Customer Service Tip of the Week

The Passive Predicament - 4/13/21


The employee is speaking to you.  Do they have that look in the eyes like they’re hanging on your every word, like they’re processing, interpreting, and getting ready to quickly respond to your key points and questions?  Or do they have the look of somebody in the 2nd hour Read more

Regain Lost Motivation - 4/6/21


For many of us over the last 12 months, our home has also become our workplace.  Our work interaction has been 2-dimensional through the computer screen as opposed to the 3-dimensional experiences we’re used to with co-workers and customers. We are all motivated in our own unique ways.  Some are Read more

The Answer is Right, but the Service is Wrong - 3/30/21


Maggie was irate.  The gift she ordered needed to be received by the 20th of the month so she could give it to her cousin for his birthday.  It was the 19th, and Maggie couldn’t find any shipping update online, so she called the company.  The employee said “Oh!  Read more

Question Everything, but What’s the Question? - 3/23/21


The new leader joins the organization, and she decides she wants to question everything.  She wants employees to question everything.  Why have we always done it this way? Why do we continue to do it that way? Is this the best way to work? Sometimes it’s a great management Read more

The Resourceful Rep - 3/16/21


One of our clients is seeking to develop Customer Service Standards.  We’re working with them to identify those key expectations of staff that will enable the organization to deliver a consistent high-level customer experience.  One of the key attributes that this organization is seeking from its team members is Read more

Be Proactive like a Pro - 3/9/21


We constantly work with clients, encouraging them to become more proactive with customers.  Don’t just be reactive, waiting for the customer to ask questions or to complain.  Instead, go to the customer, anticipate their needs, suggest something to them. But many of us, frankly, don’t know how to be proactive.  Read more

Find One Unique Thing - 3/2/21


Many of us are not in a position to develop long-term relationships with our customers.  Our encounters are often one-time only with a customer - very brief and likely to be our only time chatting with this individual. And even though there may not be a long-term professional relationship developed, Read more

Should I Stay or Should I Go? - 2/23/21


Should I stay or should I go?  That’s not just a classic song by The Clash.  It’s also the question customers ask more and more, especially during difficult economic times. A recent study in the Charlotte Business Journal noted that 50% of North Carolina businesses are concerned with how to Read more

Optimism – A Force for Good in Customer Service - 2/16/21


Will 2021 be a better year than 2020?  I have absolutely no idea.  Maybe it would be nice to see into the future and know for certain, but I can’t and I don’t.  But as I wade further and further into this year, I can hope that the water Read more

To Assure, Ensure You Do This - 2/9/21


Vince Lombardi – famous professional football coach – became a big hit on the speaker’s circuit during his time coaching.  He applied many of his principles in football and life to business, and one of his great business quotes is:  Confidence is contagious and so is lack of confidence, Read more

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.


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.