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3 customer service lessons the World Cup taught us

So the World Cup is over for another four years. At first glance you wouldn’t think that it had much to teach us about anything but football. But scratch the surface of any match and you’ll find all sorts of parallels to be drawn with everyday life… and with the wondrous world of customer service.Let’s take a look back at some of the main events of the competition to find inspiration for work at the frontlines of customer service.

Don’t exaggerate (like Arjen Robben)

Dutch forward Arjen Robben is best known for his speed on the pitch – and for his acting skills. When he took a theatrical fall during his country’s match against Mexico, debate broke out about whether he’d been faking. Robben stands by the authenticity of that particular tumble, but has admitted that he does over-egg the pudding a bit on occasion.

Making a big deal out of something that wasn’t really that important is a classic customer service mistake. An extreme (but nonetheless real) example is this week’s Comcast customer service debaclein which a customer made a simple call to close her account. But the customer service rep, refusing to accept that she could possibly want to leave the company, would not let the matter drop.

While this particular case crossed the line into farce, the reason why so many of us have listened to the recording and been able to relate is because many companies do make mountains out of their customer service molehills. If you find yourself in a position where you disagree with the customer, remember that the customer is always right. Let it go, and instead look for ways you can improve your services across the board. Don’t make one incident bigger than it is.

Don’t bite (like Luis Suárez)

Officious customers who sniff “I pay your wages, you know!” deserve a kick in the shins. But there is more than a grain of truth behind what they say. With no customers to serve, there’d be no business. However much a customer may annoy you, there’s no point biting the hand that feeds you. Do it to enough customers, and you may find yourself out of a job.

Uruguay striker Luis Suárez found this out after the infamous biting incident, which saw him receive a full suspension for four months. In his case, with a nice apology and forgiveness from his opponent, he’ll be back in the game before too much longer.

But for businesses who ‘bite’ their customers, redemption is not so easy to achieve. Statistics suggest that 9 out of 10 customers will switch to a competitor if you don’t treat them well. With that kind of defection rate, you’d better make sure you treat the vast majority of your customers like royalty. Otherwise, you have a 90% chance of losing them. Lose enough of your customers, and you’ll lose your business along with them.

Don’t be a badass (but be Leo Messi instead)

Argentine footballer Leo Messi is the seventh most-popular athlete in the United States. That’s not bad going for someone who is not American, doesn’t live in America, and plays a sport which is a minor one in the US. Why, then, is Messi so popular, and so well-known? Apart from being brilliant at what he does, he’s an all-round nice guy.

Being good at what you do is a prerequisite to being successful in business. If you don’t have a good product or service, then being nice is only going to take you so far. But it’s HOW you do what you do that makes the real difference. UNICEF ambassador Messi was going to be well known whatever he did – his football skills are amazing. But it’s his likeable personality and tireless charity work (including the Fundacion Leo Messi, set up to make life better for children around the world) that have made him such a popular guy.

It’s a fact that people respond positively to open, honest contact, be it from football stars or customer service representatives. And as an unexpected bonus, it’s good for you, too! It turns out that when you genuinely enjoy your job (as opposed to faking it), you sleep better and experience less stress than service staff who put on an act to provide service with a smile. And on a business level, companies like McDonald’s cop a lot of flack for their product – but their fundraising and support for families of sick children (through the Ronald McDonald House project) has won them a lot of fans.

That’s customer service on a grand scale. Now that the party in Brazil is over, we’ve got four years to go before the next World Cup face-off. Time to get back to work… Why not try putting these light-hearted tips into practice? With a bit of inspiration from your favourite football stars, who knows how many loyal customers you’ll be able to win by the time the next edition rolls around?