The Power Of “How Are You?” In Customer Service

How Are You Today 300x244 The Power Of How Are You? In Customer ServiceCustomers want their problems fixed.

Customer service representatives want to fix the problems of the customer.

How often do you receive customer service from a company and they say, “What can I do for you today?”

They get right down to business!

They’ll get you out and on your way with the working product you need.

While there isn’t any harm in this, where’s the personal connection?

From my experience, if I’m helping a customer with a challenging task or just I’m assisting them with a basic update, one thing I always make sure to fit in is, “How are you today?”

But, you have to actually want to know the answer to it.

Don’t just ask then begin talking about the next thing on your to-do list.

A customer may reply with a gazillion different answers, such as:

  • I’ll be good when you fix my problem!
  • I’m having a horrible day.
  • My day would be better if I had the winning lotto numbers.
  • I’m so frustrated because my problem.
  • I’m doing wonderful, besides this.
  • @#^$&*@*#*%#*(@(%*#&$*@&!!!

After your customer answers, replay their reply in your mind.

  • What did they say to you?
  • Can you gage their attitude and where they are mentally? Emotionally? How can this help you direct the customer experience to a positive path?
  • How can you put yourself in their shoes to understand where they are coming from and reply accordingly?

The simple question of, “How are you?” opens the door to so much insight. It gives you the power to take control of the customer experience so that, later in the day, after they speak with you, when asked that question by someone else, they can say they had a much better day.

 The Power Of How Are You? In Customer Service

Jenny is the Customer Success Manager for Phone.com with almost a decade of customer service experience. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.

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Dear Customer, I’m Your Huckleberry!

tombstone Dear Customer, Im Your Huckleberry!If there’s a better film in all of cinema than Tombstone, I implore you to find it.  I’m sure my wife would actually beg to differ with me.  That being said, it was a privilege to collect a series of quotes from the movie in collaboration with my good friend, Al Hopper.  In the following post we share some of our favorite quotes from the movie and tie them to customer service.

Doc Holliday: I’m your huckleberry.

AL: Probably one of my all-time favorite lines, and one I use often. Doc Holliday was confident in his ability to resolve any conflict his way. He never backed down from a challenge. I apply this approach to my work in customer service and life in general. There isn’t a challenge from a customer that I will not take on. I know that if I can’t handle it, the team around me is.

JER: I have to agree with Al 100% on this one! This is the signature line of the movie. What a great attitude as customer service professionals to listen to a customer share their problem and respond with “I’m your huckleberry.”  Ok, maybe don’t say that verbatim but definitely use that take ownership, buck stops here approach.

Billy Clanton: Why, it’s the drunk piano player. You’re so drunk, you can’t hit nothin’. In fact, you’re probably seeing double.

Doc Holliday: I have two guns, one for each of ya.

AL: This is all about being able to adapt to a problem. Doc was extremely drunk. Instead of letting that be a block to accomplishing his goal, he got creative. Customer service is sometimes about creative thinking and understanding what the underlying issue is as much as it is about having a solution.

JER: There’s a great line from Virgil, Wyatt’s older brother at the end of the movie where he says, “I still got one good arm to hold you with.”  Adaptability is truly the name of the game in customer service.  Also, for the record, it’s not ok to see double in customer service.  Bring your “A” game every day.

Johnny Ringo: I want your blood. And I want your souls. And I want them both right now!

AL: If you have been in customer service long enough you will have heard a customer say something eerily similar. These customers have been wronged in some way and demand retribution from anyone they speak to at the company responsible for the issue. These are the most challenging calls and require the thickest skin and levels of patience.

JER: There are two types of customers.  Those that want retribution when something goes wrong and those who want nothing other than assurance that the issue will never happy again.  The latter is so refreshing, but we must be adept at handling both types of customers.

Wyatt Earp: I want you to know it’s over.

Curly Bill Brocius: Well. Bye.

JER: In the midst of this funeral processional, Wyatt says he’s done with the fight.  In the most insulting way possible, all Curly Bill can say is “Bye.”  How often do we respond to customers we disagree with in this manner?  Perhaps there was animosity on the call and we got offended.  It takes a true customer service professional to not be offended by the customer and stay professional to the very end of each call.

AL: You said it all, Jeremy. Customer service agents have to either be born with a thick skin, or taught how to grow one. I can see this conversation happening. The customer is at their wit’s end trying to get the agent to understand them. The agent, for whatever reason, decides they’ve had enough too. So they do both your company and the client a disservice and just say, “Well. Bye.”

