empathy

Challenges Create Opportunity, People Create Change - 4/20/21


There are so many great things that have been said over the years about overcoming challenges, pushing aside the roadblocks of life, dealing with difficulties.  And these are important points of discussion because challenges are all around us.  There are challenges with our personal health or in our personal Read more

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

My Relatives are Odd…or Maybe I’m the Odd One – 9/23/14 TOW

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


Sometimes I don’t understand people – even my relatives. I was sitting next to my teenage daughter last week, and she was playing on her smart phone. I asked what she was doing, and she said that she had created 22 “flash cards” using an app on her phone, and was quizzing herself for her Biology test.

While it was great that she was studying, I thought to myself, “That was odd. I would have just used actual index cards to make flash cards.”

Over the weekend, I was talking with my father-in-law about his lovely new flip phone, and he was telling me about a discussion he had with the service representative at his Verizon store. My father-in-law had gone into the store to pay his bill.

I thought to myself, “That was odd. I would have just paid my bill online.”

I could have concluded that my daughter’s and father-in-law’s actions were odd, or they could have concluded that my way of doing things was odd. But probably the real answer has nothing to do with oddities.

It has to do with differences – generational differences, yes – but also differences that go beyond ’57 Chevy v. Prius, that go beyond black and white television v. HDTV.

Not everybody is like us. In healthcare, just because the nurse likes to talk and socialize with others doesn’t mean that every patient wants the non-stop conversation. In sports, just because the NASCAR fan loves to camp doesn’t mean that every sports fan will drive 600 miles for an event. In government, just because some residents love having a 311 number to dial for service doesn’t mean that everyone prefers to handle their business on the phone.

When you’re considering how to handle this call, this e-mail, or this guest that’s standing in front of you, don’t assume they are just like you.

Ask enough questions to move from assumption to understanding.

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Breaking Down the Infamous 1-on-1 Retention Call – 8/26/14 TOW

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I referenced the infamous recorded Comcast Retention call in a Tip of the Week on July 22. It’s been such a lightning rod for discussion that we just recorded a podcast addressing some of the key language that the Comcast representative used during the call. Now, we’ve gained access to what’s reported as being the company’s 13-Step Retention Call Approach. Let’s analyze this from the customer’s perspective.

  1. Greet customer clearly – This is good; customers want to know the employee’s name and department to make sure they called the right place.
  2. Clarify reason for call – We always say “Clarify and Confirm” – ask clarifying questions, then confirm your understanding. Customers want the employee showing that they know the reason for calling (and, in this case, canceling their service).
  3. Relate and empathize – Love this – especially the Empathy portion. Customers want to be understood.
  4. Take control – Not sure why this is here; “control” has a power/aggressive connotation. It’s not good to encourage representatives to get aggressive with a typically-upset customer. Customers don’t want to be controlled.
  5. Set the agenda – Again, this conveys aggression, taking over, not focused on listening.
  6. Ask targeted questions – This may be fine, depending on the definition of “Targeted.” We use that word to illustrate questions unique to the customer and their situation. However, the employee asked “targeted” questions such as “Why would you not want the fastest internet?” This is pushy and derogatory at the same time.
  7. Consider unstated needs / active listening – Active Listening is great! However, “unstated needs” is sales terminology. If someone wants to cancel, you’re in Service Recovery territory, not hardcore sales territory.
  8. Take ownership / make offer – These should work well.
  9. Overcome objections – This is fine as long as the customer’s still willing to dialogue about the issue; if they want to avoid the debate, quickly cancel and go to step 12.
  10. Close the save – Change this to “Close the save…or close the account.” In the end, do what the customer wants you to do.
  11. Confirm details – Always confirm next steps before closing.
  12. End on a positive note – Good step.
  13. Documentation – Good step.

Many of the steps are positive, but where they go wrong is that they focus too much on controlling the customer in a hardcore sales manner instead of communicating with a customer in a Service Recovery mindset.

When a customer wants to cancel or end the relationship, feel free to professionally ask for reasons, but remember that you’re delivering customer service, not driving the hard sell. You may retain just as many, and you’ll definitely avoid the horrific word-of-mouth that this call created.

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Be a Star at Something, but NOT Everything – 8/5/14 TOW

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I’ve often used the phrase “Customer Service Stars” to address people who are outstanding at customer service. And while I would never tell anyone not to continually improve themselves (sorry for the double negative…), I don’t think that people should have to be great at everything to be great. In fact, it’s often counterproductive to try to be great at everything you do.

Think about your product, service, and process knowledge. To have complete knowledge of all those aspects of your organization requires a tremendous amount of study and continuous review of all changes that continually happen in most organizations.

Think about having the skills that you need to handle every customer interaction – control over your body language, tone, and words. You’d need the quick ability to change direction for every call, every interaction, every meeting to perfectly address the uniqueness of every individual and their situation.

How many of us are perfect at business writing – constructing e-mails with the tone and content that maximizes the perception of the reader that we care while simultaneously giving them the best answer?

We could go to key customer service principles – responsiveness, respect, collaboration, empathy, active listening, organizational skills, etc. Who’s perfect at those?

The point is that to be great at all these and the many other things required of someone in customer service, it’s virtually impossible, and I don’t want you to feel bad about your shortcomings. Customer service is my business – literally – and I fall far short in many of these points; I just keep working on them.

So keep working on your shortcomings, but find out where you’re already great!

You have that infectious attitude. You’re very organized, and that helps you to be productive and responsive. You’re highly empathetic and/or a great listener. You’re an incredibly self-aware person, so you know how you come across with your body language, tone, and words.

While you should continuously work to be good at all the qualities and skills of Customer Service Stars, make sure you know where you are already a Star (or REALLY close), and make that trait your calling card. Make that aspect of who you are be the aspect that separates you from others. Make that characteristic of who you are or how you act help you to stand out today.

Stand out to others by finding that one thing where you can be great.

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