alternative solution

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

How to Give the Right Kind of “No” – 5/28/19

Posted on in Customer Service Tip of the Week Please leave a comment


In a perfect world, you never need to say “No” to the customer. But as we all know, this is not a perfect world. There are a lot of issues in the world, and there are a lot of issues in customer service. Our companies are not perfect, our co-workers are not perfect, and our solutions to customer issues are rarely perfect.

The customer wants you to fix their issue or address their need, and often they are telling you HOW you should fix that issue or address that need. Frequently, their solutions won’t work. You can’t always waive a policy, change a process, or do something in 5 minutes that takes 5 days. You have to say No.

But there are ways to say No that are giving the right kind of No. Here are 3 quick steps to consider:

Convey Why the No: Before you say No to their solution, make sure they understand WHY their idea won’t work. In a professional way, explain the rationale so they understand it’s not a matter of you being obstinate. There’s an objectivity to your response.

Link Your Solution to Their Goal: They may suggest a certain process, but what is their goal? They may want something done, but what is their goal? They may say they want it in 5 minutes, but what is their goal? Their goal may be having a great event, getting a remedy before they hold a meeting, having a working product, getting financing for a house, or feeling better. If you can understand their desired outcome and get them to think about the goal instead of the solution, then you can link your solution to their goal.

Offer the Options: Finally, suggest alternatives that achieve their goal. Particularly if you can offer more than one solution, it gives them some control over deciding the next step. Even if there’s only one solution, by attaching it to their goal, they’re envisioning the eventual success.

Taking this approach will keep the temperature of the conversation low, put you in control, and lead to more productive and positive conversations.

Give the right kind of “No” response.

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Employee Runs for a Dog Run – 3/12/19

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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 escape, a friend gave me the idea of creating a dog run.

Essentially, you tie a wire between 2 trees, and then you hook a long leash to the wire so that the dog can run around out back even if you’re not out with him so that you won’t worry about him running off.

The more YouTube videos I watched, the more excited I got about the prospect of creating a dog run. Also, the more YouTube videos I watched, the more clear it became that I never learned how to tie a good knot like I would have if I had been a Boy Scout.

So, I went to the local hardware store and decided to claim my own ignorance. I laid out my plan to an employee, and the gentlemen listened to me, he helped me to concoct an approach to constructing the dog run. Piece by piece, we discussed the wire, the long leash, how to secure the wire to the tree in a way that wouldn’t hurt the tree, etc.

He was patient, seemed interested, and gave me multiple options to consider. It was a huge help, I thanked him, and I walked away toward another section of the store to look for one other item I needed before checking out.

About 2 minutes later, on the exact opposite side of the store, the employee came running toward me. After I had left his section, he had continued to give my project some thought, and he realized that I needed a hook not only for what would attach the long leash to the wire but also one that would attach the other end of the long leash to my dog’s collar. That would’ve been a pretty frustrating project if I had set everything up perfectly but had no way to attach the lease to my dog’s collar – YIKES!

I went to the hardware store knowing what I wanted to accomplish, and I was engaged by an employee who seemed interested in my project, gave me options, and actually ran after me to ensure I had everything I needed.

Sometimes it’s nice just to be able to tell a good customer service story.

Be that employee willing to run after a customer to give them some extra help.

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Retain through Responsiveness – 1/15/19

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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. She didn’t report the issue on any social media site. She didn’t yell at the employees she contacted. She simply took her business elsewhere.

She said “You have to make customers as happy as you can because there are so many options out there. What’s going to stop them from going somewhere else?”

That’s a great question! What could keep your customers from going elsewhere? The short answer is “nothing,” but that’s not necessarily the accurate answer.

By saying that there’s nothing you can do, you’re effectively saying that you have no control over those things that impact the customer’s decision. And that’s just not true. In the vast majority of cases, you and your organization have strong abilities to influence those factors that impact the customer’s decision to stay or to go.

In this case, the customer left because the company was not responsive. They were difficult to get in touch with online. When she switched from the online attempts at customer service to the telephone attempts, it was not a smooth transition. The lack of responsiveness in rectifying her issue pushed her away.

Many of those things are within your control or at least within the company’s control. You and your organization are the ones who identify the process of investigating issues. You all are the ones who can offer some kind of compensation or alternative solution. You are the ones that empathize and convey in your tone and your actions that you care about the customer and are truly sorry for the inconvenience and the issue. You and the organization are the ones who help to make this person believe that the issue that happened in the past won’t happen again.

Take ownership over whether your customers decide to stay or decide to leave for a competitor.

Look at your complaint resolution attitudes and actions; observe your service recovery approaches. Look at the speed with which you and others in the organization respond to the problems your internal reporting identify or your external customers conveyed through their complaints.

Retain more customers by more quickly responding to their issues.

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