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Libby Listened to Serve - 7/16/19


Libby was new to her role with the organization. She had never been a customer service representative in a call center before, but she was hired because of her attitude. She wanted to learn, enjoyed working with people, and could carry on a conversation with a wall. After going through Read more

Chris Got Noticed for All the Right Reasons - 7/9/19


Chris was working through a temporary agency, and he got a job at a warehouse. He was packaging items to be shipped out, and his shift didn't start until 7:30 a.m. Chris always got there a little bit early because of the bus schedule, and he hated just sitting Read more

What Does “No News” Mean? Here’s a Quick Story - 7/2/19


Steven was trying to make the purchase of his new used car official, so he could get license tags for his State. In order for the State to allow him to put the vehicle in his name, he had to submit paperwork to prove that the prior owner (from Read more

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

Question without Questioning – 4/11/17

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


People great at customer service typically have the skill to artfully and effectively ask questions. By asking questions, you’re showing your interest, gaining control of the conversation, and learning about the specifics of the issue or need so you can tailor your response.

In a past Tip of the Week, I noted that asking questions (done incorrectly) can make it seem like you’re interrogating the customer – firing question after question at the customer.

There’s another risk to be wary of when asking questions of the other person. It’s the risk of the customer feeling like you’re questioning them – their motives, their honesty, their integrity, their intelligence.

You can run this risk primarily based on how your questions are delivered, not necessarily due to the questions themselves. Think body language and tone.

Imagine someone asking you the following question with their arms crossed, rolling their eyes, and emphasizing ‘that’ – “Why did you do that?”

Consider an employee with their eyebrow raised and asking you “So that was an accident?” You can almost feel them making air quotes as they say the word accident.

What if the employee said to you: “So what EX-ACT-LY was the purpose of that?”

When you want to ask the right questions for the right reasons, remember there’s a right way (and a wrong way) to do so. Ensure that your body language and tone don’t keep you from delivering a great experience.

Make sure you question without questioning.

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Their Tone is “a Tell” – 4/4/17

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


On March 14 we shared a Tip on how to read a customer’s body language, then how to use that reading to refine your response.

You can do the same thing with the other person’s tone of voice. Whether they’re Angry, Afraid/Anxious, or Sad, the emotions can be conveyed differently through the voice. And some of these emotions require you to respond differently.

Those that are angry typically have these characteristics of their tone of voice:

  • Loud voice
  • Emphasizing every syllable (particularly if loud)
  • Emphasizing negative words
  • Rapid speech
  • Interrupting you
  • Potentially high pitch.

 
Those that are afraid, anxious, or sad typically have these characteristics of their tone of voice:

  • Series of pauses…um’s
  • Talking in a monotone voice
  • Wavering tone
  • Breaks in the strength
  • Potentially rapid speech
  • Potentially high pitch.

 
Along with listening to the other person’s words, listen to their sounds. Pay attention to the detail. It will inform your approach – which is different for anger reduction as opposed to reducing anxiety. It will tell you whether to gain control of the conversation through questions, empathy, and apology (for anger) or whether to build credibility by conveying your experience in working through situations like theirs and creating comfort by clearly describing what needs to happen next to resolve the issue (for anxiety or sadness).

The customer’s “Tell” is the voice – not necessarily just the words. And how should you respond with your own voice in these emotional situations? Keep in mind:

  • Lower and Slower – It’s hard for an irate person to continue to yell at someone speaking softly, and a slower pace reduces the energy in the conversation.
  • Inflect for Interest – They want to feel like you care; convey caring by avoiding the monotone; instead, use periodic inflection when engaging.
  • Key Word Emphasis – Highlight with your voice (with pauses or a slightly modified tone) those specific words that convey understanding, empathy, caring, and key next steps.

 
Always listen to the other person’s words, but also listen to the sounds they convey; the sounds often share the emotions that the words can hide.

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Know When to Pause – 3/28/17

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


You don’t have to have the innate ability to perfectly understand the other person. You don’t have to know every answer. You don’t have to react immediately with the perfect response to what’s been said. To be great at customer service, you don’t have to be the perfect conversationalist.

Having the rapid-fire response, the quick answer, and the immediate set of perfect words is somewhat unrealistic, and definitely overrated.

A conversation is a dialogue, a sharing of ideas and thoughts and opinions and facts, back and forth. But the sharing in a customer service-related conversation has very distinct purposes. The purposes often involve establishing a rapport, understanding the other person, and addressing their need.

One thing that can positively impact rapport, understanding, and successfully addressing the need is a simple – but underused (and underrated) technique – the pause.

Too many conversations with complaining customers are made worse due to a hasty and ineffective (or inappropriate) employee response. “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “Why did you do that?” or “It’s not my fault” are clear mistakes in wording in most situations.

Reactions to requests or complaints can also cause more pain than they relieve with misdirected action. How many times has an employee transferred you to the wrong person (or without asking first, or without explaining to whom you’re being transferred and why)? How many times has the customer directed you to a website when you just wanted an answer on the phone – or worse yet – directed you to a website when you drove to their store to ask a question?

Sometimes the greatest action you can take in conversing with a customer is to pause. I’m not talking 5 minutes of dead silence, but take a few seconds to think, or ask for a minute or two to research the issue. But pause.

Give yourself time to respond instead of react. Give yourself time to think of the appropriate words to say, the best clarifying questions to ask, the best next step to suggest. Then move the conversation forward.

You don’t have to be the perfect conversationalist, but you can be better if you’re just willing to be patient with yourself – and pause.

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