Mr. Fabian: My dear, you’ve set your gaze upon the quintessential frontier type. Note the lean silhouette… eyes closed by the sun, though sharp as a hawk. He’s got the look of both predator and prey.

AL: There are certain traits that most successful customer service agents and leaders have in place. Some are easier to see than others, such as high levels of empathy and problem solving skills. Hiring managers often look for these traits when adding strong candidates to their teams.

JER: I’m not sure the person in this description would fit in our call center.  We’re looking for people who are fun and easily make connections with customers.  If they are anything like me, they are not terribly cool and are ok with that.  I guess if they are like this underneath a goofy exterior, that could work.

Wyatt Earp: You could have been busted up back there, or killed.

Josephine Marcus: Fun, though, wasn’t it?

Wyatt Earp: You’d die for fun?

Josephine Marcus: Wouldn’t you?

AL: Josephine’s attitude here is not only remarkably positive, but also contagious. As a team leader, these agents are the ones you want to hire. Having a positive attitude makes the work day go by faster and you customers can hear your smile when speaking with you.

JER: Customer service is truly a difficult profession because people are difficult.  You only get to live once.  If customer service is your chosen career, find a way every day to enjoy doing it!

Doc Holliday: And so she walked out of our lives forever.

AL: Sometimes, you just have to say goodbye to a client. Happiness is the ultimate goal, and though it’s not easy there are times when it is healthier to send them on their way to find happiness elsewhere and save your employees from excessive abuse.

JER: I totally agree, Al!  The beautiful thing about this line is that Wyatt gets another shot with Josephine later in the movie and they really do live happily ever after.  If you must say goodbye to a customer, do so with dignity and respect.  They may very well return when they realize how much better you are than the competition.  Be there to welcome them back with open arms.

Wyatt Earp: You tell ‘em I’m comin’. And hell’s comin’ with me.  Hell’s comin’ with me you hear?

JER: Last but not least, we can’t leave this line out.  I’m not sure where it fits in the world of customer service but I get goose bumps every time I hear it.  A line best said to the problems we face but NEVER, EVER said to a customer!

AL: This totally fits the wonderful world of social media customer service! We mentioned it before, sometimes, a customer has fury in eyes because something went wrong. Maybe they weren’t able to get satisfaction in a one-to-one call and feel they can get ‘better’ results if they shout from the rooftops on social media. Doesn’t always work, but most of us have tried it.

For more fantastic customer service movie posts, be sure check out Al’s blog. Are you a fan of Tombstone?  Share some of your favorite quotes and scenes from the movie.

 Dear Customer, Im Your Huckleberry!

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Service at Phone.com with 13+ years experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy ranked #85 on the Top 100 Most Social Customer Service Pros on Twitter by the Huffington Post in 2013. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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On-Boarding Without Over-Boring

onboarding 300x188 On Boarding Without Over BoringAhoy!

Welcome aboard!

The first day on a new job will often be full of these things:

  • Nervousness
  • Boring-ness
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Paperwork
  • Awkwardness
  • Training

But, what if we added a few other things to the list:

  • Laughter
  • Silliness
  • Welcome Cards
  • Free food
  • Decorations
  • Swag

For as much as YOU CHOSE the new employee, they also made a PERSONAL CHOICE to work for you.

Now, all of the ideas in this post may not apply to every type of business out there. But, if it makes you rethink the on-boarding process at your company just a teeny bit, then this post was a success.

I asked some friends on Facebook (thanks guys!) to share things that worked on their first day at a new job. Here’s what folks said:

  • Having their computer station set up and ready to go
  • Company tour
  • Meeting everyone in the company face to face
  • Lunch with the team
  • Being told you are allowed to browse the internet with no boundaries (thanks @jtwatkin for that gem)

What people didn’t like:

  • Paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork
  • Confusion about schedules or other things that were not clear when you took the position

We’re not perfect but we’ve found that making the new employee feel most welcome on their first day is ideal. Here are some things that we at Phone.com do for our new customer service representatives:

On Boarding Without Over Boring

Welcome Cards

We encourage our existing reps to write notes of encouragement to welcome the new employee. The team writes one card per new representative, complete with advice about the job, motivating words and even pictures. We scatter the cards around the desk for the new rep.

Free Lunch

Happy tummies all around! We will order in and eat together as a team on the first day for a casual, welcoming meal. Food has a way to bring people together.

