If you have ever had contact with another human, chances are good that you’ve been on the giving or receiving end of customer service. Years ago, when I was a customer service representative in a financial institution, my supervisor introduced us to the “Pickle Principle.” If you’re not familiar, here’s a rundown of the story: Bob Farrell (owner of Farrell’s Ice Cream stores in the 60s-70s) received a letter from an unhappy customer. The customer always asked for (and received) one extra pickle slice on his cheeseburger – 2-3 times a week for years. On the day in question, he made his usual request and the waitress told him she could bring a side of pickles for an extra charge. After consulting with the manager, she told him she could sell a single pickle slice for a nickel.
Of course, this story is much bigger than the pickle slice. Mr. Farrell coined the phrase “Give ‘em the pickle!” as a way to say “Find a way to give customers what they want.” I can still hear these words whenever I have the opportunity to work with a client. Unfortunately, we have all had an experience that equals or exceeds the aforementioned pickle problem.
I came across a blog by Michael Hess on MoneyWatch that promised to give me the six best words in customer service. He made a great point about the ultimate goal of the customer service experience:
“The goal, of course, is to make the customer as happy as possible with the service experience, even if the outcome isn’t exactly as she had hoped for. It is, in fact, possible for a customer to have a positive feeling about a company even if she doesn’t get what she wants. And that is where words make a big difference.”
Among Michael’s tips include: using active words (“I will…” vs. “I can…”); getting in touch with genuine compassion and empathy for the customer; maintaining a cheerful and natural manner in speaking to customers.
I believe this is all great advice. All of these tactics only work if the individual is genuine and not forced, in their interaction with the customer. As customers, we have had enough negative experiences that our expectations are often low. Positive words can make a huge difference in your interaction with a customer. For example, “Let me get back to you on that,” vs. “I am happy to help. I will research this issue and call you back by 3:00 p.m. this afternoon.” Which would make you feel better about the interaction?
For more, including the six words to improve your customer experiences, read the blog here.
More about the Pickle Principle here.