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

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.

 


Convey Compassion in Customer Service – 8/13/13 TOW

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The hospital promoted the 3 C’s: Compassionate Competent Care. The Care was what they provided – patient care, clinical care. Competent denoted that there was quality to what they provided. Compassionate signified. . .well. . .compassion.

So what is “Compassion” in customer service, and how does it apply even outside of healthcare?

There are several definitions of compassion, but the overriding one that applies to customer service is “sympathy, empathy, and concern for others, particularly for their issues or misfortune.” Customers want you to care for them, particularly when they’re in a tough situation. So you want to be compassionate.

Based on this definition of compassion, ask yourself a few questions. Are you aware of the customer’s issues? Are you understanding of their misfortunes? And just as importantly, how do you convey your understanding and concern?

There are ways to convey compassion with your words/phrases. Use these words frequently in dialogue with the customer to convey compassion for their issue/misfortune:

  • “Your issue” or “Your concern”
  • “You” used in a personal reference
  • “I understand”
  • “I care”
  • “I’m sorry”
  • “I’m concerned.”

What aspects of body language and tone of voice convey compassion?

  • Offer a gentle touch on the back or shoulder
  • Provide eye contact
  • Periodically nod your head
  • Acknowledge/engage the customer and their family/friends
  • Sit/kneel to customer’s eye level
  • Lean toward the customer rather than away or toward the door
  • Use a more quiet tone
  • Avoid utterances while customer is talking.

To be compassionate, use the words and non-verbal communications that convey you care.

Convey Compassion in Customer Service.