leadership

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

You Do Know Jack - 6/4/19


Have you ever had a co-worker who causes more problems than they solve? Simple things they do are often, from a procedure standpoint, correct. But the way they handle situations makes them come off as indifferent. Let’s call this co-worker “Jack.” Even though certain actions by Jack may seem innocent Read more

How to Give the Right Kind of “No” - 5/28/19


In a perfect world, you never need to say “No” to the customer. But as we all know, this is not a perfect world. There are a lot of issues in the world, and there are a lot of issues in customer service. Our companies are not perfect, our Read more

Make it Crystal Clear - 5/21/19


Sometimes we communicate so well, and sometimes we don’t communicate as well as we think we do. When you’re trying to set or manage another person’s expectations, what you say may be very clear to you, but the reality is it may not be clear to the other person. Read more

Harvey Wrote the Book on Focus...and Golf - 5/14/19


In Harvey Penick's Little Red Book, the famous golf instructor provides many key tips about golf that just as well could apply to life in general. One such tip is the following: Once you address the golf ball, hitting it has got to be the most important thing in 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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The Light that Others Reflect – 10/25/16

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


Getting philosophical for the next 300 words.

The angry customer. The pushy or obnoxious co-workers. The demanding manager. The products that don’t always work. The stress on the faces and in the voices of customers and the employees serving them.

There are many dark moments that you may have to deal with during the course of your week at work. These are the dark encounters of our work day, those that can bring down morale, reduce the joy, and dampen employee enthusiasm.

But there is a light. There is a source of positivity, laughter, vision, and empathy. And that light is you.

I’ve been in some focus groups of employees discussing low morale. It seems like half the staff have the mindset of “once leaders change, then I’ll change.” While the other half seem to say “I’m not going to wait for others to behave professionally or positively before I act that way as well. They don’t control my behaviors.”

There’s an obvious difference in the two reactions. The first is passivity in the darkness. The second is taking ownership.

When we have a light – a positive nature, kindness, professionalism, respect, empathy and encouragement – we can be like the light in a room. Have you ever been in a room with a couple large mirrors? Those mirrors reflect that one light, helping the entire room to brighten more than it would otherwise.

The point is that dark situations at work should be opportunities for us – opportunities to bring in light. Opportunities to have your light be reflected in the attitudes and actions of others.

Be the Light that Others Reflect.

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It’s About Leadership and Appreciation – 7/5/16 TOW

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


CSS does a lot of work with local government, education, and healthcare organizations. They all have a great deal in common. They typically have tons of customer interactions using various methods – phone, in-person, e-mail, etc. They have many policies, procedures, regulations, and laws to which they must adhere. They’re typically mid-to-large sized organizations, and creating an engaged and aligned workforce can be a challenge.

We’re working with one client in particular on culture change, and in a recent survey of staff, we asked them to describe their desired culture and what’s needed to create it. Two themes came up repeatedly in response to the “What’s needed” question – Leadership and Appreciation.

Leadership. Many staff said that the culture needs to start with leadership. Managers need to model the organizational values and customer service standards. Executives need to treat the staff like they expect staff to treat the customers.

Appreciation. In these types of organizations, legal, political, and financial barriers limit the amounts and types of financial compensation, incentives, and rewards that can be provided to employees. So in this survey, staff focused on Appreciation. They wanted to be recognized for good work and behaviors that align to the organizational values. They liked some of the initiatives that the organization had already put in place that enable staff to recognize each other. They wanted to feel valued, and that sense of being valued is in part driven by the Appreciation of their attitudes, skills, knowledge, and quality work.

An engaged workforce – having employees truly passionate about the company, its customers, and their role in the success – is not easy to create, but it can be done.

And it starts with a concerted effort to address two themes.

Start with Leadership and Appreciation.

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