Do You Give In Or Just Give Up?

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 2.16.53 PMWhile I am not an avid marathoner like my co-blogger Jeremy is, I have managed to work myself up to 5 miles and am striving for more.

Running doesn’t come easy to me but I just run slow and blast the tunes to keep my feet pounding the pavement.

Yesterday, I didn’t feel like running but I forced myself to put my sneakers on and go. At 4 miles, the thought of stopping to walk passed into my head.

Oh, how desirable this sounded!

However, instead of slowing down, I told myself I’ve worked hard enough and must keep running. So I did. And I reached my goal.

As I pushed through this desire to give up, I realized that sometimes there are things we decide to work toward that may not be as fun as we’d prefer, but we have found value in what we’re doing and the hard work we’ve already put into it, therefore we keep pushing past.

And, sometimes, we choose to give up.

In the situations where we give up, are we really losing out or is it really something that we just flat out don’t want to do because it has no value to us? How do we determine that? Do we need to shift our perspective or keep trying at everything, no matter what? What’s the right thing to do?

Or perhaps, if it’s something we really want to do, for most of us, we’ll just do it.

I’ve been questioning my reactions to negative situations lately and even had a “WWDD” (What would Doug (Sandler) do) moment:

When faced with a negative situation, do we need to reconsider our perspective on it and keep shifting it until we find positivity or can we just look at something for what it is–a really negative situation, accept it, do something about it (in the cases where we have control) and move on with our lives?

Sometimes, the acceptance of the situation, at least those for which we have no control over (minus the way we react) is more powerful and fulfilling. We’re able to just…move forward. Keep running, even if slowly, toward our goal.

So, what do we do? How many shifts in perspective can we put on a situation? Or, are those just bandaids for the truth?

This post is mainly just me blabbing about how confused I am with this topic–so your insight is appreciated! Thanks for reading.

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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3 Ways To Sharpen Your Customer Service Saw Without Reading

The book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey has left an indelible mark on my life.  One of the seven habits is Sharpen the Saw.  This concept is about investing in ourselves, and a big part of that is continuing to learn new things.

Since learning about that concept, I have made a concerted effort to fill my daily commute time with audio books and podcasts rather than sports talk radio and depressing news.  In addition, I’m working to replace my TV time with TED talks, other educational videos and of course, books.  The TV part is proving to be the bigger challenge.

Blogs and books are fantastic ways to keep your customer service and business saw sharp, but they aren’t the ONLY ways to do so.  Here are three awesome resources I’ve been turned onto recently that don’t require any reading.

1. Crack The Customer CodeCustomer service and experience experts ctcc_logo_small1Adam Toporek and Jeannie Walters recently started this podcast.  Each podcast is incredibly well organized, features a variety of expert guests, and ends with my favorite part, the Heroes and Zeroes segment.  Listen to this podcast and you are sure start looking at the bigger picture of how your customers experience your company.

2. Nice Guys On BusinessIn this new podcast, Doug Sandler and Strickland niceguyspodcastBonner discuss a wide variety of business topics.  If you aren’t familiar with the nice guy philosophy, it will change the way you approach your customers.  Not to mention, these guys are extremely entertaining to listen to and are sure to get you smiling during your commute.

 

3. Shep Hyken Video BlogShep Hyken is one of the foremost customer Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 2.43.28 PMservice experts and certainly the most social.  I’ve been a huge fan of his blog and books for some time but he has recently taken his game to a new level on his YouTube channel.  Next time you’re looking for something to watch on TV, tune into Shep’s video blog for tons of fantastic and short customer service lessons.

What are some of your favorite customer service and business podcasts and video resources?  Let us know so we can continue to find new ways to sharpen our saws without reading.

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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What Is Your Name In Customer Service?

hellomynameisjennyI have a question for you:

As a customer service representative, how do you feel about using your real first and last name with customers?

Privacy Violations

Some customer service reps agree that providing their first and last names threatens privacy and sets them up for possible trouble. We all know the cranky, creepy customers who are having a horrible day and need to take it out on someone else. No matter how good our customer service skills are, there are folks that just try to drag others down with them. We don’t quite know what lengths they’d go to, though. I know I’ve had some of those creepy customers tell me they are trying to find me on Facebook. I kindly let them know that I don’t have one…

Assigning Responsibility

There is also the debate that providing your first and last name automatically assigns responsibility for that customer. You are officially taking ownership, the customer knows it and you know it–your name becomes linked with this situation.

Limiting Information

We’ve heard some companies feel more comfortable by using the first name and first initial of their last name to protect the identity of the representative. Even if you ask them over the phone what their last name is, the rep will not share it with you. Does this then take away from a positive customer experience?

Accomodating Everyone

Some members of the customer service team may not mind, especially if their names are more common, however, others with more unique names, may want to protect their identity. How do you accommodate each member of your team, depending on their privacy preference? Or, do you just let them know going into the job, that their first and last name will be provided and if they have issues with this, to not take the position?

