Children at refugee camp in Liberia

Nonprofit Spotlight: Help Refugees with the Blue Key Campaign

On occasion, we like to take a break from our regular content to highlight a worthy cause outside of our normal discussions of business and customer service.

Children at refugee camp in LiberiaThis Nonprofit Spotlight is dedicated to the Blue Key Campaign, which is a “U.S. based initiative to channel the energy of individual citizens to speak out for refugees.

The campaign aims to provide a broadened base of support for the leading organization safeguarding the rights and well-being of displaced people around the world — the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).”

 

So, Why the Blue Key Campaign?

I discovered Blue Key from the efforts of my friend Shonali Burke whose PR agency represents the Blue Key Campaign, and I am now honored to call myself a Blue Key Champion.

The Blue Key Campaign seeks to help alleviate some of the suffering associated with the global refugee crisis, a crisis that most of us rarely hear about unless there is a natural disaster or large-scale conflict. Here is a little about the Blue Key Campaign from their site:

“In December 2011, UNHCR will commemorate 60 years of working to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees and internally displaced people. 

Our goal is for 6,000 U.S. residents – thoughtful, caring people like you — to get a Blue Key. By doing so, you’ll tell the millions of refugees worldwide that they’re not invisible, and our staff that their live-saving work does not go unnoticed.

 

Who is a Refugee?

Joseph Stalin once opined that “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths a statistic.” If true, this quote comes directly from the mouth of a monster who embraced its message to nightmarish effect.

While Stalin is long gone, there are scores of monsters across the world who recreate his legacy of pain and cruelty every day. They operate in the shadows of places many of us have not heard of, dark corners of the globe that are a thousand miles away from the Real Housewives, high speed Internet, and venti soy lattes. Places, quite frankly, most Westerners don’t even want to think about.

And while the statistics are sobering, they do not move us. What resonates more are the personal tales of those who have suffered. And I would like to share just one of those tales with you.

Below is the story of Scisa Rumenge of the Congo. Of the many heartrending stories UNHCR has on its YouTube channel, I found Scisa’s story to be particularly powerful. Please take the time to watch Scisa’s story and then check in at the end of the post to see how you can double your contribution to this important cause.

Scisa’s story is unique, but sadly, not uncommon. It is retold every day, thousands of times; every year, millions.

I know it is hard to believe that $5 and five minutes of your time will do anything in the face of such immense suffering. It is a natural feeling, but whenever I begin to feel that way, I try to remember the classic parable of the starfish:

A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked, he could see a young boy in the distance. As he drew nearer he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water. Time and again he kept hurling things into the ocean.

As the man drew closer, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had washed up on the beach and, one at a time, was throwing them back.

The man asked the boy what he was doing, and the boy replied,”I am throwing these starfish back into the ocean, or else they will die.”

“But,” said the man, “You can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening all along the coast. You can’t possibly make a difference.”

The boy smiled, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the sea. “I made a difference to that one!”

 

Please take 5 minutes to get your Blue Key now and make a difference in the life of someone less fortunate.

 

And if you buy your key within the next 48 hours, you have the chance to double your contribution…

Double Your Impact

For the first 25 Blue Keys purchased in the next 48 hours, we will double the amount by purchasing a matching Blue Key.

 

The counter above reads 3,528 as of the time of publication. We will match the first 25 keys sold between now and 8:30am EST on Friday, whether sold through this blog or not.

So, please… take five minutes now and purchase a $5 key (or more) to help those who need help most. You’ll feel better knowing you did. (*Note: Changes were made to the original text of this post to clarify that, technically, a $5 Blue Key is considered a purchase, not a donation.)

 

Please share your thoughts on the refugee crisis, Scisa’s story, and the Blue Key campaign in the comments below.

 

Secret Service Summit | Customer Service Conference

A Superb Customer Service Conference: The Secret Service Summit

I had the pleasure of attending the DiJulius Group’s Secret Service Summit last week. While many of my fellow bloggers were attending Blogworld in sunny Los Angeles, I decided to head a different direction entirely. After all, what’s better than November in Cleveland, Ohio?