Meet and Greet

Nothing says “hello” better than a face to face meet and greet. Show your new employee off to the rest of the company, everyone–from the COO and beyond–to give a good, old fashioned handshake and welcome. A tour of the office is always ideal as well.

Swag

If you got it, give it! We placed Phone.com mugs, pens, balloons, stress balls and a shirt on the desk of the new representative.

Show Your Culture

If you have a fun, upbeat and positive culture–show it, especially in the beginning. The first impression counts! This lets the employee know what they are getting into as well as helps sooth those first day nerves.

What are some of YOUR ideas to make the first day of a new job totally awesome?

 On Boarding Without Over Boring

Jenny is the Customer Success Manager for Phone.com with almost a decade of customer service experience. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.

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Awesome Customer Service Is Like A Big Rainbow

awesome rainbow 2 300x300 Awesome Customer Service Is Like A Big Rainbow

I was up at the crack of dawn last Saturday for a modest 22 mile run.  On this particular day, my friend and I chose to run along the San Diego coastline from Mission Bay to La Jolla and back.  Having rained the day before, the skies were gray and the seas were angry.

As the sun rose, a beautiful rainbow appeared over the ocean.  I stopped briefly to snap a picture and a selfie before continuing on the journey.

As we were running, we passed by one fellow who said “Don’t miss the rainbow!”  In that moment I became very aware of all of the people who were gazing at the awesome sight.  This encounter reminded me of two critical aspects of awesome customer service.

Awesome customer service leaves your customers awe-inspired

This sense of wow is an important component of awesome customer service.  When a customer truly makes a meaningful connection with another human being, AKA a customer service representative, and finds a solution to their problem, they are met with a sense of awe.  In some cases, this awe might be caused by the relief of not being given the runaround, or perhaps simply having the stress of an unsolved problem being relieved.

Customers tell others about awesome customer service

Just like the guy making sure we didn’t miss the rainbow, customers who encounter awesome (or not awesome) customer service won’t be able to help but tell others about their experience.  Your customers will spread the awesomeness to all who are willing to listen.

Next time you see a rainbow any some other awesome sight for that matter, don’t forget to stop, be in awe, and then tell someone else about it.  That is exactly the power we’re trying to harness when we talk about awesome customer service.

 Awesome Customer Service Is Like A Big Rainbow

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Service at Phone.com with 13+ years experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy ranked #85 on the Top 100 Most Social Customer Service Pros on Twitter by the Huffington Post in 2013. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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Coffee And Customer Service: The Joys Of Hiring

That’s right, we’re hiring customer service representatives at Phone.com.  In this hangout, we discuss tips for both the applicant and the folks doing the hiring.  If you are involved in hiring decisions in your contact center, don’t miss it!

Communicate Better With Your Customers

CoverPhotosmall 1024x464 Communicate Better With Your Customers

When it comes to building relationships with key customers, our ability to communicate face to face is paramount. Service leaders often spend countless hours working with representatives on phone skills, and yet invest little effort to become better in-person communicators. Building true loyalty with your customers will require more than a semi-annual courtesy call, or occasional freebie promotion. They need to know your face and have a true connection with you. By educating yourself on effective communication, you will enhance your ability to partner with others and be seen as credible by them.

Have you ever considered the number of snap judgments we make about a person when we firstSnapJudgementssmall 300x215 Communicate Better With Your Customers meet them? Eleven in the first seven seconds! Your brain is capable of taking in 10,000 non-verbal communication cues every minute*. It’s no wonder we are so tired after networking events or parties. Your mind is working overtime to absorb and understand a vast layer of communication that has taken place long before we even open our mouths.

And why is this so important? Our ability to get a message through is complicated with many different types of barriers. We view the other person through a lens of accumulated assumptions, such as snap judgments we made about them (potentially months or even years before). Carrying these assumptions about each other can be dangerous, because in many cases they are wrong. It is estimated that men are only 42% accurate in perceiving non-verbal communication (compared to 87% in women!*). This is further complicated by the lens of our own world view. We are far more likely to trust someone who is “coming from the same place” in terms of needs, values, and beliefs.

MegaPhonesmall 300x199 Communicate Better With Your CustomersIn order to be seen as credible by customers and co-workers alike, we must consider how they are going to perceive us. The most powerful communication occurs when our verbal – vocal – and visual languages are in alignment. When the way we appear matches the things we say and the way we say them, magic happens! You will not only be seen as more credible, you enhance the ability of the audience to understand your message. When any one of these three is out of alignment, it becomes a distraction and significantly undermines our ability to relay a message.

