Great customer service. That’s what our customers want and that’s what we wish to provide. But it’s difficult remembering all the different steps to take to provide it. Thankfully, many have developed useful acronyms to help. In today’s post, I compiled my list of the top 10 customer service acronyms to use every day. Store these in your CS toolbox to use as needed.
According to several employees and training manuals, Apple Inc’s sales associates are taught an unusual sales philosophy: not to sell, but rather to help customers solve problems. “Your job is to understand all of your customers’ needs—some of which they may not even realize they have,” one training manual says. To that end, employees receive no sales commissions and have no sales quotas. “You were never trying to close a sale. It was about finding solutions for a customer and finding their pain points”.
- Approach customers with a personalized warm welcome.
- Probe politely to understand all the customer’s needs.
- Present a solution for the customer to take home today.
- Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns.
- End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.
Click here to read more about A.P.P.L.E. in this Wall Street Journal article.
B.L.A.S.T. is a great tool that is used by companies such as Yum! (Parent company of KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, A&W, and Long John Silvers) for training their employees in the basics of handling customer complaints. The acronym stands for:
- Believe – The customer may be lying and be incorrect about their situation. It is important to understand that your customer believes that your establishment has wronged them.
- Listen – Stop and listen to your customer’s complaint. When the customer is done venting; in a calm, non-judgmental tone, repeat their problem so you’re sure you understand the issue and to reassure the customer you’ve paid attention.
- Apologize – Always apologize even if you did nothing wrong. From your customers’ perspective, they have a legitimate complaint, and they expect an apology.
- Satisfy – Make it right. Ask the customer “What can I do to make this right for you”? Be the judge of what is fair of course but allow them the opportunity to feel empowered over the situation.
- Thank – At the beginning, at the end, in the middle; it doesn’t matter, thank the customer for calling and complaining. Why? With the simple act of complaining, your customer is telling you “I care about your business and your success”. They are giving you the opportunity to fix the problem and invite them back so they can give you more of their money.
Thanks to Albert Barneto for sharing this method in his post.
Customer Service Acronyms You Need to Know
The internet has heightened expectations of self-service and responsiveness. Call center technologies make it easier for agents to solve problems (but not every company uses it equally well). And many of customers’ “moments of truth” occur during customer service encounters while many potential miscues create poor experiences.
To top it all off, people used to tell 10 people about a bad experience, but now they can post a blog or a video on YouTube and tell thousands of (or more) people.
So, what can companies do to improve customer service? Use the C.A.R.E.S. approach. These are 5 things that companies need to design into their customer service interactions.
- Communication – Clearly communicate the process and set expectations.
- Accountability – Take responsibility for fixing the problem or getting an answer.
- Responsiveness – Don’t make the customer wait for your communication or a solution.
- Empathy – Acknowledge the impact that the situation has on the customer.
- Solution – At the end of the day, make sure to solve the issue or answer the question.
Thanks to Qualtrics XM Institute for sharing the C.A.R.E.S formula.
4. The LAURA technique
This is a technique you can use to defuse angry customers and refocus on finding a solution. L.A.U.R.A. is an acronym that outlines specific service steps, but it also serves as a quick reminder.
Picture a kind and patient professional named Laura who never seems to get rattled by a difficult customer. She’s an empathetic listener, and always finds a way to make customers feel better.
These are the specific steps outlined by the LAURA acronym:
- Listen – Our instinct is to jump into action and solve the problem, but you’ll get a better result if you take a moment to listen. Let the customer talk or vent and try to understand what’s really bothering them.
- Acknowledge – Customers can be extra difficult to serve when they are experiencing strong emotions. We can help them feel better by validating their emotions with a sincere acknowledgment. For example: “I apologize for this error.” Or “I’m sorry you’ve had such a difficult experience.”
- Understand – Customers often do a poor job of telling their story, so try to understand what they really need. For example, in technical support, studies show the thing customers need even more than fixing their issue is to feel relief about whatever problem that issue was causing.
- Relate – Empathy comes from understanding what someone is experiencing and being able to relate to their emotions. You don’t have to agree, or even think the customer is right, just try to imagine a time when you experienced something similar and show your customer that you get where they’re coming from.
