representative

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

Stop Rolling Your Eyes - 5/7/19


Most of our customer service tips offer advice and guidance. But advice and guidance is useless if the individual receiving it is not willing to listen, learn the theory behind it, and try to apply what they’ve heard or learned. I’ve personally facilitated hundreds of training sessions with clients over Read more

Should you tell the customer? The Employee’s Dilemma - 4/30/19


Last week we looked at the dilemma that many companies face – When there is an issue that is going to happen, should they tell the customer? This week, let’s address that same question from the employee’s perspective. I personally experience employees struggling with this question when I’m in Read more

Should you tell the customer? The Company’s Dilemma - 4/23/19


I have a lot of clients that struggle with this question, both at a company/strategic level as well as an individual representative level. When there is an issue that is going to happen, should you tell the customer? This week we’re going to address the question at the Read more

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

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


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

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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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I’m Big on the “Same Page” – 7/1/14 TOW

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Let’s get on the Same Page. How do you get everyone on the Same Page, going in the same direction? Before we move forward, let’s make sure we’re on the Same Page. You need to ensure you’re on the Same Page with your customer before you end the call.

I seem to find myself using the phrase “Same Page” over and over again. I’ll use it in training, when providing strategic guidance on culture change, in meetings with my clients, and in one-on-one discussions with staff.

The phrase comes out of my mouth so often because it applies to so much in service interactions and service cultures. In healthcare, you often have to communicate with patients about next steps. What must the patient do to care for themselves at home post-discharge? Who must they contact to talk about billing and insurance? Where should they go, and how should they prepare for an upcoming procedure? Getting on the “Same Page” means that you and that patient have a common understanding of what needs to happen next and when.

Many local governments are trying to change their cultures to be more flexible, more customer service-oriented, more high-tech while maintaining high-touch. So their employees may have to change behaviors and mindsets; they have to understand their greater purpose beyond the policies and procedures, and beyond the codes and ordinances. The leaders must get everybody on the “Same Page” about the reason government exists and the important role that customer service plays in serving the community.

In one-on-one personal conversations, the phrase “Same Page” suggests that all parties understand the situation, the goals, the next steps, and timeframes. This leads to well-understood expectations, work more likely done right the first time, and clearer communications.

In more strategic discussions, the phrase “Same Page” suggests that everyone in the organization understands what they’re here to do, and everyone understands their role in moving toward objectives, goals, and vision.

Communicate more clearly with others. Ensure that conversations don’t end before you’re on the Same Page.