employee

Know the Customer’s Value Proposition - 2/12/19


I’ve written about how it’s important to build up your co-workers when talking to customers. When the nurse is getting ready to send the patient down to radiology, she lets the patient know what great work and great care that the radiology tech provides. When the teller contacts a Read more

Paint a Picture, Take a Picture - 2/5/19


Many of us are visual learners. In order for us to understand the concept, we need to be able to see the concept illustrated. And by seeing the concept illustrated, I’m not just talking about taking something that somebody says and merely typing it into an email. I don’t Read more

Recipe for Reputation Rehab - 1/29/19


As another corporation is trying to recover from self-inflicted reputation wounds, it is seeking to get back in the good graces of consumers. It’s laying out a 6-point plan to improve its performance, but – in the end – publicizing this plan is also about rehabilitating its reputation. Read more

Don’t Dwell on the Customer Crazies - 1/22/19


Whether or not you’re a fan of Duke University basketball, you may have heard of the “Cameron Crazies.” This is a nickname for Duke fans that attend home games in Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium. One of my friends was one of those Cameron Crazies. He was Read more

Retain through Responsiveness - 1/15/19


In a recent Bloomberg article about online retailers, there’s a story about a women’s cosmetics customer who used an online app to order some items. She waited weeks for the delivery after it was shipped to the wrong address, and she had great difficulty in getting the issue resolved. Read more

Bring Something Extra to the Table - 1/8/19


As somebody who has customer service as a part of their role and responsibilities, you are often talking to customers who could access the answers to their questions or the solutions to their problems via a website or some social media resource. But instead of going to those communication Read more

How to Have a Truly HAPPY New Year - 1/1/19


Don’t worry. After today, I will get away from my holiday-themed tips, but for now, let me ask you a question. What would be a good way to have a truly HAPPY New Year? Is it lowering expectations so that everything exceeds your expectations? Is Read more

2018 Holiday Poem - 12/25/18


Annually I write a note at this time of year, And the goal not once but every time is to bring you some cheer. I try to encourage, And I work to state the truth Because as we continue to grow more “wise,” We can’t lose sight of the joys of youth. So this year Read more

Be SomeBODY to Your Customer - 12/18/18


Jenny lives on a farm, and she's often running errands to get things for the animals or the family. She goes to one particular store to get her hay, and she always chit-chats with the person at the register. Marie is always friendly and cordial, and Jenny always buys Read more

A Representative Success! - 12/11/18


I was in a meeting recently with a client, and it was interesting to chat with one of their best customer service representatives. This is an employee who works with the same business clients every month, and when she described what she does, best practices started flowing. She knows her Read more

Make Complaints Constructive – 7/18/17

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


Sandy aspires to be an excellent manager. She’s new to a leadership role and new to the organization. She’s come into her department with a ton of passion and energy. And now she’s in the middle of her “listening tour” – talking to different groups of employees, understanding the department’s history, its culture, and its approach to customer service.

In the middle of her third meeting, all her passion and energy started to get sapped – minute by minute, complaint by complaint. She was listening to staff, but it had turned into a gripe session. Literally nothing she was hearing was positive. Issue after issue was voiced. Sandy thought about asking – “What is something/ANYTHING positive going on in the department?”, but she didn’t want to have her staff feel like they couldn’t voice complaints to her or that she only wanted to hear positives.

So she asked a different question: What are some solutions to the issues we’re discussing?

Crickets. Nobody said a word, for 5 seconds, then 15, then 30.

Sandy gave into the silence and said: For example, what can be done differently, more consistently, or better relating to communications, planning, decision-making, relationship-building – just the general work environment?

And finally, people started offering ideas – not a ton of ideas, but it changed the dynamic of the conversation. The tone became less negative, and staff offered some great solutions to consider.

There are many lessons to learn from this, but let’s focus on two.

