hold fort against an angry, abusive group of customers?

The question therefore is whether they have been trained with sufficient inputs to understand the worst situations that may arise on job and the remedies to apply for each of them.

Designing for the worst situation

In every service, there are some standard ways in which a problem can be addressed in a satisfactory way. The team needs to be empowered to work through these.

If we apply this logic to the situation at the multiplex food stall, we would term this as a case of service not delivered as promised. The options could be the following

1.A preventive stance could be for the floor manager to take a call that, in the light of staff shortage, delivery at seat would not be offered that day.

2.But if the service was already committed and not delivered, the frontline staff could have options given to them such as

  • Offering food items which are readily available, immediately over the counter, with an apology for non delivery
  • Request for extended time to deliver the food before the movie ends
  • Offering another food item that could be offered in a shorter time period
  • Offering to keep the food packed and which the customer could collect at the end of the movie
  • Offering an additional drink or food item as a service recovery gesture
  • Offering to refund the amount for the payment that had been already made

Having had a problem, what a customer wants to see is the seller’s genuineness in the attempt being made to rectify the damage caused and of course, receive a reasonably satisfactory resolution, even if things weren’t fully in control.

On the other hand, the frontline staff need to be trained to preempt such situations and be better prepared to handle bad situations effectively so that the customer still feels good, if not delighted.

Training components

The customer service training therefore, needs to go beyond the basics of standard process and etiquette and go into depth, to understand the worst case situations that could arise; and, design responses for those, so that the teams are always in control of the situation.

The training being imparted to them necessarily needs to include

  • Sufficient case studies and role plays related to various situations which might arise while on the job
  • A list of worst case scenarios and the remedies applicable for each
  • How to remain calm and yet show empathy
  • The right verbiage and expression to be applied along with the above
  • A handout, a guide of “Things to do, when Things Go Wrong” which could be kept at the workstation

 

 

Please do leave your comments at the bottom and do share with others if you like this article.

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40 Comments on "Customer Service Readiness – Designing for the worst situation"

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Sudipta Dutta
Sudipta Dutta

Awesome and so true to the learnings I always got from u as my Mentor

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Anindita Lakhani

Thank you Sudipta, When we see such incidents, we feel that we had really evolved over a period of time in Customer Service

Gautam sil
Gautam sil

Wonderful Anindita! It reflects your analysis power & ably handle the odds..

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Anindita Lakhani

Thank you so much. Such incidents keep occurring around us and therefore could not help but write so that it may be of use.

Indrani Sarangi
Indrani Sarangi

Excellent insight Anindita !! Very well composed and genuine solutions offered. Impressive!!

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Anindita Lakhani

Thank you Indrani. Wanted to channel my thoughts and Mr. Sridhar Rao of Infinum Growth Insights gave me the opportunity

Md Yasser Siddiqui
Md Yasser Siddiqui

Very aptly written and detailed insights …A customer experience pro article indeed !

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Anindita Lakhani

Thank you Yasser. Helping Customers and Teams comes automatically to all of us I guess, and therefore trying to do the same through this article.

jonaki sen
jonaki sen

So true.Words of wisdom from a pro.I wish companies take this approach towards service.In India ,as a customer I have always felt cheated in some way or the other.Either it is rude behaviour or no service.How many times I had to threaten and abuse to get my job done.I hope pray and wish that companies adopt such policies more readily.Then India will truly shine.

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Anindita Lakhani

Thank you Jonaki. Aim was to utilize the knowledge I had gained over the years and make it useful by way of this article

Miloni
Miloni

Customer Service even from the best of the companies often falters, not for the lack of trying. Having traveled and lived in a few different cities across the country, there is obviously a great difference in the approach to life people take. While some are proactive others are, well, lazy, for the lack of a better word. And the problem solving points mentioned in the article will go a long way to tackle the matter.

Somava
Somava

Wow Anindita a very nice and detailed article indeed. Your passion for customer service clearly shows in the article.
A great tool for people willing to pursue their career in customer service.

