Customer Service Tip of the Week

Motivating Yourself when Working Remotely - 5/26/20


For any of us who are working remotely, we are finding ourselves more and more having to be self-motivated. And while many people are naturally self-motivated, others need to have that manager who gives us the encouragement. Many of us need to have that ongoing informal dialogue with co-workers Read more

Defining Organizational Agility in a Time of Uncertainty


You may have heard references in management theory over the many decades about the importance of a business being an “Agile” organization, but oftentimes that is a word thrown out in generalities to illustrate vague points about how organizations should be managed and make decisions.  In this time of Read more

Change Management – Facts about Past Decisions Reduce Fear about Future Decisions


Change can result in fear.  Particularly where change is thrust upon someone very suddenly, it can create shock or disbelief.  Sometimes that change is not something an organization can plan for; it therefore cannot adequately prepare its employees for what’s ahead...at least initially. In this COVID world, Change Management is Read more

Tire Dealers Becoming Teachers - 5/19/20


I recently needed two new tires for a vehicle, and I first went to the tire dealer’s website to find some options.  The site’s look/feel and ordering process had changed, and I didn’t see a tire I wanted, so I called the store to make an appointment. When I arrived Read more

Developing Fan Relations During COVID-19


As sports teams and organizations across the world are gearing up to start play without fans, these same organizations are also determining what that fan experience is going to be when fans start attending again.  Many sports organizations are focused on locking in revenue from existing fans - keeping Read more

Reduce Their Anxiety Leading Up to Their Return


Building customer comfort and confidence in going to your facilities is a process which has a lot of similarities to the technique we train clients on to reduce customer anxiety.  From a tactical perspective, when you’re interacting with somebody who is anxious or nervous, you want to get them Read more

Moving toward Normalcy: The Face-to-Face Keys - 5/12/20


As we slowly go back to a face-to-face world, here are a few quick reminders for what positively differentiates employees who understand the importance of body language and expressions v. those who don’t. Especially if you’re wearing a mask and serving customers, ensure your eyes are focused on the other Read more

Pivot to a Stronger Post-COVID Culture


If there ever was a time for virtually every organization to assess their culture, this is it.  Culture not only drives customer service, but it also drives long-term organizational success.  While leaders can define the Desired Culture and can chart a Vision, leaders typically do very little of the Read more

5 Steps to Valuing Another’s Time - 5/5/20


Is your time valuable?  Is the customer’s time valuable?  I would think we would answer “yes” to both questions, but what does that really mean?  It’s important, and it’s finite. Time is precious because it doesn’t come in unlimited quantities.  We can’t go to Amazon and buy more time.  It’s Read more

Put Yourself at the Controls of Change - 4/28/20


You have probably heard about manufacturing plants and restaurants who are pivoting during these challenging times and starting to make hand sanitizers, masks, and gowns.  They are being forced to change, and they’re trying to find the opportunities among the obstacles that surround them. Sometimes we, too, as individuals in Read more

It’s Okay if You Don’t Know Anything about Tomatoes – 7/15/14 TOW

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Going to Otto’s Home Improvement to get an opinion on a tomato – it shouldn’t be an aggravating experience. But for Lance, it resulted in a nail-on-the-chalkboard (do they still have chalkboards?) feeling.

Lance’s wife was growing tomatoes on the back deck, and several tomatoes were growing quickly. Good news, right? Well there was a problem – the tomatoes were still green on top but becoming black underneath and starting to shrivel up.

Luckily Lance had a “go to” lady in the garden center at Otto’s, so he drove to the store seeking advice. He walked up to 4 staff chatting with each other at the garden center entrance and asked for the “go to” lady, but she was off that day.

So Lance showed a tomato to others and asked for advice. He was greeted by blank stares and no response for about 15 seconds. Then one employee walked up, took the tomato, looked closely, said “that’s a fungus,” and started walking.

Lance took off after the employee, and they walked into the store toward the outdoor chemicals. The employee stopped in front of the plant chemicals, started staring, and didn’t say a word. After about a minute of quiet staring, Lance asked “what are you looking for?”

“A green bottle,” was the reply.

“What is it?”

“I’m not sure, but it works.”

“What brand?

“I don’t know.” There was a long pause, and then the employee said “it’s not there; sorry.” He walked off.

Lance was able to grab the tomato before the employee walked away and then went home to his wife. The next day Lance’s wife took the tomato to another garden center, and the issue was a lack of calcium. The store sold her a spray to add calcium, and the tomatoes grew perfectly thereafter.

