Customer Service Tip of the Week

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


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 Read more

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


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 Read more

Use the Actions of Empathy - 4/9/19


I firmly believe that the most important personal trait of someone in customer service is empathy. If empathy is understanding the other person, then it’s very difficult to truly serve someone that you don’t understand. Particularly when they’re upset or irate, being empathetic and getting them to Read more

Customer for Life – The Third Step - 4/2/19


Two weeks ago, we addressed the Second Step of keeping a Customer for Life: Never let a relationship go stale – keep the communication going. Now, we’re sharing the Third Step. To have a customer for life, you have to address what will keep them. Read more

Facial Recognition is the Future of Customer Service - 3/26/19


According to a recent New York Times article, facial recognition is the future of retail customer service. A trend in technology for retail businesses is to utilize facial recognition technology in order to better know who is entering your business. The idea is that if somebody within Read more

Customer for Life – The Second Step - 3/19/19


Two weeks ago, we shared a Customer Service Tip on how to get (and keep!) a Customer for Life. We addressed the First Step, Knowing what you need to know about the other person. Now, we’re sharing the Second Step. To develop a relationship with anyone, there has to Read more

Employee Runs for a Dog Run - 3/12/19


I was never a Boy Scout. I mean in the literal sense, but also somewhat in the figurative sense, but I digress. After years of telling myself that I needed something to help my dog get exercise outside without worrying about him trying to dig under a fence and Read more

Customer for Life – The First Step - 3/5/19


This should be the goal, right? That our clients today will be our clients tomorrow and well into the future. That their loyalty grows, their business with us grows, their referrals grow, and it is all part of a relationship that grows and develops over time. But what’s the Read more

Retrain Your Brain - 2/26/19


Admit it. You thought about it. You thought: Why in the world did the customer try to assemble that before reading the instructions? Why would they drive all the way down here instead of just checking the website? Why would they go through the drive-thru when they can deposit using Read more

Look Up, or Look Out! - 2/19/19


The clerk called out “next in line!”, and Frannie went to the counter. “Can I have your name?,” the employee asked, but she stared at her computer screen while asking. Frannie stated her name, the time of her appointment, and noted the reason for the appointment. Staring at the screen, Read more

Give the Customer a Plan B – 1/28/14 TOW

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I was walking into my local bank branch a couple Saturdays ago to make a deposit. While I usually go through the drive-through, I didn’t have any deposit slips left, so I had to get some new ones at the bank. When I entered the lobby, I got the feeling of dread in my chest – 20 people in line ahead of me. I stopped, took a deep breath to calm the impatient side of me, and proceeded to the line to become customer #21.

After three minutes, I assessed the situation (3 tellers, 20 people in line, nobody had yet moved). I mentally calculated a wait time that would stretch into lunch if not dinner. And then I got an idea. I picked up a few deposit slips, and I left.

Sitting in the car, I filled out a slip, went to the drive-through (where there was NOBODY in line), and was on my way in less than 2 minutes.

At this point I realized that it would have been wonderful if an employee in the bank lobby had stated to the 21 of us in line “There’s no wait at the drive-through.”

The lesson learned? This is the 21st century. This is the era of an exorbitant number of customer service channels for most businesses (walk-in, phone, drive-through, self-service, web, e-mail, social media, etc.). And many customers who are in one channel are going to get very upset with a business because that method of obtaining service is slow, cumbersome, manual, or simply not a great customer experience.

The lesson learned is that businesses need to find ways to educate the customers on the other channels on an ongoing basis and real-time, so that the customer doesn’t feel trapped and doesn’t take out the bad experience on the company.

This involves having an ongoing Touch Point Plan with clients that includes periodic educational communications about the other channels, how to access them, and their benefits. This requires that companies know real-time what channels are performing like greased lightning and which ones are stuck in neutral. And this requires that employees get in the habit of “Educating Forward” – where they let customers know other channels available to them in case the preferred method of service is delayed or backlogged.

When it comes to providing a positive experience, sometimes the best path is the one that helps them avoid the bad experience. Give the customer a Plan B.


Don’t be the Reactive Representative – 1/21/14 TOW

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“But I answered his question…But I wasn’t rude…But I told her the policy…But I rang her up…But I called back.”

These are the responses of a customer service representative who is receiving some criticism or coaching from his boss. The employee’s words are filled with defensiveness, but they are also based on the assumption in the employee’s mind that they delivered solid customer service. If the employee answered the customer’s question, wasn’t rude, stated a policy, completed a transaction, or returned a customer’s call, then didn’t he provide great customer service? Shouldn’t he be immune from any criticism?

No.

The problem is that too many employees define great customer service or serving the customer in this way – “I responded to or reacted to the customer. I didn’t yell or scream. I addressed the facts and policies. I completed the task.”

In reality, these are the lowest expectations of someone in customer service. These are definitions of the bare minimum. These are characteristics of the Reactive Representative. When a customer engages the Reactive Representative, oftentimes the following occur:

  • The employee never moves toward the customer. Because if the customer needed something, the employee feels that the customer would go to the employee.
  • If the employee does move, he moves past the customer, rarely with eye contact. Because the employee is going somewhere, and the employee believes that if the customer needs them, the customer should ask.
  • The greeting never happens. Because the employee is waiting for the customer to say something.
  • There’s dead silence. Because the employee is waiting for the customer to ask the next question.
  • (Positive) Expressions don’t exist. Because the employee is thinking about a task, not about how they’re coming across to the customer.
  • The transaction ends in silence. Because the employee didn’t initiate the thanks.

These are examples of an employee expecting the customer to initiate and carry the conversation, the customer to create a positive tone, and the customer to clearly state their need or issue. These are also all examples of HORRIBLE customer service.

Don’t be the Reactive Representative. Be proactive. Be positive. Be the reason that the customer wants to return.


Let Them Share – 1/14/14 TOW

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Have you ever seen the TV show “Monk?” It’s about a former police detective now turned police consultant. He has a “unique” personality due to too many different life experiences to go into at this point, but let’s just say he’s not the most touchy/feely person in the world.

Every episode includes his sessions with his psychiatrist where he shares his feelings in his own “Monk way.” Sharing feelings is not natural for Monk, and he has a hard time caring about or being curious about others’ feelings as well. At least in this respect, many of us are similar to Monk.

However in customer service – especially in many of the most difficult conversations we have – emotions are involved. And if you’re like Monk, or if you have trouble sharing your own feelings with others in a personal setting (let alone a work setting), you might work hard NOT to have to have a discussion of feelings. But unfortunately for those of us not on the touchy/feely side, we have to allow those emotions to come from the customer.

When the customer is upset, angry, frustrated, or they’re envious or hurt or anxious, we cannot ignore those emotions. In order to get to a resolution in such a way as to engender trust and to have the customer feeling good about how the conversation went (even if they didn’t love the outcome), we have to let them share those emotions.

People can bring down the emotions if they are allowed to flow; they can settle down quicker if we allow them to relieve the pressure. They can think more clearly and logically and move on if they’ve been allowed to vent. Oftentimes, they don’t even want a resolution if we just give them the opportunity to share the emotions.

Now I’m NOT suggesting you ENCOURAGE them to share, but be observant of emotions. If they exist, allow them to flow, don’t interrupt, don’t argue – instead, listen and empathize, and then find the opportunity to start asking questions that move you toward solutions.

To get to the next step, to deal with someone on more sensible terms, be sensitive to their emotions.

Let them share.