Nice Guys [Really Do] Finish First

niceguysWe recently had the opportunity to read the book Nice Guys Finish First, by our good friend and customer service expert, Doug Sandler.  In the book, Doug shares his Nice Guy philosophy which is sure to help anyone be more successful in customer service, business, and life.  The book is filled with rich stories that beautifully prove that being a nice guy (or girl) doesn’t make you a pushover– it is truly a recipe for success.

As we often do on Communicate Better Blog, we want to share a few of our thoughts regarding the book.

What did you love most about Nice Guys Finish First?

Jenny- I loved Doug’s realistic approach and the reasons why being NICE will get you nothing but great things in life. We so often read books about how important it is in business to be tough, aggressive, and to fight our way to the top, but this book outlines exactly how happiness and kindness are key elements to success.

Jeremy- Aside from the time where Doug quotes me in chapter 13, I appreciate the way he is honest and open about his journey as a nice guy.  In particular, in the chapter on having a positive attitude, he shared about some difficulties he’s experienced through the course of his life.  In the face of those challenges he says:

“When it’s up to me, I choose to win, and not let a bad situation define me and cause me to make bad decisions about my future.  Given a choice, and there is always a choice, I choose to have a positive attitude.”

Make no mistake, we will face many difficult circumstances in our lives.  By choosing a positive attitude, we are better equipped to overcome and come out stronger on the other side.  Doug is living proof of this.

What aspect of Nice Guys Finish First is challenging you the most as a customer service professional?

Jenny- For me, it’s a challenge to keep a positive outlook when customers turn up the heat. In Doug’s book, he reminds us to “pick a positive attitude”. When I have a customer cursing and screaming at me on the phone it can be quite difficult to put on that smiley face.

Jeremy- The book talks about the importance of creating a consistent pattern for success.  Doug talks about the importance of returning every call, returning every email, delivering on every promise, being on time, and communicating personally.  Amid this list there are multiple challenges that hit home for me.  To name a couple, I need to step up my game by returning every call within 24 hours and being on time.  He goes so far as to say that “15 minutes late is late.”  Ouch!

What aspect of Nice Guys Finish First is challenging you in life?

Jenny- The same thing that is challenging for me in the office is also challenging for me outside of the office. Whether it be family issues, car trouble, a big zit on my face or not getting enough sleep the night before, it’s sometimes a challenge for me to keep a happy face. And, I’d rather not always fake the smiles! It takes extra effort to push through, and while I am actively working on this, the encouragement from Doug helps tremendously.

Jeremy- I’m fascinated by Doug’s path to becoming a customer service and business expert.  He sold cookies, did mortgages and then became a DJ.  My path in customer service has been almost exclusively in the contact center.  I’m reminded and challenged by the fact that there is not one specific vocation where customer service skills apply.  Truly in any career and all relationships, these skills WILL serve you well.

Do you recommend Nice Guys Finish First to others?  Why?

Jenny-YES. If you are a business owner looking to enhance your customer experience, read this book and learn how to make a few extra happy bucks.

Jeremy- Definitely yes! One of my favorite things about social media is access to thought leaders.  When you read this book, you are not just reading the book.  You are getting access to an inspiring person in Doug Sandler who everyday practices what he preaches.  Be sure you connect with Doug through his blog and social media.

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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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 Practical Ways To Use StrengthsFinder With Your Team

strongI continue to be a huge fan of StrengthsFinder as a tool for self and other awareness.  In fact, we have talked extensively about this on our blog in the past.  For those of you who might be interested in such a tool, here are three practical ways to use it with your team.

Also note that I’m not a Gallup certified coach.  If you want such a person, I know a couple fantastic strengths coaches I would happily recommend.  Back on track– here are my three practical tools.

1. Gain Self Awareness

I am living, breathing proof that StrengthsFinder is a wonderful tool for learning more about yourself.  Viewing your life through the context of strengths, you begin to better understand why you seem to excel at certain things and maybe not so well at others.  Areas where you are excelling are probably operating out of one or more of your strengths.  To begin learning about yourself, get the book, take the test, learn your top five, and then read the descriptions for each.  Your mind will be enlightened.

