Event Date: 05/20/2015 (2:00 pm EDT - 3:00 pm EDT)
SARAH SHAFER: What Customers Really Want hosted by HRDQU and presented by Deb Topka. Today’s webinar will last around one hour. If you have any questions, you can always take them into the questions box. We will be answering questions as they come in live at the end of the presentation or as a follow-up by email. My name is Sarah Shafer and I will moderate today’s webinar.
Deb brings 20 years of experience in designing, developing, and implementing regional and nationwide education programs for major corporations. As the owner of her own consulting firm, a few of her projects include the development of a leadership training program for the Delaware National Guard. The redesign of the training department of biotech firm, and the design of the new hire program for sales personnel at an international travel insurance provider. Recently she has provided program management and consulting services to a major pharmaceutical client engaging in virtual staff development programs. Welcome, Deb, and thank you for joining us today.
DEB TOPKA: Thank you so much, Sarah. Hello, everyone, welcome. I hope you are having a wonderful morning, and I think we are going to have a really nice afternoon together as we talk about what customers really want. So let’s just dive right into our session start out by looking at our course objectives for the day. We’re going to talk today about the benefits and the concept really of extraordinary customer service. What do we mean by that, how do we set standards around that, and then as we service our customers, how do we identify ways of building rapport, being influential communicator, and working on strategies to stay cool and avoid burnout, because we all know customer service can be a very challenging position to be in and most of us do customer service every day. So let’s just jump into the content this afternoon. So let’s talk about extraordinary customer service. Extraordinary would be out of this world helpfulness usefulness, adding value, even providing extraordinary customer service to your team members or your colleagues, or your coworkers. It’s really going beyond what is expected. And when you provide this type of service, you get a response, a noticeable response. People may tell others about working with you are working with your company. You will see an increase in your business. People might overlook small imperfections in your products or services because they enjoy working with you and your company. And they promote you to other folks. Now, in order to provide extraordinary service, you really need to understand who your customer is. You may have many types of customers not just the obvious, direct, external customers of your company, you might think, too, of the internal customers that you have such as coworkers, those folks you support in different departments or different regions, and folks who work with your customers directly or indirectly also maybe your customers. It’s really folks who influence your customers and folks who you influence and spend time in helping. It’s important to understand the customers are both internal and external and that you really have to think of almost everyone as a customer.
How do you know whether or not you are actually providing extraordinary customer service to your customers?
What you need to do is examine performance at the moment of truth. Every contact we make with the customer makes a lasting impression. And your last interaction is often the one people remember most. You can think about that as you think of the interaction you have with the bank teller, a grocery store clerk, different people you encounter as you are going about doing your errands for the day. Or people you encounter at work as you’re working with colleagues and teammates. I’m sure we can all think of times we have been dissatisfied with the service we received and it’s really left a bad taste in our mouth. As a matter fact years of very good service from a company often can be forgotten and an instant when you have one of these moments of truth that goes wrong. It can really damage the relationship. So as we think of customer service in these moments of truth, we have to understand that each and every contact with our customers is really very, very important. Why? Well let’s look at the value of the customer over the lifetime of our relationship with them. This slide states that the lifetime value of a customer is basically the total revenue they’re going to bring to your organization across the entire relationship with you.
So it’s not about each individual reaction. Every interaction you have with that customer, is not really a standalone event. It’s part of your ongoing marketing strategy, as part of that ongoing relationship you have with people, and every interaction can move your relationship forward in a more positive direction and create continued business or relationship or can quickly send the relationship backward.
This is an issue because we have to consider what the cost of poor customer service really is. The cost of acquiring a new customer is on average five times greater than the cost of retaining an existing customer. Most organizations spend their time and efforts on marketing and acquiring new customers rather than investing time in maintaining and retaining current customers. This is kind of a foolish decision because retention actually equals lower acquisition costs, better word-of-mouth referrals, and a more stable and predictable customer base. It really also improves your organization’s morale. When your customers perceive you as being a good company and say good things about your company, it’s good for your organization and good for your employees. In general, customers who are dissatisfied tell twice as many people about their dissatisfaction as those who are satisfied. I think we can all attest to that. We’ve had many times when we had excellent customer service, but the things we tell our friends about is the one time we had someone treat us rudely or poorly. We are quick to tell people about that company that we will never do business with again. So, keeping your current customers happy is absolutely critical to the success of your business. So to help with this effort, it’s really important that we set standards for customer service.
