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I Think I Think is Wrong - 10/20/20


I think that’s not going to be feasible.  I think we can do that.  I think you’re on the right track.  Methinks thou dost protest too much. Please forgive the Shakespearean reference, but it seems to fit well here.  When we are talking to co-workers and customers, and we’re giving Read more

Be Slowest, and Be the Best – Chick-fil-A - 10/13/20


About one week ago, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution had an article that analyzed the results of a SeeLevel HX research engagement on the customer experience at fast food restaurants.  The results were seemingly contradictory.  The fast food chain with by far the overall best drive-thru experience was Chick-fil-A, and yet Read more

Connect During Customer Service Week - 10/6/20


It’s Customer Service Week…woohoo!  This week should be all about the customers we serve and the staff who serve them.  This should be about conveying we value other people, and – hopefully – having other people convey that they value us.  It’s a week about people – about us. This Read more

Temper the Tone of THE VOICE - 9/29/20


The television show The Voice is a singing competition.  The opening episodes of every season begin with individuals singing while judges have their backs to the singer.  The judges can’t see the singer, so they are evaluating the performer purely based on their voice. Oftentimes, when the judge turns around, Read more

Keep On Going - 9/22/20


Thomas Edison once said “Many of life’s failures are experiences by people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” You are close to success – Keep On Going. Winston Churchill once said "If you’re going through hell, keep going."  This quote has been taken Read more

Lessons Learned for COVID Era Sporting Events


Since the sports world has begun inviting fans back to their events on a limited basis, CSS has been fortunate to work on multiple events with our sports clients.  Much of our work is fan research-oriented, where before or after events, we are engaging fans to identify expectations, potential Read more

Create a Common Definition of Customer Service - 9/15/20


Peter, Paul, and Marie are co-workers. They are all customer service representatives.  When Peter thinks of good customer service, he defines it as being friendly to the customer. “And I am friendly,” Peter says.  “That’s why I don’t know why they send me to customer service training.” Paul thinks customer Read more

COVID-19 Demand Management Strategies for Customer Service Channels


We all want demand for our products or services.  This helps us to generate revenue and to provide something of value to our customers and communities.  But customer demand does not strictly relate to products and services.  Demand also relates to communications, information, issue resolution, education, and other aspects Read more

Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance? - 9/8/20


This is a quote by Edgar Bergen.  He’s one of the most famous ventriloquists of all time, but I guess he wasn’t necessarily one of the hardest workers of all time.  By sharing this quote, I am not supporting the idea that we shouldn’t work hard…or am I? We only Read more

Reach Out More for COVID-19 Customer Retention


Ever since the Coronavirus pandemic became a reality for individuals, their communities, and their countries, it became clear that people were going to be hurting…that lives were going to be changing…that the realities of the past were going to be very different from the current and near-term future realities. When Read more

Of Ross, Unagi, and the Attacking Customer – 6/19/18

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


If you’ve ever watched the TV sitcom called Friends, you may remember that one of the characters was named Ross. In one episode, he is trying to educate some of his female friends (who just took a self-defense course) on a concept he calls Unagi. Basically, to Ross, this is a concept that would help him anticipate when he was about to be attacked. Once attacked, then he could use his karate. Of course, Ross got his terms confused; he should have said Zanshin; instead he used Unagi – a Japanese word for freshwater eel.

Ross also wasn’t particularly good at Unagi or karate, as later in the episode his Friends “attacked” him when his Unagi failed, and they got him in a submission hold.

In the world of customer service, it would be great if we had Unagi. It would be great if we had some kind of a radar that could anticipate that customer who is going to attack us or bully us into getting what they want.

Unfortunately, for the most part, Unagi does not exist. However, these are 3 different tactics to consider when you’re faced with a customer potentially trying to bully his way to a particular outcome:

Restrain – Hold back on the urge to verbally fight back with personal attacks against the customer, blaming them for things that have happened in the situation. Once we heighten our emotional level and try to match theirs, usually we’re going to end up having a situation get even worse. Restrain a little bit instead of reacting with defensiveness and our own personal feelings.