2. Gain Other Awareness

In a team setting, it’s particularly useful to have all members of the team take the StrengthsFinder test.  We’ve compiled the results into a spreadsheet so we can compare and contrast.  It’s particularly interesting to see the strengths you share with others and learn about the differences.  We all have colleagues we click with better than others.  The StrengthsFinder book actually gives you strategies on how to work with those with different strengths.  Where one person might have once been annoying, you can now find ways to use their unique strengths to your advantage.  That is powerful.

3. Rich Team Discussion

Now that we all have the strengths language in common, allot some time in team meetings to discuss your strengths.  In a recent discussion, we each talked about our number one strength and gave an example of how that is evident in our lives.  It turned into a very rich discussion that helped us better understand the members of our team.  The better we understand and listen to each other, the better we work together.

By the way, my top five strengths are harmony, responsibility, consistency, empathy and adaptability.  What are yours?

If you’ve used StrengthsFinder in a team context, what are some exercises you’ve found particularly useful when discussing it as a team?

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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Multitasking And Dual Monitors In The Contact Center

dualmonitorsIn our contact center, we have taken great strides to discourage multitasking and encourage our agents to focus on one customer at a time.  We no longer ask them to take calls and answer chats or emails simultaneously.  That practice stopped after I tried taking a call and a chat at the same time and failed miserably.

There have been so many articles written about the myth of multitasking.  If you haven’t read it yet, read Why Multitasking Hurts Customer Service by Jeff Toister to learn more about this myth.

I Am Pro Dual Monitors

Like many companies, we provide our agents with the option to have two monitors.  Why would we do that if we didn’t want them to multitask?  Great question.  Here are a few guidelines for using dual monitors effectively:

1. Multiple windows– not multiple tasks- For many calls, agents might need to have multiple windows open to assist a customer.  Perhaps they have the account control panel open on one monitor and call notes or a phone application open on the other.  The point of this is that any applications open on the monitors should be related to the customer they are assisting in the moment.

2. Comparing two sets of data- I find dual monitors invaluable when I need to compare information on two windows.  For example, when trying to understand why a customer’s dollar amount increased from one invoice to another, you can compare the two side by side.  In this case, two monitors will literally keep you from ripping your hair out.

3. You can always unplug a monitor- I have found in recent days that I really love the freedom to turn my second monitor off.  If you’re taking phone calls or working with spreadsheets, the two monitors can be invaluable.  If you are just responding to email, consider using one monitor.

The Real Intent Of Dual Monitors

I want to reiterate that having two monitors is not encouragement to multitask.  Agents should always be focused on the phone conversation at hand and delivering AWESOME customer service to that customer.  Notice that while I think this can help with efficiency, I do NOT mention rushing the customer off the phone.  The goal is to get it right!

What Not To Do

Now, there are a few things that dual monitors are NOT intended for.  Some examples are monitoring social media, YouTube or other sites on one monitor while working on the other.  Doing this while working with customers is actually called multitasking!  

Now you get what I’m talking about.  If you are a contact center leader, be aware of the fact that some of your agents will love dual monitors and others will not.  Giving them the option to choose is one small way to empower your agents and allow them to customize their workflow in a way that meets their unique needs.  Are you pro dual monitor?  Do share!

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: Valuable Or Not So Valuable

In today’s hangout slash podcast, we discussed the difference between valuable and not so valuable customer service.  Hint: It’s big and your customers can tell.  Check it out or listen to our podcast below.  And don’t forget about our awesome tweets!

Hey Big Company, There Are No Excuses For Bad Customer Service!

Bic-Graphic-Customer-ServiceI spent nearly 2 hours on a conference call with my Phone.com customer and a nameless phone provider’s customer support department yesterday afternoon.

The entire call felt similar to the reaction to the sound created by nails dragging on a chalk board.

Was the issue solved at the end of this call? Not at all.

My customer is transferring two business numbers to us from the other phone provider to us. We have a date set for a couple weeks out for this to happen. However, the other provider released the numbers early and cancelled the account without authorization, resulting in the customer’s main business lines being out of service.