So how do we set standards for extraordinary customer service? First, everyone in your organization needs to understand the importance of customer service to the organization and how it helps the company achieve its objectives. It doesn’t really matter what type of company you are whether you are manufacturing something, whether you’re providing services. It’s important for the organization that customer service be an important goal and that everyone understands how they contribute to that. So, as I was saying, employees need to understand their role in the success of the company as a whole and this understanding gives employees a sense of ownership in the company and its success. You really want your employees to be thinking about the bigger picture and the bigger impact their job has on the success of the company and how it helps the company continued to be successful and prosperous. This sense of ownership really helps your employees move from just being employees to really being ambassadors of the company. Now folks who view themselves more as an owner of the company tend to be ambassadors and not just pawns in the company, not just someone who thinks I’m just here to do my job but someone who takes their job seriously and understands how it impacts the greater success of the company. Employees who interact with external and internal customers need to understand what their empowerment levels are. What I mean by that is, they have to fully comprehend their level of authority, spending limits, and decision-making parameters in order to satisfy their customers. You have to make sure people understand what kind of power and limitations they have said that they can take care of individual customer problems and needs. Those boundaries should be clarified so people really know where they need to engage the customer, what they can do, and when they have to bring in managers and other authority figures help resolve the customer concern or problem. Now those ambassadors of your company can help you to find the next step in standard-setting which is really understanding how your customer sees excellence.
So here what I want to ask you folks to do is think about how a customer might define customer service excellence. And use your question box there to give me a couple of one word answers to describe what a customer might think service excellence means. So I see accuracy, value, quick turnaround time, politeness, fast delivery, wow, you guys are just throwing these out here, great communication, meeting my needs, quick and on time. Oh that was a good one, being human. I know there are many times when we feel like we have to hit too many numbers to get to a human being. I have been known several times to hit that 0K until a person actually answers to talk to me. What else? Compassion, making the customer feel valued, these are some excellent responses. Empathetic, understanding my problem, helping me make sure you understand what I’m going through, friendly, gets it right the first time, reliable, excellent answers, folks. These are really very good. Seamlessly solving problems. Honesty, listening, very good. We have a couple that we provided that mirror a lot of the things that you folks actually brought up: reliability, responsiveness, speed, competence, value, friendliness, and I think as we work with our different companies we need to figure out what are those things that our particular customers value the most, and how do we make sure we are providing that level of service and that level of excellence. But we also need to make sure that we take these terms and we translate them for employees into behaviors and actions that people can understand and act on. So for example, friendliness, what do we mean by friendliness? For example, if you are a teller in a bank, friendliness might be smiling at the customer, using the customer’s name, once or twice during the interaction, making sure that you are doing those things that create that connection with the customer. So as we lay out these definitions of what is excellence, it’s good to explain to our employees what we mean by responsiveness what we mean by friendliness, because then we have a standard and we also have some expected behaviors that we look for when we measure our employees’ performance against those excellence measures. Great job, folks.
Okay, after we have set the standards for excellence, we actually need to get to the business at hand and start resolving our customers’ problems or complaints. So here we have a seven-step process to resolving customer complaints. We’ll talk a little bit about these briefly. Listen actively for feelings and facts, as you see there. Listening is something that someone mentioned as one of those key excellent measures. Very important that customers feel listened to. Paraphrasing and recording information, paraphrasing lets the customer know that we heard what they said and we understood what they were talking about. It also is a way to check for understanding. If you paraphrase what the customer says they can correct you if you have gotten any of the facts wrong as you are regurgitating the information to them. Recording, I know we all hate when we are working with someone on the phone and they either ask for an account number or piece of information and then a few minutes later they ask you for the same information. It’s important to write things down, or record them in appropriate ways so that the customer doesn’t have to continue to repeat information. Determining expectations is really important. How do we figure out what the customer really expects from their call? What kind of service level are they expecting, what kind of resolution they are expecting? Sometimes you’re bound to disappoint some of our customers. Their expectations might be a full refund when that might not be something that as a customer service person you can provide. But understanding where the customer is coming from and what their expectations are at least gives you an idea of how much you can do for them to handle and resolve the complaint. Providing a solution, always important to provide some type of solution to the problem to the best of your ability. Confirming the resolution, checking in with the customer trying to find out whether or not you actually solved their problem. And then follow up, follow up is very important. Figuring out whether or not the problem has been resolved, following up to make sure that you taking care of any outstanding issues. Sometimes following up at a later date is also important. Often we don’t see that kind of level of service from a lot of companies, but it’s a critical way to really build that customer relationship.
