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When Customers are…Jerks - 7/14/20


Some people are a little extra…uh…difficult to deal with these days. Customers may have concerns or complaints – many of which are justified. But some customers act like…well…jerks. They’re not kind or understanding or have any idea how poorly they treat others. They’re obnoxious and yet, we still have Read more

Customers Appreciate Your Kindness - 7/7/20


The 3rd grade teacher had a phrase she used with her students. She wanted them to be “kind-hearted.” It was a phrase she used over and over again; no matter what she taught, this was an overriding emphasis on how she would communicate with students and how she expected Read more

6 Common Sense Responses to Customer Service Encounters - 6/30/20


I’ve run into this personally and professionally, and it drives me batty! Sometimes there’s a lack of common sense in the customer service provided by companies. And often that lack of common sense is due to the preference of a business to provide service in a certain method, to Read more

Caring for Co-workers through COVID - 6/23/20


A recent Buffer.com study asked employees who are working remotely due to COVID-19, what was their greatest struggle. While there were many different responses, the Top 2 totaled 40% of the struggles identified - Loneliness and Collaboration/Effective Communication. When you hear something like this - that individuals working remotely are Read more

React, Reflect, Respond - 6/16/20


Sometimes you can’t help it. You gasp. You get upset. You get angry. You have this look of shock on your face. You say something defensive. You react. I love people who are in customer service roles. These are the folks that people say things to in the business world Read more

Serving the Technology-challenged Customer - 6/9/20


The IT helpdesk representative was on a call with a customer, and in trying to troubleshoot an issue, the employee said, “Let’s start by opening Windows.” The customer said “OK,” and there were 2 minutes of silence. The employee twice asked, “Are you still there?” with no response. Finally, Read more

Address the 4 P’s for a Customer-friendly COVID-19 Walk-in Experience


This is not about what is medically most effective – please see the CDC for those guidelines.  This is about how to help your customers have a great experience as an onsite visitor at your facility or storefront.  For a comprehensive approach to a customer-friendly COVID-19 experience, address the Read more

The Deeper Reason to Transform the Customer Experience - 6/2/20


Why are government offices putting up plexiglass between their staff and their customers?  Why is restaurant takeout being done in such a way that is contactless and yet still fosters engagement between the employee and customer?  Why have so many traditionally onsite businesses converted to delivery businesses? The answer is Read more

Motivating Yourself when Working Remotely - 5/26/20


For any of us who are working remotely, we are finding ourselves more and more having to be self-motivated. And while many people are naturally self-motivated, others need to have that manager who gives us the encouragement. Many of us need to have that ongoing informal dialogue with co-workers Read more

Defining Organizational Agility in a Time of Uncertainty


You may have heard references in management theory over the many decades about the importance of a business being an “Agile” organization, but oftentimes that is a word thrown out in generalities to illustrate vague points about how organizations should be managed and make decisions.  In this time of Read more

Review the Failures of Others to Ensure Success – 7/22/14 TOW

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


“Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Many people have said variations of this – from George Santayana to Lemony Snicket – and I’m saying it today because it reminds me of a question I was asked recently.

A French financial services firm interviewed me about customer service and client retention for their internal publication. One of the questions addressed the many seemingly excellent customer service strategies and initiatives that don’t work. Essentially, why do they fail?

Here are four key reasons I provided:

  • Leadership Doesn’t Really Buy-In – Although leaders may talk about the importance of customer service and the client experience, they make decisions based on the product, they create incentives focused on new sales only, they sign-off on strategies that focus purely on reducing cost per unit. They talk the customer service talk, but their structures and incentives don’t align with service and retention goals. Here’s an example if you haven’t heard the recent Comcast customer retention call?
  • The Company Doesn’t Dedicate Resources – While an organization may care about the customer, if there’s no designated individual, division, strategy, or budget that focuses on service and retention, it won’t work. Sustaining an organization-wide effort is impossible if the initiative is 5% of the jobs of many without ever being the totality of the job of at least a few people in the organization.
  • The CX Definition is Limited – A small business owner laughed at me once when I brought up the concept of Internal Customers. He didn’t believe that employees should view and treat each other as customers. He didn’t believe that the customer experience (CX) applied to anyone within the corporate walls. He thought culture was irrelevant in driving a great service experience and retention. Zappos would disagree.
  • Tactic Supersedes Strategic – Too many companies conduct a survey, change a computer system, start a call center, send out memos telling staff to answer calls in 3 rings, and then expect their customer service scores and retention rates to jump off the charts. For organizations to be great at customer service, they need to view their organization as a system – where all the people, processes, programs, and technology interrelate and work for the good of the customer and company. Have a strategy for sustained service excellence and growth; tactics should then flow from that strategic view.

