Customer Service Tip of the Week

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

The Error of “Everyone” - 9/24/19


A recent article in The Charlotte Observer got me thinking about a concept, a premise that is suggested all too often in society. First, the article: The story was about lawn care, and some of the people quoted in the article talked about what customers want today. They noted Read more

Between Texting and Thoreau - 9/17/19


The more people that enter the business world having grown up texting, the more the quality of business communications drops. A typical text between friends is rarely what anybody in business would call a professionally-written document. There’s nothing wrong with that, because texting is typically informal dialogue between friends. Read more

I want to be an Astronaut - 9/10/19


When I was young, if a child was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, the answers were often a fireman, a Pro Football player, a teacher, somebody who got to drive a truck, or an astronaut. Maybe the question is still asked today, and, if 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.