So speaking of building that customer relationship, while a process for resolving customer complaints is important, what we really need to do is connect with customers and create a sense of rapport. So how do we go about establishing that rapport with customers? Our relationships, even if they are very brief telephone interactions, which each customer, they create a connection and they really give you an opportunity to really work with an individual. So you really need to treat each customer as a unique person. You need to greet them, you need to introduce yourself, you need to acknowledge and listen to their story. Understand how their problem differs from other folks you’ve worked with, or at least how their version of that differs. I worked customer service on the phones for years when I was younger, and I remember very clearly after a while you start to think all the stories are the same or all the issues and the problems are the same and sometimes you want to hand out that same quick way of handling the issue. And you have to be careful to make sure you really listen to each customers individual stories and understand what the real sticking points are for them, and what ways you can really help them feel comfortable with what they’re doing and what you are doing to resolve the problem. Cookie-cutter resolutions don’t always work, so make sure you treat each customer and each problem as a unique one so that you can really make that connection.
So we talked about listening and we can’t stress listening enough. Quite a few of you put that down is one of those key pieces of excellence, listening. Knowing that you are being listens to is so important for a customer and it’s a critical skill that we can all use in our daily lives. We all have times that we can tell when our spouse or our child, or colleague or friend wasn’t really listening. And you get kind of hurt or annoyed or feeling neglected, and that’s not a feeling we want to make sure that our customers have. Eliminating distractions is so very important and it’s really much harder today I think when I was younger because of cell phones and the way we use computer technology. There’s just a lot more information coming at people and it’s easy to quickly get distracted. Suspending judgment, sometimes we hear some information from people and we quickly make a decision about what they are saying and what the problem is or whether or not it’s really that big a deal. And when we start making those judgments in our head about what we are hearing, we stop listening and we start deciding how we are going to respond to people. Interruptions can really frustrate people. When you’re on the phone and you’re trying to convey a problem to a customer service person and they keep interrupting you, it can make it very challenging to feel like you’ve been listens to and you got your story out there. Sometimes the customer service person or especially a sales person, you really need to pause. You need to leave that moment where we allow people say what they need to say, we need to allow people to think about how they want to respond to something. Silence is not our enemy and sometimes in our society we are very quick to try to fill the gap and make sure we are expressing something sometimes just a quiet pause actually gives the person you’re speaking to the idea that you are thinking about what they have said, and considering how to respond instead of just handing out that instant cookie-cutter solution. Taking notes as I mentioned earlier, when people have to repeat information over and over again it gets very frustrating, so as you can based on the type of work you are doing, taking notes about what information you are receiving is very helpful. Part of active listening is actually asking questions asking good questions to make sure you really understand what you’re hearing. And again, paraphrasing to confirm that understanding and make sure that you really know what is being said, you really understand the problem. So being a good listener is not the only way to build rapport.
People like doing business with people who are kind of like themselves. We like to be around people who we can relate to and are comfortable with. Mirroring is the art of making a customer feel comfortable by matching their communication style. So for example we might want to match the customer’s rate of speech. So someone from New Orleans might be speaking a little more slowly than someone from Manhattan or the Philadelphia area. So you might want to slow down and think about the rate of speed at which you are talking so that you are talking at the same rate as the customer. It just makes the pace of the conversation more comfortable. Be aware of the interruption gap. The interruption gap is the amount of silence you provide after you ask the question or make a statement. Interestingly enough, statistics show that two typical Americans in a conversation, 20 minute conversation, are only going to allow about 20 seconds of silence. We just like to fill that gap, whereas two Japanese folks in a 20 minute business conversation may have two full minutes of silence allowing for that gap of time to really consider, pause, think, and then share. You want to match that with your customer and really be in sync with them. When someone is talking a little more loudly, you shouldn’t shout but you certainly should try and raise your volume and your energy level up to their point as appropriate. And talk quieter when someone’s a little bit more soft-spoken. There is a balance here. Obviously if you’ve got someone who is on the customer service call who is angry or upset you don’t want to be angry back at them, but you do want to pick up your voice bring up the volume so you show confidence and you show clarity and you show that you have energy and are determined to deal with that customer in their situation. So while these techniques we talked about will help you build rapport with the customer, what you really want to be is an influential communicator. An influential communicator has the ability to get customers to see things a little differently while still feeling listened to. So how do you be an influential communicator? You really need to control the call. And what I mean by that is have ownership. You want to exhibit credibility and confidence. You want to assure the customer that you can really help with the situation. Again avoid having the customer repeat information. Take notes, ask questions, verify pertinent information, paraphrase, restate, just try not to make them repeat, and repeat, and repeat if you can avoid it. Restating the problem back to the customer, while you do that recap, confirm and clarify, but avoid blaming others. You don’t want to say, while the shipping’s fault. You don’t want to do that type of thing. Remember you are all one big company you work together to satisfy the customer. So you want to stay in control of how you state problems. But you also want to control something called looping where the customer and you keep going around and around discussing the same problem with the same piece of information. You want to control that and try to make sure you confirm your understanding of something and move on to the next points instead of getting in caught in that loop where you just go around and around. Make your word golden. What we mean by that is only make promises you can keep. Nothing turns a customer off more than someone who says sure, we can do that. And then five minutes later says actually we can’t. So it’s better to always say that you don’t know or you need to check and let me see what I can do is much better than promising something later that you just can’t deliver.
