Customer Service Tip of the Week

Know the Customer’s Value Proposition - 2/12/19


I’ve written about how it’s important to build up your co-workers when talking to customers. When the nurse is getting ready to send the patient down to radiology, she lets the patient know what great work and great care that the radiology tech provides. When the teller contacts a Read more

Paint a Picture, Take a Picture - 2/5/19


Many of us are visual learners. In order for us to understand the concept, we need to be able to see the concept illustrated. And by seeing the concept illustrated, I’m not just talking about taking something that somebody says and merely typing it into an email. I don’t Read more

Recipe for Reputation Rehab - 1/29/19


As another corporation is trying to recover from self-inflicted reputation wounds, it is seeking to get back in the good graces of consumers. It’s laying out a 6-point plan to improve its performance, but – in the end – publicizing this plan is also about rehabilitating its reputation. Read more

Don’t Dwell on the Customer Crazies - 1/22/19


Whether or not you’re a fan of Duke University basketball, you may have heard of the “Cameron Crazies.” This is a nickname for Duke fans that attend home games in Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium. One of my friends was one of those Cameron Crazies. He was Read more

Retain through Responsiveness - 1/15/19


In a recent Bloomberg article about online retailers, there’s a story about a women’s cosmetics customer who used an online app to order some items. She waited weeks for the delivery after it was shipped to the wrong address, and she had great difficulty in getting the issue resolved. Read more

Bring Something Extra to the Table - 1/8/19


As somebody who has customer service as a part of their role and responsibilities, you are often talking to customers who could access the answers to their questions or the solutions to their problems via a website or some social media resource. But instead of going to those communication Read more

How to Have a Truly HAPPY New Year - 1/1/19


Don’t worry. After today, I will get away from my holiday-themed tips, but for now, let me ask you a question. What would be a good way to have a truly HAPPY New Year? Is it lowering expectations so that everything exceeds your expectations? Is Read more

2018 Holiday Poem - 12/25/18


Annually I write a note at this time of year, And the goal not once but every time is to bring you some cheer. I try to encourage, And I work to state the truth Because as we continue to grow more “wise,” We can’t lose sight of the joys of youth. So this year Read more

Be SomeBODY to Your Customer - 12/18/18


Jenny lives on a farm, and she's often running errands to get things for the animals or the family. She goes to one particular store to get her hay, and she always chit-chats with the person at the register. Marie is always friendly and cordial, and Jenny always buys Read more

A Representative Success! - 12/11/18


I was in a meeting recently with a client, and it was interesting to chat with one of their best customer service representatives. This is an employee who works with the same business clients every month, and when she described what she does, best practices started flowing. She knows her Read more

When Metrics Mask Reality – 7/16/13 TOW

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Michael has the pleasure of knowing a board member for a nationwide retail chain. Michael thoroughly enjoys knowing this gentleman on a personal level and learning about his perspective on business.

Since Michael has been a customer of the business, one day he decided to ask the board member how the board feels about their company’s customer service. The board member’s response was “Oh! We’re doing great! We just passed our biggest competitor in the national ratings, and our metrics on the store customer service are generally trending up!”

Michael was somewhat astonished at the response, since this company has a reputation for horrible customer service. Since Michael hadn’t been to his local store in a few weeks, he thought that maybe they had improved.

So that weekend, Michael needed to buy a certain type of flower that his wife was requesting – a white wave petunia. Not wanting to make a 20 minute round trip without knowing they had that type of plant, Michael called the store first. After going through 5 menus on the phone system, Michael selected the right option (or so he had hoped) and was transferred to the nursery; he hung up after the phone rang for the 18th time with nobody answering.

He then hopped in his car to go there anyway as it was getting late in the day. When Michael entered the nursery area, he immediately walked up to the cashier and waited behind the only customer in line. Since that conversation was taking several minutes, Michael walked to the flower pots and began looking for the plant. There Michael saw every petunia known to man. . .except a white wave petunia.

So he went back to the cashier, and when the cashier was done helping the customer, Michael asked for help.

“I’m just a cashier,” responded the employee. “I don’t know what those are; why don’t you go ask an employee back in lumber?”

“Where?,” Michael responded.

“Back in the back quadrant over there; they’re over there,” the cashier replied.