In the world of serving others, none of us are omniscient. We don’t know all, and that’s okay. In those times when we don’t know the answer, it’s okay to say “I don’t know,” but follow that up with “I’ll find out.” Take initiative on behalf of the customer, but don’t let that initiative lead you down a path of time wasted and misinformation. Admit the knowledge gap, and quickly move to get the answer.

It’s okay to say you don’t know anything about tomatoes.

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Defend without Being Defensive – 7/8/14 TOW

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The customer is not always right. Sometimes they’re flat out wrong. Your co-workers aren’t perfect. Sometimes they don’t return the call, or they’re rude, or they provide misinformation, or they set unrealistic expectations. People make mistakes.

When apologizing to the customer, you sometimes have to say “I’m sorry” or “I apologize,” but those words are hard to come by when that customer is wrong. Those words are difficult to share when they’re criticizing your co-worker.

At the same time that you’re trying to defuse that irate customer, we suggest that you do two things that can seemingly be in conflict: Support your co-workers, and don’t get defensive.

So how do you defend without getting defensive?

Think of defensiveness as having an emotional quality, where you’re trying to protect the co-worker or company, maybe you’re trying to deflect blame from yourself. While these are all natural things to want to do, when you bring your emotion into the conversation, you begin to lose one of the key tenets of successfully dealing with an irate customer – pull emotion out of these conversations.

Therefore, when defending others, do it without emotion, without the tone and body language and words that can raise the temperature of a conversation.

Now you may want to ask why we should “defend” in the first place. Won’t that start an argument? Won’t that make them more irate?

Well it could if done incorrectly, and there’s a fine line we’re walking. The reason to occasionally defend is this: If you allow incorrect conclusions to be solidified in the customer’s mind, then that will affect that customer’s loyalty, that customer’s word-of-mouth, and that customer’s attitude in future interactions with your business.

And while I’m not suggesting you correct every customer misstatement (since that surely will backfire), if they say that Chris – your co-worker – did something that he’d never do (yelled at the customer or advised the customer to do something that’s obviously against policy), you want to support your co-worker. Consider these phrases:

  • I wasn’t in that conversation, so I can’t speak specifically to what was Chris said, but I’m sorry you had to deal with it, and I want to help you find a resolution.
  • I’ve known Chris for years, and I’ll definitely talk with him since that’s not the experiences his customers typically have, and I’m very sorry about what happened in your case. Let’s discuss how we can best resolve this moving forward.
  • That’s not how we typically do things around here, so I’m very sorry about the situation. I’ll definitely share your concerns internally after our call, and right now I want to make sure we can get this situation addressed immediately.

The commonality in these statements is that we don’t agree with the customer that our co-worker was at fault, we stay composed, we let them know that the situation isn’t typical, and we transition the conversation to a resolution.

When dealing with the irate customer, learn to defend without being defensive.


I’m Big on the “Same Page” – 7/1/14 TOW

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Let’s get on the Same Page. How do you get everyone on the Same Page, going in the same direction? Before we move forward, let’s make sure we’re on the Same Page. You need to ensure you’re on the Same Page with your customer before you end the call.

I seem to find myself using the phrase “Same Page” over and over again. I’ll use it in training, when providing strategic guidance on culture change, in meetings with my clients, and in one-on-one discussions with staff.

The phrase comes out of my mouth so often because it applies to so much in service interactions and service cultures. In healthcare, you often have to communicate with patients about next steps. What must the patient do to care for themselves at home post-discharge? Who must they contact to talk about billing and insurance? Where should they go, and how should they prepare for an upcoming procedure? Getting on the “Same Page” means that you and that patient have a common understanding of what needs to happen next and when.

Many local governments are trying to change their cultures to be more flexible, more customer service-oriented, more high-tech while maintaining high-touch. So their employees may have to change behaviors and mindsets; they have to understand their greater purpose beyond the policies and procedures, and beyond the codes and ordinances. The leaders must get everybody on the “Same Page” about the reason government exists and the important role that customer service plays in serving the community.

In one-on-one personal conversations, the phrase “Same Page” suggests that all parties understand the situation, the goals, the next steps, and timeframes. This leads to well-understood expectations, work more likely done right the first time, and clearer communications.

In more strategic discussions, the phrase “Same Page” suggests that everyone in the organization understands what they’re here to do, and everyone understands their role in moving toward objectives, goals, and vision.

Communicate more clearly with others. Ensure that conversations don’t end before you’re on the Same Page.