As an influential communicator, working with your customer you may have to play several different roles. You may be playing the role of a friend. You know a customer just want someone friendly who is going to help them work out their issues. Who’s going to give them a chance to talk about what they need, talk about what they want, listen to their feelings, reassure them, you know be there to let the customer vent and get the problem off their chest so it can be handled. Sometimes a customer need someone who’s going to figure out what is going wrong. So you’re going to need to obtain facts, guide conversation, make sure it stays focused. Clear up generalizations. Sometimes when people describe a problem or issue they can be a little vague so you may have to use questioning techniques to really draw out from the customer what the real issue or concern is. Sometimes the problem is really a lack of information or knowledge on the part of the customer. So occasionally you may have to play the role of teacher. And educate your customer or provide them with information so you’re going to interpret what you hear them say and then suggest a course of action, provide additional information, perhaps teach them something. As a customer service person sometimes we end up talking to people who just didn’t read the directions because most of us don’t read the directions back at some of the product or information that we’re trying to work with. They just want a quick answer so they call somebody up and say hey I’m confused, this is not working. So sometimes we have to teach, and guide, and coach people while we are working with them in a customer service situation. No matter which role you are going to play, a key skill when you are interacting with customers is to know when you should listen, and when you should talk.
Influential communication is the result of balancing inquiry and advocacy. So what do we mean by those two things? Inquiry is really when you listen and try to fully understand the other person’s point of view. Assumptions. You ask clarifying questions. You acknowledge the other person’s thoughts and feelings and you reflect on their comments. Skills you need to be good at inquiry include things like probing, asking good questions, confirming, acknowledging people, and encouraging people to share information with you. Advocacy is openly sharing your assumptions, using clear language and when you explain things, being very careful not to use company jargon or different types of information or words we use sometimes when we work inside a company that’s really internal lingo. Make sure you are using words that actually are understood by your audience, your customers. Use I and not we. When you are an advocate you are an advocate for the customer, but you are also an advocate for the company. But you don’t want to use the royal we can say we don’t do that here or we don’t do this. They are speaking to an individual person, so you can say I apologize, we are unable to do that. Or I am unable to do that because our policy is. . . Find a way to phrase things so you don’t make it sound like it is all someone else you kind of have to take ownership and advocate on behalf of the company. As an advocate you should also make sure you are asking questions that allow you to confirm whether or not you are meeting someone’s needs. Am I making sense? Do you agree with this approach? The types of questions that really confirm that you’re having that two-way conversation. Now in general you might use your inquiry skills first and really ask the questions you need to and make sure you understand the situation. Then move on to advocacy, but really they blend and move back and forth as your interaction progresses with your customer. It’s a nice model to think about the way you have to both be an advocate for the customer and the company while asking questions and confirming information. Unfortunately there are times when we cannot give a customer what we want, what they want, despite our best interaction in trying to understand the story and be their advocate sometimes we just have to say no. So, nothing bugs a customer more than being told no. You do lose your influence with the customer if you are negative. So everyone has to start thinking about ways that we can say no in a more positive fashion. So what I would like you to do is use your chat box, your question box there and tackle one of these phrases or words so tell me that’s not my job equals… And give me the statement that would be better to use instead of saying no, or that’s not my job or I don’t know. Throw some of those out there in the question box for me and show me how you might more positively say some of these things your customer.
