How important is it to deliver amazing customer service?
Let me throw some stats at you:
- More than 85% of people are willing to pay extra for a better customer service experience.
- More than 30% of customers will walk away from a brand they love after a single bad experience.
- More than 65% of companies now compete primarily on the basis of customer experience.
And you can find a hundred more studies that demonstrate how important the customer experience is in reducing churn, creating loyal customers, and driving revenue. Yet many businesses still struggle to provide consistently good customer service and support.
Why? Because training your customer service team is a challenge, especially when you don’t have a framework (or formula) they can consistently follow.
So, if you’re one of those companies, you’ve come to the right place.
Below are six easy-to-teach formulas you can use to train your customer service team to deliver amazing support.
Plus, we included a free template (at the end of this post) you can use to create your own job aid.
Let’s get started!
L.A.S.T. stands for Listen, Apologize, Solve, and Thank.
This method works well for phone, chat, email, and in-person customer service situations where employees can typically resolve most complaints themselves.
It works like this:
You should actively listen to each customer’s needs or complaints. And you should show your customer you’re listening by repeating their question or concern.
For example, let’s say a customer has been overcharged on their cell phone bill and calls into a call center. First, the representative should listen to the explanation of what’s wrong by responding with a statement like, “I understand. You have been charged an extra $50 on your bill that you aren’t normally charged.”
Once you’ve acknowledged this issue, simply verbalize your regret that it occurred. Tell your customer you’re sorry. It’s important for customers to feel as if the person they’re talking to empathizes with them.
Continuing with the example above, after the representative has listened to the customer and acknowledged their problem they can roll right into the apology — even if they aren’t sure if the $50 is correct or not. They might say, “I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this. Let me take a look at your account now to figure out what’s going on.”
Now work to solve your customer’s problem. As a manager, you need to empower your customer service team to solve problems. Make sure they have the tools, training, and resources to solve customer issues, and if they can’t make sure they have a way of escalating the issue and setting customer expectations properly.
Back to the example, this is likely the type of issue that can be resolved in one call. The rep might find that the charge is legitimate and walk the customer through the bill. Alternatively, they might apply a credit to make the customer happy.
And finally, after every customer interaction, express gratitude. Thank the customer for their business and for bringing the issue to your attention.
To wrap up the example, they should end the call by thanking the customer, by saying something like this, “Is there anything else I can do for you? Well, thank you for calling in today, we appreciate your business.”
B.L.A.S.T. stands for Believe, Listen, Apologize, Satisfy, and Thank.
This method works like the L.A.S.T. method with a few caveats. It works well for phone, chat, email, and in-person customer service and with frontline employees who can’t immediately solve customer service issues on their own.
It works like this:
First, it begins with Believe rather than Listen. It’s easy for customer service reps to get jaded. Sometimes customers make things up, for example, or they might complain about things that seem to make no sense. But it’s important for your reps to know that the customer believes they have a legitimate complaint. The customer service staff must also believe that they have a duty to attend to the customer.
The rest of this method similar to L.A.S.T.
Staff should actively listen to each customer’s needs or complaints. On top of that, they should demonstrate to the customer that they are listening by repeating the question or concern.
Once an issue is acknowledged, train staff to verbalize regret that it occurred. It’s important for customers to feel as if the person they’re speaking to truly does empathize with them about the problem.
The S in B.L.A.S.T. stands for Satisfy, which is similar to Solve. Customer service staff should figure out what they have the power to do to make the issue right with the customer. Sometimes, the customer simply wants to know that the issue will be discussed and addressed in the future.
Make sure staff express gratitude for the customer and the fact that they took time to bring the issue to someone’s attention.
For example, a customer shows up in the store with a damaged product. Within reason, the customer service rep needs to believe — or buy into — the fact that the product was damaged when the customer purchased it. They’ll listen to the customer’s issue and respond with something like, “I understand. The tent you purchased had a hole in it. I’m sorry you had to deal with that defect and apologize for the inconvenience.”
In this case, the customer probably wants to return for a replacement or a credit. Either way, by processing that request efficiently, the rep satisfies the customer. They can then say something along the lines of, “Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We’ll notify the manufacturer. Thanks for shopping with us, we hope you come back soon.”
L.A.A.F. stands for Listen, Apologize, Acknowledge, and Fix.
This method works well for phone, chat, email, and in-person customer service, especially when employees can solve most issues quickly and without having to escalate the matter to another level.
Here’s how it works:
The Listen and Apologize steps of the process work the same as they do in the L.A.S.T. and B.L.A.S.T. methods.
Staff should actively listen to each customer’s needs or complaints.
