When it comes to customer service, there’s no one-size-fits-all kind of solution. Outstanding customer service is tailored to the specific needs of every guest.
However, there are some frameworks, like The LAST Method, that can help.
In this article, we’ll explore the LAST method for customer service, a unique approach that will set your company apart from competitors. From active listening to expressing gratitude, each element of the LAST method plays a pivotal role in providing the best in class customer service to your guests. Let’s dive in.
What is the LAST method for customer service?
To keep your guests happy and ensure they keep coming back, excellent customer service is non-negotiable. This is why the LAST method is so helpful: It provides operators and their staff with a calculated approach to handling guest interactions.
LAST stands for Listen, Apologize, Solve, and Thank.
In other words, it’s a step-by-step guide on how to interact with guests, especially when it comes to customer complaints.
Why is the LAST method helpful for customer service?
Your employees may approach a customer service issue with the best intentions — yet disappoint an upset customer.
Training them to follow a proven framework like the LAST method can ensure a positive outcome. This is because it provides a systematic way to address concerns.
The LAST method makes your customers feel heard and acknowledged. It offers customers a resolution, as well as makes them feel valued for voicing their concerns. This method has been proven to resolve immediate issues in a way that helps build long-term customer loyalty.
Understanding the LAST Method
So how would an operator put this into practice? Let’s take a look.
Listening involves attentively hearing out the customer’s concerns. It’s not just about hearing their words — but understanding the emotions behind them.
For example, a guest might express frustration about your cancellation policy, even though they were aware of it when they booked your tour. Let’s say something came up and they were forced to cancel the tour a couple of hours beforehand. Your policy says their booking is nonrefundable.
The guest becomes upset, asking for an exception for their unique situation. In this case, your customer service representative would hear out the guest, giving them space to express their concerns. Then, you would acknowledge their frustration and apologize for the inconvenience.
Giving them the space to tell their side of the story will open the playing field for you to explain your side, too. You can then share the reasoning behind your cancellation policy and how it helps protect you as a small business owner.
Apologizing is about expressing genuine regret for the inconvenience caused. A sincere apology doesn’t necessarily admit any wrongdoing — but it does validate the customer’s feelings.
In the scenario above, the representative might say, “I’m truly sorry you had to cancel your tour at the last minute. I understand how frustrating it must be to miss an experience you were looking forward to.”
Apologizing is a great strategy to disarm an angry guest. They’ll feel more open to your explanation and eventual solution if they feel like you are on their side.
Of course, a solution is the ultimate end goal of every customer service issue. Solving the problem is the most essential piece of the LAST method.
Now, this is where your team comes up with a practical solution for the problem that will 1) satisfy the angry guest 2) change their mind about the situation 3) encourage them to return.
In the ongoing scenario, your staff might offer a discount on a future tour, or depending on the situation, agree to refund the customer.
The final step is to thank the customer for their patience and understanding. Expressing gratitude, even in challenging situations, helps make the interaction a positive one.
It can be as simple as, “Thank you for expressing your concerns about our cancellation policy and giving us a chance to understand what happened. We appreciate your understanding as we work on a viable solution for both parties. We would really love to see you soon!”
Implementing the LAST Method in Various Customer Service Scenarios
Let’s see how each of these steps would play out in three different customer service scenarios: a flight delay, a booking error, and an activity cancellation.
A flight delay
A customer is flying to Denver for the holidays but there’s a problem with the aircraft.
- Listening involves understanding the frustration of the customer, knowing that they are traveling to reunite with family for a special time of the year.
- Apologizing acknowledges this inconvenience and makes the traveler feel supported.
- Solving could mean providing meal vouchers or booking them on a new flight to ensure they make it in time.
- Thanking expresses gratitude for their patience.
A booking error
Let’s say a customer books a tour for Saturday, but you accidentally put their name on Sunday’s roster. And now Saturday is sold out. (A problem you can avoid with the right booking software, by the way.)
- Listening involves hearing out the upset customer who showed up for what was technically the right tour.
- Apologizing acknowledges the stress caused by not having a spot for them on Saturday.
- Solving might include finding an alternative experience on Saturday or providing an upgrade for the Sunday tour.
- Thanking expresses appreciation for the customer’s understanding of the mix-up.
An activity cancellation
A cancellation always causes some drama, especially when it’s unexpected. It can diminish your company’s reputation and drive away once-loyal customers. The LAST method can help you work around this.
- Listening involves recognizing the disappointment; a cancellation causes an inconvenient disruption in everyone’s plans.
- A sincere apology allows you to be empathetic to the situation. Make sure to back up the apology with an explanation of what happened.
- Solving would likely involve rebooking them on a new day, and/or making a refund.
- Thank them for their flexibility, and make them aware that your staff is doing everything in its power to not allow this to happen again.
How to train your team in the LAST method for customer service
- Role-playing exercises: Conduct role-playing exercises to simulate real customer interactions, allowing team members to practice each step of the LAST method.
- Continuous feedback: Encourage a culture of continuous improvement by providing constructive feedback on how the team handles real guest interactions.
- Empathy training: Train team members to empathize with customers, understand their emotions, and demonstrate genuine care.
- Regular refresher courses: Customer service is dynamic, and regular refresher courses ensure that the team is updated on the best practices of the LAST method.
- Positive reinforcement: Acknowledge and reward your team members when they apply the LAST method successfully. This fosters a positive and customer-centric work environment.
- Case studies and examples: Share real-world case studies where the LAST method was successfully used so that your team members can better understand how to leverage it.
- Introduce it at the start: Every time you onboard a new employee, ensure they receive training on the LAST method.
The best way to ensure your team understands and embraces the LAST method is to integrate it with your company’s core values: Emphasize how active listening, sincere apologies, effective solutions, and expressions of gratitude align with the organization’s commitment to customer satisfaction.
This will reinforce the importance of the LAST method in your customer service culture.