As customers, we’ve all experienced it – those times when the number of customers greatly outweighs the number of service providers. Long lines at retail stores; 30-40 minute wait times in call centre queues, etc. It’s a profound source of frustration for customers and, as those who have been on the other side know, for the service providers as well.

In most cases these situations are created by process and policy shortcomings. The company simply hasn’t come up with a more effective way to deal with high volumes. A lot of organizations, sadly, don’t even try to deal with the real problem, and instead focus on the fallout. They see it as more cost-effective to just deal with the minority of customers who complain than it is to make the investment in fixing things for everybody. What this means to customer service people is that, ultimately, it is up to them to make the best out of a bad situation.

When you find yourself this situation, here are three key things to remember:

1. Your customers are already feeling that they are unimportant to your company. Let them know they are important, at least, to you.

2. Don’t overpromise when you suspect you or the company won’t be able to deliver. That will just make things worse.

3. Although you may feel that ‘processing customers faster’ is the solution, it’s probably the worst approach you can take. Don’t treat customers as numbers or cattle. Be sure to make a connection with each one – even if it’s just with a smile, eye contact or a warm tone of voice. The last thing you want is for people to have a long wait and an unpleasant experience.

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