Customer Service Tip of the Week

Assuming the Solution – The Great Time Waster - 12/3/19


Here are 3 customer service scenarios for a college IT department: A staff member calls in and says that they’re having trouble logging in.  The employee responds:  “I can reset your password for you.” A faculty member calls IT and says: “I need help showing a video during class Read more

Become a Best Practice - 11/26/19


When evaluating the service that our clients provide to their customers, we look at all sorts of things – from employee attitudes to knowledge, from service skills to procedures, systems, and technology.  We look at navigation to and within the facilities, and we look at layout and signage and Read more

Serve with Integrity - 11/19/19


I’ve been reading a book recently about a Charlotte-based service company, and the author of the book conveys the CEO’s perspective on management, culture, and serving customers. At the back of the book, the author noted the organization’s Core Values. They are honesty, integrity, fairness, and respect. I literally Read more

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

In Service Recovery, Say It Like You Mean It – 12/10/13 TOW

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Wanda was incensed. She was talking to the customer service representative about one of her client’s mortgages, and she was venting. “I waited on hold for 37 minutes, and then when the representative picked up the phone, he tried to help, but he couldn’t. After 11 minutes, he transferred me to another service center, where I was on hold 10 minutes as well. I left a message, and nobody has called me back!”

Notice that she’s giving specific times, explaining the process she’s been through, and ends with a negative (and a hefty inflection).

Next, Wanda was silent for about 15 seconds, and then she said “My client just wants to pay off the mortgage. The gentleman I spoke with from your company tried that, and it didn’t work.” [paused] “You say you want to help, but if you did you would be listening – like I mentioned, he already tried that, and…” [paused] “Please don’t interrupt. Listen, my client just wants to pay off his loan. Just look up his account number, please, like the other gentleman did, and I’ll explain this again.”

Notice that she’s using professional terminology (“gentleman…client…please”), but she’s upset after each pause. In each pause, the customer service representative is trying to direct Wanda or trying to run through a script, and Wanda isn’t happy. Wanda seems professional and somewhat patient, but she’s VERY frustrated, and this current representative isn’t conveying he cares. He isn’t conveying that he’s listening. He isn’t conveying that he SINCERELY wants to help.

In Service Recovery situations such as this (especially on the phone), the customer not only needs to sense action is occurring, but they need to feel like you’re listening – they need to hear that in your voice and by what you communicate back to them. Restating and confirming their issue before suggesting a next step, having empathy, being patient enough to let them finish while conveying a little urgency FOR them through your voice (with some pace and fluctuation), and even stating that you want to help (by emphasizing the word “want”) – these are ways to show you care in Service Recovery.

These conversations are tough, but to the customer they’re often tougher because they feel they have no control over the resolution. Therefore, we need to deal with their emotion with sincerity coming through in our voice.

In Service Recovery, Say It Like You Mean It.


Where Pizza Delivery and Emergency Rooms Intersect – 12/3/13 TOW

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What do Pizza Delivery and Emergency Room clinical care have in common (other than heartburn and accidents caused by speeding drivers)?

Let’s investigate…

During college, I worked one summer and two holiday breaks delivering pizzas. My initial thought was to drive fast, run to the door, smile, and do my best to make it a pleasant, fast experience – and get good tips! When I was being trained, the store manager gave me two tips that were interesting (and a little surprising).

First, don’t speed – a driver getting into an accident or seen weaving in and out of traffic at high speeds wasn’t good for business for this new shop in this small town. Second, when you leave your car to go to the front door of the home, walk quickly – don’t run, but also don’t walk slowly. The thinking was that if the customer sees you walking slowly, then they may give you a lower tip since it doesn’t look like you’re making the effort. If you run, you could seem (or be) reckless – not a good image.

Fast-forward 20+ years to an Emergency Room (E.R.) patient focus group I facilitated recently. Among the many interesting responses we received from E.R. patients was that they were perturbed if they were waiting in an exam room with little interaction with staff and then saw (or heard) nursing staff or doctors chit-chatting about the latest reality TV show or shopping excursion.

So what’s the connection between these Pizza Delivery and E.R. stories? It’s this – customers often form their perceptions of us in the most unusual times. It’s when they’re waiting for us, watching us, and listening to us – even if they’re not interacting with us.

The pizza customers perceived the driver’s effort and service-orientation in part by how they appeared in going from the car door to the front door. The patients perceived E.R. clinical staff to be wasting time or unconcerned about the patient if the staff were engaged in small talk when the patients were in need of care, communication, and support.

Think about how customers can see you, hear you, and perceive you even when you’re not directly interacting with them. They often form opinions based on those things that surround the “Moment of Truth.”

Watch for the customer’s opportunity to watch you.


Appreciate – 11/26/13 TOW

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As an American, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and there are lots of reasons. One is that there’s a lot of family time, there’s football on TV, you’re usually playing outside – in the DAYLIGHT, and the food…oh, the food…

But there are problems with all these benefits. First, family time is…well…family time – as good a source of stress as was ever invented. Then football on TV is okay, unless your team loses. Playing outside is fun (actually, I can’t think of anything bad about that), and food? Well food is always good – unless you eat too much or unless you get tired of leftovers consisting of turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey burgers, and turkey lo mein.

The point is that even the best of times can be viewed through a negative lens.

The best lens for seeing most any time, however, is through the lens of thanks. There are always reasons to complain, always issues and illnesses, always people who have more – but so often the most inspirational stories are about those who have the issues, illnesses, of those who have little or have hardships, and yet they still succeed, they still persevere, they’re still happy or joy-filled.

Those stories are inspirational often because they highlight people who focus more of their mindset on being appreciative of what they have than of focusing on their issues and on what they lack.

In the world of customer service, we are fighting fires – the complaints and last minute requests. We’re often the downstream recipients of upstream causes of issues. We’re too often working 3rd shift or needing to provide customer access 24/7 so we can be responsive. And while we can focus on those negatives, to keep our positive outlook (and our sanity), let’s try to take this time of year as a reminder to appreciate.

Appreciate those that help us, those that support us in and out of the workplace. Those that confirm the value in what we do and who truly care about us. I don’t know who “those” are in your lives, but let’s think of those people, appreciate them, and – this Thanksgiving – tell them that we appreciate them.

Give thanks – literally – to others.