Customer Service Advice: Lose the Scripts. Hire Friendly.

The secret to improving customer service (and therefore, increasing customer loyalty) is simple: Hire friendly people and don’t make them use scripts.  In the past few weeks I’ve experienced both sides of this coin.

I’ve had to deal with my share of customer service robots.  Too many of these people use scripts like life-support. They’ve erased all traces of personality from their souls (at least when dealing with customers.) Dealing with them satisfies my customer expectations no more than a plate of baked cardboard would appease my appetite.

But there’s good news!

If you are persistent, you can find companies where people are not plastic replicas of computer generated models. These organizations hire real people who act like real people. When you talk with them they actually seem glad to help you. And they show some personality.

One example is well known for their customer service: Zappos. Recently I sent an email to their customer service with a question and a request. The person who responded seemed happy to help me. You could feel her warmth right through the email. (That’s not easy to do.) Every email from her painted a picture in my mind of a smiling, fun-loving person who enjoys her job, her customers and probably everything in her life.

I find this completely refreshing. And fun. Working with someone like this makes my day.

The other example came from the Texas Self Storage Association. My new friend there let her personality shine through her emails with no filters . Like the Zappos person, she seemed to enjoy the personal connection she made with people and it showed. She made a boring flat communication medium come alive. That’s not easy to do either.

The most recent customer service  survey my company did showed these traits are important to customers. They told us the best customer service companies have employees who are (among other things) friendly, caring and helpful.

So how do you get beacons of personality like these on your team?

I know some people will consider this heresy but the first step is to lose the scripts. When you force people to conform to scripts you remove their spontaneity and much of their personality. They focus on following the script rather than on listening and responding naturally. Their ability to listen and learn how to help their customer is substantially reduced.

If you want your employees focused on their customers, you need to free them from their scripts.

The second thing is to hire friendly people. A friend of mine brings every employee candidate to lunch. It’s informal, not part of the interview. He likes to see them as they are outside of the HR process. The way they treat people (like their server) tells him more than a resume ever could.

Ask others how they hire friendly. Do a Google search. Read all you can about Zappos or call them and ask how they do it. They’ll probably tell you. Find ways to hire people who enjoy helping people. Then let them do what they do without the shackles of scripts. Encourage them to let their personality loose with every customer. You’ll find customer loyalty increases because they’ll enjoy doing business with you more.

The article was written by Kevin Stirtz