I needed to send a small envelope containing a thumb drive with training material on it so I went to our local small Shipping Office rather than the Post Office. I rarely have any issues when mailing out of this business, but that was not the case with my thumb drive. All was well sending it until it returned with a stamp stating not enough postage. I thought I got off pretty cheap when sending it. I went back to the Shipping Office and showed the individual behind the counter what happened and they had no clue what to do. The manager was not around to ask so they suggested I go to the Post Office for help. In the end it turned out the lack of postage was due to the bulkiness of the envelope containing the thumb drive. Later, when walking away from the Post Office I wondered why my local small Shipping Office didn’t know what the Post Office knew – they should be the experts as well. In retrospect, I think I should have suggested the individual who messed up my mailing use their Three Lifelines to problem solve my situation.
Taken from the hit show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, lifelines are used by contestants when a question becomes difficult to answer. While there are many variations of lifelines used by the show over these many years, as I teach in my customer service classes, my suggestion for those who wish to problem solve a customer’s request are (1) Ask a Friend, (2) Ask the Audience, or (3) Ask an Expert.
Ask a Friend.
Ask a Friend, or in our case, ask a coworker should be the first people we check in with when attempting to problem solve a customer’s difficult request. If you do not know the answer, do not guess or attempt to make stuff up. I have seen people on the counter do that and it is not pretty, and it never ends well for them or the customer. So ask a friend/co-worker. That one is easy unless you are the only one on the counter. Then you might want to Ask the Audience!
Ask the Audience.
To Ask the Audience relative to our customer service scenario on the counter means to ask the Customer. During the early days of my sales experience, I did not have a lot of knowledge about our products. Whenever my co-worker or manager were not around, I would ask the next best person who should know - the customer. I learned more about the products I sold when talking to customers. Yes, I did play the “new guy” card in an attempt to save face and garner some sympathy from the customer, but more often than not, the customer would run with it and help me out. Customers are a great source of information. However, if your customer is clueless, and many of mine were, I would Ask the Expert.
Ask the Expert.
Asking the Expert for those of us selling products to our customers means to call the vendor. I cannot be the only one who has spent hours on the phone with the vendor problem solving product issues for customers! While there are good vendors and horrible vendors, they are still a good source of information. Additionally, using a vendors catalog would sometimes offer the customer positive results. I used them frequently and often!
I hope the next time you find yourself lost and confused when attempting to help your customer, do not fake it, remember your Three Lifelines, Ask a Friend, Ask the Audience or Ask the Expert; in time you will become the one your coworkers come to for a lifeline.