Customer Service Tip of the Week

Be Generous to a Fault - 8/20/19


People who think they’re generous to a fault usually think that’s their only fault – American Journalist Sydney Harris. This quote reminds me of someone who views themselves as a giver – someone who is so humble that he likes to humbly tell everyone of the gifts he’s given, good Read more

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

Educate Forward – 9/17/13 TOW

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When Bill brought his daughter Jenna to tumbling, it was for a make-up class. Jenna didn’t take a couple classes during the summer that they’d paid for, and Bill’s wife mentioned that there were a couple make-up classes available.

So Bill walked up to the window to ask the receptionist if Jenna could use one of her make-up classes that evening. The receptionist, Rebecca, asked if they had called or e-mailed in advance to confirm Jenna could drop-in for a class, and Bill responded “uh. . .no. . .sorry.”

This is when the customer service aspect of the experience got really, really. . .great!

This was a situation where the customer was wrong; the policy was for the customer to call ahead if he wanted to use one of the make-up classes just to ensure there was going to be space available in the class. The customer didn’t do that, but what made the service great was that Rebecca conveyed that she hoped there was space in the class. Rebecca didn’t criticize the customer for not calling ahead, but she did educate the customer forward about how he needed to do things differently in the future. She still smiled, had a positive attitude, walked out of the area to go check with the instructor to ask about availability in the class for Jenna, and came back with excitement when the answer was “Yes.”

Sometimes the customer is wrong. But that doesn’t mean our attitude needs to go negative. Sometimes we can correct the customer (“educate forward” is the term I use), and do it so professionally that the customer walks away happy.

When the customer is wrong, don’t let your attitude tumble.


Brilliance Among Mediocrity – 9/10/13 TOW

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Jennifer was witnessing a horrible customer experience first-hand – she was at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Luckily she’s at the point where she only has to go to the DMV every 8 years, but when she does go, her expectations for timeliness, attitudes, process, facility – everything – drop.

After waiting in line for 45 minutes and now having finally entered the office, Jennifer was in shock. Now remember that her expectations were rock bottom, so could the experience be worse than even she anticipated?

Sure the waits were horrible; the stark room with a barely functioning television and hard metal chairs were pretty lousy, too. The employees with the glazed stares or the monotone voices didn’t impress either. But the shock wasn’t the result of any of that; the shock was that amidst all the mediocrity, Jennifer saw a flash of brilliance. It was like a light – literally – like there was a brighter light around one person. Her name was Marie.

Marie was a DMV staffer who was administering a test, and Jennifer noted that Marie smiled ear-to-ear almost non-stop. She stood and introduced herself every time someone walked up to her work station to take a test. Her voice made her sound excited to see the customer. Marie even sounded encouraging during the test (“I hope this goes well for you” and “I’m sure you’ll do fine” and “You did great!” after the test was done).

It was as if Disney had transported one of its cast members to Jennifer’s DMV, but Marie was real, and she was sincere. Maybe Marie stood out because she was in the midst of mediocre customer service, or maybe she stood out because she conveyed she cared about the person. She did the same task as the co-workers sitting around her, but she did it in such a way that most of her customers smiled as they left. Most of her customers seemed to have more energy. Most of her customers fed off her positive nature.

We all do tasks, but no matter how good we are at those activities, we can always bring brilliance to the interaction with our customers.

Be brilliant, and watch your brilliance get reflected from your customers.


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.