Seven Tips for Coping with Customer Questions

Do you sometimes think your customers are clueless based on the questions they ask? If so, you are not alone.

A new survey from IT-employment agency Robert Half Technology reveals chief information officers get asked some pretty bizarre questions – and many of them clearly fall outside the realm of an IT staff's job description. Among the IT help-desk requests the surveyed CIOs got:

  • Can I turn on the coffeepot with my computer?
  • How do I start the Internet?
  • Can you come over and plug in this cord for me?
  • How do I pirate software?
  • Can you recommend a good dry cleaner?

Funny – and yet not. But the range of crazy questions demonstrates how important it is to train customer-service employees to be ready for anything.

Here are seven tips for excellent customer service that any business can use:

Listen. Sometimes, customers just need to know someone at the company is interested in their problem, notes John Tschohl, co-author of Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service.

Apologize. Don't engage in fault-finding or laying blame, but do let the customer know you are sorry they had a problem, says Tschohl.

Take them seriously. Customers' questions may seem ridiculous, but they're important to that customer. Try not to laugh.

Stay calm. Customers may be irate, frustrated, or just irritating. But don't get down on their level, ever. Just staying calm can make customers feel you care and have the ability to help them.

Suggest solutions. Help-desk workers should have the power to resolve more than 95 percent of customer issues without having to pass the customer on to another person. Allow line workers to give out free coupons, accept returns, give refunds, and take other needed remedies without having to consult anyone. Then they can offer customers a range of options for resolving their problem, and get the job done, Tschohl says.

Be available. These days, smart customer service means setting up a help desk on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever else your customers hang out online.

Acknowledge your limits. If you're asked a crazy question like the one above, simply say that you're sorry their request isn't within the scope of what your company provides. You can't be everything to everyone.

What's the craziest customer-service question you've ever had? Add yours to the list in the comments below.