It turns out that if you’re into customer service, not much.

The two day summit was filled with speakers who have lived the customer experience from different perspectives. Large company service experts such as Craig Russell of Starbucks and Michael Coburn of Nestle brought both B2C and B2B execution to the forefront, while speakers such as Dick Hoyt and David Wagner provided incredible inspiration.

Below is a a recap of the content from the conference. It will give you a sense of a customer service conference agenda, along with quick highlights and key takeaways to give you a sense of what you can expect if you want to attend next year’s Secret Service Summit.

Day 1: A Customer Service Conference with a Standing Ovation

Michale Caito, Restaurants on the RunMichael CaitoPresident & CEO, Restaurants on the Run, a multi-restaurant catering and delivery company that delivers over 150,000 meals per month. Mike told a great story about turning around Restaurants on the Run. His job matrix, which simplified the accountability and vital factors for customer care positions in the company was illuminating. Also, I was impressed to see that Mike was one of the few people tweeting during the Summit.

Key Takeaway: Using a report to track vital factors monthly.

 

 

Michael Coburn, NestleMichael CoburnDirector, Customer Service at Nestle USA. Coburn spoke a lot about the challenge of instituting a customer service mindset in a large company that is not forward facing to consumers. It was a fascinating look at a business whose products we all know but whose business we know little about.

Great Idea: Nestle actually has branded mirrors at each phone reps’ station so reps can see if they are smiling when they are talking on the phone.

 

 

Craig Russell, StarbucksCraig RussellSenior Vice President for U.S. Store Operations Services at Starbucks. Russell spoke a great deal about the transformation of Starbucks in 2008. Most fascinating was the breakdown of Starbucks’ work with John DiJulius to rewrite its mission statement and to create its customer service vision statement. The statement itself was takeaway enough.

Key Takeaway: “We create inspired moments in each customer’s day.”

 

 

Jack Mackey, Service Management Group Jack MackeyVice President at Service Management Group (SMG), where he helps companies guide and energize their people to deliver remarkable service. Some of you might have heard of Mackey before, as he is a popular speaker. And now I know why. He was a true pro — both funny and insightful. Mackey had so many great bite-sized takeaways that I will probably be quoting him in my Monthly Mashup for years to come.

Key Takeaway: “All business is personal. It goes where it’s invited and stays where it’s appreciated.”

 

Dick HoytDick Hoyt – Team Hoyt is an inspirational story of a father, Dick Hoyt, and his son, Rick, who compete together in marathons and triathlons across the country. There is really nothing I can say about Dick Hoyt, except that he is an incredible human being. The video below says more than I ever could about his story and message. If you do not take a good look at yourself after hearing his story, then you truly lack the capacity for introspection.

The team at the DiJulius Group wisely scheduled Mr. Hoyt as the last presenter of Day 1, and he was granted an extremely powerful standing ovation. A note to professional speakers everywhere: Make sure you never follow Dick Hoyt on stage. Unless your name is Bill Clinton or Tony Robbins, you probably won’t be able to pull it off.

Key Takeaway: We can all do better.

 

Day Two: The Heart of Secret Service

John DiJulius, Customer Service SpeakerJohn DiJuliusBest-selling author, consultant, keynote speaker, and President of The DiJulius Group. John, of course, spoke numerous times throughout the conference. On Day 2, he led a workshop drilling down into some of his core teachings, such as having a service vision and focusing on service aptitude when hiring.

Key Takeaway: Create non-negotiable standards for your team using an Always and Never list.

 

Panel Discussion: An interesting panel discussion covering a wide range of topics. Panelists included:

  • Rick Sonkin: Managing Partner of Sonkin and Koberna Co., LPA
  • Melissa Gottlieb: Vice President of Sales, Smart Business Network
  • Ron Higgins: President, Cogneato
  • Darlene Campagna: President, Direct Opinions
  • Ellen Jo Plass: Executive VP, TLC Laser Eye Centers
  • Dr. Dawn Hoslted: SR VP, TLC Laser Eye Centers

Key Takeaway: Email is not for communication; it’s for documentation. (We should all remember this one.)

