Customer Service Tip of the Week

Don’t Assume because... - 8/13/19


You've probably heard this statement growing up. Your parents said, “Don’t assume, because it makes…you look bad.” Or something like that… Recently my laptop screen died, and since it was an older laptop, I decided to go ahead and buy a new one instead of paying to have the screen Read more

Patience Leads to Positivity - 8/6/19


Thank you for your patience. That’s a statement I enjoy saying…when I am the customer. When I’m trying to learn something and I’m about to go into a process, I want to have a feel for what the whole process involves. Over the years, I’ve gotten tired of feeling like Read more

Back to Reality...for Customer Expectations - 7/30/19


Have you ever walked into a patient registration area of a hospital and seen a sign that said “if you’ve been waiting longer than 15 minutes, please see the receptionist?” Have you ever called a customer service number and been told by a recording that “the average hold time is Read more

For Excellence to Happen, Get Engaged - 7/23/19


The customer was throwing an absolute fit in the lobby. Sitting among several other customers waiting for her number to be called, she was raising her voice and letting out the occasional expletive about the lengthy wait time. An employee sitting behind the counter thought to herself: I’m going Read more

Libby Listened to Serve - 7/16/19


Libby was new to her role with the organization. She had never been a customer service representative in a call center before, but she was hired because of her attitude. She wanted to learn, enjoyed working with people, and could carry on a conversation with a wall. After going through Read more

Chris Got Noticed for All the Right Reasons - 7/9/19


Chris was working through a temporary agency, and he got a job at a warehouse. He was packaging items to be shipped out, and his shift didn't start until 7:30 a.m. Chris always got there a little bit early because of the bus schedule, and he hated just sitting Read more

What Does “No News” Mean? Here’s a Quick Story - 7/2/19


Steven was trying to make the purchase of his new used car official, so he could get license tags for his State. In order for the State to allow him to put the vehicle in his name, he had to submit paperwork to prove that the prior owner (from Read more

Are you the Output or the Input? - 6/25/19


You’re the output and the input. Sorry to put it into such technical/industrial engineering terminology. But in a service system, we all have some role as a part of the process. First, we receive the output. Somebody has a customer that they direct to us, so that handoff is from Read more

Hear Them, and Tell Them What You Heard - 6/18/19


CSS has conducted close to 1000 research projects over the years, many of which were web-based surveys. And oftentimes, in addition to or instead of completing the online survey, respondents e-mail us directly with questions or comments – and we respond personally to every message on behalf of our Read more

It’s Decision Time. What are you going to do? - 6/11/19


Serving others is tough. Whether it’s dealing with an irate customer, having to field the same question from the 100th different customer this month, or keeping 10 plates spinning while still smiling in front of the client, it’s hard. You want to do a great job, and you’re constantly put Read more

Where Pizza Delivery and Emergency Rooms Intersect – 12/3/13 TOW

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What do Pizza Delivery and Emergency Room clinical care have in common (other than heartburn and accidents caused by speeding drivers)?

Let’s investigate…

During college, I worked one summer and two holiday breaks delivering pizzas. My initial thought was to drive fast, run to the door, smile, and do my best to make it a pleasant, fast experience – and get good tips! When I was being trained, the store manager gave me two tips that were interesting (and a little surprising).

First, don’t speed – a driver getting into an accident or seen weaving in and out of traffic at high speeds wasn’t good for business for this new shop in this small town. Second, when you leave your car to go to the front door of the home, walk quickly – don’t run, but also don’t walk slowly. The thinking was that if the customer sees you walking slowly, then they may give you a lower tip since it doesn’t look like you’re making the effort. If you run, you could seem (or be) reckless – not a good image.

Fast-forward 20+ years to an Emergency Room (E.R.) patient focus group I facilitated recently. Among the many interesting responses we received from E.R. patients was that they were perturbed if they were waiting in an exam room with little interaction with staff and then saw (or heard) nursing staff or doctors chit-chatting about the latest reality TV show or shopping excursion.