So instead of saying I can’t, saying I can. I am unable to; however, I can. Instead of that’s not my job, let me get someone who can help you. Instead of I don’t know, how about let me check into that. Instead of I can’t, let me see what I can do. Here’s a nice one, I’m sorry I can’t do what you are asking. Instead of calm down, perhaps I understand that you are frustrated. That’s very well phrased. Instead of I don’t know, I’m not sure. This wouldn’t be to our mutual benefit. Nice. Instead of that’s not my job, I completely understand what you are looking for, and I’ll connect you with the person who can help you. That’s a very good response. Instead of I don’t know, I would be glad to find the answer to your question. Also, let me check into that, another good response. Here’s one, instead of that’s not my job, I don’t have the answer for you, but I will find it for you. Here’s a nice one, let’s look at what is possible. A better person to answer that question for you is. . . That’s very nice. Okay so I have some really good phrases here to say these things much more positively. I’m sorry this has happened, and I will investigate and get some answers for you. Oh here’s a nice way to put somebody on hold, please allow me some additional time some research. I like that. Sometimes when you get put on hold you wonder what they’re really doing. But that’s a nice way of saying I’m going to go find that some additional information for you. Very nice. Those are some really good phrases you folks provided for how to positively say no. Better phrases. Oh, here’s a new one, instead of placing fault on anyone, say obviously the ball was dropped and we have to verify our process so that we don’t let that happen again. It’s great.
Let’s move forward now. You know, another irritant to customers is when we tell them something is not our policy. One of the trickiest parts of the job of customer service can be providing explanations that especially when they are not in the customer’s favor. So you really need to minimize the customer’s frustration by making sure your explanations are customer focused. Are you considering the customer’s point of view? Are you providing just the information that the customer cares about? Or are you providing a lot of unnecessary or different types of information? Are you using simple language? Again, no jargon. Are the benefits to the customer clear? So, be clear about your purpose, the issue, any policies or procedures related to it. Build the case for what you are explaining to the customer. Use your experience and you have to use arguments that support your position that are still kind of from the customer’s point of view. You may want to concentrate on explaining how a policy of your company is a little bit more a positive solution to the problem. Making sure they are customer understands the merits of the solution that you are proposing, why it’s the best approach for both. And making sure that you are doing your best to compromise and understanding that even though the customer may not be interested in doing so sometimes they’re going to have to compromise as well. And that’s part of the customer just being realistic with the customer about what can and cannot be done.
Sometimes our customer service interactions are not very pleasant and customers can get a little hot under the collar, but we as customer service folks, whether that’s live in person or over the phone we need to really make sure that we are staying calm. A couple of steps here to help us keep that in mind you’ll see five steps here. Let’s look at these first couple. So, sometimes when people are confronted or attacked or they feel under pressure they stop breathing. You know you hold your breath you are afraid to say something. So, you might start to breathe a little shallowly, your adrenaline starts pumping, and you get into that fight or flight mode which is really not the place you want to be when you are working with a customer. You certainly need to stand firm and be able to be confident and helpful with your customer. You need to take that deep breath in. Sometimes that requires taking a breath out first and just releasing that energy and then taking that deep breath in so that you can calm yourself and be prepared to handle the situation. Moving forward with a calm approach to your customer even when they are getting more upset, it is very important you don’t want to escalate to the same spot where your customer is so try yourself calm. Think about your self talk. Our internal dialogue runs at about 1,300 words a minute and most of it can be very negative. So, when you are confronted with an angry customer, you have to try and keep a positive viewpoint. You need to stay cool and you need to remind yourself, this is not personal, this is not about you. Sometimes you need to just let things go and understand it’s just one customer and one call, not necessarily a pattern, you know, when you wake up in the morning and you stub your toe and a couple of other things happen you say oh this is the kind of day is going to be. Well, that’s the kind of negative self talk you have to basically shut down and start putting yourself in a more positive frame of mind when you’re working with customers, especially those who are getting hot under the collar.