 

Mark Moraitakis, Chick-Fil-AMark MoraitakisDirector of Service Innovations, Chick-fil-A. There is nothing quite like the retail environment, and it was truly illuminating to see the outlook on service Moraitakis and his team have instilled in the Chick-Fil-A organization. He also shared the company’s customer service training video, which readers of this blog are familiar with.

Key Takeaway: When your product is no longer unique, it is your service that will distinguish you.

 

Matt Stewart, National Services GroupMatt StewartCo CEO of National Services Group which operates College Works Painting and Empire Community Construction. Stewart told an interesting story about how a severely disgruntled customer waged a war against their company and brand and how they turned things around to make sure that never happens again.

Key Takeaway: Savor contrarian opinion and learn from it.

 

David Wagner, Life as a DaymakerDavid Wagner  – David Wagner is the best-selling author of Life as a Daymaker: How to Change the World by Simply Making Someone’s Day. Wagner’s message was more inspirational than instructional, and his speech told the story of his becoming a “Daymaker” and remaining one even as he battled cancer.

Key Takeaway: Whose day will you make today?

 

Final Thoughts

In the end, the Secret Service Summit was about both usable content and inspirational messaging. I have attended many conferences in the past few years, and I can say that I have never left a conference so excited about the possibilities and so full of actionable ideas. Literally, the biggest challenge we have had is triaging the ideas to figure out what to begin with.

I hope this recap helps those who are interested in customer service and customer experience optimization understand the quality and value of the Secret Service Summit. It is two days that are well worth your time.

Kudos to John DiJulius, Denise Thompson and David Wagner (the other David Wagner) for putting on an incredible event!

If you have any specific questions about the summit, feel free to ask them in the comments below.

John DiJulius | Customer Service Keynote Speaker

Monthly Mash: Customer Experience Tools and Secret Service

Volume 1: October 2011 Mashup

Welcome to the Monthly Mash, a mashup of tools, tales and tips on customer service and the customer experience from around the blogosphere.

Many thanks to those who participated and supported the naming of this series! You know who you are.

Customer Experience Resource: John DiJulius

John DiJulius | Customer Service Keynote SpeakerThis month’s spotlight is on John DiJulius, one of the premiere customer experience keynote speakers, authors, and consultants around. He has written two excellent books about customer service: What’s The Secret and Secret Service, both of which I highly recommend. I had the pleasure of seeing DiJulius speak at the Multi-Unit Franchise show this past spring, and his presentation was simply excellent. I mentioned the customer service video he showed during his talk in an earlier post.

I thought John DiJulius would be a fitting first spotlight for the Monthly Mash, as his work has been one of the bigger influences on my customer service thinking and, more aptly, because I am very excited to be attending his Secret Service Summit this week! One of DiJulius’ core teachings is having invisible systems (hence, Secret Service) that seamlessly help organizations deliver an exceptional customer experience. Please check out John DiJulius’ website, blog, and books. You won’t be disappointed.

The Month In Customer Service Blogging

A collection of the best posts about customer service and the customer experience I read this past month.

Someone Was Listening

Sometimes the most popular post from the previous month; sometimes just the one I am most proud of.

Thoughts on the Customer

In China a Zen master traveled with a few disciples to the capital and camped near the river.  A monk of another sect asked one of the disciples of the Zen master if his teacher could do magic tricks.  His own master, said the monk of the other sect, was a very talented and developed man.  If he stood on one side of the river, and somebody else stood on the other side, and if you gave the master a brush and the other man a sheet of paper then the master would be able to write characters in the air which would appear on the sheet of paper. 

The Zen monk replied that his master was also a very talented and developed man, because he too could perform the most astounding feats.  If he slept, for instance, he slept, and if he ate, he ate.

Buddhist Tale*

I’ve thought more and more about this story in recent years, as our lives have become increasingly intertwined with the technologies of the day. While there is a powerful lesson here for life, there is also a powerful lesson for anyone who touches a customer.

Our customers deserve our attention. Are you present in the moment and focused on the person you are serving? Have you left your inbox, To Do list, and voicemails behind while you focus on the customer and what they are saying about their needs? It sounds simple; yet, as most of us know, in today’s world, true focus might be one of the most difficult feats of all.

