Customer Service Tip of the Week

Bring Out the Best - 11/12/19


As a management consultant, oftentimes my job is to identify the key issues, determine the root causes, and provide solutions. We do a lot of strategy work, we conduct many research projects, and we train and train and train our clients. However, improvement usually involves pointing out what needs Read more

Know What You Don’t Know - 11/5/19


Twitter, Instagram, Facebook – yak, yak, yak.  In the social media world, there’s an awful lot of talk that goes on and a lot of opinions shared.  But sometimes those opinions are not based on any level of deep knowledge. Sometimes they are based on assumptions. In the world of Read more

Service, Sports, and Self-Control - 10/29/19


When I was growing up, I played a lot of golf. I practiced a lot, and I could score pretty well. However, when something went bad, when I hit a tee shot into the woods or dumped an iron shot into a lake, I would become unglued. Then every Read more

What it Means to Respect Someone’s Time - 10/22/19


Whether it is with a client when I realize that the meeting might go long, or possibly it’s in a workshop where I’m trying to end one conversation so we can move on to the next topic, there is a phrase I’ve used many times, and I mean it Read more

Be the Director of First Impressions - 10/15/19


Whether it’s in a hotel or in a coffee shop or a bank branch, first impressions mean a lot. First impressions mean “this is who we are” and “this is what you should expect.” First impressions mean “this is our definition of excellence” and “this is how much we Read more

People will Pay for Customer Service - 10/8/19


Sometimes all you need to read is the first paragraph in an article. Here’s the title from Business Insider: Amazon charges sellers as much as $5,000 a month for customer service if they want a guarantee that they'll be able to talk to a real person. The first paragraph reads: Amazon Read more

New Ways to Celebrate National Customer Service Week - 10/1/19


The week of October 7 is National Customer Service Week. No, this wasn’t another holiday invented by Hallmark, so you have to go to work. Hopefully that’s the good news! This week is typically thought of as a time to rejuvenate relationships with customers, to refocus your efforts on treating Read more

The Error of “Everyone” - 9/24/19


A recent article in The Charlotte Observer got me thinking about a concept, a premise that is suggested all too often in society. First, the article: The story was about lawn care, and some of the people quoted in the article talked about what customers want today. They noted Read more

Between Texting and Thoreau - 9/17/19


The more people that enter the business world having grown up texting, the more the quality of business communications drops. A typical text between friends is rarely what anybody in business would call a professionally-written document. There’s nothing wrong with that, because texting is typically informal dialogue between friends. Read more

I want to be an Astronaut - 9/10/19


When I was young, if a child was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, the answers were often a fireman, a Pro Football player, a teacher, somebody who got to drive a truck, or an astronaut. Maybe the question is still asked today, and, if Read more

Don’t be the Reactive Representative – 1/21/14 TOW

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“But I answered his question…But I wasn’t rude…But I told her the policy…But I rang her up…But I called back.”

These are the responses of a customer service representative who is receiving some criticism or coaching from his boss. The employee’s words are filled with defensiveness, but they are also based on the assumption in the employee’s mind that they delivered solid customer service. If the employee answered the customer’s question, wasn’t rude, stated a policy, completed a transaction, or returned a customer’s call, then didn’t he provide great customer service? Shouldn’t he be immune from any criticism?

No.

The problem is that too many employees define great customer service or serving the customer in this way – “I responded to or reacted to the customer. I didn’t yell or scream. I addressed the facts and policies. I completed the task.”

In reality, these are the lowest expectations of someone in customer service. These are definitions of the bare minimum. These are characteristics of the Reactive Representative. When a customer engages the Reactive Representative, oftentimes the following occur:

  • The employee never moves toward the customer. Because if the customer needed something, the employee feels that the customer would go to the employee.
  • If the employee does move, he moves past the customer, rarely with eye contact. Because the employee is going somewhere, and the employee believes that if the customer needs them, the customer should ask.
  • The greeting never happens. Because the employee is waiting for the customer to say something.
  • There’s dead silence. Because the employee is waiting for the customer to ask the next question.
  • (Positive) Expressions don’t exist. Because the employee is thinking about a task, not about how they’re coming across to the customer.
  • The transaction ends in silence. Because the employee didn’t initiate the thanks.