YIKES!

So, I jump on the conference call, hoping to talk to someone about this issue. Apparently, the department we need doesn’t have phones. My customer and I then became bean bags, kicked around from department to department, each representative telling us they cannot provide much information but “so and so department” can.

We then were transferred to a “supervisor” line.

We waited almost 20 minutes in the “supervisor” queue. At least there was a soundtrack of epic hold music on high volume to keep us occupied.

Finally when the “supervisor” answered, we were talked over when explaining the situation and then told again, that he doesn’t have access to the information we need and must create a ticket.

We cannot have a copy of the ticket though. We also cannot talk to the department that we need. And, the “supervisor” isn’t even empowered to have the information necessary to solve our problem and must create a ticket. That has a 24-48 hour turn around for “urgent” issues. He reminded us they are a large company and they must follow the process.

While yes, I was furious and my customer was furious, I also left the call with this thought:

How sad.

How sad it is that this company cannot empower its agents to handle issues. They must pass the issues on like hot potatoes, whether they want to or not.

I want to know:

  • Is being a large company an excuse for bad customer service?
  • Is being a large company an excuse for not empowering your agents?

NO!

Think about large companies that do it right. I’m sure you have your favorites. My top two are:

Amazon

Zappos

The age old saying of, “Size doesn’t matter” definitely applies here (ok, get your mind out of the gutter…).

This post isn’t about HOW to do it right–it’s about the need for these companies to see the value and importance in customer service that actually serves your customer.

So–why do large companies succeed in $$ but fail in #CustServ?

Some ideas:

  • Employees Not Valued: low pay, bad work environment/culture, not empowered
  • Lack Of Leadership: The leaders are unhappy too!
  • Strict Policy: No empowerment to go outside the box for the customer
  • Unclear Mission Or Values: If the focus is on $$ rather than the customer, then that’s what will guide every decision.

There are so many more that I’m missing (share your thoughts, please) and just hope that one day, things will change for large companies and we won’t have to waste time with bad service ever again!

I dream big!

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 Stuff Of Valuable Customer Service

trustLosing Stuff

I hate losing stuff.  Hate it!

A friend of mine recently lent us the original Star Wars trilogy.  It was magnificent!  The other night I returned the DVDs to him and thanked him.  Later that evening he texted me and asked where The Empire Strikes Back was. [insert sinking feeling]  In a house with five people, it could have walked (or crawled) anywhere, and after 48 hours, it’s still missing.

Borrowing Stuff

Growing up, we often borrowed things from friends when it came time for vacation– whether it was an RV or a cabin in the mountains.  I can remember a couple times where my parents spent money tuning up the RV before we used it.  At the end of a stay in a friend’s cabin, we would spend several hours cleaning and improving the place.

Returning and Replacing Stuff

There’s a very simple lesson here that my parents instilled in me and I’m doing the same for my kids.  That lesson is this:

When someone entrusts you with something of theirs, return it to them in as good or better condition than when they lent it to you.

This lesson was taught to me repeatedly as a child until I got it.  When another person entrusts you with something, they are trusting you to take care of it.  I guess that’s why the follow up from mom was always “You break it, you buy it.”  When it comes to The Empire Strikes Back, that may very well be the next step.

Customer Service Stuff

As a business, customers are regularly entrusting us with their time and their money–two essential resources.  When they give us their time, they trust that we won’t waste it, we’ll never use more than we need, and we’ll get the most out of each moment.  I guess that goes for their money as well.

One of the key service standards at Phone.com in achieving AWESOME customer service is value.  Our aim is to help our customers gain the most value possible from the service they pay us for and from every interaction with customer service.

Are you providing a service to your customers that is truly valuable?  When a customer entrusts you with their time and money, do you continuously earn that trust or do you waste it?  The trust of your customers is built over time but can be lost as quickly as you can say “The Empire Strikes Back.”

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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Identifying Opportunities For Awesome In Customer Service

mynameisopportunityIn customer service, we relational, positive folks have a magical way of spinning the negative situations into opportunities for improvement. And, we should be darn proud of this!

