3 Customer Service Techniques You Need to Keep in Your Toolbox

3 Customer Service Techniques You Need to Keep in Your Toolbox
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Be prepared for your customer service challenges by having the right tools to overcome them.

Sometimes, a simple answer is all you need to resolve a customer service issue.

Other times, a heartfelt apology will do the trick.

But some situations call for more. Sometimes, you need to rely on the customer service skills and techniques that can help you get out of sticky situations and make your customers happy.

Below, you’ll learn three valuable techniques to:

  • Overcome customer concerns (to increase retention)
  • Recover from customer service mistakes (to reduce churn and save valuable customer relationships)
  • Explain complicated concepts simply (to reduce customer confusion and effort, which research suggests increases customer loyalty)

1) The “Feel, Felt, Found” Technique For

Overcoming Customer Concerns

Years ago, I didn’t drink coffee.

Wouldn’t touch the stuff.

Hated it.

To me, coffee was the stale brown powder in the Folger’s tin, and frankly, it was gross.

Then one day, I was visiting a friend who’s a coffee nut; this guy packs his own whole coffee beans, hand grinder and coffee maker when he goes on vacation. Crazy, I know.

We were sitting at one his favorite cafes, him with his fancy coffee and me with my bottle of water, when he said: “you’ve gotta try this.”

“No thanks. I don’t like coffee,” I told him.

He smiled.

“I get that. You know, I didn’t like coffee before, either. I grew up with the freeze dried stuff in my house, and hated it my whole life. Then I tried really good coffee, and it changed everything.”

“Here,” he said, pushing a cup toward me. “Just try it.”

And so I took a sip.

All of a sudden, the clouds parted, a rainbow emerged and a tiny unicorn galloped across the table. That was the moment I became addicted to coffee.

Without realizing it, my friend used something called the Feel, Felt, Found Technique for overcoming objections. It comes from the Apple customer service training manual, and it helps to alleviate customer concerns by using empathy.

Feel: Empathize with how the customer feels in that moment, and let them know that you understand.

Felt: Explain that you, too, once felt that way in the past.

Found: Tell the customer how you found that your concern was actually incorrect.

An example that an Apple employee might use is:

“I can see why you’d feel that way. I too felt that the price was a little high. I found it’s real value because of all the built-in software.”

But you could apply it to just about any product:

“I can see why you’d feel that way. When I first started using it, I too felt that the app was a little complicated. But once I realized that I could just do X, I actually found it to be a lot simpler.”

2) The HEARD Technique for Customer Service Recovery

It doesn’t matter how good your business is; screwups happen. And whether you’re at fault or not, it’s in your best interest to make things right for your customers.

No organization knows this better than the Walt Disney Company, who hosts 135 million people in their parks each year, many of them facing severe five-year-old temper tantrums should anything go even slightly awry.

Disney’s approach to customer service recovery is so good that companies pay The Disney Institute many thousands of dollars to train their own service employees and executives.

The technique they teach is an easy-to-remember acronym: HEARD.

    • Hear: let the customer tell their entire story without interruption. Sometimes, we just want someone to listen.
    • Empathize: Convey that you deeply understand how the customer feels. Use phrases like “I’d be frustrated, too.”
    • Apologize: As long as it’s sincere, you can’t apologize enough. Even if you didn’t do whatever made them upset, you can still genuinely be apologetic for the way your customer feels (e.g., I’m always sorry that a customer feels upset).
    • Resolve: Resolve the issue quickly, or make sure that your employees are empowered to do so. Don’t be afraid to ask the customer: “what can I do to make this right?”
    • Diagnose: Get to the bottom of why the mistake occurred, without blaming anyone; focus on fixing the process so that it doesn’t happen again.

Seek perfection, settle for excellence. Remove any personal guilt and examine the processes related to the service failure. Returning customers will appreciate your efforts to improve the experience.

3) The ELI5 Technique for Explaining Technical Concepts

Why did people love Bob Ross so much?

Aside from the obvious answers (“his hair,” “his happy little trees”), people loved (and still love) Ross because he simplified something — oil painting — that had always been thought of as complex and inaccessible.

Before Ross’ TV show, if you wanted to get into oil painting, you’d need to invest heavily in supplies and classes, and spend lots of time learning complicated concepts and techniques.

Ross wanted to show people that oil painting didn’t have to be complex, and it didn’t have to be expensive.

He used only a few main colors, so that people wouldn’t need to spend so much on paint.

He went slowly, and taught techniques that anyone could use, without hard-to-remember terminology.

He broke the process down into simple steps that the average person could follow to create paintings that they could be proud of.

If Ross had taught the old way, using dense language, expensive equipment and fancy techniques, it would’ve been a lot easier for anyone to say “nope, I can’t do that.”

Instead, Ross used simplicity to inspire action.

Simple can be harder than complex: you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.

With the ELI5 Technique, You can use the same process to explain complex concepts and instructions to your customers.

ELI5: Before sending technical instructions to a customer, read them as if you were five years old and make sure you can follow them.

Note: there’s an obvious caveat with this technique. Be respectful and don’t actually treat your customers like children. This is about using simple, easy-to-understand language.

Rather than telling a customer to “take a screenshot” — something that I’ve found many non-technical people may not know how to do, walk them through the process with simple steps:

On an Apple, press Command + Shift + 3 and then release all keys. Now look on your Mac desktop and you should notice a new .png file that contains the words screenshot in the title. This is the screenshot you just took.

On a PC, click the window you want to capture. Press Alt+Print Screen by holding down the Alt key and then pressing the Print Screen key. The Print Screen key is near the upper-right corner of your keyboard.

I encourage you to check out the Explain It Like I’m Five subreddit. In it, experts distill complex topics and explain them as if the reader were five.

As an example, see how one user explains the difference between email, Google, AOL, a website, and web browsers:

Building Your Customer Service Technique Toolbox

I encourage you to bookmark these techniques. I suspect you’ll be able to use at least one of them today.

You won’t use all of them all the time, but you will use all of them over time.

By having the right tools, you’ll be prepared to tackle any challenge that comes your way.

Question: have you used any of these customer service techniques? Tell me how it went in the comments. I’d love to hear about your own tools and techniques, too.

Len Markidan
Len Markidan Len used to head up marketing at Groove. Though he has now moved on to other adventures, he still likes popping in and saying hi every now and then.