I hope you enjoyed the Monthly Mash. Feel free to share it using the social share buttons below.

*Please forgive the lack of attribution. I copied this from a collection of Buddhist stories over 15 years ago, and an exact word search on Google yielded nothing.

Angry Customer Snow Monkey

Six Easy Ways to Make Sure Your Customers Hate You

 

Laura Click | Blue Kite MarketingGuest Poster: Laura Click

It is my pleasure to introduce Laura Click, who has been kind enough to babysit this blog while I am away at a conference. Laura is founder and chief innovator at Blue Kite Marketing, a Nashville-based marketing and social media strategy firm that’s passionate about helping small businesses reach new heights. I discovered Laura’s blog earlier this year and have enjoyed her insights on how small businesses can excel with social media and marketing.

_______________________________________________________________________

Every business thinks they are excellent at customer service.

But, most are dead wrong. And maybe you are too.

Sure, you might take care of the big, obvious things. Your staff might be friendly, and you have real people answering the phone. But, I’m willing to bet there are some things you are doing that are silently frustrating your customers.

And, you have no idea.

Sure, there are the squeaky wheels out there that love to make noise about how you’ve wronged them. However, the silent majority stew about their irritating experiences with you.

Sometimes, the smallest things make the biggest impression. If you want to want to keep your clients and encourage them to refer your business to others, make sure you don’t commit these offenses:

 

Angry Customer Snow Monkey1. Miss deadlines

We often have good reasons for not getting the job done on time. Maybe you were sick or buried under other deadlines. However, your clients don’t care. They want the job done on time as promised.

If you’re unable to reach a deadline, give your client the heads up. They will be much more forgiving if you let them know you will be behind, especially if you have good reason for it. But, whatever you do, don’t let this become a habit.

2. Arrive late to meetings

Occasionally, unexpected things come up that prevent us from arriving somewhere on time. However, meetings running long or difficulty finding parking are not good reasons to be late. That’s just bad planning on your part.

Give yourself some cushion between meetings should things run long and allow enough time to travel to your next appointment. If you’re going to be more than a few minutes late, be sure to call and let them know you are on your way.

3. Ignore emails and phone messages

It’s easy to get crushed under the weight of an overflowing inbox. However, that’s no excuse for not returning messages.

Most messages should be returned within 2-3 days (if not sooner). Even if you can’t get the answers to the person right away, acknowledge that you received the message. That goes a long way.

4. Forget about results

Whether you offer a product or service, we’re all in the business of delivering results. Your product should work properly, and your services should focus on helping clients reach their goals.

If you’re not helping your customers solve their problems or make their lives easier, you are going to have a difficult time staying in business.

5. Ignore your budget or pricing

If you’re in a service-based business, you likely have to provide cost estimates to your clients. And sometimes, there’s no way to predict when things are going to take longer than you projected.

Although your time is valuable, think before you start charging extra for projects going over budget. Customers don’t care about how long it takes to get something done. What they do care about is that the job is completed. Be mindful of how you price your services so you can avoid nickel and diming them.

6. Neglect feedback or complaints

If clients vocalize their concerns about your business, it’s important to listen to their feedback and work to make things right. It’s easy to get defensive or just ignore negative comments, but that will just make the situation worse.

People often change their tenor when they hear back from the company that wronged them. So, Listen. Respond. Make things right with the customer. Then, work to correct the issue moving forward.

 

Keys to Amazing Customer Service

If you want to wow your clients and keep them coming back for more, here are a few principles to remember:

♦ Treat every customer as if they are they only one

Every customer wants to feel important – even if they are the smallest client or one of many.  It says a lot about a company if they roll out the red carpet for every customer, regardless of their size or how much money they spend. And believe me, your customers will notice.
 

Strive to impress your customers at every interaction

Think of every way your business interacts with clients – phone, email, meetings, invoicing – and make sure it is seamless and positive. Every employee is a customer service ambassador, not just the frontline staff. Make sure they all know how to handle clients with dignity and respect.

