winnie the poohFavourite author A.A. Milne is best known for the stories and poems he published about Winnie-the-Pooh. The books might be aimed at children, but there are also some timeless gems in there for those of us who are All Grown Up.

Let’s take a light-hearted look at a few quotes, and turn them into customer service lessons.

“Organisation is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it’s not all mixed up.”

There are few things more annoying for customers than getting a reply which makes it clear that you haven’t read their message properly (and believe me, it happens All. The. Time.) So before you start to reply to a customer enquiry, whether that question came via a social media post, email or live chat, make sure you have all the facts.

If you just launch in with a response, you might overlook vital information. Do your customer – and yourself – a favour and spend a few minutes reviewing the case so far before you compose a response. So before you rattle those keys, take a moment to get organised, and arm yourself with the facts of the case. That will allow you to solve the issue properly, rather than confusing things further. Or, to say it with Winnie-the-Pooh’s words: “Think, think, think.”

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like What about lunch?

The customer service equivalent of those short, easy words is pretty obvious: “I can solve that for you”. If something goes wrong, don’t write out a long explanation of what your company’s policies do – and do not – allow you to do. Instead, cut to the chase and explain what the outcome will be for your customer. If it’s not favourable, see what you can do to change that. Is your response something that you would like to hear? Keep your words and your message short, easy and positive.

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience – well, that comes from poor judgment.”

It’s inevitable that you will make mistakes. Even the best of us have off days. The important thing is that you learn from these errors, and set them right whenever possible. One of the main issues with poor customer service is that it’s so common that most customer service reps have no idea what good service should actually look like.

Over time you will learn more and more about how to deal with specific problems that arise. When you make a mistake, don’t try to gloss over it. Examine the situation carefully, see what you could have done differently, and figure out how you will approach the issue next time.

“Pay attention to where you are going because without meaning you might get nowhere.”

When customers contact you, they might not be clear about the outcome they are hoping for. Sometimes they want a yes or a no, as an answer to, for instance, a simple question about stock. But if they’re reporting a problem, they might not be clear about what they want you to do next.

As the customer service representative, it then becomes your responsibility to bring the contact to a satisfactory close. With any customer interaction, always keep your ultimate goal in mind. You’re not there to chat about the weather – you need to give the customer what they want, even if they don’t yet know what it is.

Take the long view. If a customer writes to tell you that, for example, the item they ordered has been lost in the post, don’t just tell them that you require a wait of 21 days before taking any further action. If that is indeed your business’s policy – and if so, I suggest you rethink it! – you need to tell the customer exactly what will happen after that time has elapsed, and what the customer needs to do, if anything. Don’t just answer all the messages in your inbox; resolve the issues contained in those messages!

“Think it over, think it under.”

Some problems won’t have obvious solutions. This is where a bit of lateral thinking comes in handy. Don’t be afraid to be a bit ‘out there’ in your problem-solving attempts (online shoe retailer Zappos is a past master in this field).

When you’re sitting there at your keyboard it can feel like the customer’s issues are just something you need to get off your plate before you can go for your coffee break. In reality, the customer’s issues are the most important thing facing the entire company at that moment in time.

If the best solution for all concerned (that means the customer, the long-term outlook for the company, and your overall job satisfaction – not just your mood on that particular day) isn’t immediately apparent, then give it some thought. The challenges that don’t fit into your handy list of FAQs can be the most rewarding ones to solve.

Even with Winnie-the-Pooh to advise you, providing good customer service can be trying at times. Nonetheless, it’s important to see things from the customer’s point of view. After all, as A.A. Milne put it: “A little Consideration, a little Thought for Others, makes all the difference.”