words

The Passive Predicament - 4/13/21


The employee is speaking to you.  Do they have that look in the eyes like they’re hanging on your every word, like they’re processing, interpreting, and getting ready to quickly respond to your key points and questions?  Or do they have the look of somebody in the 2nd hour Read more

Regain Lost Motivation - 4/6/21


For many of us over the last 12 months, our home has also become our workplace.  Our work interaction has been 2-dimensional through the computer screen as opposed to the 3-dimensional experiences we’re used to with co-workers and customers. We are all motivated in our own unique ways.  Some are Read more

The Answer is Right, but the Service is Wrong - 3/30/21


Maggie was irate.  The gift she ordered needed to be received by the 20th of the month so she could give it to her cousin for his birthday.  It was the 19th, and Maggie couldn’t find any shipping update online, so she called the company.  The employee said “Oh!  Read more

Question Everything, but What’s the Question? - 3/23/21


The new leader joins the organization, and she decides she wants to question everything.  She wants employees to question everything.  Why have we always done it this way? Why do we continue to do it that way? Is this the best way to work? Sometimes it’s a great management Read more

The Resourceful Rep - 3/16/21


One of our clients is seeking to develop Customer Service Standards.  We’re working with them to identify those key expectations of staff that will enable the organization to deliver a consistent high-level customer experience.  One of the key attributes that this organization is seeking from its team members is Read more

Be Proactive like a Pro - 3/9/21


We constantly work with clients, encouraging them to become more proactive with customers.  Don’t just be reactive, waiting for the customer to ask questions or to complain.  Instead, go to the customer, anticipate their needs, suggest something to them. But many of us, frankly, don’t know how to be proactive.  Read more

Find One Unique Thing - 3/2/21


Many of us are not in a position to develop long-term relationships with our customers.  Our encounters are often one-time only with a customer - very brief and likely to be our only time chatting with this individual. And even though there may not be a long-term professional relationship developed, Read more

Should I Stay or Should I Go? - 2/23/21


Should I stay or should I go?  That’s not just a classic song by The Clash.  It’s also the question customers ask more and more, especially during difficult economic times. A recent study in the Charlotte Business Journal noted that 50% of North Carolina businesses are concerned with how to Read more

Optimism – A Force for Good in Customer Service - 2/16/21


Will 2021 be a better year than 2020?  I have absolutely no idea.  Maybe it would be nice to see into the future and know for certain, but I can’t and I don’t.  But as I wade further and further into this year, I can hope that the water Read more

To Assure, Ensure You Do This - 2/9/21


Vince Lombardi – famous professional football coach – became a big hit on the speaker’s circuit during his time coaching.  He applied many of his principles in football and life to business, and one of his great business quotes is:  Confidence is contagious and so is lack of confidence, Read more

Locke-in from the Start – 12/8/20

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

John Locke was a 17th century English philosopher, physician, and researcher.  He wrote many papers arguing particular points, oftentimes using reason and facts as the basis for his position.  He noted that many disagreements start because there is – in my words – a lack of real clarity about the topic of discussion.

He often liked to start discussions on some pertinent topic by defining key words.  In essence, his position was:  Let’s make sure we’re talking about the same thing before we start talking about it.

For those of us working in the customer service world, communication is the source of many issues, and disagreements are especially frustrating when we are miscommunicating about the topic itself.  Here are some examples of topics that the customer wants to discuss, topics that need to be defined first:

  • The customer can’t register.
    • Did they mean register or apply? Are they registering a device or an account or for a class?  Is it for them personally or a product they just bought?
  • The customer wants to talk about their account.
    • Is it really about the account, or is it a login issue to the online account? Is it something regarding an account or an order?  Is it about an e-mail they received about their account?  Is it something odd on a recent account statement?
  • The customer has a question about their property listing.
    • Is it some misinformation online regarding their property, or are they looking at a property assessment hardcopy? Is it about their property card online or how it’s noted in the MLS?
  • The season ticket holder has a question about payment plans.
    • Is it a true “payment plan,” or are they just asking about different ways to pay? Are they concerned with options, progress, terms, how to pay off, or how to cancel?

To avoid unnecessary conflicts and address needs and issues more quickly, ensure your definition matches the customer’s definition.

Locke in a common definition of the topic from the start.