Once you have demonstrated to the customer that you understand their question or concern, you should apologize in a way that shows empathy.
Acknowledge is a step that ties into both listening and apologizing. It reaffirms that the employee has heard and understood the customer’s issue.
For example, someone might complain that they received the wrong food and state that they are going to be late for a meeting. The employee might respond with, “I’m sorry that you had to deal with this and understand you’re short on time because of it.”
Once the issue is acknowledged in this matter, customer service staff should work to fix it as they’re able.
For example, they might let the customer know that they’ll rush the right food order. Alternatively, they might refund the money or give the customer a voucher for a free meal next time — or some combination of all three. The important thing is to do what works best for the customer. For example, if they don’t have time to wait for new food, another option might be necessary.
H.E.A.R.T. stands for Hear, Empathize, Apologize, Respond, and Thank.
This method can be used in a variety of environments, but it may work best for phone and in-person customer experiences.
It works as follows:
Train your staff to truly listen to customer complaints. Listening and hearing mean not speaking yourself, so staff may need to be patient to allow customers to finish communicating. This is true for written communication, such as chat or email, too. When digesting customer comments, concerns, or complaints, staff should direct their entire attention to the matter at hand.
Once the customer has communicated, staff should respond in an empathetic way. Starting communication with “I understand” or indicating a shared human response such as “I would also be upset if this happened to me” can help show empathy. Empathy is easier to convey in person or over the phone, so the HEART method may not be the best option for chat or email support.
Once customer service staff show they care, they should apologize that the client had to deal with this issue.
Staff should fix the issue immediately if possible. When that’s not an option, they should still offer a positive response. Options can include acknowledging the problem and promising that it will be addressed or offering to escalate the matter.
Regardless of the outcome, train staff to thank the customer for bringing the matter to someone’s attention and for being a client.
G.U.E.S.T. stands for Greet, Understand, Education, Satisfy, and Thank.
Unlike the other methods on this list, G.U.E.S.T. is a general sales and customer service methodology that can be used when serving customers throughout the buying journey. You can use it to deal with complaints, but it’s a good acronym to teach your staff to employ in any situation.
It works as follows:
Greet people as soon as they enter a store, office, or even a digital queue. You can use chatbots to greet people who come to your website.
Train staff to take time to understand a customer’s needs — whether the person is shopping, seeking information, or has a complaint that needs to be resolved.
Teach your staff the value of education and information over the hard sell — customers are more likely to purchase from someone who is genuinely trying to help them make the best decision for themselves.
Ensure your staff has the power to provide what the customer needs, whether that’s a product recommendation or a fix for a complaint.
Ensure staff always thank customers, whether it’s for shopping, purchasing, or bringing a matter to the attention of management.
B.L.I.P.S. stands for Believe, Listen, Investigate, Present, and Satisfy.
B.L.I.P.S. is the formula we developed here at UniTel Voice. We’ve found that it takes the best elements from the above customer service acronyms and uses them in the most practical way.
Here’s how it works:
Believe your customers. Take what they’re saying as fact. Sure, a customer could be wrong or even lying, but think of your job as a problem solver instead of an interrogator.
Listen to your customers. To show your customer that you’re actively listening and fully understand their issue, repeat their concern: “I understand you’re having trouble logging into your app”.
Investigate the issue. Politely ask as many clarification questions as you need to fully understand the problem. If you need to, pull up the customer in Zoho, log in to their UniTel Voice account, or pick up the phone and call them.
Present your customer with a plan that explains how you are going to help them solve their problem.
If you can fix the problem for your customer, do it for them right then and there.
If it’s something your customer can do themselves, present them with detailed instructions and offer to walk them through each step.
If you can’t solve the customer’s problem right that minute, make sure they understand the action plan for solving their problem, explaining: why you can’t immediately solve it, who will solve it, how it will be solved, and when it will be solved.
Satisfy your customers. Make sure the customer is happy with how you addressed their issue and solved their problem. Ask: “Does that make sense?” “Did that help?” “Is there anything else I can do for you?” And, don’t forget to say thank you and ask for a review!
*FREE TEMPLATE: Here's our actual BLIPS Job Aid you can use as a template for your own customer support team.
Wrapping It Up
As you can see, a lot of customer service comes down to listening, empathy, and plain old manners. Actively listening, apologizing when something goes wrong, and thanking customers go a long way.
Training your team to do these things consistently takes practice. Make it easier on them by adopting one of these memorable acronyms.
And over time, you’ll see your customer service team will become known for providing amazing support.
Editor’s Note: The article is part of the blog series Run Your Business, brought to you by the marketing team at UniTel Voice, the virtual phone system priced and designed for startups and small business owners.