No matter how hard any of us try, sometimes you just can’t help the person on the other end of the line. Maybe they want something you don’t offer, maybe they’re looking for advice you can’t give. No matter what the issue is, good customer service keeps what is being asked in mind and the (possible) underlying factors behind it. There’s more than just an answer needed, there’s a way in which to convey the message and make the most of this opportunity to help. For instance, if a member of your organization is requesting a reduction in dues payment because of economic difficulties, don’t use your usual canned close of “Have you purchased your ticket for our event yet?”
Auto-pilot and canned responses kill the human element necessary to succeed in customer service. When you’re faced with a question that you cannot answer to the member’s satisfaction:
1. Be sensitive to the underlying factors behind the question. Financial difficulties? Bereavement situation? Don’t brush it off. It’s as much a part of the question as the actual solution.
2. Explore how this question applies to your membership at large. Is this a one-off question or an inquiry you hear frequently? Can you put something in place that will help ameliorate this problem going forward? Think about it after the call. If you cannot implement these changes, seek out the person who can. (NOTE: if you are able to make some changes, contact the member back once they are implemented even if it won’t help their situation. Explain that their question has changed the organization for the better.)
3. Ditch your go-to verbiage. While canned language may seem to help you through a difficult question, it rarely wins anyone over. For instance, if someone is calling to cancel a membership because of the death of a loved one, don’t close the conversation with “Have a good day.”
Being present in the conversation, even during a difficult one, is key to making an impression on members especially when your answers are not to their liking.