Customer Service Tip of the Week

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

Let Your Goal Determine Your Question - 2/2/21


In the early 2000s, when the economy hit the skids, companies realized that they couldn’t take their customers for granted.  They needed to ramp up customer service.  They needed to listen to the Voice of the Customer. During the Great Recession in the 2008-10 timeframe, much of the “new marketing Read more

Excellence is Not Perfection, and that’s OK - 1/26/21


Surveys have questions with ratings that range from Excellent to Poor.  We custom-design and deliver Service Excellence Training.  Tom Peters wrote the book “In Search of Excellence.” But how do you define Excellence, particularly in customer service?  Let’s start with what Excellence is not.  Excellence is not something reflected in Read more

Bring Magic to Your Account Management - 1/19/21


One of our first sports-industry clients was the Orlando Magic.  They were a true leading-edge organization in the early 2000s when it came to dedicating resources to season ticket holder retention.  They didn’t make customer service, relationship-development, and renewals simply a function of the Sales department.  They broke it Read more

Customers Want Easy, but Easy is Difficult - 1/12/21


New employees go through days of training to learn products and services.  They have formal workshops to learn how to use their office applications, web functions, and whatever programs are specific to their department.  They test new technology, and they get quizzed on knowledge of policies.  This is hours Read more

Make 2021 the Year of Building Relationships - 1/5/21


I’ve been very fortunate over this company’s 20+ years in business to have great and long-lasting relationships with many clients, colleagues, business partners, and co-workers.  It’s a gift to be able to call on these individuals for advice or referrals or to be a sounding board.  And it’s just Read more

Bring Warmth During Winter - 12/29/20


Winter is upon us.  Now, winter can mean different things to different people in different regions, but just the word conjures up cold.  It conjures up visions of snow.  It conjures up feelings of wind and lack of warmth. Although some of us may like the cold at times of Read more

2020 Holiday Poem - 12/22/20


When in the role of customer service,We are wired to give and give.It’s built into our DNA.It’s simply the way we live. In order to give to others,We need to find ways to give them their fill.We need to pour empathy and openness into them.To serve, we need to have Read more

Listen Even When Nobody’s Speaking – 11/10/20

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Online Chats are wonderful ways to provide customer service, except when they’re not wonderful ways to provide customer service.  Note the partial chat transcript below.  The company name has been replaced with STORE, and the location was changed to TOWN:

  • STORE Bot at 9:54: Thank you. An agent will be with you shortly to start your chat.
  • STORE Bot at 9:56: Mary T. has joined the conversation.
  • Customer at 9:56: Hi there. I visited the TOWN STORE last night for this product: EMSCO GROUP 20-in W x 24-in L x 10-in H Earth Brown Resin Raised Garden Bed Item #48620 Model #2345D
  • Mary T. at 9:57: Hello there! My name is Mary. I will be happy to assist you today!
  • Customer at 9:57: Hi. Their inventory system said they had 8 in stock, but the employee looked for 25 minutes and only found 1 – it was used. If I order it off the website for pickup at STORE, how do I make sure I get a new one, and by when would it be available?
  • Mary T. at 10:00: My apologies for the inconvenience. If on the website there is availability for being shipped it means that we have it available on the warehouse. You can ship it for free to the store the desired items.
  • Customer at 10:01: Thanks. If I order today, by when would it be ready at STORE? Also, how/when will they notify me that it’s ready for pickup?
  • Mary T. at 10:03: Thank you for waiting. I’ll be with you in just a moment.
  • Customer at 10:04: ok
  • Mary T. at 10:05: Yes! You will be receiving a notification when it is available by email.
  • Customer at 10:05: If I order today, by when would it be ready at STORE? I’d like to get it by Mother’s Day – that’s why I ask.
  • Mary T. at 10:06: May I have the item number so I can check?
  • Mary T. at 10:07: May I please have your Zip code?
  • Customer at 10:07: EMSCO GROUP 20-in W x 24-in L x 10-in H Earth Brown Resin Raised Garden Bed Item #48620 Model #2345D
  • Customer at 10:08: ZIP CODE – The TOWN Store I noted earlier is my store
  • Mary T. at 10:09: I’m sorry for the delay. I’ll be right with you.
  • Mary T. at 10:11: Yes! We have availability for pick up today at TOWN STORE
  • Customer at 10:13: I’m confused. I was there last night, and they didn’t have any in stock. Just to clarify (since they had issues finding it in the store even though it said there were 8 in inventory like I mentioned above), does that mean it can be delivered from a warehouse, or are you just seeing it in in-store inventory?
  • Mary T. at 10:15: I’ll be right with you.
  • Mary T. at 10:17: I’m sorry for the delay. I’ll be right with you.
  • Mary T. at 10:19: We have 5 available at OTHER TOWN STORE, please call at (888) 555-1212 to check availability.
  • Customer at 10:22: My focus was ensuring it was in the TOWN Store for pickup; I was trying to do a chat instead of calling to several stores myself and running into the same issue I had last night.

