Book Review: How to Talk to Customers
Posted by Becky Carroll on June 14, 2007
I was sent a copy of the book How to Talk to Customers by Diane Berenbaum and Tom Larkin, and I would like to share my impressions with you, my readers. Many of you have probably read the other reviews from great bloggers such as Maria, ServiceUntitled, Drew, CB, and Phil; here is my take!
How to Talk to Customers is a very practical guide for anyone in customer service (although I believe marketers could learn a thing or two as well!). It has short, easy to read chapters, making it good for rep or executive alike. The authors, Diane Berenbaum and Tom Larkin are senior vice presidents of Communico, a customer service training and consulting company. The premise of the book is a focus on how to Make A Great Impression on the Customer (acronym MAGIC). The goal, as stated by the authors, is to create a positive experience for any customer dealing with your customer service team. The book does a good job discussing the best practices, or skills, that can be employed by anyone to improve their customer interactions. I felt it was geared mostly to customer service personnel (as well as tech support), but the ideas are really broad enough for anyone to use when speaking to customers.
Their five MAGIC steps of a customer interaction are as follows:
M – Make a connection: Build the relationship
A – Act professionally: Express confidence
G – Get to the heart of the matter: Listen and ask questions
I – Inform and clarify what you will do
C - Close with the relationship in mind
The authors discuss specific words to use (and not to use), apologies, empathy and listening, as well as how to close an interaction. I like that the focus, at all times, is on building stronger customer relationships!
One of my favorite sections is on the four levels of listening.
Level 1: The dialogue is largely transactional
Level 2: Rapport building takes place with the questions asked by the rep
Level 3: Empathetic listening
Level 4: Sharing of personal meaning (the listener is largely silent).
I view these four levels of listening as somewhat of a continuum. The first level is seen in most typical call centers. The second level is a good place to head for call centers making the transition to a more customer-focused call center (as opposed to transaction-focused). The third level of listening I would consider to be best-practice for a call center. The fourth level of listening is more appropriate for personal relationships, in my opinion.
The book also gives 33 “points” of MAGIC than can be used to assess calls or customer interactions. I appreciate that the authors encourage us to look at these points as not just a checklist but as a process of interaction to help focus on both tasks and relationships. Too many call centers focus only on the tasks and forget that every touchpoint can build or harm the relationship with a customer!
There are a lot of great anecdotes of MAGIC and Tragic encounters throughout the book as well. Overall, I would recommend this book for any customer service department needing to train their team on the “soft skills” of taking care of customers. Diane and Tom put a strong emphasis on a regard for others as people. They also advocate making this a choice: we can choose to be MAGIC! That’s the attitude of a Customers Rock! company. Well done!