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

Should you tell the customer? The Employee’s Dilemma – 4/30/19

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Last week we looked at the dilemma that many companies face – When there is an issue that is going to happen, should they tell the customer? This week, let’s address that same question from the employee’s perspective.

I personally experience employees struggling with this question when I’m in the role of the consumer. I’m talking to the customer service representative, and they’re saying they can take care of something, but they’re not telling me how long it will take. They are talking to me about some additional options, but they are not letting me know how much they’ll cost. Sometimes it’s not even during a conversation when I experience this as a consumer. I go to a website I utilize often, and it has unexpectedly changed dramatically. I call to talk to my customer service representative, and they’ve left the company.

There was no communication about how long the process would take or the cost of the additional options. There was no advance notice that the website was changing or that my account representative was leaving.

This lack of communication could be caused by the employee not wanting to bring up an issue that may make the customer upset or result in a longer call. The employee may try to avoid conflict, or they may be evaluated on how long they spend on the phone. Maybe they don’t notify the customer of the new website or the exiting account representative because they themselves weren’t aware, or maybe they were aware but don’t think ahead and view situations through the eyes of the customer.

The reasons are varied, and while some of those reasons are not controllable by the employee, some are controllable. The employee can choose to talk about process steps and timing, or not. They could address the pricing of the different options, or not. They could give the customer a “head’s up” on the new web design or the fact that the account representative will be leaving, or not.

When deciding whether to be proactive and tell the customer about the issue or the change about to happen, start with this core question – What’s in the best interest of the customer?

It’s hard to fail in your role as someone seeking to serve and retain the customer by doing what’s in their best interest. Communicating the unwelcome news may be the tougher decision, but it’s usually the right decision.

Communicate in a way that addresses the best interest of your customer.

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Should you tell the customer? The Company’s Dilemma – 4/23/19

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I have a lot of clients that struggle with this question, both at a company/strategic level as well as an individual representative level. When there is an issue that is going to happen, should you tell the customer? This week we’re going to address the question at the company level. Next week, we’ll address the question at the individual employee level.

At the company or strategic level, the discussion usually centers around some change the organization is about to make. Maybe they’re going to test something in operations or in a system or with a service that might have some negative ramifications to the customer. Maybe they’re going to eliminate a perk or benefit that many customers utilize. Maybe they’re going to change a policy or procedure or stop providing a feature that customers enjoy.

So, should that company tell the customer? If the company doesn’t tell the customer, it oftentimes is because they don’t even think about the customer. They are so focused on their project or their product or their process or their promotion that they don’t think about everybody who might be impacted. Sometimes they’re trying to avoid complaints by not drawing attention or awareness to a change some customers might not like.

A way to answer this question at the company level is to keep in mind that problems are created when a customer expects “A” and they get “B”. Also keep in mind, that when a customer brings a problem to the attention of the organization, the customer’s in control of how that conversation goes. However, if the company takes control of that conversation by notifying the customer of what’s going to change, the company has control over what that message is, how it’s delivered, and within what environment that message is sent.

While there is no one pat answer to this question, most organizations in most situations need to tell the customer. They need to be upfront on what’s going to change so that they can maintain some control over how that communication goes with the customer.

Few organizations have failed because they are too proactive, too open, and too honest with their customers.

When deciding whether or not you should tell the customer, lean toward those options which build trust and transparency with your customer.

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Customer for Life – The Final Step – 4/16/19

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Two weeks ago, we addressed the Third Step of keeping a Customer for Life: Address what will keep them. Now, we’re sharing the Fourth and Final Step. To have a Customer for Life, you have to grow your relationship with them.

While the 3rd step is the toughest – since 10 different customers might have 10 different reasons to stay with your business or go – the Final Step is the one most customer service representatives are uncomfortable with, don’t enjoy, or – frankly – can’t stand doing. Why? Because it means we have to ** gulp ** sell.

No!! Not Sell!!

Yes…sell.

Personally, I never enjoyed selling, and I never felt that I was good at it. Part of the reason why I felt that way is because of how I defined “selling.” To me, selling was pushing a product on somebody that didn’t want it. It was starting a conversation that another person did not want to have or did not find useful. It was pressuring somebody into something just to extract money from them. I guess this was my definition because – in various situations in my personal life – this had happened to me. I was thinking of the worst of those personal situations and putting them in a box marked “SELLING.”

But to have a deeper relationship with someone, you need to grow the relationship. You need to seek out the needs that are under the surface and better understand the issues that impact them, and you have to offer support. You have to be willing to go a little further in your understanding of the other person and their issues, needs, and goals so that you can go a little further in helping them as a friend.

If you want a Customer for Life, you have to take that extra step as well. You have to be inquisitive enough to ask deeper questions about the real issues they face and the real goals they’d like to attain. And you’ve got to be willing to not only identify resources that you can offer them to address those issues and those goals, but you’ve got to take the next step and be willing enough to suggest those resources to them.

This is how I got over my aversion to selling. I view it as an opportunity to help somebody through something that my organization can provide. It’s not identifying a product that we have and figuring out who to push it to. It’s taking a deeper interest in what my client is dealing with or trying to achieve, and trying to help them achieve it. Sometimes that aid is in suggesting other resources or giving informal advice, and sometimes it is suggesting that they tap into some of our CSS resources.

To have a Customer for Life, realize you need to be willing to deepen the relationship by asking those more difficult questions and being willing to suggest solutions to the client.

To keep a customer for life, redefine “selling,” and then sell to serve your customers better.

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