Customer Service Tip of the Week

Be Generous to a Fault - 8/20/19


People who think they’re generous to a fault usually think that’s their only fault – American Journalist Sydney Harris. This quote reminds me of someone who views themselves as a giver – someone who is so humble that he likes to humbly tell everyone of the gifts he’s given, good Read more

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

The Great Manager I Never Met – 4/15/14 TOW

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I was fortunate to have been asked to speak at a finance association conference this past month on the topic of “Customer Service in the Tax Office.” I know that’s not the most exciting title, but it was a fun group!

I stayed at the hotel where the conference was held and had several interactions with the hotel staff while there:

  • I talked with two staff at the front desk during my stay; they each greeted me as I entered the lobby on two separate occasions, addressed my needs, proactively shared where the events were taking place in the hotel as I was checking in, engaged me in some pleasant chit-chat about the weather, etc. It was simple, pleasant, proactive, and done in personable way.
  • Since I arrived late in the day, I decided to order room service, and the room service person on the phone was upbeat, made recommendations to me in a confident manner in response to my questions, confirmed my order, and told me by when the meal would be delivered.
  • The room service delivery person delivered the meal a little early. He was professional in dress/demeanor, pleasant to chat with, patient with me, and closed positively.
  • As I entered the elevator from my floor to check-out, a housekeeper exited the elevator. She smiled, placed her hand on the side of the door to keep it open, and asked me to what floor I was going. She then pressed the button for me, smiled, thanked me, and moved on.

There was no individual “WOW” moment, but the high performing consistency made it a collective WOW experience!

Now, I never met the hotel manager; I’m not sure I ever even spoke with a supervisor-level individual. But I can tell they have a great manager. In the Moments of Truth with these five employees, every interaction was positive, was pleasant, was professional. Every interaction had a little that went beyond the basic expectations.

You don’t get that purely by being lucky. You develop efficient processes. You hire the right people, train them well, don’t overly script them, and motivate them to keep them happy and pleasant.

Sometimes you can identify great managers without ever seeing them.


A Flurry of Best Practices – 4/8/14 TOW

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In less than ten minutes, I saw a flurry of customer service best practices. They were all performed by someone named Linda, and here’s what happened…

I was at the Miami airport for the first time in years, not remembering much about how to get to ground transportation, let alone how to find the shuttle service the hotel recommended.

When I located the shuttle kiosk outside the terminal, I experienced and witnessed Linda – the dispatcher – weaving some wonderful customer service.

As she was helping a man and his young son when I walked up, she engaged me with a smile and asked where I was heading. She responded “Great! I’ll help you as soon as I’m done helping this gentleman.” Linda asked the father if she could give his son a piece of candy; the dad confirmed that was fine; she gave the boy a piece of wrapped candy, the child opened the wrapper, and he quickly dropped the candy on the ground.

“Please don’t eat it,” Linda said. “I don’t want you to eat that, and I don’t want you to be sad. Here’s another one.” She gave the child a new piece and picked up the one that dropped.

As she helped me, she confirmed the details, mentioned the price, and wrote it on my receipt along with the shuttle number. She told me the driver would take care of my luggage, told me it would be a five minute wait and a 25 minute drive, and completed the scheduling. She said that I could pay the driver, and she noted how his credit card machine would look. She set every expectation, and Linda twice updated me on my shuttle’s status – even though it was only a five minute wait.

While I waited, another shuttle drove up; she asked the driver where he’d been since she hadn’t seen him in a while – she was concerned about his health. As we were waiting, she engaged a policeman riding a Segway for chit-chat and did the same with a nearby Taxi dispatcher. She also had time to toss some bread on the ground for some small birds, and when she caught me watching her feed them, she smiled with a sheepish grin.

I was around her a total of 8-10 minutes, and in that short time it was clear that Linda was personable, proactive, pleasant, and professional. She managed my expectations, conveyed caring for co-workers and others, took personal interest in a small child, and was productive the entire time.

Sometimes a few minutes can result in a flurry of customer service best practices.

Let’s all learn some lessons from Linda.


Adopt the Practice of Proactive – 4/1/14 TOW

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Proactive – I use the word all the time (maybe too much). I sometimes use it so much that I’m assuming everyone defines it similar to how I do, and I wonder how we really apply the concept.

I define “Proactive” as initiating an action or a sharing of information. In the world of customer service, the initiation is done to benefit the customer. We’re not waiting for the customer to call or come in, to request or complain, to ask or convey. We’re taking the monkey off their back by starting the conversation and providing the solution, without even being asked.

If your way of looking at Proactive is different, let me know, but for the rest of this Tip, let’s use that definition to address how we really apply being “Proactive.”

The main question I’d like you ask yourself is this, “About WHAT could I be proactive?” Remember, we’re not reacting and responding; we’re identifying and acting. So what can you identify that you can act on?

For example, what issues are cropping up internally in your organization that you KNOW will impact your customer? How can you communicate those issues and solutions to customers? Maybe you’re part of a government entity, and you know that some tax refunds are going to be released later than anticipated. You work in a doctor’s office, and you just determined that a physician will be out of the office, and his patients scheduled for that day will now be seen by a nurse practitioner instead.

Think about the issues that you uncover which could impact customers; then don’t wait for them to find out on their own and come at you with the complaint and the emotion; be Proactive.

What new products, policies, procedures, processes, or people are coming up that will impact your customer? How can you tell them about it? You could be a pro sports team whose most experienced account representative left, and now his account holders will all have a new point person. You’re the school modifying the proof of residency documentation requirements for student placement. Maybe you work in a bank, and you just found out that fees are going up for certain types of accounts.

Think about the needs the customer has which will be impacted by changes in your people or internal operations; don’t wait for them to come in with one expectation and get something totally different; be Proactive.

Take a few minutes and identify the issues and needs you know today that the customer will find out tomorrow.

Adopt the Practice of Proactive.