ownership

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

Make Sure it’s Not a “YOU Problem” – 8/15/17

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


There’s a TV personality in the sports world that has a phrase that he says frequently – “That’s a YOU Problem.” For example, he might say “If you have a problem with Joe Athlete and don’t respect or like him, then that’s a YOU Problem.” OR he might say, “If you don’t like how Team ABC goes about its business, then that’s a YOU Problem.”

Essentially what he is saying is that no rational person should have a problem with this individual or with this team.

Whether or not we would agree with his assessment, there is an application to his statement for the world of customer service.

Oftentimes, we have a problem when dealing with certain co-workers, certain types of people (Millennials? People in authority positions?), certain customers, certain vendors, or certain personality types. We don’t enjoy interacting with these folks, and it’s because of some problem we have with them.

But before we assume that the issue that we have with them is 100% their fault, it’s sometimes beneficial for us to ask the question that the sports personality asks – “Is that a YOU Problem?” In other words, what biases or preconceived notions or personal preferences or life experiences am I bringing into a conversation that is making the issue happen or at least making it bigger than necessary?

Think of somebody that you don’t get along with well. Think of somebody that you don’t enjoy interacting with during the course of your workday. Now take a step back and simply ask yourself “What is it about me or how I engage with this individual during these encounters that could make the situations unpleasant or ineffective? Is a fully a “Them” problem, or is it somewhat of a “Me” problem?

Maybe in 99% of the cases you are right – there’s something about this other person that is causing these interactions to be negative or poor. But at least take a step back and see if you have a part in the difficulties.

Maybe there’s an opportunity to eliminate the problem you have with this other person if you were more self-aware and changed something yourself.

Make sure it’s not a “YOU Problem.”

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Breaking Down the Infamous 1-on-1 Retention Call – 8/26/14 TOW

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


I referenced the infamous recorded Comcast Retention call in a Tip of the Week on July 22. It’s been such a lightning rod for discussion that we just recorded a podcast addressing some of the key language that the Comcast representative used during the call. Now, we’ve gained access to what’s reported as being the company’s 13-Step Retention Call Approach. Let’s analyze this from the customer’s perspective.

  1. Greet customer clearly – This is good; customers want to know the employee’s name and department to make sure they called the right place.
  2. Clarify reason for call – We always say “Clarify and Confirm” – ask clarifying questions, then confirm your understanding. Customers want the employee showing that they know the reason for calling (and, in this case, canceling their service).
  3. Relate and empathize – Love this – especially the Empathy portion. Customers want to be understood.
  4. Take control – Not sure why this is here; “control” has a power/aggressive connotation. It’s not good to encourage representatives to get aggressive with a typically-upset customer. Customers don’t want to be controlled.
  5. Set the agenda – Again, this conveys aggression, taking over, not focused on listening.
  6. Ask targeted questions – This may be fine, depending on the definition of “Targeted.” We use that word to illustrate questions unique to the customer and their situation. However, the employee asked “targeted” questions such as “Why would you not want the fastest internet?” This is pushy and derogatory at the same time.
  7. Consider unstated needs / active listening – Active Listening is great! However, “unstated needs” is sales terminology. If someone wants to cancel, you’re in Service Recovery territory, not hardcore sales territory.
  8. Take ownership / make offer – These should work well.
  9. Overcome objections – This is fine as long as the customer’s still willing to dialogue about the issue; if they want to avoid the debate, quickly cancel and go to step 12.
  10. Close the save – Change this to “Close the save…or close the account.” In the end, do what the customer wants you to do.
  11. Confirm details – Always confirm next steps before closing.
  12. End on a positive note – Good step.
  13. Documentation – Good step.

Many of the steps are positive, but where they go wrong is that they focus too much on controlling the customer in a hardcore sales manner instead of communicating with a customer in a Service Recovery mindset.

When a customer wants to cancel or end the relationship, feel free to professionally ask for reasons, but remember that you’re delivering customer service, not driving the hard sell. You may retain just as many, and you’ll definitely avoid the horrific word-of-mouth that this call created.

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The Healthcare Customer Service Runaround – 8/19/14 TOW

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


The following is a true story of a customer service runaround…

  1. Nate’s physician suggested that he have a diagnostic procedure.
  2. The hospital called Nate to schedule the procedure; they suggested he get the CPT code (procedure number) since Nate wanted to get an estimate of the procedure charges.
  3. He called his physician office and got the CPT code.
  4. At the direction of the physician office, he called another office (in another town) for an estimate. He okayed the procedure based on the estimate being somewhat reasonable.
  5. Nate had the procedure and received results – all were good!
  6. He received the bill – 60% above the estimate.
  7. He called Billing and talked with Kristin. She said that they billed correctly, but Nate was only given 1 of the 2 CPT codes and was told the wrong estimated price; Kristin told him to talk to the insurance company and have them possibly appeal to the office (which was part of the same company as Billing, which was also the same company as the scheduler, which was also the same company as the estimator).
  8. Insurance said that they may be able to do something if the physician office said that the procedure wasn’t warranted.
  9. The insurance company called the physician office for Nate and left a message at the physician office.
  10. The office called Nate and said the procedure in question was ordered correctly, but they were adamant that they don’t give out CPTs – so they couldn’t help with his issue; they suggested that Nate call Scheduling – maybe they give out CPT codes.
  11. Nate called Scheduling; they said that they don’t give out CPTs; they suggested he call the Estimate department.
  12. Nate called the Estimate department; they said they don’t give out CPTs, but the supervisor would call him the next day because she may have access to information that the front line employee couldn’t access.
  13. Nate called a week later after having received no call back, and he left a message.
  14. The Estimate department called back and said to call Billing.
  15. Nate called Billing, and the lady he spoke with sounded familiar – she was Kristin. She said the physician office wasn’t telling the truth when they said they don’t give out CPTs.

One procedure and fifteen communications. There was no resolution, no ownership, and no accountability. Most of the conversations were with one company and four different departments/offices, but they operated as if they were four separate companies.

In most of the conversations, the individual employees were personable and somewhat helpful – they probably received good evaluations for their actions during the call. But from Nate’s perspective, this was a royal mess.

Don’t assume that one pleasant conversation equates to one happy customer. Ensure the company isn’t giving the customer service runaround.

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