Delight and surprise your customers

If you want to stand out for all the right reasons, go out of your way to do unexpected, over-the-top gestures for your customers. Do this and you won’t be able to stop people from spreading the good word about your business.

 

What frustrates you most as a customer? As a business, how do you ensure you’re not making these missteps?

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Guest Post Disclaimer: Guest Posts on the Customers That Stick blog are submitted by individual guest posters and in no way represent the opinions or endorsement of CTS Service Solutions, its owners or employees. CTS Service Solutions does not represent or guarantee the truthfulness, accuracy, or reliability of statements or facts posted by Guest Posters on this blog.

Customer Experience Roundup | Hat and Lassoo

Help Me Create A Smokin’ Hot Customer Experience Blog Roundup

To the wonderful members of this community:

I would like to enlist your help with a new project. I am starting a regular roundup post centered around this blog’s topics of customer experience and customer service. Based on my available personal bandwidth and the amount of content I have time to digest, I figured a monthly roundup would be most appropriate.

Customer Experience Roundup | Hat and LassooMy roundup idol is Kristi Hines of kikolani.com. Though she addresses a different set of topics, her Fetching Friday roundup is simply the most consistent, focused, and well-curated roundup I follow. My goal would be to create something as helpful and, hopefully, of similarly high quality in the customer experience sphere.

So, here’s the part where I ask for your help…

Inspired by The Sales Lion Marcus Sheridan’s success tapping his community to help him choose a tag line, I would very much like to crowdsource the framework for the roundup. While I am sure the format will evolve over time, I figured I could shorten my learning curve and not test the patience of my readers by enlisting the wisdom of crowds and my not-near-Lion-level-but-still-awesome community. Below are some of my ideas for the roundup — some more fully formed than others. I would love to hear your revisions and additions to the following ideas:

 

Title

Gini Dietrich has her Gin and Topics, a fun and often funny weekly roundup; Brankica Underwood has her Sweet Sunny Saturday, an excellent biweekly roundup on blogging, social media, and more; and, as mentioned, Kristi has Fetching Fridays. Here’s what I have… Uuggh.

  • Customer Experience Roundup – Simple, yet understated…
  • The Customer Experience Corral – The official blog of the Urban Cowboy. The closest I could get to “roundup” and some alliteration with the letter C. It stinks, and I hate it. But I’m listing it anyway.
  • Customer Experience Monthly Mashup — Top contender so far. It did the mash… the monster mash.

Anything else… No, seriously, anything…

Bueller?

 

Four Sections

1. Customer Experience Resource: Website X
This section would highlight a blogger, web site, Twitter chat, etc. that could be valuable to those interested in customer experience optimization and customer service.

2. Links
Not sure whether to have set categories, have none, or let them develop organically each month relative to the content. Here are some categories I am considering. Thoughts?

  • Customer Service Stories
  • Customer Service Research
  • Social Media and Customer Service
  • Miscellaneous

3. Last Month’s Most Popular Post
This would highlight the most popular post on this blog during the previous month and give readers who missed it another chance.

4. Thoughts on the Customer
Most likely a quote or particularly insightful excerpt from a book or blog.

 

Other Ideas?
So, that’s it. I would love to hear what’s bad, what’s good, and any ideas for improvement. Should I add anything? Remove anything? Add something that is fun and not all business? If you made it this far, I thank you for your time and look forward to your comments below.

I will be at a business conference these next few days. So, please know I appreciate your input, even if I am only replying at night.

Please stay tuned: I am excited to announce that Laura Click will be babysitting this blog while I am otherwise engaged! Please stop by on Tuesday to see what Laura has to say about making your customers hate you.

Customer Service Training Video Screenshot

Customer Service Training Video: Every Customer Has a Story

In April, I had the distinct pleasure of seeing John DiJulius, one of my favorite customer experience thought leaders, speak at the Multi-Unit Franchise conference. To begin, if you ever have the opportunity to see John DiJulius speak — do it! He has a great message, and his presentation is simply amazing.

