Customer Service Tip of the Week

Never Before… - 8/4/20


The importance of customer service is at the forefront again in our economy.  We noticed this clearly in the early 2000s when the country’s economy struggled, and we noticed it again during the Great Recession several years later.  Today, with yet another set of unexpected and extreme economic challenges, Read more

Effectively Teach the Customer - 7/28/20


The 1985 Harris and Rosenthal research project conveyed what really improves student learning based on the interaction with the teacher.  The top two factors that teachers used to increase learning were (1) The duration of the interaction with the student and (2) The encouragement of the student.  In 3rd Read more

Meet on Equal and Even Ground - 7/21/20


“To be of most service to my brother, I must meet him on the most equal and even ground.”  Henry David Thoreau wrote this in 1841, and it applies almost 180 years later in customer service. We often talk about empathy, and empathy relates to an employee having an understanding Read more

When Customers are…Jerks - 7/14/20


Some people are a little extra…uh…difficult to deal with these days. Customers may have concerns or complaints – many of which are justified. But some customers act like…well…jerks. They’re not kind or understanding or have any idea how poorly they treat others. They’re obnoxious and yet, we still have Read more

Customers Appreciate Your Kindness - 7/7/20


The 3rd grade teacher had a phrase she used with her students. She wanted them to be “kind-hearted.” It was a phrase she used over and over again; no matter what she taught, this was an overriding emphasis on how she would communicate with students and how she expected Read more

6 Common Sense Responses to Customer Service Encounters - 6/30/20


I’ve run into this personally and professionally, and it drives me batty! Sometimes there’s a lack of common sense in the customer service provided by companies. And often that lack of common sense is due to the preference of a business to provide service in a certain method, to Read more

Caring for Co-workers through COVID - 6/23/20


A recent Buffer.com study asked employees who are working remotely due to COVID-19, what was their greatest struggle. While there were many different responses, the Top 2 totaled 40% of the struggles identified - Loneliness and Collaboration/Effective Communication. When you hear something like this - that individuals working remotely are Read more

React, Reflect, Respond - 6/16/20


Sometimes you can’t help it. You gasp. You get upset. You get angry. You have this look of shock on your face. You say something defensive. You react. I love people who are in customer service roles. These are the folks that people say things to in the business world Read more

Serving the Technology-challenged Customer - 6/9/20


The IT helpdesk representative was on a call with a customer, and in trying to troubleshoot an issue, the employee said, “Let’s start by opening Windows.” The customer said “OK,” and there were 2 minutes of silence. The employee twice asked, “Are you still there?” with no response. Finally, Read more

Address the 4 P’s for a Customer-friendly COVID-19 Walk-in Experience


This is not about what is medically most effective – please see the CDC for those guidelines.  This is about how to help your customers have a great experience as an onsite visitor at your facility or storefront.  For a comprehensive approach to a customer-friendly COVID-19 experience, address the Read more

The Customer Decides the Company’s Fate – 9/2/14 TOW

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Argue with the title if you want – “Nobody decides MY fate!” or “I’m in control of my own life.” or “Our nutty CEO decides our company’s fate.”

Feel free to make whatever argument you’d like to make (and I’m sure many are valid), but here’s my perspective. I’ve worked with local government organizations where community complaints about a particular agency cost the leader his job and cost the municipality millions of dollars in rework that also served as repentance.

I’ve seen professional sports clubs where the dwindling attendance caused executives to lose jobs, or the teams spent millions more than in the past to acquire new fans through marketing, advertising, and sales efforts.

There are so many healthcare organizations today whose CEO is seeing that their government reimbursement is being impacted more and more by the results of patient satisfaction surveys.

In other words, the customer’s voice matters. . .BIG TIME!

That means that we have to listen when they care enough to complain. We have to have a process of frequently soliciting feedback to understand their feelings, perceptions, plans, and suggestions. We have to ask at the end of conversations about experiences so we can fix issues on the spot, and so we can find out what they really liked.

The customer deciding our company’s fate means that once we have them, we have to create a culture that seeks to serve. We have to view them for their lifetime value, not transactional amount. We have to nurture the long-term relationship rather than focusing solely on the task at hand. And we have to become so vital to them, so trusted by them, so much in relationship with them, or so pleasing in their experience with us that – when the fateful decision is made – they decide to stay and grow with us.

In other words, if everyone in the organization truly believes that the customer decides the company’s fate, how would we be different than we are today?

Ask the question, and then live the answer.