Ravi Mathur
Ravi Mathur

Amazing article. So simple to understand, yet so deep in meaning. True customer service tips.

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Anindita Lakhani

Thank you Ravi. We know that any failure in service catches our attention and makes us feel, wish we could help

Anabil Ghosh
Anabil Ghosh

we do this almost every single time. We train our staff to be nice in a nice situation. But what about those situations when things go wrong? This article draws attention to that critical but missing part of any service experience delivery .

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Anindita Lakhani

Thank you Anabil. That was the aim, preparing for the scenarios where service experience suffers

Dolon Das
Dolon Das

Very nicely presented Anindita. Loved it. Any service quality can be defined only when there is an out of the ordinary situation.

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Anindita Lakhani

Thank you Dolon. We were always told to look at every transaction as a moment of truth

Nanda Basu
Nanda Basu

Wonderful! Very informative and excellent insights. Takes me back to our customer care days and I am glad I had you as my mentor..

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Anindita Lakhani

Thank you Nanda. At that time we did not have so many processes, but one thing common in us was that we wanted to give a solution

Shashi Pakrasi
Shashi Pakrasi

Well observed Anindita..So much rides on how we conduct ourselves ….been on both sides of Customer Service….can relate so much. ..excellent solutions ??

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Anindita Lakhani

Thank you Shashi. Yes I guess being on both sides helps to understand these situations better.

Sujeet
Sujeet

So true.

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Anindita Lakhani

Thank you

Meenaxi
Meenaxi

Excellent Insights and thoughtfully penned down! Its inevitable that these solutions can come out from you Di. Rarely people though working for Customer Service tend to act like one.

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Anindita Lakhani

Thank you Meenakshi. We regularly come across these situations and only thing we do is accept the way it is without demanding the right ways.

Meenakshi
Meenakshi

Excellent Insights and thoughtfully penned down! It is inevitable that these solutions can come out from you Di. Mostly people though working in Customer Service tend to forget to act like one in Apt instances.

Gunman Agarwal
Gunman Agarwal

Wow Anindita Di. ..great article and has to come from you…

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Anindita Lakhani

Thank you so much

Songbaran
Songbaran

Awesome way of handling tough situations….carry on Anindita ?

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Anindita Lakhani

Thank you so much

Arpita Guha
Arpita Guha

The art of problem solving and providing the customer the best even in the worst situation and that too the pearls of wisdom coming from an expert like u Anindita….I love the article…it’s very lucid,crisp and to the point.

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Anindita Lakhani

Thank you Arpita. I am sure the country you are in are more conscious of service delivery than we are till date. We rarely complain.

Arpita Guha
Arpita Guha

The art of problem solving and providing the best to the customer even in the worst situation n the pearls of wisdom coming from an expert like u Anindita…I love the article…it’s very lucid crisp and to the point

Shikha Bhattacharya
Shikha Bhattacharya

Wonderfully explianed an important aspect of Customer service and with the appropriate resolutions when things are not on right track 🙂

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Anindita Lakhani

Thank you Shikha. Some real life situations that we encounter and wanted to share the solutions.

Somava
Somava

Wow Anindita indeed a very nice and detailed article! Your passion for customer service clearly shows in this article.
A great tool for people who would love to pursue their career in customer service.

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Anindita Lakhani

Thank you Somava. Yes its those tools that can delight Customers.

Tamalika Sengupta
Tamalika Sengupta

This is awesome and I totally agree with your analysis! I really liked the section on “designing for the worst situation” and also the training opportunities. These essential fixes can make such a huge difference, especially in customer service in India, is beyond imagination.

Sanjula
Sanjula

Delighted to read this Anindita Di! Being a branch of the same tree to which you were a root to, can so very well relate to it. This article proves all over again that Customer Service is so much more than just smart mouthing. Very useful tips to cater to the need of the hour!

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