During the presentation, DiJulius showed an incredible video that perfectly summed up one of the key messages I have always used in customer service training:

You never know what is going on with your customer or what path they took to get to you.

The person standing in front of you has a story. They have joys and stresses, successes and disappointments, triumphs and tragedies. They want you to solve a problem, to make their life a little easier and a little more enjoyable.

Ever since seeing DiJulius speak, we had been hoping to find the video to use for training; however, we had been unsuccesful until last week when I stumbled across a post from Kyle Lacey which discussed the video. It should come as no surprise; the video is a training video at Chik-Fil-A. Check it out:

 

In his post on the video, Understanding The Personal Story of the Customer, Kyle takes away a great message that our customers do want us to know about them — they want to be heard. This type of customer intelligence can be crucial in helping to shape a customer experience that resonates with each individual customer. But as laudable a goal as customer intelligence is, it is not an overnight process. (See John DiJulius’ excellent book, Secret Service, for an in-depth look at this concept.)

I would like to focus on another message in the video — one that can be utilized for immediate results.

Empathy

When an upset customer stands before you, it is rarely personal. They came to you to make their life easier, and for some reason, they feel you made it worse. Helping team members understand that they do not know what is going with the customer — how rushed, or stressed or sick they might be — and that they should approach each interaction with that fact in mind is a crucial message to instill throughout any organization.

It might be tautological to say so, but service is about serving. Customer experience reps should seek first to understand, and then to embrace the idea that even when they can’t understand, they can still be understanding.

After all, we all have a story.

What were your reactions to the video? Were you ever the customer that needed to be understood, who got upset out of proportion to the offense because of what was going on elsewhere?

Steve Jobs Holding Mac

Steve Jobs’ Greatest Legacy: The Customer Experience

I am a recent Apple convert. I made the painful though glorious switch to Mac in May and moved from Android to iPhone at about the same time. I own an iPad, simultaneously the coolest piece of technology I own and the most expensive paper weight in my house, and I still use my iPod Nano, the only piece of Apple technology I own that is more than a year old.

Steve Jobs Holding MacThroughout the last few months of my foray into the Cult of Mac, I have learned something about Steve Jobs.

Yes, Jobs was an extraordinary innovator. Yes, Jobs was a marketing genius. But, more than anything, Jobs was a leader obsessed with the customer experience.

Community member Leon Noone emailed me an excellent Harvard Business Review piece a few weeks ago entitled The Hidden (in Plain Sight) Legacy of Steve Jobs by Bill Lee. Lee discusses some great points about Jobs’ customer focus (also a few I think would be dangerous to extrapolate to non-tech industries) but most telling was this point:

Don’t be obsessed with technical details, but do be obsessed with the details of customer experience

Jobs is supposedly obsessed with every detail that goes into Apple devices. Not so. He focuses on the details relevant to the customer’s experience. When one of Apple’s design teams was tasked with developing a DVD-burning software program for high-end Macs, developers spent weeks putting together a plan. On the appointed day to present it to Jobs, they brought pages filled with prototype information, pictures of the new program’s various windows and menu options, along with documentation showing how the application would work. When Jobs walked into the meeting, he didn’t so much as look at any of the plans. He picked up a marker, went to a whiteboard and drew a rectangle, representing the application. He then told them what he wanted the new application to do. The user would drag the video into the window, a button would appear that said “burn,” and the user would click it. “That’s it, that’s what we’re going to make,” he said.

Steve Jobs never lost site of the end user. Despite his products being fawned over by tech types across the spectrum, Jobs did not design his products for the Robert Scobles of the world; he designed them for the entire world.

Jobs knew that in a technology-based industry, a great customer experience involved a product people wanted to use, that accomplished its tasks reliably, and which confronted them with the underlying technology as little as possible. He understood that the workings behind a great customer experience should be invisible.

From the iPad to the Apple store, Jobs’ obsession was not technology for technology’s sake but technology for the sake of optimizing the customer experience. Jobs understood that a great customer experience should involve both function and form, striving to achieve an almost Zen-like symbiosis between the two.

An Apple product should just do, and be — and, in some sense, should help bring a sense quietude, nay peace, to the user.

