success

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

To Improve Yourself, Hone Your Learning Skills – 4/26/16 TOW

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


Facebook didn’t exist 15 years ago, and now companies provide customer service through it. Millennials weren’t a prevalent customer base 10 years ago, and now they dominate many companies’ customer service approach. In many industries, the customer experience wasn’t seen as vital to the bottom line 10 years ago (and still today to some), and now firms such as CSS are devoted exclusively to Improving Your Bottom Line by Improving Your Customer Service.

Time changes aspects of how we serve and who we serve. So the skills you have today – even if they’re a great fit for your company and customers – aren’t necessarily the skills needed tomorrow.

In order to continuously improve, therefore, we have to continuously learn.

That begs the question: How do you learn?

Here are several key practices to put in place to continuously learn:

  • Identify Stars – Which of your co-workers is best in a certain aspect of what you do? Who has knowledge above others? Find the stars and ask how they are so good and how they stay at the top in performance, skills, or knowledge. If you don’t have someone like that in your organization, find tips, podcasts, or other resources from customer service experts that keep you leading edge.
  • Look at Your Past – What have you done previously that led to success? The saying “those that don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it” was focused on failures of the past. But SUCCESS in the past does not guarantee repeat success. What did you do that satisfied that customer, resolved that issue, or retained that client business? Document the “why” behind that success to remember how to replicate it.
  • Debate – Teams make better decisions when there is healthy conflict. They hash out perspectives, uncover ideas, and refine them under the pressure and questioning of debate. For you to tap into healthy conflict in a unique way to learn, identify some topics or types of customers that are challenging. Then talk with co-workers about different approaches for those situations, debating ideas and coming to a consensus on possible best practices. Debate your way to better performance.
  • Measure Yourself – Learn from whatever metrics are important to you, your customer, and your company. Know what truly impacts those measures. Too often people think that hard work alone drives performance, but oftentimes knowing what you do well and focusing your energies on Strengthening Your Strength and avoiding situations where you’re not so skilled is what really moves the needle.
  • Value Complaints – Our first reaction to complaints is often defensiveness, but in the midst of these complaining customers are sometimes nuggets. What can we learn from their complaint, or what drove the complaint, or what you tried to do to resolve it that didn’t calm them down or didn’t work? A complaint can be a gift.
  • Ask Your Customers – What do they think of you, your process, your performance. Ask “How was the experience for you today?” or “Is there anything I could have done better or different in helping you today?” or “Is this the experience you were hoping for today?”
  • Ask Your Clients – I know this sounds like the previous practice, but here I’m defining “client” as a long-term client who knows you fairly well professionally. State “I’m always looking for ways to improve, so I was wondering if you could offer me a little feedback – maybe one thing I do really well and one thing I could do better in some way.”

You may be great today, but remember that tomorrow is another day. Put practices in place to help you stay on the top of your game.

Hone your learning skills.

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Set Time Aside – 4/19/16 TOW

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Many of our clients struggle when changing organizational culture, impacting morale and organizational success, or getting staff to focus on what’s most important. Great ideas are created, but they often don’t become a sustained reality.

The solutions to this issue with real change not occurring or not sustaining often boil down to one key point: You have to set time aside.

Example #1 (Embedding in Education) – A CSS education client is having difficulty embedding some of its Core Values into its culture. They are communicated periodically, activities are developed for leaders to use with staff, but the culture change is slow and inconsistent. One solution that they are now undertaking involves making these Core Values a standing Agenda item for every meeting. At least 5 minutes of every meeting are set aside for some action, story, recognition, reinforcement, or activity that addresses Core Values. Best case, that Core Value agenda item aligns to the meeting goal, but in any case the values are embedded into their existing meeting structures.

Example #2 (Getting Buy-in in Government) – A local government client of ours is trying to accomplish two key goals concurrently: Raise performance and improve morale. One of the big morale issues is that front-line staff felt that decisions were made by a few leaders with no input from the staff charged with implementation. Putting the plans in place was invariably done last minute, resulted in unforeseen issues, created NO staff buy-in, and put stress on staff. The solution? Ongoing Employee Roundtables are being created; leadership is setting time aside on a recurring basis to get staff input and ideas early on when new products, policies, and processes are being considered. This creates buy-in, makes for better ideation, reduces staff stress, and decreases backend fire-fighting post-implementation.

Example #3 (Reviewing Sports Research) – We have worked with a sports client to create a Voice of the Fan research program for its events at multiple venues, but some venues (typically lower performing ones) aren’t using the data as completely as they could and aren’t participating in the post-survey debrief calls. The solution? The client now requires all venues to set aside time for the debrief calls, and the corporate staff participates on the calls. The venue staff are now ending these calls excited by what they learned, knowing how to best use the results, and aware of the retention and revenue growth opportunities available.

So what are your ongoing organizational challenges? Maybe the challenges are not being effectively addressed because time is not being consistently devoted to the topic.

Set Time Aside.

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Go for the Hard Yes Over the Easy No – 4/12/16 TOW

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The customer was telling his business partners about what a great job the lender did for him. Before that, the customer was happy and joking with his account representative, Jay. Before that, Jay was getting him the paperwork that provided the funding the customer needed.

Prior to that, Jay offered the customer a couple options for funding his equipment purchases. Prior to that, in a response to a question from the account representative, the customer told Jay his business goal. Prior to that, Jay said No.

Jay said No because the customer had asked for a specific type of loan for which he wasn’t qualified.

We’re tracking here – we’re tracking back from the positive Word-of-Mouth that Jay was receiving to the inception of the conversation – when the customer asked for something that could not be done.

Jay opted for the “Hard Yes” over the “Easy No.” He said No initially because policy warranted the response, but he moved deeper into the conversation. He probed for the core need. He cared enough to ask the questions that led him to an answer.

Follow Jay’s lead. Go for the Hard Yes over the Easy No.

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