- Act – It’s time to act once you’ve addressed your customer’s emotions. Avoid getting caught up in the blame game and instead re-focus on working with your customer to find a solution.
Thanks to my friend and customer service expert Jeff Toister for sharing this technique with us. Read more about the LAURA technique here.
Gerard Egan defined the acronym S.O.L.E.R. as part of his “Skilled Helper” method of actively listening to the people. It is a non-verbal listening process used in communication, and a key skill taught to counselors as part of their training. But what is it?
- Squarely face the customer, preferably at a 5 o’clock position to avoid the possibility of staring.
- Open posture. Maintain an OPEN posture at all times, not crossing your arms or legs which can appear defensive.
- Lean forward. LEAN slightly in towards the client.
- Eye contact. Maintain EYE CONTACT with the client without staring.
- Relaxed and natural. RELAX. This should in turn help the client to relax.
S: Sitting squarely says “I’m here with you, I’m available to you.” Turning your body away from another person while you talk to him or her can lessen your degree of contact with that person. If for any reason, facing the person squarely is too threatening for them, then an angled position may be more helpful.
O: Adopt an open posture. Crossed arms and/or crossed legs can be a sign of lessened involvement with or availability to others. An open posture says you are open to the client and what he or she has to say. It is non-defensive in nature.
L: It is possible to lean in towards the client. It says, “I’m with you, I’m interested in you and what you have to say.” Leaning back can suggest the opposite. Remember not to lean too far forward, or this may be seen as placing a demand on the client. He or she may find it intimidating.
E: Maintain good eye contact. It’s another way of saying, “I’m interested, I’m with you.” Remember this is not the same as staring. You will need to look away every so often, in order not to stare, but monitor the amount you look away. It could say something about your own level of comfort/discomfort.
R: Be relaxed or natural. If you are fidgeting nervously, it will distract the client. Being relaxed also tells the client that you are comfortable with using your body as a vehicle of personal contact and expression. It helps put the client at ease.
From “The Skilled Helper, 10th Edition” by Gerard Eagan
Acronyms for Great Customer Service
There are many versions of H.E.A.T. On my blog, I’ve written about the H.E.A.R.T. acronym for customer service which adds an “R” for Resolve (the issue) with the “T” for Thank the Customer. You can read the post here.
- Hear Them Out – This isn’t always easy to do, but in the end, the customer is going to feel better. If they can just get it off their chest, they’ll likely be much more open to your solutions. We’ve all been there; sometimes a person just needs to vent. Let them talk, and simply listen.
- Empathize – Feel what your customer is feeling by putting yourself in their shoes. Name their emotions: “I understand that you are frustrated, and I can see why. I would be too.” By showing your customer you understand, you can begin to defuse the situation.
- Apologize – This one is important, especially if you did not personally make the error or create the situation that’s making the customer angry. The last thing the customer wants to hear is that you didn’t do it. Maybe “you” didn’t do it, but your company did – and you’re a team. A simple “I’m sorry” can go a long way. Stand united and take the HEAT for your team. Hopefully, your team members will do the same for you when the tables are turned. After all, we all make mistakes.
- Take Action – Make sure you have an action plan ready to follow your apology. How are you going to fix the problem? What can the customer expect next? It will probably sound something like, “I’m so sorry that this has happened. Here is what I can do for you now….”
Delivering exceptional service to every customer – to every guest — is the responsibility of all employees in your store. Use the G.U.E.S.T. acronym as part of your customer service training and you’ll see improved service and increased loyalty.
- Greet – To make a positive first impression with every customer, store employees should greet every person as soon as they walk in the door.
- Understand – To understand customers’ needs, employees should listen carefully to customer requests and respond effectively and efficiently.
- Eye-contact – Making eye contact lets customers know they are important. Remember that positive body language is just as powerful as the spoken word.
- Speed of Service – Convenience store customers aren’t in your store to browse – they expect to be served quickly, even when the store is busy. Train your employees to prioritize tasks, always putting customer needs at the top of the list.