First, managers, listen to your staff. Communication is a 2-way street, and that bi-directional dialogue is great for understanding culture, morale, and even customer viewpoints from those closest to the customers – front-line staff.

Second, growth only comes through change and improvement, so complaints without solutions aren’t productive – they don’t lead to improvement and growth. Staff should support leaders with ideas to complement the complaints. Likewise, when dealing with complaining customers, sometimes asking the customer “What could we do to make this right?” or “What solution would help in this situation?” could make our lives as service providers easier – with customers offering solutions for us to consider instead of employees having to conjure up all the creative ideas themselves.

Do you have a complaint? Are you dealing with a complaining customer or employee? Consider tapping into the ideas of those complaining to identify potential solutions.

Make Complaints Constructive.

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Learn How to Swim at a Young Age – 7/14/15 TOW

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When you’re 8 miles from the Canadian border in North Dakota, there’s not much reason to learn how to swim. As a child, you’re more concerned with shooting marbles, building a mini-igloo, and learning how to avoid frost bite.

That’s where and how I grew up, but as I grew older, and moved South, I wished I had learned to be a better swimmer. I wished that I had learned to breathe while doing freestyle. I wished I had learned to float instead of sink to the bottom like a rock.

The reason I wished I’d learned all these things at an early age is that – as I grew older – the fears of the water began to rise, and now the learning process was more about overcoming my mental outlook and fears than learning to refine swimming strokes. I wasn’t (and still today, am not) too old to learn, but it would have been SO MUCH EASIER to have learned swimming at an early age, and it would be so much more enjoyable to be at the pool today.

Maybe this is part of the reason I’m not a proponent of an approach with new hires in a business that is exclusively using on-the-job training. Most organizations have a mission, a vision, and core values. Many have customer service standards. Others have defined best practices for particular processes. Some organizations know what attributes of employees make some great and others more run-of-the-mill.

To assume that new employees will understand the mission, vision, values and standards naturally, to assume they’ll naturally conduct the work in the best manner possible, to assume that they’ll develop the attributes of the highest performing employees naturally is to set them up – and the company – for failure.

An organization with the intention of succeeding and thriving in a culture where employees drive high performance must be intentional about training their new staff on the “whys” of what they do, the expectations of their attitudes and mindsets, and the behaviors of those who excel.

Why? Because it is worlds easier to teach this to a new hire than to retrain and “rewire” a long-term employee.

Be intentional about training new hires to be stars for your company.

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Link and the $5 Mistake – 5/27/14 TOW

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It was Link’s first job – working in the retail shop – and he enjoyed it immensely. He was learning how a business runs, the importance of the customer to a company’s success, and his role in creating that success. He had these big picture lessons he was learning, even though his pay was minimum wage, and he basically did grunt work and occasionally ran the register.

He was one of those people in a small role, but you could see big things ahead for him.

One day, he was given the responsibility for closing the store and closing out the register. This was many years ago, so there was no credit card machine, and no computer system – it was all manual.

And as Link started shutting things down, he did a quick reconciliation between the cash in the drawer and the register tape. It was off by $5. And then it hit him; he had calculated the change wrong on the last customer of the day, and he gave Ms. Isaacs $5 change when it should have been $10. She was buying some supplies for an out of town trip, so Link knew she’d be gone for a while.

With no car to drive and no phone to call from (this is not that recent a story), he started walking. Block after block, mile after mile toward her house. When he arrived, he apologized to Ms. Isaacs, gave her the additional change, turned, and began the long walk home.

In case it’s not obvious, this is a slight twist on the Abe Lincoln story. But it goes to show that he wasn’t just a great President; he was also great at customer service. He enjoyed the job, looked at it as a learning experience, performed well regardless of the role, and enjoyed engaging his customers. He wasn’t perfect, but he resolved issues quickly, he didn’t make excuses, and he – literally – went the extra mile for his customers.

Abe wasn’t just “Honest.” He was also a really good customer service rep.