Steve Jobs helped bring that feeling to millions of people across the world. I can only hope that he is experiencing it now.

requiescat in pace

Paper Smile Face, Business Concept

National Customer Service Week 2011: What’s Your Plan?

This week, October 3-9, marks National Customer Service Week (NCSW). NCSW was established by proclamation of President Bush (#41) in 1992. The beginning of the proclamation reads:

In a thriving free enterprise system such as ours, which provides consumers with a wide range of goods and services from which to choose, the most successful businesses are those that display a strong commitment to customer satisfaction. Today foreign competition as well as consumer demands are requiring greater corporate efficiency and productivity. If the United States is to remain a leader in the changing global economy, highest quality customer service must be a personal goal of every employee in business and industry. (Read the full proclamation.)

Of course, if your organization is committed to the customer experience, every week should be customer service week; however, “official” weeks like this are a great opportunity to generate discussions with customers and team members and to take the time to do a little extra.

 

National Customer Service Week: A Roundup of Ideas

Paper Smile Face, Business Concept

Sometimes, it’s as simple as a smile.

Thinking of doing something special for National Customer Service Week? Take a look at the ideas listed below from some great customer service minds. Included is my favorite idea from the author’s list and a link to the author’s full post.

Shep Hyken: Ten Customer and Employee Focused Ideas for NCSW
  • Once a day throughout the week, distribute an article about customer service to all of your employees. 

(Shep has some great tips on his blog you can use.)

Richard Shapiro: National Customer Service Week, Ten Tips for Repeat Business
  • Say hello and smile. In this era of technology, people are more stressed than ever. Getting a big, warm hello can go a long way in giving a customer the feeling of “Hey, this company is really happy to see me.”

(Perhaps turn this into a contest — which CSR can get the most “you are so friendly” compliments this week.)

The Official Customer Service Week Website: Tips for a Successful Celebration
  • Distribute Certificates of Appreciation, Service Awards and small gifts… to those unsung heroes in other departments who make a great effort to meet customers’ needs.

(This website does sell commercial items for NCSW but also has some good information on the event.)

Kate Nasser: National Customer Service Week – Celebrate People Skills
  • Celebrate People-Skills. As your customer service teams celebrate with contests, parties, and picture taking, celebrate people skills (aka soft skills) with a thought for each day!

(Kate’s post was from last year’s NCSW, but I’ve been becoming a big fan of hers lately and loved her daily ideas).

 

One More Idea for National Customer Service Week

In addition to the ideas above, set aside a day or a morning/afternoon for an “Open Line to Management.” Have a manager and/or owner available to take calls from customers. Send out an email to your clients mentioning that, in honor of National Customer Service Week, we are setting aside a time to listen to our customers one on one. Encourage them to share any feedback they have, positive and negative. Possibly offer an incentive for anyone who calls.

 

So, had you heard of National Customer Service Week before? What was your favorite idea? Are you going to celebrate it in your business.

Customer Service Stories: Snorkeling Guide Truck

Customer Service Stories: Stop Subcontractors From Killing Your Customers

Customer Service Stories Header

One of the trickier parts of delivering an exceptional customer experience is when you cede control of the experience to subcontractors. Maintaining service standards with the company’s team is challenging enough; maintaining those same levels of service through a subcontractor can border on the impossible. The experience we had when vacationing on the island of Curacao last fall provides an stark lesson in how quickly a subcontractor can put an ugly mask on the face of a business.

Note: Names have been changed to protect the guilty

 

Let’s See Some Fish…

We scheduled an off property snorkel tour through our hotel which was subcontracted through a company called Curacao Underwater Outfitters. A twenty something Curacoan picked us up at the hotel with an elderly Dutch couple from another hotel already in tow. The vehicle was of the sort that makes one appreciate modern safety features like shoulder restraints, seat belts, and air bags. The first thing that came to my mind was that we were going snorkeling in a German troop truck from World War II. Judge for yourself.

Customer Service Stories: Snorkeling Guide Truck

The Truck, with guide and Dutch couple minutes before the chase. License and faces obscured.