I don’t know the answer to what is right and what is wrong so I am asking you, customer service professional–how do you manage this with your team?

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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The 5 Bits Of Inspiration That Got Me Through Today

201307_Cassini_Earth_SaturnWhat’s up with Mondays?  You can do all the right things, get all psyched up, and even love your job and Mondays, to put it frankly, still suck.  Whereas most days you might require a tall portion of motivation, Mondays require a Super Big Gulp.  7-11 plus Starbucks?  What if?

But alas, I have nothing profound for you this evening other than to tell you that I survived.  Here are some of the inspirations that got me through the day.

Inspiration #1- Yesterday at my church I heard a great story.  A friend recently attended a concert with jazz greats Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea.  Both men are accomplished jazz pianists who talked about their goal as musicians of making the other guy look good.  Think you don’t have any purpose in your job?  Start by making others look good.

Inspiration #2- My pastor told a story yesterday about a recent visit to Notre Dame de Paris.  He told of sitting in the cathedral for well over an hour, admiring it’s grandeur, and observing the mass that was taking place.  He then observed tourists who would walk in, take a picture, and then walk out.  They were satisfied with evidence that they were there rather than the actual act of being there.  In this Instagram and Facebook generation, how easy is it to take a picture and share it with our friends, when in reality, we need to sit a while and feed our own souls?

Inspiration #3- On 60 minutes last night, they did a story on Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.  In the piece he showed the picture above of a view of earth from Saturn.  Earth is that tiny blue dot.  That’s our home and the only home we’ve ever known.  His point was that if human beings had this perspective they’d be a whole lot less motivated to fight one another.  He went on to talk about how any time he goes outside, he looks up at the sky and the stars.  As adults we lose that wonder that we so desperately need in our lives.  Don’t forget to look up when you walk outside!

Inspiration #4- I listened to a favorite podcast this morning with a guy named Rob Bell.  In it he talks about atoms and subatomic particles.  Did you know that there are more atoms in a glass of water than there are glasses of water in the entire ocean?  Think also about the fact that our bodies completely regenerate themselves every seven years because our cells are constantly dying off and giving way to new cells.  His point was that science has learned so much and yet there is still even more that we can’s explain.  That which cannot be explained is a miracle and I think that is the best way to describe so many aspects of our bodies.

Inspiration #5- Before bed this evening, my son Zack chose a book about heroes.  We read a poem about dads and another short story about Abraham Lincoln.  My favorite was that of Mother Theresa.  I have enough trouble serving customers.  This woman served the poorest of the poor and did it faithfully.  I am reminded that whether we serve as our vocation or not, the point is that we aim to serve others and to truly love them.

I hope you see the common themes here.  I hope you are reminded daily that we are miracles who are part of this vast universe that is beyond our comprehension.  With that in mind, let’s take time to really remember that and then serve and love others in a way that brings out the best in them.

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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Six Ways To Play And Get More Done At Work

9737104-a-baseball-glove-in-a-baseball-diamondA group of us is currently reading the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown.  In the book he talks about the importance of play as a catalyst for creativity.  He shares countless examples of great innovators who made some of their greatest discoveries and achievements while playing.  Here’s a list of six easy ways to incorporate play into your daily routine without sacrificing productivity.

Walk- The late Steve Jobs was notorious for going on walks with others when he needed to hammer out business matters.  Who says you need to sit across from someone in order to have a meeting?  At our office, we have a hill that we love to walk up often.

Play Catch- Football, baseball, torches, you name it.  Nothing breaks the monotony like getting outside, getting fresh air and playing a little sport?  Just today we brought our baseball gloves to work and played catch while we hammered out a difficult discussion.

Learn Together- Nothing unleashes more creativity in a team than learning together.  As previously mentioned, we are going through a book on our lunch one day a week right now.  It is a fantastic idea to discuss ways to be more focussed and productive with coworkers.  Right there you also have instant accountability to bring about real improvement.

Eat Together- Who doesn’t like food–especially free food?  There is great power in sharing a meal together.  In our office, we do that once a week and it typically sparks some great discussion that wouldn’t otherwise happen if we were all siloed up in our offices.

Pranks- Yes we all have varying levels of tolerance to pranks.  As a general rule of thumb, a fun little prank here and there is a lot of fun for the puller of the prank and reminds the victim that their colleagues were thinking about them.  Please handle with care on this one but with the right amount of care, this can really put a colleague and team in a positive mindset.

Get Off Site- Find ways to bust out of the four walls once in a while and get off site with your team.  It shouldn’t come as a shock that Starbucks is a magical place for us to frequent often.

What are some ways that you incorporate play in your daily routine?  Tell us in a comment or on Facebook or Twitter.

