listen

The Passive Predicament - 4/13/21


The employee is speaking to you.  Do they have that look in the eyes like they’re hanging on your every word, like they’re processing, interpreting, and getting ready to quickly respond to your key points and questions?  Or do they have the look of somebody in the 2nd hour Read more

Regain Lost Motivation - 4/6/21


For many of us over the last 12 months, our home has also become our workplace.  Our work interaction has been 2-dimensional through the computer screen as opposed to the 3-dimensional experiences we’re used to with co-workers and customers. We are all motivated in our own unique ways.  Some are Read more

The Answer is Right, but the Service is Wrong - 3/30/21


Maggie was irate.  The gift she ordered needed to be received by the 20th of the month so she could give it to her cousin for his birthday.  It was the 19th, and Maggie couldn’t find any shipping update online, so she called the company.  The employee said “Oh!  Read more

Question Everything, but What’s the Question? - 3/23/21


The new leader joins the organization, and she decides she wants to question everything.  She wants employees to question everything.  Why have we always done it this way? Why do we continue to do it that way? Is this the best way to work? Sometimes it’s a great management Read more

The Resourceful Rep - 3/16/21


One of our clients is seeking to develop Customer Service Standards.  We’re working with them to identify those key expectations of staff that will enable the organization to deliver a consistent high-level customer experience.  One of the key attributes that this organization is seeking from its team members is Read more

Be Proactive like a Pro - 3/9/21


We constantly work with clients, encouraging them to become more proactive with customers.  Don’t just be reactive, waiting for the customer to ask questions or to complain.  Instead, go to the customer, anticipate their needs, suggest something to them. But many of us, frankly, don’t know how to be proactive.  Read more

Find One Unique Thing - 3/2/21


Many of us are not in a position to develop long-term relationships with our customers.  Our encounters are often one-time only with a customer - very brief and likely to be our only time chatting with this individual. And even though there may not be a long-term professional relationship developed, Read more

Should I Stay or Should I Go? - 2/23/21


Should I stay or should I go?  That’s not just a classic song by The Clash.  It’s also the question customers ask more and more, especially during difficult economic times. A recent study in the Charlotte Business Journal noted that 50% of North Carolina businesses are concerned with how to Read more

Optimism – A Force for Good in Customer Service - 2/16/21


Will 2021 be a better year than 2020?  I have absolutely no idea.  Maybe it would be nice to see into the future and know for certain, but I can’t and I don’t.  But as I wade further and further into this year, I can hope that the water Read more

To Assure, Ensure You Do This - 2/9/21


Vince Lombardi – famous professional football coach – became a big hit on the speaker’s circuit during his time coaching.  He applied many of his principles in football and life to business, and one of his great business quotes is:  Confidence is contagious and so is lack of confidence, Read more

Hear Them, and Tell Them What You Heard – 6/18/19

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


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 clients.

Some of the comments are rants, and some are raves, but one thing that’s interesting is their reaction to our response. Whether it’s a complaint or a compliment they share, they’re ALWAYS appreciative that we responded to their message.

In many cases, they’re probably appreciative just because – these days – too many companies don’t respond, so the customer’s expectation level for good customer service and responsiveness is really low.

But in other cases, they’re appreciative because of what we said and how we said it. We thank them, make some specific note about what they described, and – if appropriate – tell them we’re going to share their comment with our client so the client will follow-up with them directly.

The key here is making “some specific note about what they described.” This isn’t an auto-response we’re sending; it isn’t an insincere “I hear you, I hear you, I hear you” message. It isn’t a pure form letter.

They took the time to share their personal feelings, thoughts, and experiences, and we took the time to specifically acknowledge and appreciate them and what they shared.

Why do people share? They share just to share, but they also share to be heard.

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Listen Up! – 5/29/18

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When I was growing up, I would hear the phrase Listen Up frequently. It was usually being stated by adults who wanted to get the attention of a group of kids. It was usually stated loudly. It usually worked. At least for a minute or 2.

As an adult in the working world, I now find myself in customer service situations or advising clients on how to create a great customer experience. And while the phrase Listen Up has not lost its importance, it means something different today. Today, in business it relates to what employees should do with co-workers and customers. It suggests that in order for us to really solve a problem or address a need or resolve an issue, we have to be experts at listening.

So, what do experts at listening do most effectively?

They watch to observe and interpret the body language as much as they do the words. I was in a meeting recently where we were discussing certain individuals in the organization, and we were trying to uncover how they felt about a situation; it turns out that most of our conclusions were being driven by the body language they conveyed in meetings when the topics were discussed.

Experts at listening are experts at asking questions. They start with open-ended questions to let the other person share their issue, need, goal, their story or perspective. Then the listener drills down to specifics with close-ended questions to refine their understanding of the situation and the impact of potential solutions.

Listening experts let the other person talk. It seems obvious to say, but how can you listen if you’re doing all the talking? People who are great at listening let the other person talk 70-80% of the time – hearing the other’s perspective and guiding the conversation with those questions asked.

Great listeners are great at paraphrasing. They’ve listened so well that they can pause the conversation and – in their own words – explain the situation, the steps, the goals, and the desires conveyed by the other person. They can translate the body language, tone, the words and emotions of another.

Keep in mind that great listeners are often considered to be great conversationalists because the discussion flows, and the other person gets to share, feels comfortable doing so, and is speaking with someone who has an empathetic ear.

The art of listening is key to great conversations and great customer service.

Listen Up!

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My Relatives are Odd…or Maybe I’m the Odd One – 9/23/14 TOW

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Sometimes I don’t understand people – even my relatives. I was sitting next to my teenage daughter last week, and she was playing on her smart phone. I asked what she was doing, and she said that she had created 22 “flash cards” using an app on her phone, and was quizzing herself for her Biology test.

While it was great that she was studying, I thought to myself, “That was odd. I would have just used actual index cards to make flash cards.”

Over the weekend, I was talking with my father-in-law about his lovely new flip phone, and he was telling me about a discussion he had with the service representative at his Verizon store. My father-in-law had gone into the store to pay his bill.

I thought to myself, “That was odd. I would have just paid my bill online.”

I could have concluded that my daughter’s and father-in-law’s actions were odd, or they could have concluded that my way of doing things was odd. But probably the real answer has nothing to do with oddities.

It has to do with differences – generational differences, yes – but also differences that go beyond ’57 Chevy v. Prius, that go beyond black and white television v. HDTV.

Not everybody is like us. In healthcare, just because the nurse likes to talk and socialize with others doesn’t mean that every patient wants the non-stop conversation. In sports, just because the NASCAR fan loves to camp doesn’t mean that every sports fan will drive 600 miles for an event. In government, just because some residents love having a 311 number to dial for service doesn’t mean that everyone prefers to handle their business on the phone.

When you’re considering how to handle this call, this e-mail, or this guest that’s standing in front of you, don’t assume they are just like you.

Ask enough questions to move from assumption to understanding.

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