empathy

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

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

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


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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Jamey Needed to Slow Down – 6/10/14 TOW

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Jamey is young, but he’s pretty good at sales – his new sales numbers generally prove the point. He seems to care about fixing issues, speaks articulately, and responds quickly and specifically “on his feet” when asked the tough questions or challenged. He’s confident, so Jamey was shocked when one of his accounts told him “That’s not how things are done in the South; you’ve got to develop a relationship first.”

Jamey had responded to every request or question, quickly. He was speedy in resolution to issues. He didn’t take up too much of the customer’s time on the phone – the conversations were short and quick.

The problem was that Jamey’s quick responses, fast talking, and general speed (in everything he did) didn’t appeal to this client. The quick responses were good, but they were often a few words in an e-mail with no greeting such as “Nope. Can’t work that out this time.”

Jamey thought he was being considerate of the client’s time with his quick calls, but they were quick because Jamey was peppering his customer with questions instead of creating a more two-way conversational tone. When Jamey received a call from the account, he typically talked fast and hung up quickly. When Jamey fixed a problem quickly, he often didn’t call the client to ensure that the fix worked.

Even though Jamey did so many things technically correct, he didn’t have a good enough read on this account to tailor how he communicated about those “things” to the preference of his client. So the client interpreted that Jamey was impatient, rushed, or just didn’t care about the client.

In customer service, sometimes it’s not just about what you do or how quickly you do it; rather, to many customers, it’s how you communicate with them during the process.

Don’t rush through conversations like they’re just another box on the “To Do” list. Be patient. View relationship-building as a process.