empathy

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

Let Your Goal Determine Your Question - 2/2/21


In the early 2000s, when the economy hit the skids, companies realized that they couldn’t take their customers for granted.  They needed to ramp up customer service.  They needed to listen to the Voice of the Customer. During the Great Recession in the 2008-10 timeframe, much of the “new marketing Read more

Excellence is Not Perfection, and that’s OK - 1/26/21


Surveys have questions with ratings that range from Excellent to Poor.  We custom-design and deliver Service Excellence Training.  Tom Peters wrote the book “In Search of Excellence.” But how do you define Excellence, particularly in customer service?  Let’s start with what Excellence is not.  Excellence is not something reflected in Read more

Bring Magic to Your Account Management - 1/19/21


One of our first sports-industry clients was the Orlando Magic.  They were a true leading-edge organization in the early 2000s when it came to dedicating resources to season ticket holder retention.  They didn’t make customer service, relationship-development, and renewals simply a function of the Sales department.  They broke it Read more

Customers Want Easy, but Easy is Difficult - 1/12/21


New employees go through days of training to learn products and services.  They have formal workshops to learn how to use their office applications, web functions, and whatever programs are specific to their department.  They test new technology, and they get quizzed on knowledge of policies.  This is hours Read more

Make 2021 the Year of Building Relationships - 1/5/21


I’ve been very fortunate over this company’s 20+ years in business to have great and long-lasting relationships with many clients, colleagues, business partners, and co-workers.  It’s a gift to be able to call on these individuals for advice or referrals or to be a sounding board.  And it’s just Read more

Bring Warmth During Winter - 12/29/20


Winter is upon us.  Now, winter can mean different things to different people in different regions, but just the word conjures up cold.  It conjures up visions of snow.  It conjures up feelings of wind and lack of warmth. Although some of us may like the cold at times of Read more

2020 Holiday Poem - 12/22/20


When in the role of customer service,We are wired to give and give.It’s built into our DNA.It’s simply the way we live. In order to give to others,We need to find ways to give them their fill.We need to pour empathy and openness into them.To serve, we need to have Read more

Meet on Equal and Even Ground – 7/21/20

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

“To be of most service to my brother, I must meet him on the most equal and even ground.”  Henry David Thoreau wrote this in 1841, and it applies almost 180 years later in customer service.

We often talk about empathy, and empathy relates to an employee having an understanding of the customer – where they’re at and what their situation is at that time.  Thoreau is referencing the same thing.  For us to be of service to others, we need to try to get on equal ground, even ground.

Where is this other person at this moment?  Is the customer in an emotional state?  Are they upset or angry or anxious?  What did they do to get to this point where they are in front of us or on the phone with us or sending us the e-mail or text?  The answers to these questions provide the “ground.”  We create a common understanding of their current footing and how they got to this place.

But for us to best serve, we must also be equal.  How can we turn that understanding of their ground into creating a position of equality?  We have to think about how we’re speaking to that person.  We have to think about the words that we use based on their situation.  We have to consider how well we listen and how well we portray that we’re listening.  We have to use some of their words when responding in dialogue to them.  We need to reflect their tone or at least a slightly softer tone when they are loud.

To be of best service to someone, understand where they are and how they got there, then consciously try to reflect them.

To best serve others, meet on equal and even ground.

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Hearing is Believing – 12/10/19

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“I just want to be heard.”

When I work with clients whose customers are the community, this is a phrase I’ve heard far too often from residents.  For retail businesses and other industries where there are many choices, often customers will take their business elsewhere instead of complaining.  But with government services, there’s often only one place to go for a particular service – the government.

Residents understand that when there are issues, a local municipality won’t be able to offer a gift card or a 10% discount on the next purchase.  Residents understand that a complaint won’t result in some compensation or possibly even a fix.  So, what do residents want?  Many just want to be heard.

Usually when a resident is venting to me about a government client, when they say that they want to be heard, they’re typically referring to two things:  The attitude and the action.  A listening attitude is conveyed when the employee is focused on them, the employee is patient about the issue, doesn’t interrupt, and is empathetic and understanding about the situation.  Residents want to know you understand what’s unique about them, possibly by stating the situation back to them.  And they want the body language and the tone to reflect that listening orientation.

But being heard also can imply action.  Maybe the employee said all the right things in the right way to the customer, but if the employee does nothing with the information, often residents interpret that inaction as not being heard.

Now, taking action doesn’t necessarily mean resolving the issue.  But at least investigate it further.  Ask a co-worker for advice.  Suggest an alternative solution.  Let them know you’ll share the concern with leaders so that similar situations don’t happen to others.  Tell them what they could do in the future so that the situation won’t arise again.  And if you did something for them, tell them that you did it.  They won’t know you took action until you tell them you did so.

Many complaining customers just want to be heard, and not until they feel that they have been heard do they believe that you care.

Convey you care by conveying you heard them with your attitude and action.

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Between Texting and Thoreau – 9/17/19

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The more people that enter the business world having grown up texting, the more the quality of business communications drops. A typical text between friends is rarely what anybody in business would call a professionally-written document. There’s nothing wrong with that, because texting is typically informal dialogue between friends. However, when something is put in writing in an e-mail, it needs to be considered a professional business document.

Now let’s not go overboard and think that e-mails need to be the work of a poet. This should not be Henry David Thoreau waxing poetic about Walden Pond. There is a middle ground, however, between texting and Thoreau. When composing a professional business message in the world of customer service, use these guidelines.

Personalize – Use the other person’s name, and use your name as well. Have enough informality so that they feel like you were talking to them individually and addressing their situation more personally. Use the names to establish a little bit of rapport in the sense that you are viewing them as unique.

Empathize – We’ve often said that emotions and e-mails don’t mix well, so to do your best to try to convey your understanding, at least use a little bit of empathetic wording. Use the word understand, use the word unfortunately when you have to give bad news, use the phrase I could only imagine… when addressing their frustrations.

Synthesize – This is where avoiding Thoreau is a really good thing. In e-mails, people want the message quickly; they don’t want to feel they’re reading a book. In 1 minute, can you tell them the main point that you’re making, convey next steps, share timeframes, and note who’s doing what?

In order to communicate effectively and in a professional manner via e-mail, find a happy medium between texting and Thoreau.

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