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

When Metrics Mask Reality – 7/16/13 TOW

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Michael has the pleasure of knowing a board member for a nationwide retail chain. Michael thoroughly enjoys knowing this gentleman on a personal level and learning about his perspective on business.

Since Michael has been a customer of the business, one day he decided to ask the board member how the board feels about their company’s customer service. The board member’s response was “Oh! We’re doing great! We just passed our biggest competitor in the national ratings, and our metrics on the store customer service are generally trending up!”

Michael was somewhat astonished at the response, since this company has a reputation for horrible customer service. Since Michael hadn’t been to his local store in a few weeks, he thought that maybe they had improved.

So that weekend, Michael needed to buy a certain type of flower that his wife was requesting – a white wave petunia. Not wanting to make a 20 minute round trip without knowing they had that type of plant, Michael called the store first. After going through 5 menus on the phone system, Michael selected the right option (or so he had hoped) and was transferred to the nursery; he hung up after the phone rang for the 18th time with nobody answering.

He then hopped in his car to go there anyway as it was getting late in the day. When Michael entered the nursery area, he immediately walked up to the cashier and waited behind the only customer in line. Since that conversation was taking several minutes, Michael walked to the flower pots and began looking for the plant. There Michael saw every petunia known to man. . .except a white wave petunia.

So he went back to the cashier, and when the cashier was done helping the customer, Michael asked for help.

“I’m just a cashier,” responded the employee. “I don’t know what those are; why don’t you go ask an employee back in lumber?”

“Where?,” Michael responded.

“Back in the back quadrant over there; they’re over there,” the cashier replied.

Then Michael went to the ‘back quadrant,’ but there were no employees around.

Michael left without a white wave petunia, without a good feeling about the store, and with the definite suspicion that this board member had never shopped at his own stores.

Metrics can look good, but the experience can be bad.

Trust data to a point, but verify what the experience is like in reality. Experience your business like a customer would experience it.

 


Now That You’re On Time, Please Wait – 7/9/13 TOW

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Ellie went to her eye doctor to get her cataracts checked. Are they bad enough to get the procedure? That was her question – she wanted the cataract surgery so she could see better, but every year her physician said they were not quite bad enough.

After checking in, Ellie went to the waiting room and noticed a new automated board that tracked physician delays. Apparently, the office had added these “scheduling status monitors” within the past month in order to set appropriate expectations with patients about wait times. The theory was to best manage expectations and communicate via monitors with the patients. This ensures patients won’t be upset at delays, and they won’t constantly interrupt receptionists asking for updates.

When Ellie found her physician on the monitor, she noticed that her doctor was running about 90 minutes behind by that point in the day. And while it was good that the monitor gave her a realistic expectation of the delay, Ellie was frustrated. Why? Isn’t this one of the core concepts behind great customer service – that you constantly have to reset customer expectations to match reality?

To Ellie, this definitely wasn’t an example of great customer service – or even good customer service. From her perspective, if the office knew that they were 90 minutes behind, why didn’t they call her to tell her so that she could arrive later? Why couldn’t they use their information so the customer could rest a little longer, run an errand or two on the way, get more work done, or avoid having to leave home in the middle of a thunderstorm?

In other words, why couldn’t they use the information to reduce the patient’s wait time and make it more convenient for the patient?

Maybe the office’s response would be “if we tell them they can come in later, they won’t be here if we get back on schedule.” That may be true periodically, but it’s not the right answer in most situations.

If we can’t serve clients earlier, there are still opportunities to reduce their waits.

If we expect clients to be on time, do whatever is necessary to deliver with minimal wait time.

 


Analyze This… – 7/2/13 TOW

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No we’re not talking about the Robert De Niro movie. I’m going to give you a real world situation, and I want you to analyze the customer service of this employee – Frank the building inspector.

Frank looked at his list of inspections for the day and cringed at the first one on the list. “What a way to start the day,” he murmured. “Waynesville Brothers Contracting. I can’t stand those guys. They’re always trying to get away with stuff. Drives me crazy.”

As Frank started out to the job site, he grew more irate about the conversation he anticipated having. When he got there to do the inspection, the site manager was a new guy named Pete. Frank immediately went up to Pete and introduced himself by name. Pete responded “it’s good to meet you.” Frank responded gruffly, “I won’t be here long hopefully. I’ll let you know what I find out.”

Soon Frank started the inspection, and as was usually the case with Waynesville Brothers Contracting, he found lots of issues. But for a first inspection, it wasn’t quite as bad as normal. When he went back to Pete, he interrupted Pete’s discussion with a subcontractor and said, “I’m ready when you are to go over this stuff.”

Pete asked “How did we do?,” and Frank responded “let me go through the list – there’s several items to address.”

As they walked through the items, Pete asked several questions. Whereas he was an experienced manager, he had moved to the East Coast within the past year from the Midwest, and he wasn’t as familiar with the State code. When Frank realized this, he slowed down on his review of the items, and he clearly stated why some of the items were in violation of code.

At the end, Frank said, “do you have any more questions, Pete?” Pete said “Nope, I’ve got it.” Frank said, “then let me give you a number to call and a website when you’re ready to schedule the re-inspection.” After providing the information, Frank said, “good to meet you. Have a good one,” and he left.

Now for the analysis. . .

What did Frank do right? What did Frank do wrong? Analyze Frank’s mindset, his terminology, his probable tone of voice, his assumptions, his use of personal names, and his general way of interacting.

While I’m sure you did a great job in analyzing Frank, it’s not always as easy to analyze ourselves. . .but we need to do so. To get better, we have to know the starting point – how we’re doing today.

So analyze yourself after you have a customer interaction. Try to do this at least once per day – particularly with conversations that you can tell – in your gut – did not go well. Ask “What did I do well?” and “What could I have done better?”

To improve, know your starting point. Analyze yourself.