Redirect – Consider ways to get the conversation away from the personal attack and away from their solutions to focus more on a scenario where you are redirecting the conversation by asking questions. You’re trying to learn details. You’re trying to understand specifics, and all the while by asking your questions you’re not only getting the conversation to focus on what you want to focus on, but you’re also taking control of the conversation.

Recuse – At some point, the conversation gets too heated; it’s too personal; you may need to recuse yourself from the conversation. This does not mean to ignore the customer and the issue. What it does mean is that sometimes it’s best to bring in a co-worker, bring in a supervisor, bring in somebody else and recuse yourself from the situation. Oftentimes that mere pause for the handoff can deescalate the emotions. By bringing in someone else, it gets the focus off of you and the dynamics with you and the customer. Sometimes the customer feels they’re making progress through a resolution process by viewing the next person (especially if you position the handoff this way) as a key next step in the process.

Why you might not have Unagi, find ways to restrain, redirect, and – if necessary – recuse yourself when you’re dealing with the attacking customer.

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Fix the Unfixed Issue for Your Customer – 1/23/18

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


Here it comes again. It’s the issue that came to your attention last week but still hasn’t been fixed. It’s a glitch on the website, it’s a backorder issue, or it’s a new phone system causing the average wait time to double. You know about the issue, but – worse yet – your customers know about the issue. So how do you handle it when the customer brings it to your attention?

First, empathize and admit knowledge. Convey your understanding of the other person’s frustrations as you would with any complaint. Do not try to hide the issue. Tell them that you’re aware of it.

Second, note what is being done to resolve the problem. Tell them in general what is being done to address the issue. Even if it is a statement such as “We have a team looking at it” or “Our tech folks are investigating” or “The system is in the process of being upgraded” – those brief statements suggest that resolution is underway, and complaints of customers like the one that you’re talking with are being taken seriously. Don’t dwell on the details of the issue or all the specific actions being taken to rectify the concerns. This can get the conversation off track or going down negative path.

Transition to a near-term solution. Quickly move toward some alternatives that the customer could consider in the meantime. These are typically actions that YOU can take as opposed to having the customer go through several steps on their own to fix a problem that was caused by the company. For example, you could transition with statements such as: “Fortunately, we do have a couple other options for you to consider” or “However, there is some good news…” or “While we’re updating the website, here is what I can do for you right now…”

When dealing with a known issue, don’t ignore it, try to hide, or argue with the customer about it. Instead, empathize, admit knowledge, note the action being taken so they won’t have to deal with this again in the future, and quickly transition to an alternative.

Fix today’s customer issue even before the real issue is resolved for tomorrow’s customer.

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Do This, Not That! – 1/9/18

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


Several years ago, a relative introduced me to the book “Eat This, Not That!” One version of the book operated off that premise that if you have to eat at a particular restaurant, eat THIS option (not THAT option), because it’s healthier.

Now, let’s have some fun! Let’s apply the THIS/THAT approach to the phrases we use in customer service.

When a hospital patient is nervous or anxious, Say THIS -> We’ve helped many patients who have had the same treatment, and they’ve gotten through the process with positive results. (Build their confidence)

Not THAT -> Stop complaining. It’s not that big a deal. (Don’t downplay the person’s right to feel what they feel)

When a sports ticket holder is upset, Say THIS -> I can understand the frustration, and I’m sorry there was an issue with the seats. Let’s see what we can do about this for you. Can I have your account number, please? (Empathize and apologize; transition to a next step; ask them an objective question)

Not THAT -> What’s your account number? (Don’t ignore their desire for you to take SOME responsibility prior to moving to the solution)

When a customer calls with a complaint about the company and makes it personal about you, Say THIS -> I’d like to help you, Mr. Smith, but we need to be able to discuss it professionally. If that’s possible, I’m happy to talk more now, or – as an alternative – we can schedule a call to discuss again tomorrow, or I’m happy to get someone else to help you. Which option would you prefer? (Don’t take the abuse, but let them know your expectation for how you’ll be treated, and share alternatives)

Not THAT -> If you’re going to be a $%^&#!, I’m not talking to you! (Even though you may want to fire back, don’t feed into it and escalate the conversation; don’t sink to their level and make it personal)

There aren’t always perfect phrases for these situations, but there are characteristics of what to say and not say when faced with these challenges.

Do This, Not That!

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