customer service

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

It’s Decision Time. What are you going to do? - 6/11/19


Serving others is tough. Whether it’s dealing with an irate customer, having to field the same question from the 100th different customer this month, or keeping 10 plates spinning while still smiling in front of the client, it’s hard. You want to do a great job, and you’re constantly put Read more

You Do Know Jack - 6/4/19


Have you ever had a co-worker who causes more problems than they solve? Simple things they do are often, from a procedure standpoint, correct. But the way they handle situations makes them come off as indifferent. Let’s call this co-worker “Jack.” Even though certain actions by Jack may seem innocent Read more

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


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 Read more

Make it Crystal Clear - 5/21/19


Sometimes we communicate so well, and sometimes we don’t communicate as well as we think we do. When you’re trying to set or manage another person’s expectations, what you say may be very clear to you, but the reality is it may not be clear to the other person. Read more

Harvey Wrote the Book on Focus...and Golf - 5/14/19


In Harvey Penick's Little Red Book, the famous golf instructor provides many key tips about golf that just as well could apply to life in general. One such tip is the following: Once you address the golf ball, hitting it has got to be the most important thing in Read more

Stop Rolling Your Eyes - 5/7/19


Most of our customer service tips offer advice and guidance. But advice and guidance is useless if the individual receiving it is not willing to listen, learn the theory behind it, and try to apply what they’ve heard or learned. I’ve personally facilitated hundreds of training sessions with clients over Read more

Should you tell the customer? The Employee’s Dilemma - 4/30/19


Last week we looked at the dilemma that many companies face – When there is an issue that is going to happen, should they tell the customer? This week, let’s address that same question from the employee’s perspective. I personally experience employees struggling with this question when I’m in Read more

Should you tell the customer? The Company’s Dilemma - 4/23/19


I have a lot of clients that struggle with this question, both at a company/strategic level as well as an individual representative level. When there is an issue that is going to happen, should you tell the customer? This week we’re going to address the question at the Read more

Take a Starring Role – 6/13/17

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


Oftentimes during Service Excellence training, I will ask participants to identify companies known for great customer service. People often bring up Chick-fil-A, Disney, and some high-end Retail Stores. We’ll occasionally get QuikTrip mentioned or an organization like Amazon.

Then the question is asked: What about the experience makes you consider that organization to have great customer service?

I ask this question because I want participants to use their own personal life experiences to paint a picture of a great experience for their customers. Once attendees can envision what a great experience looks like from the customer’s perspective, it’s easier for them to understand what the experience needs to look like in their own company.

Essentially, I want them to picture those actions like they’re watching a movie – then envision that the great experience is happening in their own organization. Next, I want the participants to picture themselves playing a starring role in that movie.

Based on a recent client brainstorming session, these are examples of actions and attitudes of employees in companies that provide great customer service:

  • Staff engage customers
  • Staff share their name, ask the customer’s name, and personalize the conversation
  • Staff act like they’re happy to see the customer (it’s a great 1st impression)
  • Staff smile and use a positive tone of voice
  • Staff have a mindset of treating customers as “Guests”
  • Staff understand processes
  • Staff are empowered to take action on behalf of the customer
  • Staff go the extra mile for the customer
  • Customers are treated like they’re #1
  • Answers are quick, helpful, professional, and responsive
  • There is a plan for how to solve problems
  • Issues are resolved – quickly
  • Customers feel heard
  • Staff take pride in the workplace – even simply by keeping the area clean
  • Common sense is more important than policy
  • Before closing, staff make sure they addressed all the customer’s needs
  • When thanked by the customer, staff say “My pleasure,” and mean it.

 
These are just some of the actions and attitudes that employees can adopt to deliver a great experience.

Use these tips, and imagine yourself being the star of a movie about your organization and the great service it provides.

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Flip the Script – 6/6/17

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


Patti had had enough. Her cable was out, so she called the cable company, and after holding for close to 20 minutes, she got a call center representative on the phone.

After sharing the problem with the employee, Patti was told that the cause of the issue was in the home. She was told several different steps to take to reboot, reconfigure, or reset her system. Nothing worked.

Unbeknownst to Patti, at the same time, roughly 20 neighbors were also interacting with the cable company, dealing with the exact same issue, and the solutions weren’t working for any of them.

It’s probably apparent to you now what was happening. The 20+ customers couldn’t fix the issues in their homes because the issue wasn’t in their homes. The issue was cable-related outside the homes. Initially, the cable company didn’t know it, so – initially – they wasted their time and the time of the customers in trying to have the customers resolve the unresolvable issue.

Sometimes to see what should be done, we have to look at an example of what should not have been done.

Let’s flip this script.

What if the cable was never down? Or if it was down, what if the company would have sent a notification to customers sharing the concern and the action they were taking to investigate – with a time set for the next communication?

What if Patti called, but the wait was less than one minute, and the employee greeted with a name and an immediate understanding of the issue based on the phone number calling? The employee knew about the communication the company had sent, was empathetic, patient, and apologetic. What if the employee explained the process of researching the issue, provided typical resolution timelines (or at least reasonable expectations), and promised a follow-up e-mail at the customer’s request?

One interesting and easy way to envision great customer service is to first envision or discuss a horrible experience. Break down what went wrong, and then build up an example experience that would illustrate what it would have looked like had everything gone right.

To get better, flip the script.

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A Dent for Dana – 5/16/17

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


There was no hot water in the house when Dana got home from work, so she walked downstairs to the basement to find a mini flood. Apparently a neighbor had put so much yard waste into a sewer drain that – after a heavy rain – water got backed up…and flowed right into Dana’s basement – yuck.

More than that, the water rose high enough to burn out the hot water heater – a wet basement and no hot water…joy.

But Dana had a good attitude about it; the water and gas utilities came out quickly to find the cause of the problem and to diagnose the issue with the water heater. In the end, the yard waste was cleared out, the water level went down, and there was no other lasting damage – except for a dead water heater.

Dana contacted two companies, and the winner was selected to install the new water heater. The installers were nice, discussed the process with Dana, and worked independently in the basement as Dana worked upstairs. When they were finished, they left. How did Dana know they left? She saw them driving away.

So she checked the water, and it was starting to warm. Then she went downstairs to look at the beautiful new water heater, and it had a big dent in the bottom. Dana’s heart sunk. “I didn’t pay for a used water heater.” “I hope it’s not damaged inside.” “I hope it’s safe, and the gas lines aren’t compromised.”

Dana frantically began googling and after about 30 minutes realized it was probably just a cosmetic issue, but she was still frustrated, upset, disappointed – you name it. She called the company, and the manager said he’d check with the installers and call Dana back.

When they called back, the manager stated that they dented it during the install, but it was just cosmetic – no internal issues. He offered a discount to Dana on any future service.

While there are a lot of issues with this true customer service story, here’s where I’m focused. This customer had just purchased something new, something to address an issue she didn’t cause with the basement flooding. Yet, through it all she had a good attitude.

Then the employees dented the water heater, didn’t tell the customer, and drove off – leaving Dana having spent hundreds of dollars to alleviate an issue only to have that resolution cause her anxiety, frustration, and upset.

Nobody’s perfect; we all make mistakes; accidents happen (Yes, I’m rolling out every excuse – uh, “explanation”). But that does not mean that accidents are irrelevant.

We need to own up to our mistakes with customers; be willing to apologize – even for the accidents. Initiate the conversation with the customer and be willing to say “I’m sorry,” even before the customer knows there’s an issue.

It’s about being proactive and professional.

Learn from the Dent in Dana’s Water Heater.

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