Janz the tour guide was nice enough. He showed us a scenic overlook on the way to the snorkeling site. He did inform us that, depending on the parking, he might not be able to go in the water with us. The truck had been broken into a few weeks before, and he might have to stay with the gear if we could not park inside the private lot. Works for me, I thought. I don’t like leaving my stuff anyway.

Unfortunately, this discussion prompted Janz to begin talking about the break-in, an event which he had clearly not come to terms with. His “two hundred dollar sunglasses had been stolen,” he stated more than once. He seemed quite raw on the topic.

Read More

Pride Creates Bad Customer Service

How Your Pride Is Losing You Customers

In customer service, pride is a double-edged sword. Pride in your organization can cause team members to go the extra mile. However, pride of the don’t-disprespect-me variety can cause team members to respond unfavorably to upset customers. When the personal reaction to an unhappy customer trumps the professional reaction, pride has won, and your organization has lost.

Pride Creates Bad Customer Service

Upset with our service? Sounds like personal problem.

As much was we strive to setup customer service systems that proactively create great customer experiences, we will fail our customers on occasion. Sometimes it happens because we failed to deliver, sometimes it happens because of circumstances beyond our control, and sometimes it happens because even flawlessly executed our performance was not to the satisfaction of the customer.

We can be as proactive as we want; there will always be times when we need to react to a dissatisfied customer.

And it is in the reaction to dissatisfied customers that pride becomes a problem.

 

Way Too Proud to Beg

In many years working with employees and management on customer service, one of the biggest impediments I have seen to giving great reactive service has been the professional’s pride. From a psychological standpoint, most of us have been programmed to take the reactions that are typical of upset customers as disrespect or rudeness. Raised voices, sharp comments, angry ultimatums — all of these reactions are part and parcel of servicing customers, but they are also actions that can provoke a undesirable subconscious response.

Upset customers will push people’s buttons (if you don’t agree, then you’re not in retail). And it is your job as a customer experience professional to un-press those buttons, to react as a person whose job it is to delight the customer and not as a person who needs to buoy their self-esteem by “winning” the argument. If you want to create a world-class experience for your customers, then always remember…

Unless you are the company’s legal counsel, taking crap from customers is your job.

And therein lies the challenge. Personal reactions are natural reactions. However, part of what separates humans from animals is the ability to supplant instinctual reaction with conscious decision making.  As a group, we are able to overcome our reactions, and act within the context of a larger framework. As individuals, some of us are better at it than others.

 

Why Everyone Is Not Right for Customer Service

The inability of some to depersonalize conflict behaviors is one reason I disagree with the assertion that anyone can be trained to be great at customer service. While I do believe that anyone who has the ability to be a good employee has the ability to deliver a create proactive customer experience (in other words anyone who cares enough to go beyond the bare minimum), when you get into reactive service, particularly into problem management, the subset gets smaller.

Some people just aren’t constituted to handle it well. They cannot detach themselves, and they take the customers’ criticisms personally. They get their back up and being right becomes more important that winning the customer over.

If you win the argument, you almost always lose the customer.

I think the issue of pride in customer service is rarely talked about because it is difficult to address. It’s easy to drop platitudes like always be professional (I do it too), but in my experience, platitudes are not enough to over come basic human emotions and reflexive reactions. You need something stronger than professionalism — you need a mission. A mission to make sure that every customer has a great experience, and a mission to try to right the wrong when that does not occur. To succeed at that mission, team members need the self-awareness to not sabotage their own dedication to the mission with reflexive responses and subconscious defense mechanisms.

 

Attempting to eliminate pride from the service experience is a challenge. Each individual is different and trying to suss out these traits in the interview process will not always be easy. Like any organizational position, success comes from hiring people with the right temperament for the position and giving them the tools to be successful.

I will discuss techniques for helping customer experience professionals overcome prideful reactions in a future post. For now, when training for customer service, discuss pride openly. Help your team become more self-aware. And then, most importantly, heed your own advice.

 

So, does pride goeth before a bad customer experience? Have you ever had someone give you bad service because they wanted to be right not helpful? Have you ever delivered service below your own standards because your pride got in the way?