If you don’t have an answer for a customer, you should make the extra effort to find out.
I don’t really understand the term “lifelong learning.”
According to Wikipedia, lifelong learning is the provision or use of
both formal and informal learning opportunities throughout people’s lives
in order to foster the continuous development and improvement of the knowledge
and skills needed for employment and personal fulfillment. Excuse me, but
isn’t that just living?
I am a very firm believer in the old saying “you learn something
new every day” but I have learned (see, lifelong learner!) that not
everyone wants to learn something new every day. Some people try really, really
hard not to learn anything new, ever. From a marketing standpoint it
doesn’t make any sense. People have questions. People like people who have
answers. It may go without saying but I am going to say it anyway: people like
people who have correct answers.
Know it all
This is a lesson from Marketing 101. If you are that person, the person
with the correct answers, you already have a competitive advantage.
True story: I used to work in patient care and sometimes people would
call our office and ask for someone who worked in a competitor’s office.
We were the first prosthetic listing in the yellow pages. Instead of saying
“wrong number” or “So-and-so doesn’t work here,” I
would let them know they were calling the wrong office but then give them the
correct phone number.
If you are asking why I would advertise or help the competition, you
need to work on your marketing skills. First, it doesn’t cost me anything
to be helpful. And if the caller has a bad experience at the other place, they
may be more inclined to come to us because they already know how helpful we
If you don’t know, find out
A great example of this concept is Zappos. Zappos, the online shoe
retailer, is well-known for its customer service. The company has been called
“fanatical” for the way it goes over and above to please its
customers. A customer service representative goes through 7 weeks of training
to work in the call center. Legend has it you can call Zappos, whose call
center is in Las Vegas, to find a good pizza place where you live. Other
examples of their approach:
- Zappos once sent flowers to a caller who ordered six different pairs
of shoes because her feet were damaged by harsh medical treatments.
- A customer service rep once ran out to a rival shoe store to get a
specific pair of shoes for a woman staying at a hotel in Las Vegas when Zappos
ran out of stock.
- Zappos employees engage the customer in conversation. They
don’t read from scripts.
If you are in a customer service position — and aren’t we all
really — and you say “I’m sorry, I don’t know” on a
regular basis, you are missing the opportunity to get your PhD in KIA (Know It
All). If you have access to the Internet there shouldn’t be a question you
can’t answer. You don’t actually have to know the answer. You just
need to be smart enough to find it.
“I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer. “I
don’t know but let me find out” is an awesome and perfectly
acceptable answer. The only time “I don’t know” is the right
answer is if you’re out of town, don’t have access to the internet
and someone asks you for directions.
For more information:
- Grady C, McIntosh A, Rajah MN, Craik F. Neural correlates of the
episodic encoding of pictures and words. PNAS. 1998;
For more information:
Elizabeth Mansfield is the president of Outsource Marketing Solutions. She can be reached at