Augie’s customer service lessons

Stubborn Augie

Stubborn Augie

We adopted a puppy three months ago. Augie is a nine month old Boston Terrier and cute as can be. But, he’s also a teen and can be full of mischief.

Augie provides me with many lessons I can share with my clients. For instance, I recently was hired to give a customer service training to a credit union’s call center staff and I was discussing how to appropriately say no to a member; something that is challenging for many people.

I teach that you can’t just say no to a customer and leave it at that. You have to offer something in exchange. For instance, the credit union staff could say something like, “Unfortunately, we’re not able to reverse that non-sufficient fund fee, but what we can do is sign you up for account alerts so that when your account is low you get an email letting you know your balance. Would you like me to do that for you?”

When I explained this, I used the analogy of when Augie is chewing on something he shouldn’t be – a pine cone, plant, the feather duster, etc… Instead of just taking it away from him, I offer something in exchange that he can chew on– like his Nylabone or a squeekie toy. It makes it less upsetting to him and he still gets something, sometimes, something even better.

This morning, I needed to get Augie to come to me so I could wipe his rear end after he had sat in something icky. But as I came towards him with some urgency, tissue in hand, he thought we were playing a game of chase. Oh boy, if I run away she’ll chase me. The more I chased him the more he gleefully ran away.

Finally, I stopped, and said in a stern voice, “Augie come!” He didn’t come. So, I tried a sterner voice with a very serious look on my face. “Augie COME!!! He looked at me like I was crazy. And, I continued to get madder. In fact, I broke all obedience rules and repeated “Come”, Come here”, “Come on”, “COME HERE” several times as Augie just stared at me. We were taught in obedience class to never give a command more than once because your dog learns he can ignore it when it’s repeated several times.

Finally, I realized there was no way he was going to come to me if I had an angry tone in my voice, and my face screwed up in anger. It was counter to every fiber in my body to call him in a friendly, inviting voice because I was MAD!!! But, that’s what I did and he then sauntered over to me. I then said, “Good come Augie” even though I wanted to scream “It’s about freaking time!!!!!”

In the credit union training, we were talking about how to handle angry members. Just as I needed to stop chasing after Augie, you need to be still with your disgruntled customers. You must allow your upset customer to vent while you are quiet and listen.

Once the customer is done venting, it is helpful to paraphrase what you heard so he or she feels understood. Then you can move into solution mode. But, you must have a helpful, friendly voice. Your customer is not going to calm down if you also get angry or defensive; just like Augie was not going to come anywhere near me as long as I was shouting at him.

Finally, just like I praised Augie for coming, say something helpful at the end of the transaction like, “Is there anything else I can help you with?”. This shows you truly want to be helpful.

I’m sure Augie will continue to push my buttons, just like customers can push the buttons of those who serve them. Remember to be calm, friendly and to throw them a bone when you have to say no.

Do you have a pet that teaches you important lessons? What customer service lessons do you have?



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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

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