- Thank You – A personalized and sincere “thank you” at the end of a customer experience will let customers know they’re appreciated and encourage them to return again.
Harsh words are not always indicative of insight, and complaining customers are not always a sign that something is wrong. Be that as it may, sometimes great feedback is buried within the vitriol—give credence to every message.
To give credibility to a customer’s complaint and stay consistent in your tone and process, use the C.A.R.P. method:
- Control the situation.
- Acknowledge the dilemma.
- Refocus the conversation.
- Problem-solve so the customer leaves happy.
Thanks to HelpScout for this tip. Creating an emotional connection – that’s how you establish a very powerful and unusual emotional relationship with the customer.
As businesses think about overhauling their customer service organizations or re-strategizing on how they engage with the customers, it’s useful to understand the different attributes, aspects, and components of a great customer service experience. Use the S.E.R.V.E. method that expands on the following attributes of great customer service.
- Simplicity – Simplicity is the foundational element of all great customer service experiences. Simplicity for a customer service organization means reduced complexities of the systems that are used by the customer service personnel and quick access to customer data, analytics, and well-designed business processes.
- Efficiency – Efficiency is simplicity scaled. When common bottlenecks and complexities have been weeded out of a customer service experience, efficiency comes alive. Efficiency for a customer service organization means continuous evolution of systems and processes that are lean and integrated.
- Repeatability – Repeatability is an attribute of consistency and is achieved when a customer service organization channels its efficiency gains to deliver consistent experiences. Repeatability for the customer means having the confidence and trust that a great support experience will be delivered post-purchase (or even during the purchase).
- Versatility – Versatility is an attribute of delivering a support service that engages customers across many interaction channels and creating a community of customers across social media channels and forums. Versatility to a customer is the ability to be heard on a channel of his/her choice, and the ability to seek out the collective intelligence of the customer/user community.
- Excellence – Excellence for a customer service organization means striving to perfect every part of the customer service experience journey. It is about taking the support organization to heights where employees don’t differentiate between a sales and support interaction and all interactions exceed customer’s expectations. Every interaction is deemed priceless and an opportunity to shape the future of the company’s products and services.
The S.E.R.V.E. method is shared by Ravindran Gangadharan.
The L.E.A.S.T Method has many variations, others are called L.A.S.T. and is touted by numerous companies and customer service experts. This version comes from RTO.
- Listen – To show that you’re actively listening to your customer, repeat their concern: “I understand the service mechanic hasn’t arrived at your house yet.”
- Empathize – Show genuine concern while putting yourself in the customer’s shoes.
- Apologize: A sincere “I’m sorry” goes a long way. “I’m sorry this happened. I’m happy to help fix it.”
- Solve – Find a solution as best you can. You may not be able to completely solve the customer’s problem right that minute but moving toward a solution is often enough. “The mechanic’s earlier appointment is taking longer than expected. Let me see if there is another mechanic available who can come over soon. Will that be OK?”
- Thank – Thank customers for bringing the problem to your attention and for simply being a customer. “Thank you for letting us know so we can get this corrected.”
I had to leave you with a few more CS tidbits. This one is from John DiJulius. best-selling author, consultant, keynote speaker, and President of The DiJulius Group. He says, “Create an emotional connection with the customer. Then, you’re able to create the feeling that they’re a part of a community.” Use his 5 E’s.
*The 5 E’s of Genuine Hospitality
- Eye Contact
- Enthusiastic Greeting
- Ear-to-ear Smile
Hotelier and customer service expert, Bill Quiseng shares this next bonus tip, the “3 P’s of Customer Service”. It’s so easy to implement and he asks that we deliver them consistently to every customer.
*The 3 P’s of Customer Service
We’ve all heard this one.
Don’t dazzle your customers with your brilliance. Make it easy (simple) for your customers to do business with you.
*D.I.R.F.T. stands for Do It Right the First Time
As you can see, these top 10 customer service acronyms, some may call them “customer service mnemonics”, have one thing in common; to help you find the best way to serve the customer. It’s up to you to determine which one applies best to your company, your style, and your approach to service. Then train your team to remember them and use them as needed.