Customer Service Tip of the Week

I want to be an Astronaut - 9/10/19


When I was young, if a child was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, the answers were often a fireman, a Pro Football player, a teacher, somebody who got to drive a truck, or an astronaut. Maybe the question is still asked today, and, if Read more

Don’t Mistake Kindness - 9/3/19


I have a friend who does a lot of things for a lot of other people. He sometimes has a hard time saying “no,” and he really works hard to try to be kind to others. But occasionally some of those for whom he does good works will ask Read more

Do Anything, but Not Everything - 8/27/19


We work with a lot of educational organizations, but this Tip of the Week applies to virtually any kind of business that has repeat customers. To deliver great service, be willing to go above and beyond, do virtually anything for the customer. But in the world of colleges and Read more

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

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.


Provide Quality Time to Customers – 1/7/14 TOW

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When teaching communication techniques to client personnel, we sometimes get pushback from participants. It might be an employee saying “If I do what you say, I’ll be with the customer FOREVER.” Or maybe a manager will tell us “I don’t have time to greet, clarify needs, confirm my understanding, ask if they need anything else, etc.”

Just like you probably don’t want to spend exorbitant amounts of time with individual customers addressing needs and working through issues, most customers don’t want to spend a ton of time on those topics talking with us either. Their time is valuable, too.

So let’s shift our thinking away from “great customer service means spending lots of time with customers” to the following thinking: Great customer service means spending Quality Time with customers.

We went through an exercise with a client on the topic of “Quality Time,” and here’s a synopsis of what we found. Many customers define “Quality Time” when:

  • Their time with you is uninterrupted and not rushed
  • They are getting the time expected (employees not showing up late for a meeting, for example)
  • Employees are focused on them (i.e., not appearing distracted during the conversation)
  • Staff “pause” their other tasks (e.g., typing information on the computer) to emphasize something or provide a moment of clarity to the customer
  • Staff educate the customer so they can be more independent.

 
These are key methods of enhancing the Quality of the time spent with customers – without necessarily spending more time:

  • Actively listening – don’t be passive in the discussion (nod, paraphrase their need/issue, ask questions)
  • Ensuring customers feel as though they are part of a dialogue (describe the process your working through or include them in discussions you’re having with co-workers)
  • In face-to-face situations, including those who are with them (family members or friends) in the discussions
  • Explaining procedures, processes up front so they know what to expect
  • Conveying your own calm demeanor, particularly when you’re in the middle of an especially busy/hectic environment (picture a retail business during the holidays).

 
Don’t buy into the assumption that great customer service equals your spending undue amounts of time with customers. Instead, buy into the belief that the time we do spend must be high quality.

Provide Quality Time to Customers.