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Listen Even When Nobody’s Speaking – 11/10/20

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

Online Chats are wonderful ways to provide customer service, except when they’re not wonderful ways to provide customer service.  Note the partial chat transcript below.  The company name has been replaced with STORE, and the location was changed to TOWN:

  • STORE Bot at 9:54: Thank you. An agent will be with you shortly to start your chat.
  • STORE Bot at 9:56: Mary T. has joined the conversation.
  • Customer at 9:56: Hi there. I visited the TOWN STORE last night for this product: EMSCO GROUP 20-in W x 24-in L x 10-in H Earth Brown Resin Raised Garden Bed Item #48620 Model #2345D
  • Mary T. at 9:57: Hello there! My name is Mary. I will be happy to assist you today!
  • Customer at 9:57: Hi. Their inventory system said they had 8 in stock, but the employee looked for 25 minutes and only found 1 – it was used. If I order it off the website for pickup at STORE, how do I make sure I get a new one, and by when would it be available?
  • Mary T. at 10:00: My apologies for the inconvenience. If on the website there is availability for being shipped it means that we have it available on the warehouse. You can ship it for free to the store the desired items.
  • Customer at 10:01: Thanks. If I order today, by when would it be ready at STORE? Also, how/when will they notify me that it’s ready for pickup?
  • Mary T. at 10:03: Thank you for waiting. I’ll be with you in just a moment.
  • Customer at 10:04: ok
  • Mary T. at 10:05: Yes! You will be receiving a notification when it is available by email.
  • Customer at 10:05: If I order today, by when would it be ready at STORE? I’d like to get it by Mother’s Day – that’s why I ask.
  • Mary T. at 10:06: May I have the item number so I can check?
  • Mary T. at 10:07: May I please have your Zip code?
  • Customer at 10:07: EMSCO GROUP 20-in W x 24-in L x 10-in H Earth Brown Resin Raised Garden Bed Item #48620 Model #2345D
  • Customer at 10:08: ZIP CODE – The TOWN Store I noted earlier is my store
  • Mary T. at 10:09: I’m sorry for the delay. I’ll be right with you.
  • Mary T. at 10:11: Yes! We have availability for pick up today at TOWN STORE
  • Customer at 10:13: I’m confused. I was there last night, and they didn’t have any in stock. Just to clarify (since they had issues finding it in the store even though it said there were 8 in inventory like I mentioned above), does that mean it can be delivered from a warehouse, or are you just seeing it in in-store inventory?
  • Mary T. at 10:15: I’ll be right with you.
  • Mary T. at 10:17: I’m sorry for the delay. I’ll be right with you.
  • Mary T. at 10:19: We have 5 available at OTHER TOWN STORE, please call at (888) 555-1212 to check availability.
  • Customer at 10:22: My focus was ensuring it was in the TOWN Store for pickup; I was trying to do a chat instead of calling to several stores myself and running into the same issue I had last night.

This was my experience.  I had to give the product model twice, store location twice, repeat the request twice, ask by when it would be ready more than twice, and then was told I needed to call a different store to determine availability.  Neither of us was – literally – speaking, and yet I didn’t feel she was listening to me.

When delivering chat-based customer service, or even e-mail customer service responses, ensure you thoroughly confirm what information the customer has conveyed and what request they’ve shared, so you address the need right the first time.

Ensure you listen, even when nobody’s speaking.

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I Think I Think is Wrong – 10/20/20

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

I think that’s not going to be feasible.  I think we can do that.  I think you’re on the right track.  Methinks thou dost protest too much.

Please forgive the Shakespearean reference, but it seems to fit well here.  When we are talking to co-workers and customers, and we’re giving our opinion or sharing some information or knowledge, the other person knows we’re speaking. The other person knows the news is coming from us.  However, many of us feel the need to put the phrase “I think” in front of a lot of what we say.  We feel the need to say something like “from my perspective” before we give our perspective.

And while it may be accurate wording, it’s often unnecessary.  And it’s not only unnecessary, but it can reduce the credibility of the statement, the strength of the word, and the confidence the customer has in what you’ve said.

Let’s repeat what’s at the top:  I think that’s not going to be feasible.  I think we can do that.  I think you’re on the right track.  Methinks thou dost protest too much.

Now compare without “I think” included:  That’s not going to be feasible.  We can do that.  You’re on the right track.  Thou dost protest too much.

The “I think” leaves doubt, and – if there’s no room for doubt – you’re creating uncertainty unnecessarily.  If you say I think that’s not going to be feasible, the other person could ask if you could check just to make sure.

If you say I think we can do that, then the customer may ask if they could talk with someone who can confirm whether it can be done.

If you say I think you’re on the right track, the customer may ask what they should do differently.

By creating doubt, you could be lengthening the conversation and creating more work for you or your co-workers.  You could be curtailing customer confidence when you want them to support your conclusion or suggestion.

If there is no doubt, eliminate “I think” to build customer confidence.

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