Want better service? Be a better customer!

When you give a great service, customers appreciate you more. When you give bad service, customers can be a pain in the neck. The other view is also true. When you are an appreciative and considerate customer, service providers will often serve you better. If you rant and pound the table, people will serve you grudgingly if at all.

Here are the tips I use to be a better customer and enjoy receiving better service:

1. Be appreciative and polite. Remember, there is a fellow human being on the other end of your telephone call, e-mail message or just across the counter. I begin every service interaction with a quick: “Hi. Thank you for helping me. I really appreciate it.” This takes about two seconds and can dramatically improve the mood of a service provider.

2. Get the service provider’s name, and use it. I make this short and friendly by asking, “Who am I speaking with please?” or if we are face-to-face, simply “May I know your name?” Once they tell me, I repeat it with a smile in my voice. “Hello (name here). My name is Ron.” This creates a personal connection, takes about four seconds, and makes it much harder for the service provider to treat me like an anonymous account holder or policy number.

3. Be upbeat, if you can. Most service providers face customer after customer all day long. The routine can be a drag. When one customer appears with energy and a smile, she stands up and stands out, often enjoying special care and treatment. You can be that customer by making your (positive) attitudes contagious.

4. Provide information the way they want it. Every service provider has a preferred sequence of gathering data that fits their forms, screens and procedures. Have all your information ready to go, but give it in the order he prefers.

I say, “I have my all my information ready. Which would you like first?” This lets the service provider know you are prepared and will be easy to work with. They appreciate that and often show appreciation through better service. (The time you take getting everything in order will also save time in the service conversation.)

5. Check each step along the way. Simply repeat what the service provider or promises to do. This helps you to move together step-by-step through the service process, catching any questions and making small changes along the way.

6. Confirm next actions. Be sure you understand what will happen next: what they will do, what should you do and what you can both expect from each other. Confirm dates, times, amounts, promises, responsibilities and commitments. Write down what you agree on or ask that a written confirmation be sent to you.

7. When it’s appropriate, commiserate with your service provider. Sometimes a service providers till let their frustration show. They may be upset by a previous customer, a slow computer, high call volume, overwhelming response, pressure from managers or personal events at home.

Whenever you hear a tone of upset from your service provider, be the one to soothe them. I simply say, “It sounds like things are tough right now.” And then I repeat, “I really appreciate your help.” After this brief empathy I’ve had service providers go way beyond the call of duty to make sure my service had no frustration at all.

8. Show real appreciation. A warm “thank you” over the phone or in person is always appropriate. If your service provider deserves more, give more. A nicely written compliment can make a huge difference in some else’s day, or career. And who knows? The one you praise today may serve you again tomorrow with even greater pleasure and delight.

Service is a two-way street. The traffic of goodwill flows equally between customers and service providers. Don’t wait for someone else to make your day. If you want good things to come to you, start the ball rolling by extending goodwill to others.

The service you receive is the reward and recognition you deserve.