issue resolution

A Hair-Cut Above...and Below - 2/11/20


After going to the same barber for more than a decade, I decided to leave.  The customer experience went down, and the price went up.  For my last several visits, I was the one who was driving the conversations – when I could get a word in edgewise between Read more

When Employees Fight Over a Customer - 2/4/20


There’s nothing like the feeling of comfort I get from a warm greeting at a business establishment.  A feeling of “you are my most important customer” and “I cannot wait to serve you” brings a tear to the eye of a customer service consultant.  But that’s not the only Read more

LOTS of Opportunities to Appreciate Customers - 1/28/20


They give us their money, and we give them merchandise. We say “Thank you!”  That is the old-time stereotypical opportunity for a company to thank their customers.  But there are opportunities all day long for us to convey appreciation to our customers. Beyond the actual transaction, there are so many Read more

When Jack Gave Arnie a Tip - 1/21/20


Jack Nicklaus may have been the greatest golfer ever.  Many think that Arnold Palmer was the most important golfer of the 20th century.  These two greats were contemporaries, so they became competitors and friends all at once.  And when somebody who is one of the greatest of all time Read more

Make it Abundantly Clear - 1/14/20


Becky was laying in her hospital bed and staring at the whiteboard on the wall.  It had a room number, the room’s phone number, and the date.  It had the pictures of the pain scale, with happy-to-sad faces and ratings from 0-10.  It noted when the last meds were Read more

Become the Wishing Well - 1/7/20


When you don’t know if the next step will solve the customer’s problem, give hope a chance.  If you’re not certain how things will progress on their project, give hope a chance.  If you want to end the conversation by having them feel positive, even if uncertain, give hope Read more

Why Silence is Golden - 12/31/19


In the world of customer service, to begin finding a resolution, sometimes we have to initiate conversation. To keep things moving forward, oftentimes we have to proactively engage in discussion.  To have effective dialogue, we need to avoid those long periods of dead silence. But don’t let those truths of Read more

2019 Holiday Poem - 12/24/19


There is joy absolutely everywhere, Sometimes you just need to look for it. There are birds and babies. There are flowers and sweet older ladies. You just have to look for them. People hold doors open for others, with smiles. There are days when you can see for miles. You just have to look for them. There Read more

Encourage the Customer - 12/17/19


Everybody sing with me:  Feelings, whoa whoa whoa, feelings… Excellent old song, and be thankful that I’m just writing the words and not singing to you.  While not all of us are comfortable with discussing feelings, feelings are an important part of the customer experience. No, you can’t make someone feel Read more

Hearing is Believing - 12/10/19


“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 Read more

Defend without Being Defensive – 7/8/14 TOW

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


The customer is not always right. Sometimes they’re flat out wrong. Your co-workers aren’t perfect. Sometimes they don’t return the call, or they’re rude, or they provide misinformation, or they set unrealistic expectations. People make mistakes.

When apologizing to the customer, you sometimes have to say “I’m sorry” or “I apologize,” but those words are hard to come by when that customer is wrong. Those words are difficult to share when they’re criticizing your co-worker.

At the same time that you’re trying to defuse that irate customer, we suggest that you do two things that can seemingly be in conflict: Support your co-workers, and don’t get defensive.

So how do you defend without getting defensive?

Think of defensiveness as having an emotional quality, where you’re trying to protect the co-worker or company, maybe you’re trying to deflect blame from yourself. While these are all natural things to want to do, when you bring your emotion into the conversation, you begin to lose one of the key tenets of successfully dealing with an irate customer – pull emotion out of these conversations.

Therefore, when defending others, do it without emotion, without the tone and body language and words that can raise the temperature of a conversation.

Now you may want to ask why we should “defend” in the first place. Won’t that start an argument? Won’t that make them more irate?

Well it could if done incorrectly, and there’s a fine line we’re walking. The reason to occasionally defend is this: If you allow incorrect conclusions to be solidified in the customer’s mind, then that will affect that customer’s loyalty, that customer’s word-of-mouth, and that customer’s attitude in future interactions with your business.

