Customer Service Tip of the Week

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

You Do Know Jack - 6/4/19


Have you ever had a co-worker who causes more problems than they solve? Simple things they do are often, from a procedure standpoint, correct. But the way they handle situations makes them come off as indifferent. Let’s call this co-worker “Jack.” Even though certain actions by Jack may seem innocent Read more

How to Give the Right Kind of “No” - 5/28/19


In a perfect world, you never need to say “No” to the customer. But as we all know, this is not a perfect world. There are a lot of issues in the world, and there are a lot of issues in customer service. Our companies are not perfect, our Read more

Make it Crystal Clear - 5/21/19


Sometimes we communicate so well, and sometimes we don’t communicate as well as we think we do. When you’re trying to set or manage another person’s expectations, what you say may be very clear to you, but the reality is it may not be clear to the other person. Read more

Harvey Wrote the Book on Focus...and Golf - 5/14/19


In Harvey Penick's Little Red Book, the famous golf instructor provides many key tips about golf that just as well could apply to life in general. One such tip is the following: Once you address the golf ball, hitting it has got to be the most important thing in Read more

Provide More Than the Truth – 9/3/13 TOW

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Every year Customer Service Solutions custom-designs and delivers customer service training, and when I’m facilitating classes, I find myself saying a certain phrase more and more – “That’s true, but is that helpful?”

Usually we end up discussing this when we talk about how to deal with customer complaints, anxious customers, or the irate customer. Too often, we make these situations worse for the customer and ourselves when we simply make true statements such as “No, you can’t do that” or “That’s against policy” or “I don’t know” or “That’s not my job.” Each of these statements is often true, but it’s also NOT helpful.

If the customer “can’t do that,” what CAN they do? What’s an alternative?

If it’s against policy, then how can a customer achieve their end-goal by doing something within the policy?

If you don’t know, then who does know? How can you ensure a strong handoff to the other employee?

If that’s not your job, then whose responsibility is it?

Great customer service requires far more than being reactive, answering questions, and telling the truth – particularly in situations where you’re saying “No,” facing a complaint, dealing with a misdirected customer, or addressing emotions.

Go beyond the truth to always think of the next step. When customers feel like no options exist, like their idea won’t work, like they can’t be helped, then that’s when the anxiety rolls in; that’s when they feel like they lose control; that’s when anger and upset rise.

The next time you have to provide the response they don’t want, don’t stop the conversation. Lead them to a next step.

Provide more than the truth; be helpful.


Make a Great Second Impression – 8/27/13 TOW

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Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder, has been in the press a lot this year because of the relatively high customer satisfaction his companies create with clients. In a recent interview, Branson stated “In business, creating a favorable impression at the first point of customer contact is an absolute imperative. But what isn’t widely understood is. . .the customer’s second impression of the brand can be even more important than his first. The second interaction a customer has with your business usually involves something that has gone wrong — they’re having trouble using the product or service. Handled correctly, this is a situation in which a company can create a very positive impression. Sadly, it’s where things often go terribly wrong.”

When Branson talks about “second impression,” he’s talking about how you handle things when something goes wrong. I was in a store this weekend picking up some lumber for a project, I went to the far end of the store of the “Lumber” section, and they said that the lumber I needed was in the Garden Center – the exact opposite end of the store. When I got to the Garden Center, I started loading up some of the beams I needed, but the quality was pretty poor. However, there was good quality on a rack just above the floor rack, but it was secured with ties.

So I went to a group of three employees working in the dirt/mulch area, and the first employee told me to talk to the manager nearby. I asked the manager to cut the ties so I could load some of the better looking lumber, and he said they had two pallets of the lumber that were outside in the Lumber section. I told him I came from there, and they told me to go to the Garden Center; I again asked if he could cut the ties. He said “well that’s where they’re supposed to be.” After pausing for several seconds to give him to the opportunity to say “Sure! I’d be happy to cut those ties for you! I’ll even help you load them!” Instead he said, “they’re outside the doors at Lumber.”

I again went to Lumber – on the other side of the store – only to have the employee tell me that they don’t keep any outside anymore. She showed me that none were available, and told me that “They should just cut the ties for you. If they don’t, let me know.”

After I returned to the Garden Center, the manager looked at me and – as I approached said – “How many do you need?” I replied “Thirteen more.”

He proceeded to walk toward the lumber without saying a word to me. When he got there, he said “Oh! It’s just those ties.” I guess he thought it was going to be more effort than just cutting three ties with a pocket knife.

I said “Thanks. I’ll go get my cart.” When I returned about 15 second later, he was gone.

My second impression of the experience? They’d rather the customer walk than they walk. They’d rather inconvenience the customer than to call a co-worker. They’d rather not smile. They’d rather not apologize when they got something wrong (this is a HUGE issue in many companies). They’d rather go back to moving mulch than helping a customer.

Instead of focusing purely on how to deliver a core service or answer a question about products/processes/policies, focus on how you’ll answer the question differently and deal with the customer differently when things have obviously gone wrong.

Make a great second impression.


A Tale of Two Minutes and Two Employees – 8/20/13 TOW

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Needing a water filter for my fridge, I walked into a home improvement store. Now this is a chain that I’ve been in probably over 100 times, but this particular store was new to me – it was on my way home – so out of convenience, I stopped.

As I entered the store, there was an employee (think “Wal-Mart greeter”) about 15 feet ahead of me standing by herself. She didn’t look my way or smile – in other words, the greeter didn’t greet. I didn’t know where to get the filter, so I walked up to her and initiated the conversation. I told her what I needed, and as she was pausing/thinking, I noticed the Appliances section at end of store. “Is it down there?” I asked.

“Yeah, that’s where they are.” She didn’t say anything else, so I thanked her and moved on. Now keep in mind that this is an ENORMOUS store, and the Appliances section had to be a good 4000-5000 square feet, so the search process took a while once I got there.

Now juxtapose that experience to my experience with the cashier. As I walked up, he was smiling with the couple that was ahead of me in line. He greeted me pleasantly, smiled the whole time we talked, took the gift card I was using for the purchase saying “That’s great that you get to use a gift card!” and closed by asking if there was anything else he could do and inviting me to come again.

Despite only being with the two employees a total of about two minutes, one can draw several conclusions:

  • This store doesn’t put much weight on customer service-orientation when hiring; if so, the greeter would not have been hired.
  • The level of customer service is based too much on which employee is helping you as opposed to an organization intentionally trying to create a culture of customer service.
  • Store management is not customer service-focused; if they were, they wouldn’t have put a “greeter” with that demeanor up front.
  • They have not conducted (and/or reinforced) effective customer service training (the greeter wasn’t specific on where I should go in the Appliances section, she didn’t offer to walk me there, she didn’t have positive body language, didn’t open, and didn’t close the conversation).

You can tell a lot about an organization in two minutes with two employees, so compare yourself to co-workers in terms of how you address customers.

Learn from your differences to improve your customer service.