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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Admitting To A Problem Is The First Step Toward Solving A Problem

houstonWe have recently encountered a rather debilitating issue in our call center with a company we do business with.  There’s nothing like calling customer service and going through the paces with the assumption that it’s a problem on MY end, NOT theirs.

I’ve been in this customer service stuff too long not to ask:

The service was working fine last week.  What changed?  Are you guys having any issues on your end?

In this particular case, I’ve probably talked to five different frontline customer service representatives and without fail they quickly responded to that question with “The server you are on hasn’t had any issues recently.”

What I’m really doing here is desperately searching for someone who can tell me that I’m not the only customer having a problem. If your business is anything like ours, your IT staff has about a billion other things on their plate.  If I’m going to ask IT to drop everything to look at an issue, I need to be fairly confident that the issue is on my end.

So after a two week runaround, I finally spoke with someone in technical support who miraculously said:

I have another customer reporting the same issue.  I’m pretty sure this has to do with something we released a couple weeks ago.

And with that the skies parted and a beam of light shone down upon me and told me everything was going to be ok.  It’s not my problem.  I can let my IT folks off the hook.

Why am I telling you this story?  There are 3 reasons:

1. Transparency is attractive- I can work with people who are transparent.  I’m not perfect and don’t expect perfection.  If you’re willing to be honest, I’m willing to work with you.  Scale that to a company and it’s exactly the same.  I’ll give a company my business if they are willing to shoot straight with me.

2. Customer service should be empowered to be transparent-  Great customer service professionals think critically about the calls they are receiving and look for common threads.  A comment like “There’s have been no problems on your server” makes the customer feel like it’s still their problem.  On the contrary, a comment like “Oh, I spoke with another customer having this issue” can really put a customer at ease.  Customer service representatives should be empowered to be this real with customers.

3. Admitting there’s a problem is powerful- I’m keenly aware that when technical support admitted to a problem, I was immediately put at ease.  No longer did I have to suspect that our IT staff did something wrong.  They have admitted a problem and now they can make progress on fixing the problem.

Yes indeed I feel better.  Hopefully the post to follow is all about how the problem was solved and we were able to move on with business as usual.

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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3 Leadership Insights From Do Lead By @LesMcKeown

Victore_Do_Lead_largeMy boss recently returned from a conference with a couple books in hand designated for moi.  One of them was a nifty little book called Do Lead by Les McKeown.  While it may be small, it is packed with some huge, foundational leadership wisdom.  I’d like to share my top three insights from the book.  If you want more than three, pick up a copy for yourself!

Insight #1- Leadership is about helping others achieve goals

McKeown defines leadership as:

Helping any group of two or more people achieve their common goals.”

In a world where we often call people who are high in eloquence and charisma leaders, it’s important to keep our focus on the result.  McKeown goes so far as to use words like mundane, unspectacular and un-glorious to describe leaders.  Some people who call themselves leaders can talk a good game but can they help a group of people achieve a goal?

Insight #2- Leadership is about the small things

Effective leadership isn’t about focusing on the big things. It’s about consistently doing the myriad small things that eventually make the big things possible.

McKeown told this story in the context of Captain Sullenberger, the pilot who successfully landed a plane in the Hudson River, saving every passenger on board.  His point was that Sully didn’t arrive at this opportunity by accident.  He had countless hours of experience in the skies and tons of hours training that let him to that point.  It was the little things that put him in exact spot to lead his passengers to safety.  Think the little things don’t matter in leadership?  They do!

Insight #3- Leadership is about lifelong learning

Leadership is a continuum, a lifelong learning process, and failure is just as much a part of that process as is success.

It seems like just about every business guru is talking about the importance of failure these days.  This is nothing new and yet, it remains a huge mountain to get over.  How many of us think that in order to be great leaders we need to go through life unscathed?  I love McKeown’s focus on learning from our failures and successes as an essential component to leadership.

As I reflect on Les McKeown’s leadership views I find myself attracted to the way in which he broadens the topic.  Leadership is no longer this thing only a select few incredibly gifted people participate in.  Quite the contrary, we can all participate in the act of leading others with acts both great and small, glamorous and unnoticed.

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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Learn To Be The Customer Service Advocate

name-badge-advocateThe other day, my boss Jeremy (@jtwatkin) shared words of wisdom about my role as a customer service manager and how my one biggest job is to advocate for the team.

No matter what I do, my job is to make sure they have what they need to succeed at their job.

How does one do this?

While I am still learning, every day, I am immediately brought back to a post I wrote a couple years ago titled Baahhddd Feedback that brings attention to:

L

A

M

B

In order to advocate for your team, you must use the LAMB method:

L is for Listen

When a member of your team comes to you with something to say, LISTEN. Listen to what they are telling you with patience and understanding. You may gain valuable insight into ways that you can improve their experience on the team and for your company in general. If your memory isn’t that great, take notes. Genuinely pay attention to what they have to say. They approached you for a reason.