One of the other steps to remaining calm that we mentioned was putting the situation in context and sometimes that helps. We have to remember that customers might be anxious, they may be in a hurry, they may have been transferred three times, they may have double parked the car thinking they were going to walk in and solve this issue very quickly and now it’s taking a lot longer than they thought it would. They may be just tired of waiting. They may have a small child at their knee who is bothering them and wants their attention. So there are a lot of things that could be going on for the customer that we can’t see that could be happening that have nothing to do with our company, our product, our service. Just the kind of day they’re having so we have to kind of put things in context and try to remember this is not about me, this is just someone’s day and I’m going to try to improve their day by helping them solve their problem. Now, just because the customer is angry doesn’t mean they need to become a former customer. You don’t have to have a relationship ending conversation. There are ways you can calm down an angry customer. If the situation allows it and you want to directly engage the customer, especially if you are in a personal situation where you are live one-on-one, whether it’s interacting with someone in a sales conversation or at a customer service counter at a store, you know that type of situation, giving them good eye contact, full attention, using the body language that really shows that you are there, focused, and working with them. Let people vent. If you don’t let them say what they need to say and you interrupt them, they will start the story over and and over again. So give them an opportunity to get it out of their system and allow them to finish saying what they need to say. Then you really need to empathize. They need to know that you heard what they said and you feel their pain. I understand completely I apologize that that happened to you. Match the energy. We talked about that a little bit earlier when we were talking about mirroring. You need to make sure that when possible people see but they also hear that you understand their level of frustration. I mean if someone is yelling at you, you don’t want to yell at them but you do want to take your energy level up so you are letting them know that you are engaged and you can sense their frustration. Sometimes when you’re really frustrated and angry, it can be even more frustrating to have someone talk very calmly and slowly because you feel like you’re being patronized. And that can frustrate you even more so it is important to match that energy level in an appropriate way. Make sure you restate issues, summarize, provide a quick version of what you heard to make sure that the customer knows that you heard them. Agree on the problem. Problems are solved by agreeing on the problem. Understanding needs versus wants, talking about the options, agreeing on a solution and following up. Get it solved. And if push comes to shove, and you can’t seem to work with the customer, or you feel like you are going to lose your cool, sometimes it makes sense to hand someone off to a coworker, a manager, someone else who can handle the situation and step in. Sometimes you have to understand when you hit that spot where you can’t move forward.
I noticed a question up here on the board: What does lock-in mean again? So let me cover that one more time. It means to engage your customer directly and that face-to-face situation, give them full attention, eye contact, use your body language, make sure you are facing them, really engage with them. Give them your full attention physically. If it’s on the phone, the same thing. Try to eliminate background noise, make sure people are not hearing things in the background that make them think you are distracted from the purpose of taking care of them. Now our fifth step and staying calm is to move on from an angry customer. Shake it off. So after an encounter with an angry customer, you just have to take a moment and reset. You don’t want to move into your next customer interaction carrying the tension and the issues from your last customer interaction. When I was doing customer service, I worked in a customer service center for a bank, and we were handling customer calls, we would shut down a phone call and sometimes turn to the person next to us and say you will not believe what just happened. And talk a little bit about the call before the next call came in just kind of vent a little, get some of that out of your system, and be able to laugh a little, and move forward. So venting with a buddy, kind of clearing your thoughts, focusing on how you helped, or what you tried to do, and learning to let it go is really important to help you stay calm.
Avoiding burnout as a customer service person, think about a couple of things. Stretch breaks, especially after a difficult call you just might need to stand up, stretch out, shake it off physically to let yourself feel better. I know some environments if you are in a customer service environment where you are on the phone, sometimes taking a stretch break, standing while you take the call, using the buddy system when you do calls might help you out. Changing the direction you are facing in, if that’s an option for you, I know a lot of our information systems require us to be looking at computers as were handling information, but just trying to find ways to physically change your environment. If you’re working face-to-face situation with customer service, make sure you take advantage of those breaks that you have and can get so that you can again shake those moments off and just try and laugh things off a little bit and keep moving forward. Okay, so, basically, to summarize the principles we talked about for exceptional customer service, customers think of themselves as people who need your help. They’ve got to work with you in order to get their problem solved. They are probably already frustrated and unhappy that they are calling the customer service number, so make sure you are aware of the way they are coming into the call. Present yourself as someone who is there to help them and take care of them and do the best you can to provide them with the best service you can, understanding your limitations. Remember that when a customer is talking to you they are talking to you, and even though you represent the company, they are looking for that personal interaction with you. And that personal interaction that you have with them carries over to the reputation of the company. If you are friendly, the company is friendly. If the company has a reputation of being friendly but you are not, it doesn’t matter what the company’s reputation is.
