I worked in a variety of customer service roles before I landed in marketing: I’ve been a concierge, I’ve done phone support, and—like most college girls in the city—I worked retail. Every customer service position requires a different angle of finesse, but while I was recently in California visiting my nieces and nephews, reading them children’s books, I realized that there are a few broad takeaways that a certain honey-loving bear can teach us not just about how to treat people, but how to treat customers. Here are four things I learned about customer service from Winnie the Pooh.
One of the main characteristics of Winnie is his infallibly positive mindset. In Winnie-the-Pooh, Pooh doesn’t let the tough stuff like hard goodbyes get him down. Instead, he turns disappointment on its head. “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard,” he says, and we can find a lesson there when it comes to dealing with customers. How can we turn a hard conversation or a serious complaint into a positive? It’s about positive attitude when it comes to your reps, but it’s also about training them the right way, actively teaching them the skills to turn a bad into a good. I’ve dealt with some difficult customers in my time, and it seems rather obvious, but if you can maintain a positive attitude—as well as making sure they get the service they need as soon as possible—and see the big picture, everyone will be happy.
When a big part of a customer service representative’s job is listening to complaints, it’s easy to slip into a defensive or unkind disposition. The remedy to this is, in part, the positive attitude mentioned above, and in part the conscious effort to be gracious. In one Winnie the Pooh story, Eeyore’s friends mean to give him a pot of honey and a balloon for his birthday. Somehow the balloon gets popped and the honey disappears, but Eeyore doesn’t mind because he simply is pleased his friends thought of him at all. It can be difficult, but we can do this with our customers. Be gracious. Remember that not only are they human beings with problems that need to be solved, but also they are the reason we all have jobs! Customers make the world go round. Show them the gratitude they deserve.
Keep It Simple
One of my favorite lines from Pooh is, “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like ‘What about lunch?’” What this means for your customer service is: skip the jargon. Train your customer service team to be able to convey complex ideas with simple language, especially if you are providing a service involving technology or software. Not only is it “more fun” to have a conversation that all parties can understand, but it’s more effective. Customers should feel comfortable when they approach you—whether by phone or in person—to discuss issues or questions they might have: assess their level of understanding and make them comfortable. Sometimes the issue is merely that customer service reps don’t know how to handle the calls they get from customers with problems: resolve this with something as simple as a virtual call center to ensure that calls are routed to the right person and department…every time.
If nothing else, Pooh is patient. This is what he says about not being heard: “If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.” Sometimes the fluff in a customer’s ear is the fact that they have a grievance and they want to be sure their concerns are heard. They may not be ready to hear a solution until they have vented about the whole of the problem. Be patient. When they are ready, you can offer advice and attempt to fix whatever issue the customer has. In the meantime, make sure you don’t have fluff in your ear: make sure you are listening to what your customer has to say. There may be something you think you know that you might be missing.
Winnie the Pooh has inspired countless metaphors about life, and now he inspires customer service. The silly old bear knows more than just honey and balloons—he would make a heck of a call center rep.