employee

Don’t Assume because... - 8/13/19


You've probably heard this statement growing up. Your parents said, “Don’t assume, because it makes…you look bad.” Or something like that… Recently my laptop screen died, and since it was an older laptop, I decided to go ahead and buy a new one instead of paying to have the screen Read more

Patience Leads to Positivity - 8/6/19


Thank you for your patience. That’s a statement I enjoy saying…when I am the customer. When I’m trying to learn something and I’m about to go into a process, I want to have a feel for what the whole process involves. Over the years, I’ve gotten tired of feeling like Read more

Back to Reality...for Customer Expectations - 7/30/19


Have you ever walked into a patient registration area of a hospital and seen a sign that said “if you’ve been waiting longer than 15 minutes, please see the receptionist?” Have you ever called a customer service number and been told by a recording that “the average hold time is Read more

For Excellence to Happen, Get Engaged - 7/23/19


The customer was throwing an absolute fit in the lobby. Sitting among several other customers waiting for her number to be called, she was raising her voice and letting out the occasional expletive about the lengthy wait time. An employee sitting behind the counter thought to herself: I’m going Read more

Libby Listened to Serve - 7/16/19


Libby was new to her role with the organization. She had never been a customer service representative in a call center before, but she was hired because of her attitude. She wanted to learn, enjoyed working with people, and could carry on a conversation with a wall. After going through Read more

Chris Got Noticed for All the Right Reasons - 7/9/19


Chris was working through a temporary agency, and he got a job at a warehouse. He was packaging items to be shipped out, and his shift didn't start until 7:30 a.m. Chris always got there a little bit early because of the bus schedule, and he hated just sitting Read more

What Does “No News” Mean? Here’s a Quick Story - 7/2/19


Steven was trying to make the purchase of his new used car official, so he could get license tags for his State. In order for the State to allow him to put the vehicle in his name, he had to submit paperwork to prove that the prior owner (from Read more

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

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

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


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.