When you are in a customer service position you really need to care about helping your customers. You need to remember how important your customers are. We talked earlier about the value of each customer and what it means to a company and how customers enter key to your success. And that’s whether you have customers that you sell to externally from your company or internally. You know as you are working in consulting relationships or teaming environments with other people, if you are trying to make your teammates happy, and you are trying to create a quality product, you show that you care about working on those things together, that goes a long way. Customer service applies all the way around. Don’t just listen to people, learn from people. We learn something new every day. And it’s important, as they are interacting with people, we are open to the fact that they may know something we don’t know. Or they may be experiencing something we haven’t experienced yet. I have had a personal experience in a customer service situation where I was working with a company online dealing with the computer issue I was having because we all have computer issues, and I explained to the customer service representative what was happening and he said, that doesn’t work that way. And I actually had him pull up the screens so he could observe me doing the exact same thing I told him what was a problem and he said how about that, I didn’t know that was possible. So be open to learning from your customers. You can learn a lot from people when you listen to what they are saying. I love this one: Don’t just solve problems, create opportunities. When you build a relationship, and you help people, you also create an opportunity to give them better service. I love when I’m on the phone with somebody and I’m talking to them about a problem or issue, and they attempt to solve my problem but then they will have you considered using this plan instead or would this service better meet your needs? I don’t have time to research all the options out there, so it’s really nice when I feel like the person on the other end of the phone is an expert who also listens enough to understand they could be serving me better with a different product or service. That is awesome. Great service starts with a good attitude. There’s not much else to say about that.
It can be challenging to have a good attitude some days, but it’s a tough job and you have to be real people person and know that you are doing what you can to help your customer and help your company. In the last statement, there is only one judge of great customer service, and that’s your customer. The customer is always right in this respect. If they had had a bad interaction with you, they will tell your friends, they will let people know, and it will hurt your business. So it in your best interest always keep your mind focused on what would my customer say is excellence. What would I do to make my customer happy and how can I continue to maintain this relationship?
So that’s exceptional customer service. What our customers want. I hope you’ve learned a lot during the course today. So what I’m going to do now, is, Sarah, I’m going to turn this back over to you for questions.
SARAH: All right, perfect, thank you so much. And, yes, we do have a little bit of time for some questions. So, attendees, why don’t you go ahead and send those in now. And while we wait for this questions to come in, let me share a little bit about the program that is the foundation of today’s session. And that is on the slide right now, and it’s What Customers Really Want, with this, individuals were learn ways of building positive rapport with various types of customers, and then apply those skills in activities and exercises throughout the course. And we are also offering a special discount of 50% off and that will be honored until June 3, and for more details on that you can check out our website at HRDtostore.com
Okay and we have a number of questions coming in so why don’t we go ahead and get started? And it looks like the first one is coming from Chloe: How is customer service impacted by social media?
DEB: That’s an excellent question. I don’t know about you guys, but I think social media has had a huge impact on customer service. A lot of times when I am on a site looking for information about a product or service, first off I get a lot of those chat boxes that pop up and ask me if I’m interested in speaking to someone about what I’m looking for, what I’m doing. So there is some opportunity to chat live with people, and provide service and information to help play that teacher role, and sell services and products to customers. I think a huge impact on companies has been the opportunity for customers to read reviews from other customers. There are lots of services out there that focus on the ability to write reviews about companies who have come to remodel your kitchen, or fix a faucet, or repair your roof. You have the opportunity to read about the services provided by utility companies, to read about what people think about a product, I have to say that as a customer and a consumer I have done a lot more research on products online and I read a lot of customer reviews. I believe that our interactions with our customers may have a big impact on those reviews. And those things that people read online can definitely have an impact, so social media is a whole area where people need to focus on what their reputation is socially, what kind of information is floating out there about their companies and their company’s products, and their reputation, and there services. It can make a huge impact. Good question.
SARAH: All right, great, thank you. And it looks like our next question is coming from Lucy: How do we determine the quality of our customer service?
DEB: Good question. Determining the quality of your customer service can be done in a couple of ways. Traditionally, one of the things you can do is work with the company who collects that type of data from customers through surveys and marketing type information, and it’s a very traditional way to do it. Another way to do that is to do some research to see what is being said about you online, from blogs or customer reviews, or looking at that. You can also do customer surveys. I’m sure all of you have gotten the request to complete customer surveys either when you purchase a product online or when you’re at the store, I now many times my receipt gets circled by a highlighter. I’m asked to fill out a customer survey providing information or feedback. So there are many mechanisms companies are using to collect data on customer service and what customers think. So you really need to figure out what makes the most sense for the type of business you’re in and seek either help in doing that or find some professional organizations who have that data on a more global basis.