So what’s the connection between these Pizza Delivery and E.R. stories? It’s this – customers often form their perceptions of us in the most unusual times. It’s when they’re waiting for us, watching us, and listening to us – even if they’re not interacting with us.

The pizza customers perceived the driver’s effort and service-orientation in part by how they appeared in going from the car door to the front door. The patients perceived E.R. clinical staff to be wasting time or unconcerned about the patient if the staff were engaged in small talk when the patients were in need of care, communication, and support.

Think about how customers can see you, hear you, and perceive you even when you’re not directly interacting with them. They often form opinions based on those things that surround the “Moment of Truth.”

Watch for the customer’s opportunity to watch you.


Appreciate – 11/26/13 TOW

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As an American, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and there are lots of reasons. One is that there’s a lot of family time, there’s football on TV, you’re usually playing outside – in the DAYLIGHT, and the food…oh, the food…

But there are problems with all these benefits. First, family time is…well…family time – as good a source of stress as was ever invented. Then football on TV is okay, unless your team loses. Playing outside is fun (actually, I can’t think of anything bad about that), and food? Well food is always good – unless you eat too much or unless you get tired of leftovers consisting of turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey burgers, and turkey lo mein.

The point is that even the best of times can be viewed through a negative lens.

The best lens for seeing most any time, however, is through the lens of thanks. There are always reasons to complain, always issues and illnesses, always people who have more – but so often the most inspirational stories are about those who have the issues, illnesses, of those who have little or have hardships, and yet they still succeed, they still persevere, they’re still happy or joy-filled.

Those stories are inspirational often because they highlight people who focus more of their mindset on being appreciative of what they have than of focusing on their issues and on what they lack.

In the world of customer service, we are fighting fires – the complaints and last minute requests. We’re often the downstream recipients of upstream causes of issues. We’re too often working 3rd shift or needing to provide customer access 24/7 so we can be responsive. And while we can focus on those negatives, to keep our positive outlook (and our sanity), let’s try to take this time of year as a reminder to appreciate.

Appreciate those that help us, those that support us in and out of the workplace. Those that confirm the value in what we do and who truly care about us. I don’t know who “those” are in your lives, but let’s think of those people, appreciate them, and – this Thanksgiving – tell them that we appreciate them.

Give thanks – literally – to others.


The Art of Dealing with…Yourself – 11/19/13 TOW

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I read an article in the most recent Entrepreneur Magazine issue titled “The art of dealing with difficult people.” Although the article was big on attempted humor and small on specifics, I really liked that fact that much of the article had one key focus (and I’m paraphrasing here) – most of the success you have in dealing with difficult people lies in the success you have in dealing with yourself.

Robin and Mary might both have to “deal with” Jeremy – the same ornery or obnoxious (or otherwise aggravating) individual – but Robin deals with him well, and Mary appears to be internally combusting. The reason is largely because Robin deals with the “difficult person” differently or better than Mary.

Maybe it’s just Robin’s natural “way” of handling situations, but maybe she’s more patient, maybe she’s more empathetic of Jeremy, maybe she doesn’t take things personally, or maybe Robin breathes fully in stressful situations. It could be that Robin thinks of the end goal of a conversation and is more intent on the end goal than the often-painful journey.

On the other hand, Mary might go into conversations with Jeremy anticipating a fight, and she gets upset even before the talk begins. Maybe Mary doesn’t know when she’s about to get upset, and it boils over before she realizes what’s happening. Maybe Mary wants to correct every Jeremy misstatement, or maybe she wants to win every battle. Maybe she is just principled and doesn’t think jerks like Jeremy should win.

I’m not saying that the Robins of the world are always right and the Marys are always wrong. Rather, if we want to effectively deal with difficult people, we have to focus more of our efforts on the person in those conversations that we can control – ourselves.

To deal best with others, learn more about yourself first.