Then Michael went to the ‘back quadrant,’ but there were no employees around.

Michael left without a white wave petunia, without a good feeling about the store, and with the definite suspicion that this board member had never shopped at his own stores.

Metrics can look good, but the experience can be bad.

Trust data to a point, but verify what the experience is like in reality. Experience your business like a customer would experience it.

 


Now That You’re On Time, Please Wait – 7/9/13 TOW

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Ellie went to her eye doctor to get her cataracts checked. Are they bad enough to get the procedure? That was her question – she wanted the cataract surgery so she could see better, but every year her physician said they were not quite bad enough.

After checking in, Ellie went to the waiting room and noticed a new automated board that tracked physician delays. Apparently, the office had added these “scheduling status monitors” within the past month in order to set appropriate expectations with patients about wait times. The theory was to best manage expectations and communicate via monitors with the patients. This ensures patients won’t be upset at delays, and they won’t constantly interrupt receptionists asking for updates.

When Ellie found her physician on the monitor, she noticed that her doctor was running about 90 minutes behind by that point in the day. And while it was good that the monitor gave her a realistic expectation of the delay, Ellie was frustrated. Why? Isn’t this one of the core concepts behind great customer service – that you constantly have to reset customer expectations to match reality?

To Ellie, this definitely wasn’t an example of great customer service – or even good customer service. From her perspective, if the office knew that they were 90 minutes behind, why didn’t they call her to tell her so that she could arrive later? Why couldn’t they use their information so the customer could rest a little longer, run an errand or two on the way, get more work done, or avoid having to leave home in the middle of a thunderstorm?

In other words, why couldn’t they use the information to reduce the patient’s wait time and make it more convenient for the patient?

Maybe the office’s response would be “if we tell them they can come in later, they won’t be here if we get back on schedule.” That may be true periodically, but it’s not the right answer in most situations.

If we can’t serve clients earlier, there are still opportunities to reduce their waits.

If we expect clients to be on time, do whatever is necessary to deliver with minimal wait time.

 


Analyze This… – 7/2/13 TOW

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No we’re not talking about the Robert De Niro movie. I’m going to give you a real world situation, and I want you to analyze the customer service of this employee – Frank the building inspector.

Frank looked at his list of inspections for the day and cringed at the first one on the list. “What a way to start the day,” he murmured. “Waynesville Brothers Contracting. I can’t stand those guys. They’re always trying to get away with stuff. Drives me crazy.”

As Frank started out to the job site, he grew more irate about the conversation he anticipated having. When he got there to do the inspection, the site manager was a new guy named Pete. Frank immediately went up to Pete and introduced himself by name. Pete responded “it’s good to meet you.” Frank responded gruffly, “I won’t be here long hopefully. I’ll let you know what I find out.”

Soon Frank started the inspection, and as was usually the case with Waynesville Brothers Contracting, he found lots of issues. But for a first inspection, it wasn’t quite as bad as normal. When he went back to Pete, he interrupted Pete’s discussion with a subcontractor and said, “I’m ready when you are to go over this stuff.”

Pete asked “How did we do?,” and Frank responded “let me go through the list – there’s several items to address.”

As they walked through the items, Pete asked several questions. Whereas he was an experienced manager, he had moved to the East Coast within the past year from the Midwest, and he wasn’t as familiar with the State code. When Frank realized this, he slowed down on his review of the items, and he clearly stated why some of the items were in violation of code.

At the end, Frank said, “do you have any more questions, Pete?” Pete said “Nope, I’ve got it.” Frank said, “then let me give you a number to call and a website when you’re ready to schedule the re-inspection.” After providing the information, Frank said, “good to meet you. Have a good one,” and he left.

Now for the analysis. . .

What did Frank do right? What did Frank do wrong? Analyze Frank’s mindset, his terminology, his probable tone of voice, his assumptions, his use of personal names, and his general way of interacting.

While I’m sure you did a great job in analyzing Frank, it’s not always as easy to analyze ourselves. . .but we need to do so. To get better, we have to know the starting point – how we’re doing today.

So analyze yourself after you have a customer interaction. Try to do this at least once per day – particularly with conversations that you can tell – in your gut – did not go well. Ask “What did I do well?” and “What could I have done better?”

To improve, know your starting point. Analyze yourself.