covid-19

The Passive Predicament - 4/13/21


The employee is speaking to you.  Do they have that look in the eyes like they’re hanging on your every word, like they’re processing, interpreting, and getting ready to quickly respond to your key points and questions?  Or do they have the look of somebody in the 2nd hour Read more

Regain Lost Motivation - 4/6/21


For many of us over the last 12 months, our home has also become our workplace.  Our work interaction has been 2-dimensional through the computer screen as opposed to the 3-dimensional experiences we’re used to with co-workers and customers. We are all motivated in our own unique ways.  Some are Read more

The Answer is Right, but the Service is Wrong - 3/30/21


Maggie was irate.  The gift she ordered needed to be received by the 20th of the month so she could give it to her cousin for his birthday.  It was the 19th, and Maggie couldn’t find any shipping update online, so she called the company.  The employee said “Oh!  Read more

Question Everything, but What’s the Question? - 3/23/21


The new leader joins the organization, and she decides she wants to question everything.  She wants employees to question everything.  Why have we always done it this way? Why do we continue to do it that way? Is this the best way to work? Sometimes it’s a great management Read more

The Resourceful Rep - 3/16/21


One of our clients is seeking to develop Customer Service Standards.  We’re working with them to identify those key expectations of staff that will enable the organization to deliver a consistent high-level customer experience.  One of the key attributes that this organization is seeking from its team members is Read more

Be Proactive like a Pro - 3/9/21


We constantly work with clients, encouraging them to become more proactive with customers.  Don’t just be reactive, waiting for the customer to ask questions or to complain.  Instead, go to the customer, anticipate their needs, suggest something to them. But many of us, frankly, don’t know how to be proactive.  Read more

Find One Unique Thing - 3/2/21


Many of us are not in a position to develop long-term relationships with our customers.  Our encounters are often one-time only with a customer - very brief and likely to be our only time chatting with this individual. And even though there may not be a long-term professional relationship developed, Read more

Should I Stay or Should I Go? - 2/23/21


Should I stay or should I go?  That’s not just a classic song by The Clash.  It’s also the question customers ask more and more, especially during difficult economic times. A recent study in the Charlotte Business Journal noted that 50% of North Carolina businesses are concerned with how to Read more

Optimism – A Force for Good in Customer Service - 2/16/21


Will 2021 be a better year than 2020?  I have absolutely no idea.  Maybe it would be nice to see into the future and know for certain, but I can’t and I don’t.  But as I wade further and further into this year, I can hope that the water Read more

To Assure, Ensure You Do This - 2/9/21


Vince Lombardi – famous professional football coach – became a big hit on the speaker’s circuit during his time coaching.  He applied many of his principles in football and life to business, and one of his great business quotes is:  Confidence is contagious and so is lack of confidence, Read more

Increase Research for Improved Customer Relations During COVID-19

Posted on in Business Advice Please leave a comment

What makes a relationship? Many actions can make or break a relationship, but all solid relationships require at least two things: Communication and Caring. And customer relationships are no different in this respect.

No Communication = No Connection

If we don’t have some frequency of dialogue with the customer, then we not only are not top-of-mind, but we’re not even “bottom-of-mind.” We are not in the mind. They don’t think of us, they don’t consider us because the relationship has gone stale.

Now caring is in the eye of the beholder. How one person defines whether they are cared for by the other may differ from individual to individual. But if we put things in the context of the customer relationship, there are some more consistent realities. Communicating with the customer just to sell isn’t relationship-building. A lack of communication isn’t relationship-building.

What Caring for the Customer Requires

Caring requires that people feel like they’re viewed as an individual – that we value them. It requires that we usually listen more than talk. It means that we try to understand their issues, needs, and goals, and – if they want more than the listening ear – we address those issues, needs, and goals.

So much of what I just described suggests that we can – and MUST – improve customer relations through research, and CSS is conducting a great deal of research in this COVID-19 environment because our clients understand this truth.

Customer research done correctly involves a company asking a customer a question. It involves the company seeking information from the customer, ultimately for the customer. Sometimes, well-designed research instruments convey caring for the customer and valuing of the customer just by how the tools are worded and what questions are asked.

Design with the Customer in Mind

What do you need to know about the customer to help them? What do you need to learn about them to best serve them? How do you identify their priorities, their issues, their concerns, their perceptions, their preferences? And how do you construct these questions in such a way that you convey that you care? We’re talking about research, and we’re not necessarily saying it’s purely web-based surveys. This can include one-on-one interviews, phone follow-up from account representatives, or check-in calls from staff. This could include informal e-mail requests, or it could include facilitated ZOOM focus groups.

Whatever it is, do enough of it to know enough about as many of your customers as possible to help them. If you professionally design with the conveying that you care in mind, you will improve customer relations.


Effectively Teach the Customer – 7/28/20

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

The 1985 Harris and Rosenthal research project conveyed what really improves student learning based on the interaction with the teacher.  The top two factors that teachers used to increase learning were (1) The duration of the interaction with the student and (2) The encouragement of the student.  In 3rd and 4th place were gestures and smiles, and since we talk a lot about body language, will defer those for now.

So, let’s talk about the top two and how they relate to customer service.  Oftentimes, you are in the role of being a teacher to the customer – particularly in this COVID-19 world where we’re having to do things differently, where customers are having to do things differently, or customers are often having to do things for themselves.  If we want them to retain what we teach, we need to shift some of the past paradigms in the customer service world.

Longer Conversations – First, a short customer conversation may be good for a call center’s handle times, but it’s bad for a customer’s learning.  Increasing our patience, planning for more time with customer encounters, and ensuring customer understanding of processes, activities, and expectations – these actions have the greatest effect on how well the customer learns what we’re teaching them.

Encouragement – Second, it’s not just a matter of conveying the right information and allocating the time to it.  It’s also a matter of encouraging the customer. I know we don’t often think of ourselves as the coach to the player as employees to the customer, but when we are helping them to help themselves and expecting them to do things differently, we need to encourage them just like coaches encourage players.  We need to give them positive feedback just like teachers should with students or – for that matter – we should with each other.

When you find yourself in the role of educating others, allow for longer interactions with customers, and ensure the content is complemented by your encouragement of the customer.

Be a great teacher to your customers.

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When Customers are…Jerks – 7/14/20

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

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 to serve them.

So when you’re engaged with a customer and the phrase (“What a jerk!”) pops into your mind, let that acronym – J.E.R.K. – help you deal with them:

  • Just calm yourself down. Don’t match emotion for emotion – that will just raise the tension and lengthen the encounter. Remember their negativity is not about you – even if they’re directing it AT you. Use the techniques that work best for you for calming your mind and your pulse.
  • Empathize with them. Empathy always is a key ingredient in reducing emotion, because it takes away the sense that they’re in a fight. It makes them feel that – while you may not be “for” them – at least you’re not against them. Show that you understand their situation even if you don’t agree with their point.
  • Redirect toward a solution. The longer you’re mired in a talk about who’s to blame or what went wrong, the longer it can take to get it right. Yes, let them speak their peace, but segue to discussions of next steps, what you or they can do, what it would take to get it right.
  • Know your Plan B. Who do you go to or bring in when “JER” doesn’t work – a supervisor, security? What compensation can you offer – the remuneration tools the company provides or the alternatives that you can suggest? Can you take down the information and call them back at a specified time? Know what Plan B’s are available for you in these types of situations.

 

Do your best to do what’s best…when the customer is being a J.E.R.K.

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