process

People will Pay for Customer Service - 10/8/19


Sometimes all you need to read is the first paragraph in an article. Here’s the title from Business Insider: Amazon charges sellers as much as $5,000 a month for customer service if they want a guarantee that they'll be able to talk to a real person. The first paragraph reads: Amazon Read more

New Ways to Celebrate National Customer Service Week - 10/1/19


The week of October 7 is National Customer Service Week. No, this wasn’t another holiday invented by Hallmark, so you have to go to work. Hopefully that’s the good news! This week is typically thought of as a time to rejuvenate relationships with customers, to refocus your efforts on treating Read more

The Error of “Everyone” - 9/24/19


A recent article in The Charlotte Observer got me thinking about a concept, a premise that is suggested all too often in society. First, the article: The story was about lawn care, and some of the people quoted in the article talked about what customers want today. They noted Read more

Between Texting and Thoreau - 9/17/19


The more people that enter the business world having grown up texting, the more the quality of business communications drops. A typical text between friends is rarely what anybody in business would call a professionally-written document. There’s nothing wrong with that, because texting is typically informal dialogue between friends. Read more

I want to be an Astronaut - 9/10/19


When I was young, if a child was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, the answers were often a fireman, a Pro Football player, a teacher, somebody who got to drive a truck, or an astronaut. Maybe the question is still asked today, and, if Read more

Don’t Mistake Kindness - 9/3/19


I have a friend who does a lot of things for a lot of other people. He sometimes has a hard time saying “no,” and he really works hard to try to be kind to others. But occasionally some of those for whom he does good works will ask Read more

Do Anything, but Not Everything - 8/27/19


We work with a lot of educational organizations, but this Tip of the Week applies to virtually any kind of business that has repeat customers. To deliver great service, be willing to go above and beyond, do virtually anything for the customer. But in the world of colleges and Read more

Be Generous to a Fault - 8/20/19


People who think they’re generous to a fault usually think that’s their only fault – American Journalist Sydney Harris. This quote reminds me of someone who views themselves as a giver – someone who is so humble that he likes to humbly tell everyone of the gifts he’s given, good Read more

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

Flip the View of Your Process – 2/24/15 TOW

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The customer complains that they had to go through 6 phone menus, some of which didn’t make any sense, and then they waited 8 minutes to get to an employee who asked for the same account information that the customer just keyed into the phone. The employee wonders why the customer is so upset, after all, the employee had a great tone of voice and read the script perfectly when he answered the phone!

To the employee, the encounter just started, but to the customer, the encounter started 20 minutes ago when they were looking for an answer on the website and then – in frustration – called the company only to wade through the phone menus and sit on hold – again – for 8 minutes.

It’s tiring just writing about it; imagine how frustrating it was to experience it!

I’m not painting a picture of anything you haven’t experienced as a customer in your personal life. This happens every day, in every industry, MILLIONS of time each week.

Many companies claim to want processes that are “customer-friendly,” but too often the reason why they are not “customer-friendly” is that they were designed looking only internally – like conducting a 1980s style flow chart analysis.

What is the rework we can eliminate? Where is the redundancy that we can streamline? Where is the waste to remove? Where is the manual step that we can automate?

While these are all excellent questions, too often they’re asked purely from the company’s perspective. Then we design a process and implement it, only to later wonder why customers complain so much about the process! To them, it’s frustrating, it’s cumbersome, it’s not clear.

So what’s the process solution? Look at that wonderful process flow that looks so clean from the company’s perspective, and – instead of implementing it as is – flip it to view it from the customer’s perspective.

What’s that journey like that the customer undertakes? When do they find the need to contact you? How do they decide to look for you? How do they start tracking down answers or tracking you down?

We call this step part of our Customer-focused Process Redesign methodology, but you can also do this using mystery shopping or using customer focus groups and interviews. There are many methodologies to use in improving a process, but to make that new process part of a great experience, incorporate the voice of the customer.

