How to Get Great Customer Service

The late great Zig Ziglar made it a habit to greet people with a friendly “Good morning!” no matter what time of day it was.

Why? 90% of the time, he said, he got “Good morning” right back. This little trick reminded him of one important truth: what you send out is what you’ll receive back.

I had a great example of this principle just this week. I’m refinancing my mortgage and had some inconvenience (yes, I still have a mortgage — don’t worry though, I’m working on it with more intensity than the Jersey Shore cast works on their tans).

If you haven’t read a news article about housing in the last 20 years, you might not know this, but lots of folks aren’t exactly pleased with the mortgage industry or the service they receive from mortgagors. You can find images all over the internet of flowcharts regarding the ownership of an individual’s mortgage. Large banks are not typically known for their stellar customer service anyway, and the heat gets turned up quite a bit when it’s a person’s biggest expense that’s on the table. So when I say I “had some inconvenience,” that could be a precursor to a lengthy tale of misery and torment.

So what happened to me? When my wife and I got married, we purchased a house, mortgaged through MetLife. We were very conservative since it was a big commitment and we were just settling into post-college working life, so we got a 30 year term. We’re more comfortable with our finances now (thank you, budgeting) and mortgage rates are ridiculously low, so we decided to refinance to a 15 year term at a much lower rate.

Well, during the refinance process, MetLife decided to stop servicing mortgages, so all existing mortgages were sold to Chase (ugh). This means not only do I have to deal with the details of refinancing, I also have to track down new mortgage information from Chase just so it can be closed. If only MetLife had waited another month, this would have been a whole lot easier. Poor me!

And yet, you know what it took in the end to resolve the situation? Two phone calls, about 5 minutes long each. I called Chase with my previous mortgage information, got my new mortgage number, asked a few clarification questions, then called my new broker and relayed the information. On both ends, I got fast, effective customer service. Why do you suppose that is?

I’ll tell you, thanks for asking. First, instead of getting emotional about the inconvenience, I just did what needed to be done. Sure, I could’ve been upset about the situation. I could have complained to any party involved about just how put out I’ve been. But what does that accomplish? Nothing. It just makes it harder to do what I would have had to do anyway. Second, I was nice to the people I talked to, and they were friendly and helpful right back. Common sense, right? The Golden Rule? And yet you’d be surprised at how livid people can get at how bad their life is and how the world owes them a favor.2013-03-06_Customer_Service_Representative

Trust me, I know all about this. I was a customer service representative for over a year (although I don’t look quite as stunning as the dude in that picture). I talked to 1,000 people a day for a year. I know better than most that the way you approach a service interaction majorly affects the service you’ll receive. I also learned how to diffuse anger and keep people calm. It’s a powerful skill on both sides of the equation. I don’t think I’ve had a bad customer service experience in the last 5 years. I’ve even gotten compliments from representatives about how easy I am to deal with. Compliments from customer service representatives. Who knew they were people too?

The point is, you know how to treat people well, so just freaking do it. When we get overly emotional or personally offended about little things, we forget the most basic rules of courtesy and decent communication. Give kindness to get kindness. Give service to get service. It’s as simple as that.