 
Align Around the Customer, Dedicate Resources, Look Within, and Think Strategically.

Ensure your organization doesn’t repeat the failures of business history.

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It’s Okay if You Don’t Know Anything about Tomatoes – 7/15/14 TOW

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


Going to Otto’s Home Improvement to get an opinion on a tomato – it shouldn’t be an aggravating experience. But for Lance, it resulted in a nail-on-the-chalkboard (do they still have chalkboards?) feeling.

Lance’s wife was growing tomatoes on the back deck, and several tomatoes were growing quickly. Good news, right? Well there was a problem – the tomatoes were still green on top but becoming black underneath and starting to shrivel up.

Luckily Lance had a “go to” lady in the garden center at Otto’s, so he drove to the store seeking advice. He walked up to 4 staff chatting with each other at the garden center entrance and asked for the “go to” lady, but she was off that day.

So Lance showed a tomato to others and asked for advice. He was greeted by blank stares and no response for about 15 seconds. Then one employee walked up, took the tomato, looked closely, said “that’s a fungus,” and started walking.

Lance took off after the employee, and they walked into the store toward the outdoor chemicals. The employee stopped in front of the plant chemicals, started staring, and didn’t say a word. After about a minute of quiet staring, Lance asked “what are you looking for?”

“A green bottle,” was the reply.

“What is it?”

“I’m not sure, but it works.”

“What brand?

“I don’t know.” There was a long pause, and then the employee said “it’s not there; sorry.” He walked off.

Lance was able to grab the tomato before the employee walked away and then went home to his wife. The next day Lance’s wife took the tomato to another garden center, and the issue was a lack of calcium. The store sold her a spray to add calcium, and the tomatoes grew perfectly thereafter.

In the world of serving others, none of us are omniscient. We don’t know all, and that’s okay. In those times when we don’t know the answer, it’s okay to say “I don’t know,” but follow that up with “I’ll find out.” Take initiative on behalf of the customer, but don’t let that initiative lead you down a path of time wasted and misinformation. Admit the knowledge gap, and quickly move to get the answer.

It’s okay to say you don’t know anything about tomatoes.

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Give the Customer a Plan B – 1/28/14 TOW

Posted on in Customer Service Tip of the Week 1 Comment


I was walking into my local bank branch a couple Saturdays ago to make a deposit. While I usually go through the drive-through, I didn’t have any deposit slips left, so I had to get some new ones at the bank. When I entered the lobby, I got the feeling of dread in my chest – 20 people in line ahead of me. I stopped, took a deep breath to calm the impatient side of me, and proceeded to the line to become customer #21.

After three minutes, I assessed the situation (3 tellers, 20 people in line, nobody had yet moved). I mentally calculated a wait time that would stretch into lunch if not dinner. And then I got an idea. I picked up a few deposit slips, and I left.

Sitting in the car, I filled out a slip, went to the drive-through (where there was NOBODY in line), and was on my way in less than 2 minutes.

At this point I realized that it would have been wonderful if an employee in the bank lobby had stated to the 21 of us in line “There’s no wait at the drive-through.”

The lesson learned? This is the 21st century. This is the era of an exorbitant number of customer service channels for most businesses (walk-in, phone, drive-through, self-service, web, e-mail, social media, etc.). And many customers who are in one channel are going to get very upset with a business because that method of obtaining service is slow, cumbersome, manual, or simply not a great customer experience.

The lesson learned is that businesses need to find ways to educate the customers on the other channels on an ongoing basis and real-time, so that the customer doesn’t feel trapped and doesn’t take out the bad experience on the company.

This involves having an ongoing Touch Point Plan with clients that includes periodic educational communications about the other channels, how to access them, and their benefits. This requires that companies know real-time what channels are performing like greased lightning and which ones are stuck in neutral. And this requires that employees get in the habit of “Educating Forward” – where they let customers know other channels available to them in case the preferred method of service is delayed or backlogged.

When it comes to providing a positive experience, sometimes the best path is the one that helps them avoid the bad experience. Give the customer a Plan B.