This was my experience.  I had to give the product model twice, store location twice, repeat the request twice, ask by when it would be ready more than twice, and then was told I needed to call a different store to determine availability.  Neither of us was – literally – speaking, and yet I didn’t feel she was listening to me.

When delivering chat-based customer service, or even e-mail customer service responses, ensure you thoroughly confirm what information the customer has conveyed and what request they’ve shared, so you address the need right the first time.

Ensure you listen, even when nobody’s speaking.

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Don’t Publicize Pain Points – 11/3/20

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Years ago, a mining company received numerous formal complaints about the noise from its operations.  The complaints primarily came from one nearby neighborhood.  That neighborhood was the location where the mining company had to build a small above-ground structure to support the operations.

The community was interested in finding ways to address the noise.  One of the ideas that residents came up with was to put a hedge around the structure.  The company said that the noise wasn’t coming from the structure; it was actually coming from the mining field, but the company decided to do what the residents requested.

So, they built a hedge around this structure that was so tall and dense that residents couldn’t see the object.

Eventually, the formal complaints completely stopped.

Kudos to the residents for coming up with an idea to address a company problem, and kudos to the company for doing what the residents suggested and not arguing the point.

What’s the takeaway?  Many issues and solutions are more about perception than reality.  Seeing something makes you associate it with other things.  The structure made you think of the noise, which made you think negatively about the company.  Remove the visual reminder (the structure), and the noise was the only reminder about…the noise – which people got used to over time.

I experience this personally every day.  I live near a fire station, but rarely do I notice the sirens unless I see the flashing lights.

When you’re trying to deliver a great customer experience, one way you do so is to eliminate the pain points in the customer journey.  But another way is to avoid reminding the customer about the pain.  If long waits or old facilities or excessive paperwork are challenges to the service experience, work to improve those – but also avoid shining a light on them.

Address reality AND perception.  Don’t publicize pain points.

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The Masked Singer is Your Customer – 10/27/20

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I cannot get into this show.  I have to admit it.  I’ve watched bits and pieces of it several times, but I just don’t totally get The Masked Singer, but it seems like it’s all the rage!  It seems like everybody wants to guess who is in that crazy outfit.  Who is the Penguin or the pterodactyl or the chicken?  I assume they have non-bird costumes as well, but those are the only types that come to mind…

The premise of The Masked Singer is that people are singing, and you can watch them sing and watch them move, but you don’t really know who they are.  These are all famous people, and there might be a hint or two as to who they are, but that’s where the show gets interesting and the guessing begins.

Just like we talked about the TV show The Voice a few weeks ago, there is something customer service-related about The Masked Singer.  While the singer’s voice may be part of the giveaway as to who this person really is, the movement of the person, their size, and their gait also give you a little bit of an indication of the individual.  

Similarly, in customer service, you can tell a lot about a person – or at least draw some preliminary expectations of the individual and their personality – based on tone of voice and based on body language.  When you watch The Masked Singer, you’re looking for these non-verbal cues to help you identify this person.

Whether it’s on a ZOOM customer service call or it’s a face-to-face interaction with the customer, you have that short period of time to assess the situation with that customer in front of you.  You have to quickly gauge their need and have some understanding of their emotion or the perspective that they’re bringing into the conversation.  And the way you do that is by looking at their body language and really trying to understand whether they’re patient or not, whether they’re agitated or not, whether they’re angry or happy or nervous or anxious.

When you’re in front of these customers in some face-to-face encounter, use some tools of the judges and the fans of The Masked Singer.  Take a moment to go beyond the words and read a little bit into what might be the emotional makeup or the mentality that customer is bringing into the conversation by analyzing their body language.  It may help you to handle the situation much more effectively.

Assess the body language when The Masked Singer is your customer.

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