These are examples of an employee expecting the customer to initiate and carry the conversation, the customer to create a positive tone, and the customer to clearly state their need or issue. These are also all examples of HORRIBLE customer service.

Don’t be the Reactive Representative. Be proactive. Be positive. Be the reason that the customer wants to return.


Let Them Share – 1/14/14 TOW

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Have you ever seen the TV show “Monk?” It’s about a former police detective now turned police consultant. He has a “unique” personality due to too many different life experiences to go into at this point, but let’s just say he’s not the most touchy/feely person in the world.

Every episode includes his sessions with his psychiatrist where he shares his feelings in his own “Monk way.” Sharing feelings is not natural for Monk, and he has a hard time caring about or being curious about others’ feelings as well. At least in this respect, many of us are similar to Monk.

However in customer service – especially in many of the most difficult conversations we have – emotions are involved. And if you’re like Monk, or if you have trouble sharing your own feelings with others in a personal setting (let alone a work setting), you might work hard NOT to have to have a discussion of feelings. But unfortunately for those of us not on the touchy/feely side, we have to allow those emotions to come from the customer.

When the customer is upset, angry, frustrated, or they’re envious or hurt or anxious, we cannot ignore those emotions. In order to get to a resolution in such a way as to engender trust and to have the customer feeling good about how the conversation went (even if they didn’t love the outcome), we have to let them share those emotions.

People can bring down the emotions if they are allowed to flow; they can settle down quicker if we allow them to relieve the pressure. They can think more clearly and logically and move on if they’ve been allowed to vent. Oftentimes, they don’t even want a resolution if we just give them the opportunity to share the emotions.

Now I’m NOT suggesting you ENCOURAGE them to share, but be observant of emotions. If they exist, allow them to flow, don’t interrupt, don’t argue – instead, listen and empathize, and then find the opportunity to start asking questions that move you toward solutions.

To get to the next step, to deal with someone on more sensible terms, be sensitive to their emotions.

Let them share.


Provide Quality Time to Customers – 1/7/14 TOW

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When teaching communication techniques to client personnel, we sometimes get pushback from participants. It might be an employee saying “If I do what you say, I’ll be with the customer FOREVER.” Or maybe a manager will tell us “I don’t have time to greet, clarify needs, confirm my understanding, ask if they need anything else, etc.”

Just like you probably don’t want to spend exorbitant amounts of time with individual customers addressing needs and working through issues, most customers don’t want to spend a ton of time on those topics talking with us either. Their time is valuable, too.

So let’s shift our thinking away from “great customer service means spending lots of time with customers” to the following thinking: Great customer service means spending Quality Time with customers.

We went through an exercise with a client on the topic of “Quality Time,” and here’s a synopsis of what we found. Many customers define “Quality Time” when:

  • Their time with you is uninterrupted and not rushed
  • They are getting the time expected (employees not showing up late for a meeting, for example)
  • Employees are focused on them (i.e., not appearing distracted during the conversation)
  • Staff “pause” their other tasks (e.g., typing information on the computer) to emphasize something or provide a moment of clarity to the customer
  • Staff educate the customer so they can be more independent.

 
These are key methods of enhancing the Quality of the time spent with customers – without necessarily spending more time:

  • Actively listening – don’t be passive in the discussion (nod, paraphrase their need/issue, ask questions)
  • Ensuring customers feel as though they are part of a dialogue (describe the process your working through or include them in discussions you’re having with co-workers)
  • In face-to-face situations, including those who are with them (family members or friends) in the discussions
  • Explaining procedures, processes up front so they know what to expect
  • Conveying your own calm demeanor, particularly when you’re in the middle of an especially busy/hectic environment (picture a retail business during the holidays).

 
Don’t buy into the assumption that great customer service equals your spending undue amounts of time with customers. Instead, buy into the belief that the time we do spend must be high quality.

Provide Quality Time to Customers.