This is why effective communication over email is so difficult. When we consider that over 90% of the message is communicated through tone and non-verbal cues, being understood in simple text can seem like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall. Consider the following tips:

  • Invest the effort and resources to get in front of your customers as often as possible. There is no substitute for this. This responsibility cannot be the burden of sales alone, either. We, as service leaders, must also represent our organizations through personal relationships.
  • Dress in a manner consistent with the result you are trying to achieve. Think about your audience, and determine how you can personify credibility before you even have a chance to speak (since they will have already made up their mind about you anyway!)
  • Be mindful of your gestures. Think of how you can enhance your message with your facial expressions and hands. Keep gesturing below the waist to a minimum as these movements are generally ineffective and distracting. Also, find a strong, confident standing position and stick with it. Do not fidget with your feet or slouch.
  • Most importantly, make an intentional effort to become a better communicator. A Toastmasters club is fantastic practice and will challenge you in this area. There will be benefits you never would have expected in all facets of your life, not just in the office.

Angersmall 300x176 Communicate Better With Your CustomersWhen we communicate effectively, our impact as service leaders is amplified ten-fold. Not only do we establish better connections with our customers, but we can act as a powerful voice on their behalf within our organizations. As Paul Meyer famously stated “Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success!”

ThumbsUpsmall 300x287 Communicate Better With Your Customers

* From The Pin Drop Principle by David Lewis and G. Riley Mills

Nate Communicate Better With Your Customers

Nate Brown has had an outstanding day when he is able help customers. As the Manager of Customer Support for UL, Nate’s ambition is to create outstanding service interactions through creativity, knowledge and professionalism. He is an HDI (Help Desk Institute) certified Support Center Manager, VP of Membership for the HDI Music City Chapter and Speaker in the Southeast region. Nate is also the founder and primary author for the service blog CustomerCentricSupport.com

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5 Ways (NOT) To Apply For A Customer Service Job

bn apply here 5 Ways (NOT) To Apply For A Customer Service JobHave you ever posted or applied for a job on Craigslist?  It has actually turned out to be a fantastic place to find AWESOME customer service professionals.  The only problem is that along with some great candidates comes a lot of crap to sift through.  Pardon my French but I’m hard-pressed to find a more appropriate word.

What so many applicants don’t realize is that their interview for the position begins the moment they press send on the email.  Some REALLY don’t realize that.  If you are applying for a job that requires you to email a resume, here are five ways to put your best foot forward.

1. Follow the instructions- It is important to follow the instructions in the job posting.  It shows that you have the ability to read, comprehend and follow instructions–all critical customer service (and life) skills.  I have received a few emails asking “How do I apply?” when it clearly says to email your resume and gives the email address to send to.

2. Your email is your cover letter- A huge percentage of the emails I receive have one of the following:

  • A very poorly written email
  • The contents of the resume pasted into the email with no introductory text
  • An attached resume with nothing written in the email

This is your opportunity to write a professional and friendly email that connects with the person doing the hiring.  Always include a proper greeting, signature and a well-written message that shares why you are ideal for the position.  I’m not looking for pages of proof–just one or two paragraphs.

3. Proofread your message- Always proofread your work.  Even the best writers have a second pair of eyes review their writing.  If the message is time sensitive with no one available to read your work, read it out loud.  Your ears have a way of finding typos that your brain might gloss over.

4. Follow the instructions part two- When the post asks you to email your resume, don’t dig up our phone number and start harassing our customer service team.  True story!  Yesterday a guy called our customer service line three times and sales once to demand an interview.  A well-placed call to confirm that we received the resume is within reason.  Harassing your future coworkers is never a good plan–especially at a company that asks them for their input in the hiring process!

5. No pictures, please- I’m sure you look really amazing in that Hollister jacket but you can go ahead and leave that picture on Facebook.  I really just want to see what qualifies you to be a part of our awesome customer service team.

Thank you for hearing me out.  After reviewing hundreds of these emails in recent days, I needed to share these pet peeves.  Now back to the task of hiring AWESOME customer service representatives at Phone.com!

 5 Ways (NOT) To Apply For A Customer Service Job

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Service at Phone.com with 13+ years experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy ranked #85 on the Top 100 Most Social Customer Service Pros on Twitter by the Huffington Post in 2013. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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Small Bucks, Big Memories In Customer Service

7423137164 18517b1ee8 z 300x300 Small Bucks, Big Memories In Customer ServiceWhile diving into reviewing customer feedback today, I stumbled across a situation in which a customer experienced a lot of frustration to pay a small bill with our company. Their comment states, “Not big dollars, but long memories.”