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Breaking Down the Infamous 1-on-1 Retention Call – 8/26/14 TOW

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I referenced the infamous recorded Comcast Retention call in a Tip of the Week on July 22. It’s been such a lightning rod for discussion that we just recorded a podcast addressing some of the key language that the Comcast representative used during the call. Now, we’ve gained access to what’s reported as being the company’s 13-Step Retention Call Approach. Let’s analyze this from the customer’s perspective.

  1. Greet customer clearly – This is good; customers want to know the employee’s name and department to make sure they called the right place.
  2. Clarify reason for call – We always say “Clarify and Confirm” – ask clarifying questions, then confirm your understanding. Customers want the employee showing that they know the reason for calling (and, in this case, canceling their service).
  3. Relate and empathize – Love this – especially the Empathy portion. Customers want to be understood.
  4. Take control – Not sure why this is here; “control” has a power/aggressive connotation. It’s not good to encourage representatives to get aggressive with a typically-upset customer. Customers don’t want to be controlled.
  5. Set the agenda – Again, this conveys aggression, taking over, not focused on listening.
  6. Ask targeted questions – This may be fine, depending on the definition of “Targeted.” We use that word to illustrate questions unique to the customer and their situation. However, the employee asked “targeted” questions such as “Why would you not want the fastest internet?” This is pushy and derogatory at the same time.
  7. Consider unstated needs / active listening – Active Listening is great! However, “unstated needs” is sales terminology. If someone wants to cancel, you’re in Service Recovery territory, not hardcore sales territory.
  8. Take ownership / make offer – These should work well.
  9. Overcome objections – This is fine as long as the customer’s still willing to dialogue about the issue; if they want to avoid the debate, quickly cancel and go to step 12.
  10. Close the save – Change this to “Close the save…or close the account.” In the end, do what the customer wants you to do.
  11. Confirm details – Always confirm next steps before closing.
  12. End on a positive note – Good step.
  13. Documentation – Good step.

Many of the steps are positive, but where they go wrong is that they focus too much on controlling the customer in a hardcore sales manner instead of communicating with a customer in a Service Recovery mindset.

When a customer wants to cancel or end the relationship, feel free to professionally ask for reasons, but remember that you’re delivering customer service, not driving the hard sell. You may retain just as many, and you’ll definitely avoid the horrific word-of-mouth that this call created.

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The Healthcare Customer Service Runaround – 8/19/14 TOW

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The following is a true story of a customer service runaround…

  1. Nate’s physician suggested that he have a diagnostic procedure.
  2. The hospital called Nate to schedule the procedure; they suggested he get the CPT code (procedure number) since Nate wanted to get an estimate of the procedure charges.
  3. He called his physician office and got the CPT code.
  4. At the direction of the physician office, he called another office (in another town) for an estimate. He okayed the procedure based on the estimate being somewhat reasonable.
  5. Nate had the procedure and received results – all were good!
  6. He received the bill – 60% above the estimate.
  7. He called Billing and talked with Kristin. She said that they billed correctly, but Nate was only given 1 of the 2 CPT codes and was told the wrong estimated price; Kristin told him to talk to the insurance company and have them possibly appeal to the office (which was part of the same company as Billing, which was also the same company as the scheduler, which was also the same company as the estimator).
  8. Insurance said that they may be able to do something if the physician office said that the procedure wasn’t warranted.
  9. The insurance company called the physician office for Nate and left a message at the physician office.
  10. The office called Nate and said the procedure in question was ordered correctly, but they were adamant that they don’t give out CPTs – so they couldn’t help with his issue; they suggested that Nate call Scheduling – maybe they give out CPT codes.
  11. Nate called Scheduling; they said that they don’t give out CPTs; they suggested he call the Estimate department.
  12. Nate called the Estimate department; they said they don’t give out CPTs, but the supervisor would call him the next day because she may have access to information that the front line employee couldn’t access.
  13. Nate called a week later after having received no call back, and he left a message.
  14. The Estimate department called back and said to call Billing.
  15. Nate called Billing, and the lady he spoke with sounded familiar – she was Kristin. She said the physician office wasn’t telling the truth when they said they don’t give out CPTs.

One procedure and fifteen communications. There was no resolution, no ownership, and no accountability. Most of the conversations were with one company and four different departments/offices, but they operated as if they were four separate companies.

In most of the conversations, the individual employees were personable and somewhat helpful – they probably received good evaluations for their actions during the call. But from Nate’s perspective, this was a royal mess.

Don’t assume that one pleasant conversation equates to one happy customer. Ensure the company isn’t giving the customer service runaround.

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