And while I’m not suggesting you correct every customer misstatement (since that surely will backfire), if they say that Chris – your co-worker – did something that he’d never do (yelled at the customer or advised the customer to do something that’s obviously against policy), you want to support your co-worker. Consider these phrases:

  • I wasn’t in that conversation, so I can’t speak specifically to what was Chris said, but I’m sorry you had to deal with it, and I want to help you find a resolution.
  • I’ve known Chris for years, and I’ll definitely talk with him since that’s not the experiences his customers typically have, and I’m very sorry about what happened in your case. Let’s discuss how we can best resolve this moving forward.
  • That’s not how we typically do things around here, so I’m very sorry about the situation. I’ll definitely share your concerns internally after our call, and right now I want to make sure we can get this situation addressed immediately.

The commonality in these statements is that we don’t agree with the customer that our co-worker was at fault, we stay composed, we let them know that the situation isn’t typical, and we transition the conversation to a resolution.

When dealing with the irate customer, learn to defend without being defensive.


Adopt the Practice of Proactive – 4/1/14 TOW

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


Proactive – I use the word all the time (maybe too much). I sometimes use it so much that I’m assuming everyone defines it similar to how I do, and I wonder how we really apply the concept.

I define “Proactive” as initiating an action or a sharing of information. In the world of customer service, the initiation is done to benefit the customer. We’re not waiting for the customer to call or come in, to request or complain, to ask or convey. We’re taking the monkey off their back by starting the conversation and providing the solution, without even being asked.

If your way of looking at Proactive is different, let me know, but for the rest of this Tip, let’s use that definition to address how we really apply being “Proactive.”

The main question I’d like you ask yourself is this, “About WHAT could I be proactive?” Remember, we’re not reacting and responding; we’re identifying and acting. So what can you identify that you can act on?

For example, what issues are cropping up internally in your organization that you KNOW will impact your customer? How can you communicate those issues and solutions to customers? Maybe you’re part of a government entity, and you know that some tax refunds are going to be released later than anticipated. You work in a doctor’s office, and you just determined that a physician will be out of the office, and his patients scheduled for that day will now be seen by a nurse practitioner instead.

Think about the issues that you uncover which could impact customers; then don’t wait for them to find out on their own and come at you with the complaint and the emotion; be Proactive.

What new products, policies, procedures, processes, or people are coming up that will impact your customer? How can you tell them about it? You could be a pro sports team whose most experienced account representative left, and now his account holders will all have a new point person. You’re the school modifying the proof of residency documentation requirements for student placement. Maybe you work in a bank, and you just found out that fees are going up for certain types of accounts.

Think about the needs the customer has which will be impacted by changes in your people or internal operations; don’t wait for them to come in with one expectation and get something totally different; be Proactive.

Take a few minutes and identify the issues and needs you know today that the customer will find out tomorrow.

Adopt the Practice of Proactive.

 


Give the Customer a Plan B – 1/28/14 TOW

Posted on in Customer Service Tip of the Week 1 Comment


I was walking into my local bank branch a couple Saturdays ago to make a deposit. While I usually go through the drive-through, I didn’t have any deposit slips left, so I had to get some new ones at the bank. When I entered the lobby, I got the feeling of dread in my chest – 20 people in line ahead of me. I stopped, took a deep breath to calm the impatient side of me, and proceeded to the line to become customer #21.

After three minutes, I assessed the situation (3 tellers, 20 people in line, nobody had yet moved). I mentally calculated a wait time that would stretch into lunch if not dinner. And then I got an idea. I picked up a few deposit slips, and I left.

Sitting in the car, I filled out a slip, went to the drive-through (where there was NOBODY in line), and was on my way in less than 2 minutes.

At this point I realized that it would have been wonderful if an employee in the bank lobby had stated to the 21 of us in line “There’s no wait at the drive-through.”

The lesson learned? This is the 21st century. This is the era of an exorbitant number of customer service channels for most businesses (walk-in, phone, drive-through, self-service, web, e-mail, social media, etc.). And many customers who are in one channel are going to get very upset with a business because that method of obtaining service is slow, cumbersome, manual, or simply not a great customer experience.

The lesson learned is that businesses need to find ways to educate the customers on the other channels on an ongoing basis and real-time, so that the customer doesn’t feel trapped and doesn’t take out the bad experience on the company.

This involves having an ongoing Touch Point Plan with clients that includes periodic educational communications about the other channels, how to access them, and their benefits. This requires that companies know real-time what channels are performing like greased lightning and which ones are stuck in neutral. And this requires that employees get in the habit of “Educating Forward” – where they let customers know other channels available to them in case the preferred method of service is delayed or backlogged.

When it comes to providing a positive experience, sometimes the best path is the one that helps them avoid the bad experience. Give the customer a Plan B.