THE SITUATION - Nobody Seems To Have An Answer To A Customer's Question
Customers sometimes ask questions that nobody available can answer with confidence and authority. Such questions might be about a product’s features or about a particular policy or procedure that has been developed in another part of the organization. If you don’t know the answer and those around you don’t know the answer, the question is still important to the customer. So, in the spirit of customer service, you still have an obligation to hunt down the answer.
■ Acknowledge Customer’s Needs (1)
■ Assurances of Effort (2)
■ Offering Choices/Empowering (3)
■ Arrange Follow-Up (4)
■ Complete Follow-Up (5)
DIALOGUE - Example For Handling An Unanswerable Customer Question
In this example, the customer asks for clarification of a particular policy about which the employee has not been informed.
We join the dialogue at a point where the employee has concluded he doesn’t know the answer and neither do his colleagues or his immediate manager.
Employee: I know it’s important to have your question answered (1), and I’m going to do my best to get you an answer (2). It’ll probably take me a day or two to find out, and, when I do, I’d like to get back to you.What’s the most convenient way to contact you with the answer (3)?
Customer: How about if I leave you my phone number and you can call and leave me a message?
Employee: I can do that. If you give me your number, I’ll get back to you within 48 hours, one way or the other, so you won’t be waiting and wondering.Does that work for you (3, 4)?
Customer: OK. I’ll look forward to your call.
The employee then hunts down the answer. Regardless of whether he finds a definitive answer or not, he must respond within the 48 hours. If he has the answer, he phones to provide it. If he can’t find the answer within the time period, then he phones as follows:
Employee: Mr. Jones, I wanted to get back to you about your inquiry. I haven’t been able to get an answer for you, but I can refer you to someone who might know, or I can keep trying (5, 3).
EXPLANATIONS - Why This Works To Retain The Customer
As with the dialogue in the previous situation, the employee makes sure to acknowledge that the question is important to the customer and to make sure the customer feels he has some choice and control (1, 2). Then the employee arranges to go the extra mile by committing personally to follow up by trying to find the answer (3). The employee confirms the details of the follow-up and a time line/deadline by which he promises to contact the customer, whether he finds the answer or not (4). Finally, you can see the actual follow-up process (5). What’s important here is that the employee makes a personal commitment to help and keeps that commitment and informs the customer.
HINTS TO MAKE THIS WORK
Never make a commitment to follow up that you may not be able to keep. Keep your commitments each and every time. No excuses.