knowledge

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

Dealing with the First-time Fan – 5/5/15 TOW

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


Customer service people, those in relationship management, those in call centers, those called service reps – they all at some point or another have to deal with the new customer. In sports, we call them the “First-time Fans.” These are the customers with the highest rate of turnover, and are therefore a huge priority for retention for organizations.

Instead of addressing the retention of the new customer from a strategic perspective, let’s look at it from the perspective of a representative. The customer is Jay. What is Jay like?

If you had to generalize Jay, he’s an unknown. You know less about Jay than any other customer in your business. He bought your service – but why? Was it a low cost offer (like a ticket discount), a service he never needed before (like outpatient surgery), or simply his moving near your business that drove him to your company?

He could be friendly, he could be open, he could be a techie, or maybe he’s a family man. He could make over $100,000 per year, he could anger easily, he could love your team, he could be impatient, or he could be very analytical.

He could be all of those things – or none.

Jay is the great unknown. He’s also beginning what could be a long journey with your organization. All customers are special, but view Jay as special in a slightly different way.

View him as a fountain of information. Someone so unknown, that that makes him intriguing. Jay is really James Bond; he’s 007; he’s someone new and exciting.

When you see Jay or the new patient, or the new customer, or the First-time Fan – get intrigued. Get inquisitive. Convey excitement about his newness.

Realize that to best meet his needs today and to keep him for the long-term, you have to get to know him. Ask questions; note the answers. Learn more and more so you can keep him longer and longer.

Let the intrigue of the new customer lead you on a quest to get to know them.

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

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


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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Review the Failures of Others to Ensure Success – 7/22/14 TOW

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


“Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Many people have said variations of this – from George Santayana to Lemony Snicket – and I’m saying it today because it reminds me of a question I was asked recently.

A French financial services firm interviewed me about customer service and client retention for their internal publication. One of the questions addressed the many seemingly excellent customer service strategies and initiatives that don’t work. Essentially, why do they fail?

Here are four key reasons I provided:

  • Leadership Doesn’t Really Buy-In – Although leaders may talk about the importance of customer service and the client experience, they make decisions based on the product, they create incentives focused on new sales only, they sign-off on strategies that focus purely on reducing cost per unit. They talk the customer service talk, but their structures and incentives don’t align with service and retention goals. Here’s an example if you haven’t heard the recent Comcast customer retention call?
  • The Company Doesn’t Dedicate Resources – While an organization may care about the customer, if there’s no designated individual, division, strategy, or budget that focuses on service and retention, it won’t work. Sustaining an organization-wide effort is impossible if the initiative is 5% of the jobs of many without ever being the totality of the job of at least a few people in the organization.
  • The CX Definition is Limited – A small business owner laughed at me once when I brought up the concept of Internal Customers. He didn’t believe that employees should view and treat each other as customers. He didn’t believe that the customer experience (CX) applied to anyone within the corporate walls. He thought culture was irrelevant in driving a great service experience and retention. Zappos would disagree.
  • Tactic Supersedes Strategic – Too many companies conduct a survey, change a computer system, start a call center, send out memos telling staff to answer calls in 3 rings, and then expect their customer service scores and retention rates to jump off the charts. For organizations to be great at customer service, they need to view their organization as a system – where all the people, processes, programs, and technology interrelate and work for the good of the customer and company. Have a strategy for sustained service excellence and growth; tactics should then flow from that strategic view.

 
Align Around the Customer, Dedicate Resources, Look Within, and Think Strategically.

Ensure your organization doesn’t repeat the failures of business history.

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