A is for Acknowledge

Take the feedback that your team gave you and do something about it. Don’t ignore it or sweep it under the rug. Acknowledge it and if you can, seek to make changes to improve the situation, if negative, and recognize your team for being awesome, when positive feedback comes your way.

M is for Make Better

You were just given valuable information from a member of your team. You have listened to them, taken notes and fully acknowledge the individual with gratitude for sharing with you. Now, what will you do to improve things? You may not be able to solve every problem but sometimes, just the simple act of listening makes someone feel better, which in turn, resolves negativity within a situation.

B is for Boost Improvement

What can you learn from the situation with your team? What did you push for to improve their experience as employees at the company? Did you get them a raise? Did you help them with a challenging task? Whatever it was, learn from any bits and pieces of the situation that may not have worked out and use them to improve for the next time around. Boosting improvement can also include boosting morale and other sensitive areas that a team may require.

Just remember, your ultimate goal:

To make sure your team succeeds at their jobs.

And then your own success will easily fall into place.

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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Another Slice Of That Apple Customer Experience Please

Apple makes the customer experience as easy as pie.

Apple makes the customer experience as easy as pie.

My co-blogger, Jenny Dempsey and I are both the proud owners of new iPhones after many years as Android users.  Jenny went with the iPhone 6 and I am thrilled to have a new iPhone 5s.  Having switched to Mac computers within the last couple years, this move seems to complete the famed end to end customer experience that Steve Jobs envisioned.

In the post to follow, we want to take a few moments to talk about our switch from Android to iPhone and share our observations about the customer experience.

What were the drivers that pushed you to switch from Android to iPhone?

Jeremy- Well aside from the fact that it was time to get a new phone, I have had two Android phones and in both cases, the battery life didn’t hold a candle to Apple.  My wife charges her iPhone every other day and I charge mine twice a day.  My phone also got really, really slow toward the end–though that might be the case with almost any outdated technology.  I’m willing to give Android a pass on that.  I was also really excited to be on an iPhone so I could easily use Facetime with my wife, kids and extended family and sync my music effortlessly with iTunes.

Jenny-Same here, Jeremy. It was upgrade time and I figured that making the PC to MAC switch happened so it was only a natural progression from Android to iPhone. iPhones seem to have more apps available, plus I can connect it to my iTunes and other programs on my MacBook. You’re so right though, this battery life is incredible!

What were your initial impressions upon receiving your new iPhone?

Jenny- How the heck do I work this thing?! It’s much lighter than my Android and very speedy in opening programs.

Jeremy- I continue to revel in Apple’s amazing presentation.  The box and packaging were a work of art.  Three cheers for consistency!  It really is a beautiful device and I’m proud to carry it around in my pocket.

What new functionality did you dive right into when you setup your new iPhone that you weren’t able to do with Android?

Jenny- Connecting to my iTunes account! Pretty awesome to have my music library with me wherever I go. Also, the text messaging from iPhone user to iPhone user is really nifty–you can see the other person typing. Oh, and of course, the Phone.com app (shameless plug).

Jeremy- You nailed it, Jenny.  Syncing music on my Android was a nightmare.  Toward the end there it took me up to thirty minutes to play a song!  Streaming from the cloud?  Fuggetaboutit!  A close second is the fact that I went more than 24 hours before having to charge my phone.  Of course I did Facetime with all of my family members as well.

What do you miss (if anything) from your old Android phone?

Jenny-Just knowing how everything worked is what I miss. I know I’ll get to that point with the iPhone, but for now, the learning curve, while exciting to figure out the mysteries of a new device, can be frustrating.

Jeremy- Not much!  I do however my miss my old alarm clock and am on a quest to find a good alarm clock for iPhone that allows you to customize the snooze timer.  Don’t you dare tell me to stop hitting snooze.

What aspects of the Apple end to end customer experience do you find most valuable?

Jeremy- My Apple experience consists of iPhone, Macbook pro and AppleTV.  Each product interacts quite well with the other.  Sharing music between all three and keeping in touch with family and friends via Facetime and Messages is effortless regardless of the device.

Jenny- I have yet to contact Apple about my new iPhone.. Their user guides and help docs are incredible. They even have a Tips app that updates weekly on the phone to help show you various things you can do with it. You can also schedule to go to free workshops at classes and get hands on help from a pro.

Are you an iPhone or Android user or– wait are there actually Windows phone users out there?  If given your choice, which would you use and why?  What are your favorite aspects of Apple’s end to end customer experience?  What other companies rival Apple in this regard?

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: Employee Onboarding

Did you miss our hangout with Mitch Causey from Lesson.ly today?  No problem!  Join us as we discuss call center agent training and how to make the onboarding and training process more efficient.