Customer Service Tip of the Week

Don’t Assume because... - 8/13/19


You've probably heard this statement growing up. Your parents said, “Don’t assume, because it makes…you look bad.” Or something like that… Recently my laptop screen died, and since it was an older laptop, I decided to go ahead and buy a new one instead of paying to have the screen Read more

Patience Leads to Positivity - 8/6/19


Thank you for your patience. That’s a statement I enjoy saying…when I am the customer. When I’m trying to learn something and I’m about to go into a process, I want to have a feel for what the whole process involves. Over the years, I’ve gotten tired of feeling like Read more

Back to Reality...for Customer Expectations - 7/30/19


Have you ever walked into a patient registration area of a hospital and seen a sign that said “if you’ve been waiting longer than 15 minutes, please see the receptionist?” Have you ever called a customer service number and been told by a recording that “the average hold time is Read more

For Excellence to Happen, Get Engaged - 7/23/19


The customer was throwing an absolute fit in the lobby. Sitting among several other customers waiting for her number to be called, she was raising her voice and letting out the occasional expletive about the lengthy wait time. An employee sitting behind the counter thought to herself: I’m going Read more

Libby Listened to Serve - 7/16/19


Libby was new to her role with the organization. She had never been a customer service representative in a call center before, but she was hired because of her attitude. She wanted to learn, enjoyed working with people, and could carry on a conversation with a wall. After going through Read more

Chris Got Noticed for All the Right Reasons - 7/9/19


Chris was working through a temporary agency, and he got a job at a warehouse. He was packaging items to be shipped out, and his shift didn't start until 7:30 a.m. Chris always got there a little bit early because of the bus schedule, and he hated just sitting Read more

What Does “No News” Mean? Here’s a Quick Story - 7/2/19


Steven was trying to make the purchase of his new used car official, so he could get license tags for his State. In order for the State to allow him to put the vehicle in his name, he had to submit paperwork to prove that the prior owner (from Read more

Are you the Output or the Input? - 6/25/19


You’re the output and the input. Sorry to put it into such technical/industrial engineering terminology. But in a service system, we all have some role as a part of the process. First, we receive the output. Somebody has a customer that they direct to us, so that handoff is from Read more

Hear Them, and Tell Them What You Heard - 6/18/19


CSS has conducted close to 1000 research projects over the years, many of which were web-based surveys. And oftentimes, in addition to or instead of completing the online survey, respondents e-mail us directly with questions or comments – and we respond personally to every message on behalf of our Read more

It’s Decision Time. What are you going to do? - 6/11/19


Serving others is tough. Whether it’s dealing with an irate customer, having to field the same question from the 100th different customer this month, or keeping 10 plates spinning while still smiling in front of the client, it’s hard. You want to do a great job, and you’re constantly put Read more

Make it Crystal Clear – 5/21/19

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Sometimes we communicate so well, and sometimes we don’t communicate as well as we think we do. When you’re trying to set or manage another person’s expectations, what you say may be very clear to you, but the reality is it may not be clear to the other person. And if the other person doesn’t understand what you’re conveying, they could have an expectation that’s unrealistic.

Noted below are 10 statements an employee might make to a customer. At face value, most may seem very typical and pretty clear:

  1. That won’t take long.
  2. The process is described on the website.
  3. You need to fill out a GARBA.
  4. You’ll hear back from us not too long after we receive the results.
  5. I need your ID.
  6. The first thing you need to do is to set an appointment.
  7. Just call any time if you need help.
  8. Call the main number, and we’ll get that for you.
  9. I’m going to transfer you (then the caller hears a click and rings).
  10. Once you send in a work order, the maintenance folks will be in touch and address it quickly.

So, what’s wrong with these? Here are 10 things to consider (the #s below correspond to the #s above):

  1. “Won’t take long” might be interpreted differently by different people – 1 hour to the customer v. 1 week to the employee.
  2. The website has many pages; be more specific; make it easy for the customer to find the specific page.
  3. What is a GARBA? Avoid acronyms whenever possible.
  4. How long is “not too long?” And when do you expect to receive the results? Both timeframes are unclear.
  5. A customer may have several ID’s. Which one is needed?
  6. The other process steps are not described.
  7. What number should the caller call and when?
  8. What’s the main number? How long will it take to “get that?”
  9. It’s not clear why the caller is being transferred, to whom, etc.
  10. It’s not clear how to send the order, who will respond to the customer, what “in touch” means, and what “quickly” means.

To effectively set or manage expectations, ensure you’re being as clear as the customer needs.

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Harvey Wrote the Book on Focus…and Golf – 5/14/19

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In Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book, the famous golf instructor provides many key tips about golf that just as well could apply to life in general. One such tip is the following: Once you address the golf ball, hitting it has got to be the most important thing in your life at that moment. Shut out all thoughts other than picking out a target and taking dead aim at it. This is a good way to calm a case of nerves.

I love this quote for so many reasons. First, the quote relates to life and customer service. When we’re interacting with that customer during that 1-on-1 moment of truth, we need to view that customer in that situation as the most important thing in our life at that moment. To convey we are engaged and we care, we need to truly believe that that other individual and their situation are important. Even if – in the grand scheme of things – it is not THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD to you, at that moment, you need to focus on it AS IF IT WAS the most important thing.

The next aspect of this phrase that I love is that you are shutting out all other thoughts. We might think we can serve a customer the best while we’re simultaneously looking at a computer or thinking about a project we have due later on, but the reality is that the brain works best and we communicate best with others when we are focused exclusively on that individual.

Finally, he sums up by saying that this is a good way to calm a case of nerves. One thing that people don’t realize is that there is a greater sense of calm if we are in-the-moment than there is if we’re thinking about tomorrow. You’re more likely to be stressed if you’re thinking about 12 other things you have to do or what might happen next or all the other stimulations that are in the environment.

If we only focus on the now, there is less to distract and less to disturb the calm.

The next time you’re on the phone or face-to-face with another individual, view that interaction as the most important thing at that moment. Treat them that way, and watch the communications flow better, the conversations end more quickly, and your emotions stay calmer.

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Stop Rolling Your Eyes – 5/7/19

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Most of our customer service tips offer advice and guidance. But advice and guidance is useless if the individual receiving it is not willing to listen, learn the theory behind it, and try to apply what they’ve heard or learned.

I’ve personally facilitated hundreds of training sessions with clients over the years, and it doesn’t happen terribly often, but sometimes I will notice an attendee rolling their eyes when I suggest something, or they’re saying something under their breath to the person sitting next to them. Often, I can tell by reading the body language or hearing a little bit of what was said that the point they’re making is “That wouldn’t work with our customers.”

Maybe what we’re suggesting wouldn’t work, since nothing works on 100% of the customers in 100% of the situations. But unless an individual employee has a perfect batting average in their encounters with customers, they can learn more. And even if they are “batting 1000,” the situations tomorrow, the customers tomorrow, the processes of tomorrow, and the technology of tomorrow will all be different, and that risk of striking out is back in play.

So, today’s Tip is not a specific technique. It’s not a specific how to. It’s a suggestion to listen when a co-worker suggests something. It’s a suggestion to be open to hearing a success story and spending a minute to think about how you can apply that to your daily work. It’s a suggestion to hear a technique and not dismiss it because your customers are different. Rather, consider how to apply the why behind the what to what’s unique about you, your company, and your customers.

Being open to learn and grow is one of the greatest assets you can have in this rapidly-changing world of customer service.

View every encounter with your leaders, your peers, your trainers, and your customers as an opportunity to listen and to learn.

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