Melissa opened her consulting practice in 1983 after a post-college customer-service near-death-experience as toy demonstrator at Sears during Christmas. She recovered later having agent and management roles in contact centers.
Melissa enjoys “on the job” coaching with front-line center leaders responsible for improving agents’ service and sales skills. 90% of her training and coaching is done virtually because she refuses to fly. She loves to blog about #custserv #cctr and #cx.
We know that the answer is often somewhere in between, but the fun of this section is that you have to pick just one!
Paper < Plastic
Personalization > Privacy
In-Store Shopping > Online Shopping
Mac < PC
Customer Service > Customer Experience
Captain Kirk < Dr. Spock
Talk < Text
Dog > Cat
Movie Theater > In-Home Rental
What was your first job and what did you learn about customer service in it?
My first job was working in my parents’ corner grocery store when I was 12. I loved ringing that cash register! But I also watched how my Dad made each customer feel important, whether they bought 25 cents worth of gum or a weekly grocery order.
My Mom drove the small delivery van, and I’d ride with her when she made food deliveries to older customers unable to come to the store. Her smile lit up the room, and she truly enjoyed working with people. She had great empathy skills.
I learned from them that inventory and products were not as important as how your treated your customers. Respect, empathy and making them feel welcome at our small business. I think I got my entrepreneurial spirit from them as well.
Tell us how one outside influence impacted your customer service or customer experience thinking. (For ex. book, movie, sporting event, relationship, travel)
One of the first contact center jobs I had was as a supervisor with a telemarketing outsource company. I was very new to management of any kind and was fortunate enough to share shift supervision with an older and much wiser supervisor named Bill.
Part of our role as supervisors (and what we were measured on) was the revenue generated during our shift including repeat business. Customer complaints were also measured. Agents had goals, and we were told to make sure they met them. I saw the other supervisors in action, and they seemed to just yell, “we need more sales”. Their agents looked happy to end their shift and turnover was high.
Instead of the loud threatening approach, Bill always had fun ideas for our team that inspired me to be creative. We had daily fun contests… one sillier than the next.
We put an alarm clock in the desk set to go off at X time, and the last sale made by an agent before the alarm sounded won a small prize ($1). Another time we drew a chart on a blackboard and had Pac-Man cutouts race (yes…showing my age here!), awarding one move along the board to each agent for every sale. One very slow day, we even agreed to tap dance on the plastic chair mat on the floor if our goals were reached.
Agents laughed, enjoyed their work, and their happy attitudes spilled over to the customers and prospects they worked with. I could hear their genuine smiles on the calls I monitored.
Bill taught me that happy agents made for happy customers. Positive motivation and a fun workplace brought more success with customers than harping on numbers all day did. I still remember Bill and our team 40 years later.
In your own personal experience, has customer service gotten better or worse in the past five years?
It depends on the industry and brand.
For instance, I love the Hilton brand, and I find great service consistently there whether at a Hilton, Embassy Suites or Hampton Inn hotel. The service quality received has been excellent 99% of my stays. Even the phone service has been great.
In the gotten worse category, utilities and cable companies seem to continue the downhill slide. Look at social media and see daily tweets and articles shared about service failures at these companies.
Unfortunately, some companies focus too much on their internal processes, automation and the newest technologies, and ignore the agent direct engagement with customers. Surveys continue to show that the majority of customers are still turning to good old fashioned phone calls to get their problems solved.
Companies need to invest in training in soft skills and customer engagement for agents and their leadership and not just throw money at technology. Those who aren’t balanced in their approach to efficiencies and quality of service aren’t seeing the improvements in customer experience.
> I consider it a bad customer experience when I am placed on hold for more than 1 minute (unless you check back in).
> In five years, the most important social media channel for customer service will be one still in design.
> The best book I read in the last twelve months was Atlas Shrugged.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Melissa Kovacevic.
By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.