Flip the view.

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The Customer Service Wreck that Wasn’t – 12/16/14 TOW

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The car was at the dealership, sitting in the parking lot waiting to have the front-end aligned. Nobody was in the car, so the car was minding its own business, drinking in the midday sun. Then an 18-wheeler came by and side-swiped it, making one long dentscrape (my new word) down the entire passenger side of the car.

Now I could regale you with everything that went wrong from that point forward at the dealership (since the dentscrape happened to MY car). Instead, I’ll tell you a quick and positive story about something interesting that the body shop does for customers. FYI – This GOOD body shop is NOT the dealer’s body shop.

There were several selling points about the good body shop, including great reviews online, multiple before/after picture examples, convenience, and great interactions with the staff when trying to understand the repair and insurance processes. The one selling point I’d like to focus on is this – they take pictures.

Every evening they take pictures of the car and post them to the web to a URL only given to that particular car owner. Therefore, every night I can check on my baby (er…car) and see the progress made. This may sound like a little thing, but look at what it does:

  • First, it’s a touch point, so the company is in contact with the customer daily – keeping the relationship warm and the dialogue ongoing.
  • Second, the touch point is initiated by the customer (clicking on the URL with curiosity about their car), so there’s little labor involved in the touch.
  • Third, the openness of sharing photos builds trust in the process.
  • Fourth, there’s a comfort that’s imparted to the customer since there’s little fear of the unknown (the progress is made known through the pictures).
  • Fifth, the customer becomes confident because improvements are viewed, and the end point (the new-looking body of the car) becomes more clear over time.

Assuming you don’t work in a body shop, here are the lessons learned. Make it easy for the customer to know what’s going on with the project, service, issue, or product. Offer a “self-service” option to getting updates. Be open with progress and the process in order to build trust and comfort, and give them communications that paint a picture of success.

Show them the pictures that paint the story of success.

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Build Up Your Peers to Better the Customer Experience – 8/6/13 TOW

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In developing relationships with our clients, rarely are we truly alone. Maybe for an instant or an interaction it’s just us and the customer. But if we look longer term (a patient stay in a hospital, an account holder for a sports team, a client for a bank, a taxpayer for a municipality), those customer relationships involve many employees working together for that customer.

And in most organizations, individual good experiences don’t necessarily mean an overall good experience or lasting relationships. Sometimes the difference between Good and Great in the customer experience is driven by the handoffs between the different areas and staff. So this brings up three key questions with some quick tips noted below:

How can we ensure the NEXT employee is prepared to receive the customer prior to the “handoff?”

  • Communicate between different areas of the organization about a customer and the handoff about to take place so the second employee anticipates and looks for the customer
  • Bring specifics into the equation (offer background on the customer to the co-worker) – ensure the next employee can pick up on one fact about the customer so the customer feels that the handoff was made effectively
  • Use names of co-workers when talking with customers about the next step to personalize the discussion and humanize the process
  • Show you care about your fellow staff member in front of the customer; have a pleasant, informal dialogue with your peer so that the environment is positive and professional.

How can we “build up” the NEXT employee in the customer’s mind?

  • Compliment the next staff member in front of the customer; this helps to create rapport and reduce customer anxiety about the process or the person
  • Use descriptive language to describe the next staff member – “they’re energetic, successful, friendly, etc.”
  • Address the credentials or experience of the next employee – “they’ve helped many people in similar situations to yours…they’ve been with us for 5 years…, etc.”

How can we check-in on the customer’s experience with the PRIOR employee?

  • Ask how the process has gone so far – possibly use open-ended questions to gauge their perception of the experience
  • Ask the customer how the interaction went with the prior employee; reinforce any positives they convey; offer empathy for any concerns they voice, and offer to follow-up on any issues, if appropriate.

Moving from a Good to Great customer experience can require employees to set co-workers up for success.

Enable the other employee to succeed to enhance the customer experience.