SARAH: All right, great, thank you. And our next question is coming from Tyrone: What methods are most effective to gain trust if your customer base has a pre-conceived view of services delivered?
DEB: Very good, it can be very challenging to overcome a bad reputation. That takes a lot of effort on both part I think of the company as a whole from a marketing perspective but also from your customer service professionals, and you really need to get those folks on board with taking a new approach to customers. Gaining back trust that you’ve lost can be very challenging and unfortunately it’s a slow process to recover from, but it really happens one interaction at a time, one moment of truth at a time. Even the best marketing campaigns can’t win people over if they are just not happy. But I would definitely say I would focus more on how your customer service is being provided, and making sure those folks who are having this frontline interactions make sure that each of those interactions is as positive as possible to turn that reputation around.
SARAH: All right, great, thanks. And our next question is coming from Mark: What skills do you think are most important for customer service representatives?
DEB: Oh that’s a great question. There are so many skills customer service representatives need, but I like to think about the term influential communicator. Listening, super, super important, but also being very good at asking questions, communicating to people in a positive way that allows people to hear your message but not be frustrated and aggravated by it. Strong communication skills very important also that ability to connect. I had a great customer service person on the phone the other day for an interaction I was having wear in telling my story, I mentioned a child and she asked a couple of questions about my children and we got a small conversation, totally off-topic going, and that made me feel comfortable with that person and we had a further conversation about the situation. It was not resolved the way I wanted to be done, unfortunately, my product was out of warranty, the repair wasn’t going to be paid for. But I felt good about the interaction with the company and the person there, because they had good communication skills, and really knew how to connect with people.
SARAH: All right, Deb, thank you so much, and, do you see any other questions you would like to address?
DEB: Actually it looks like we’ve answered a lot of the questions that came out.
SARAH: All right I could just go ahead and scroll up and if there are any unanswered questions I will put that into an email and we will send that out next week. So I guess that’s all the time we have for today so, would you like to add any final thoughts before I go ahead and close out the session?
DEB: Terrific, thank you, Sarah. Thank you for your time today I hope you found some information helpful today about what customers want and we will get those additional questions answered and back to you. Thank you again for your time today.
SARAH: All right perfect, Deb, thank you so much again and yes, that’s all the time we have for today. So, again, if we didn’t have time to get to your question, you will receive an email response probably mid next week. So we appreciate your time and we hope you found today’s webinar informative. Thanks.
The cost of acquiring a new customer is on average five times greater than the cost of retaining an existing customer.
In spite of that statistic, most organizations spend more effort on acquiring new customers than on investing in the maintenance of current ones. This is both foolish and poor business. Retention equates to lower acquisition costs, greater word-of-mouth referrals, more stable and predictable customer interactions and generally improved organizational morale. Join us for an hour of learning and insight into the mind of the customer and what he or she really wants. In order to be effective, “extraordinary” customer service must be translated into every behavior and action that all employees understand. These “standards of excellence” are the minimum level of acceptable performance from any member or process at any time.
Participants Will Learn
- Explore the concepts and benefits of extraordinary customer service
- Set extraordinary customer service standards for your area
- Identify ways of building customer rapport
- Improve your listening skills
- Take control of every call
- Say “no” in a positive way
- Remain calm when the customer is upset
- Cool down a “hot” customer
- Implement strategies to avoid burnout
Who Should Attend
- Organization development professionals
- Human resources professionals
- Supervisors and managers
Deb brings 20 years of experience in designing, developing, and implementing regional and nationwide education programs for major corporations. As the owner of her own consulting firm, a few of her projects include the development a leadership training program for the Delaware National Guard, the redesign of the training department of a biotech firm, and the design of a new hire program for sales personnel at an international travel insurance provider. Recently she has provided program management and consulting services to major pharmaceutical clients engaging in virtual staff development programs.
While at AstraZeneca, she was the Leader of Curriculum Development in the company’s Learning andDevelopment Skill Center. She worked on the design, development and delivery of training for a newdecentralized training team in the organization and was responsible for the rollout of the company’s Performance Management system for key client groups in the sales and marketing division of the organization. At Andersen Consulting, she worked within the Change Management Services Practice, designing and developing training materials, and training facilitators for major pharmaceutical clients and a leading records management company.
Deb earned her MS in Curriculum and Instruction, with an emphasis on Instructional Systems, from the Pennsylvania State University. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a BS in Communications Media (emphasis in Training and Development) and a minor in Psychology.