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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

Back to Reality...for Customer Expectations - 7/30/19


Have you ever walked into a patient registration area of a hospital and seen a sign that said “if you’ve been waiting longer than 15 minutes, please see the receptionist?” Have you ever called a customer service number and been told by a recording that “the average hold time is Read more

For Excellence to Happen, Get Engaged - 7/23/19


The customer was throwing an absolute fit in the lobby. Sitting among several other customers waiting for her number to be called, she was raising her voice and letting out the occasional expletive about the lengthy wait time. An employee sitting behind the counter thought to herself: I’m going Read more

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

Emotions Take Energy – 3/1/16 TOW

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


Are you ever been exhausted at the end of a day? How about the end of a conversation with a co-worker? Are you worn out by a tough talk with a difficult customer? Maybe the effort you put into the day, the stubbornness of a co-worker, or the attitude of the customer just wore you down. Or – just maybe – your own emotions that bubbled up are what wore you down.

Ever wonder why pro golfers are noted as being so steady, so calm? Some of that is because it helps them to focus on the immediate task at hand – the next putt, the next drive, visualizing the next shot. They can’t have the quality of what they’re about to do negatively impacted by what they just did (even if it was a good shot). But they also are walking and swinging for 4 hours straight, and they need to have strong energy of body and mind on the 18th hole just like they did on the 1st hole.

Emotions take energy.

When we teach classes on how to defuse the upset customer or co-worker, we talk about letting the other person vent – let them blow off steam. Once they’re given time to vocalize their concerns, many naturally settle down. Why? Because they’re tired – they just expended a lot of energy through their emotional outpouring.

So there are two lessons to learn here – First, realize that when you expend emotions when engaging others, it’s going to take some of your energy. Emotions are wonderful things when channeled for good, so ensure that you’re saving that emotional energy for times when you want to celebrate and do for others or pat yourself on the back. Try not to let yourself get so emotionally involved in things that don’t deserve your energy. Focus on the task, the details, the next steps – convey you care without carrying emotions into everything you do.

Second, use the knowledge of the emotions-energy link during tough customer and co-worker conversations. Realize that allowing the other to vent helps to wear out the other and bring their emotions down. Conserve your energy as they expend theirs; then you can work from a lower key and more objective position to start resolving issues.

On those low energy days and during those tough talks, remember that Emotions Take Energy.

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Reach Out and Touch Someone…Literally – 2/10/15 TOW

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


Okay, so I’m going to get in trouble with some of you for this one – but it’s an idea to consider.

When face-to-face with that co-worker or customer, sometimes a gentle touch on the shoulder or arm is appropriate or helpful. Studies have shown that hugs can create chemical reactions that can aid one’s health, feelings, and even healing. I’m no clinician, but this point isn’t clinical. It’s personal. Sometimes it’s difficult to connect with people if there’s an invisible wall not allowing any contact. It can be tough to convey we care purely with words when we’re not willing to extend our hand to the other.

It’s hard to be empathetic during those conversations where pain and hurt are involved if we keep an artificial barrier between us.

Now we don’t want to become the grocery store chain that got sued by their check-out clerks because management encouraged the clerks to make eye contact with customers and smile (some customers felt that the clerks were flirting, which led to…uh…awkward exchanges).

We don’t expect you to act like the French, where a Ken Cooper study once showed that French patrons at outdoor Paris cafés casually touched each other 110 times per hour. But it also means we don’t have to be like some Londoners (0 touches per hour) or some Floridians (2 touches per hour).

The point is that sometimes caring for others requires that we do more than check their vital signs. It means that we have to do more than say “I care.” It means that we have to do more than smile or nod. Sometimes to show we care, to go beyond “professional” to “human,” we have to provide that human touch.

It’s a hand on the arm, a gentle pat on the shoulder, shaking the hand, or placing a hand on the back.

Do what’s appropriate and what you are comfortable doing – but be willing to do something. Don’t make the short distance that you stand from another person seem infinite…or infinitely impersonal.

Bridge the gap with the human touch.

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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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