What Customer Service Can Learn From Vanilla Ice

#3 Motivational Poster on FlickrI’m a karaoke fan. I admit it. Not a borderline junkie like my 801 friends Krista and Tim Parry or Deb Henry, but I’m not afraid to get up on stage and do my best rendition of Baby Got Back or Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) … which Kristina and I did sing on our honeymoon.

(There may even be some video floating around the interwebs with me rapping.)

While I believe that Baby Got Back is one of the best get-people-on-the-dance-floor songs ever produced, my “go to” song is, has always been, and will always be … (drum roll):

Vanilla Ice: Ice Ice Baby.

I’m a big fan of Ice Ice Baby for a few reasons. One – I can relate to Vanilla (aka Robert Matthew Van Winkle). Oh wait. Just kidding. We don’t really have much in common. The bottom line is I dig the song. I know (almost) all of the words and love jumping on the mic and rapping away.

But this post is not really about Vanilla Ice. It’s about what customer service can learn from the hook of Ice Ice Baby.

If You Have A Problem…

Admit it. You know several of the lyrics of Ice Ice Baby. I was rapping them aloud, by myself, the other day (one of the “perks” of working from home). I got to the following line and paused:

If there was a problem (yo) I’ll solve it…

What caused me to pause? Well, I thought about solving problems. That’s what customer service is all about, right? Problem solving. I shared this fact with my wife last night and she brought up a good point. Sometimes people are not looking for an answer or a solution. Often, they just want their voice to be heard. She’s a smart one. One of the many reasons I married her. Another reason I’m with Kristina is that she follow up that statement by quoting another line from that same song that relates to this concept:

Alright. Stop. Collaborate and listen…

So, I’ll amend my earlier point that when we contact customer service we sometimes want our problem solved while other times we just want to be heard. We want someone to empathize with us. We want a human to say, “Man. I feel your pain. Sorry that happened.”

Apple Listened, Empathized, & Solved My Problem

I love my MacBook Pro, but was having some serious issues. To make a long story short, I’d spent countless hours at the Apple Store (Genius Bar). They replaced my hard drive, as well as my logic board (twice), display, and airport card. Still, the issues continued. After this went on for about a month, I called the main Apple Support line. I explained the situation, and paused while the customer service rep read the notes of my account. The first thing he said was this:

Wow. That really sucks. I’m terribly sorry that has happened to you. Let’s see how we can make this right.

It was like a huge weight had been lifted. He listened, empathized and was about to tell me how Apple was going to make it right. The story ends with him recommending (and adding to the account notes) that I get a new MacBook, free of charge. He advised me to go to my local Apple Store and have them pull up my account with his notes. The rest is history. I’m typing this post on my new (very functional) MacBook Pro.

Why This Matters

Apple is just one example. I’m hoping you have others that you’ll share in the comments below. This matters for a few reasons.

  1. The customer is not always right … but sometimes they want or need to be heard.
  2. Not all problems have immediate solutions … but setting proper expectations can go a long way.
  3. Customer service reps may not have the answer immediately … but good ones will find the answer and get back to you.
  4. Empowering reps to think like humans works. I understand policies and all, but in this example from Apple, I’m betting the rep used guidelines set forth by Corporate yet still made his own decision.
  5. Being human wins. Re-read what the Apple rep said to me. It was not scripted. It was not rehearsed. It was not a canned reply. It was not in a manual anywhere. He was being a human.

So, whether you are a customer service rep responding to problems or a customer contacting someone with an issue … remember Vanilla Ice.

Yo man, let’s get out of here. Word to your mother.

Photo Credit: martino!
Watch full Ice Ice Baby video on YouTube.

DJ Waldow