Wow–totally know what they mean by this!

The dollar value of the product does not always equal the lasting effect of the service that you experience.

Think about it–

When was the last time you purchased something really expensive and received bad service? This experience probably stuck with you and really made you angry. You pay a lot, you expect a lot, right?

But what about when you purchased something that cost much less and received bad service? Does this change your attitude of the company?

Probably not.

Expensive products seem to demand better service BUT even if you pay less, you still expect good service.

We often hear, when purchasing cheaper products, “You get what you pay for.” But, if the service totally bites the dust, it will still leave as bad of a taste in our mouth as the more expensive product.

I ended up reaching out to this customer via phone and leaving a message as well as following up with an email to her. We still have a tiny window of opportunity to turn those memories from negative to positive and I’ll take that chance!

Use this post as a general reminder that no matter what your customer is paying for their service, the fee free memories from the customer experience will last longer than what they paid for in the first place. It’s not always about the money!

 Small Bucks, Big Memories In Customer Service

Jenny is the Customer Success Manager for Phone.com with almost a decade of customer service experience. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.

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Monday Motivation: There’s Power In Releasing Ownership

 Monday Motivation: Theres Power In Releasing OwnershipThe first attempt at soccer for my son Zack was anything but magical.  The first four weeks were characterized by high emotions and the outright desire to quit–both from child and parent.  It’s downright gut wrenching to try to convince a child to do something he doesn’t want to do.  No amount of me saying or showing him that soccer was fun accomplished anything.

After a particularly difficult practice, we sat down and talked about what was going on.  What happened next felt completely unnatural and like it could have been a big mistake.  But desperate times call for desperate measures.  I told Zack that if he no longer wanted to play soccer, he could quit.  I made it clear to him that it was his decision and that he would have to share it with his coach and he would not get a medal at the end of the season.

After giving it some thought, he told us he did not want to quit soccer.  For the final four weeks of the season, Zack played and his attitude was completely different.  Did he magically transform into a soccer star?  Not necessarily.  But, he made it to the end of the season and got his medal.  Though I suspect he may never play soccer again, I could not be prouder of the effort my son put forth.

Through this process, I have learned a few valuable lessons about ownership.

1. Releasing ownership spells relief- It is so difficult to release ownership but I realized that I was the one committed to soccer, not Zack.  When he wanted to walk off the field, I was embarrassed and sad.  What a relief to not have to carry those feelings around.

2. Releasing ownership allows you to be a fan- I had so much anxiety wrapped up in this soccer experience that I wasn’t enjoying myself at all.  When Zack took over, I all of a sudden had the freedom to cheer for him and celebrate his success.

3. Releasing ownership transfers the responsibility- Until Zack became the owner, he didn’t understand all of the implications of quitting.  When we allowed him to quit, he began to understand the impact on others rather than simply thinking about the impact to himself.

Ownership truly is a powerful thing.  If you’re anything like me, you don’t release it easily.  Take inventory of the things that you currently own whether it’s as a parent, manager or a myriad of other roles you play.  Realize the immense power in releasing the things you don’t need to own.

 Monday Motivation: Theres Power In Releasing Ownership

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Service at Phone.com with 13+ years experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy ranked #85 on the Top 100 Most Social Customer Service Pros on Twitter by the Huffington Post in 2013. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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Tis The Season For Internal Customer Appreciation & Gratitude

The stockings were hung on the office wall with care,

In hopes that words of gratitude and appreciation would soon be there!

 

It’s holiday time, if you didn’t know! And, many of us in our offices are decorating and preparing White Elephant or Secret Santa gifts.

In the Phone.com office, we’re adding another element to the gift giving and taking it up a notch to sharing words of gratitude and appreciation with one another.

We’ve hung stockings for each employee on the wall and throughout the next couple weeks, we’ll fill them with thank yous, you’re awesomes and appreciations for one another. The gift of working with such a great team is one to be recognized!

Here’s how our stocking wall looks right now, just completed today:

20141205 143605 300x225 Tis The Season For Internal Customer Appreciation & Gratitude

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, it’s time to fill with kindness and spread the genuine sweetness of this season.

What are YOU doing to encourage appreciation and gratitude to your internal customers this holiday season?

 Tis The Season For Internal Customer Appreciation & Gratitude

Jenny is the Customer Success Manager for Phone.com with almost a decade of customer service experience. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.

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