Has this ever happened to you? 

I was shopping online for software when a chat window popped up to ask if I would like assistance. I initiated the chat and asked about a product I was interested in. After giving me the canned, “I’d be happy to help you with that” response, the customer rep provided a link where I could buy a version of the product labeled “Non-Commercial.”

I asked what “Non-Commercial” meant and was told that it was “different from the Business version.”

I asked what the difference was and the rep replied, “The business version is intended for business use.”

Um, that wasn’t exactly clear. I asked if the features of the two versions were different.

The rep responded with what seemed like a boilerplate response about how “use of the Non-Commercial version for any business purpose was against the law and could result in major fines.”

I resisted the urge to say something about how I wasn’t exactly Bernie Madof here and had no intention of using their stinking “Non-Commercial” version for commercial purposes. In fact, I was re-thinking using the product at all. Instead, I simply ended the chat.

What’s the lesson here? Hear what the customer is asking. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and don’t assume that he or she knows what you know about your product or services. Be on the lookout for company jargon, acronyms, and boilerplate that might mean something to you, but nothing to the general public.

This can be especially difficult when customers ask the same questions over and over again. There can be a tendency to think “Why don’t they get this?”

Being patient and really listening to what the customer is saying can mean the difference between a positive and a negative customer service experience.