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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   October 2005

Customer Service: A Lost Art

Turn negative situations into positive ones to enhance customer satisfaction

Mortgage brokers are in the business of customer service. Essentially, if you sell anything to the public, you are in a customer-service position. Whether your title is president, sales manager or clerk, you are a customer-service provider. If there were no customers, we would have no jobs, no money, no houses — nothing.

The word service comes from the word serve. If you look it up, you will find that serve means to render assistance, be of use, to help. These definitions are profound — somebody should post a sign that lists these insightful definitions on every customer-service counter and in every office.

Customer service is a lost art. Bad customer service is so prevalent in the United States that we as a society have come to accept it as the norm. In fact, we are so jaded that when we receive excellent service, we accuse the person of trying too hard or brownnosing.

Food for thought

Consider your own customer-service experiences and techniques and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How often do I go somewhere and experience horrible service?
  • How often do I go back (for whatever reason)?
  • How often do I actually complain or bring bad customer service to the attention of management?
  • How often have I given bad customer service?
  • How often do I fail to smile, shake hands or even acknowledge someone who has purchased or is about to purchase my product?
  • How often do I bring my personal problems to work and take them out on customers?   

Do you recognize yourself in any of these questions? As industry professionals, consumers and customer-service providers, we must take a stand and say, “I’m not going to take or give bad service anymore!”

Solving the problem

The problem of bad customer service can be fixed, but the solution must first come from the top of the food chain. Company presidents, owners and managers must make the consistent delivery of excellent customer service a mandate, right next to increasing profits and reducing costs. They must turn that culture of saying no into a culture of saying yes. I would like to address this point specifically. Far too often, we find ourselves saying the following:

  • “It’s not my job”;
  • “The company policy is …”;
  • “I don’t know”;
  • “I can’t help you” (which usually means I don’t want to help you);
  • “My supervisor is not here” (when the supervisor is right in the office); or
  • “Our company is only marketing to new customers” (a representative of a large telecommunications provider in New York actually said this to me recently).

These are all “no” statements — all negative in nature. Look at all the excuses we give our customers. If you think about it, they are really excuses for those customers to do their business elsewhere. It’s almost as if customer-service people are trained to say no first, which is not the case.

What’s the worst that could happen if you actually said yes to customers? They might leave happy, come back and refer a friend. Now that would be really nice, right? But we mess this up every day by being negative.

Try this for a week or a month — instead of saying no, say yes. You will see an immediate shift in customer satisfaction. Remember: You don’t have to say yes to ridiculous situations; use common sense.

When you go out to shop or eat and there is a customer survey to complete, take the form and complete it. Take the time to fill it out. Be honest and precise, not nasty. Don’t embellish. Sometimes people can’t see themselves unless we point it out to them. This gives them an opportunity to change and, in some cases, call you for additional feedback. I know I appreciate when someone gives me feedback, whether positive or negative.

You have to be open to constructive criticism. How else can you grow as a person or a professional?

Transform that ‘no’ into a ‘yes’

Here are some questions you can ask or statements you can make to turn the aforementioned negative statements into positive ones.

  • Is there something about the product or service you didn’t like about which I can tell my supervisors? 
  • Let me get someone who is an expert to assist you.
  • What can I do to make you a satisfied customer?
  • My supervisor is actually not here. Is there a phone number you can give me so that when the supervisor returns, he/she can give you a call?
  • Simply smile, acknowledge the customer and be positive.
  • Empathize with the customer. Identify the problem, confirm it with the customer and then offer a solution.
  • Never say “I don’t know”; this is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Tell the customer you must consult with a supervisor or manager if it is above your authority.

You can’t always please every customer, but you can consistently give superior customer service. Consistency is the key to happy customers and a successful business.

Make it your goal to change your work culture from a “no” environment to a “yes” environment. Don’t accept bad customer service. Little by little, you will see a positive change in your circle of daily interactions.


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