Negative situations include:

  • Customer feedback
  • Employee feedback
  • Everything in between

How do you do this?

We like to call these “Opportunities for Awesome“.

Employee Feedback

We empower our Tier 3 team, supervisors and support leads to mark tickets for “training”. We ask them to notate the ticket, after the issue was resolved, to understand the “Opportunity for Awesome” in which we can learn and improve for the future.

Our leadership team meets to discuss the support tickets marked for training.

We then have a full on discussion about what we can do to empower the team to make changes and what we can do to improve resources and training for our team. While the situation may not have been handled properly originally, we take what can we learn from it to make sure that it doesn’t happen again to any customer, ever. It’s not perfect but it’s ideal for our team. What often helps keep us fueled and motivated in these meetings is a nice cup of Starbucks.

Customer Feedback

We empower our customers to share feedback with us via a short and sweet support survey about their experience. We then reply to the negative feedback to try and repair the outstanding issues. I like to say we’re taking the lemons and making margaritas (or lemonade) for each customer. Then, we analyze the statistics for this feedback and use it as an overall guide to help us improve the customer experience.

Feedback is a beautiful thing and just requires a shift of perspective to see how the negative can really benefit your business. Read more about how replying to feedback can shift perspective on the customer side by clicking here.

For a story on an employee grabbing an Opportunity for Awesome by the horns, check out this story.

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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Cut Corners And Costs Now, Cut Customers Later

Easy-Way-OutSeveral years ago, my wife and I purchased a small house, built in the late 1950s, with loads of character. That’s code for fixer upper. One thing we absolutely didn’t want to live without was central heating and air, and apparently they didn’t need that sort of thing back in the 50s.

The house had a really old gas furnace located in a closet. We hired a contractor who then subcontracted out the HVAC work. They were charged with the responsibility of removing the old furnace and putting the new one up in our attic. I kid you not they finished the installation on the hottest day of the summer. It was glorious and worth every penny.

Some months later I decided to do some work on that old closet to make it a useful space for storing things. When I opened the door to the closet, I discovered that there was a gas pipe running right up the middle of the closet– rendering the space completely useless. In order to save time and money, the HVAC company had cut a corner on the gas line, requiring me to move it if I was going to use the closet. Fortunately, I’m handy enough that I was able to get the job done.

It’s funny. Every time I go to adjust the thermostat, I see the decal with the HVAC contractor’s name and phone number on it. I’m reminded of that incident where they cut a corner to save time and money.

As the leader of a customer service team, one of my favorite concepts is empowerment. Empowerment is about taking the extra time necessary to answer the questions the customer didn’t ask. What are the things the customer needs to know that might just prevent them from having to call back again in the future? Does this mean longer phone calls? You bet! But if the customer only has to call and listen to hold music once, and you get it right the first time, they will have positive feelings about calling in again the next time.

Business leaders both great and small, I’m calling on you right now. Are you taking the time to do the job right the first time, or are you being short sighted and cutting corners in order to save a buck now? Your customers know the difference.

Going back to my thermostat, had the HVAC company gotten it right the first time, I would probably see their name, smile, and feel confident in knowing who to call when my air conditioner needed maintenance. Instead, I see that logo, give a little smirk and say “Yeah right. I’m never calling you again.”

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 Main Thing

In this Coffee and Customer Service Hangout, we introduced a new format to help us focus a bit more on the main thing.  Jenny shared about the importance of taking your lunch breaks and encouraging your customer service team to take theirs away from their desk as well.  Check out her awesome share for the hangout:

Jeremy talked about the importance of figuring out what our main things are and keeping our eyes focused on those things.  Here’s his awesome share for the week:

Don’t miss this week’s hangout and please let us know what you think about the new format!

If it’s easier for you to listen to our hangout as a Podcast, you can subscribe to our feed in iTunes to download this episode.

Lessons From The Lunch Room

School Food - CheeseburgerWe now know that Lunch Breaks Are Not For Losers.

By taking just 30 minutes of refuel time, for lunch, away from your desk and computer, you are increasing productivity by at the very least, 10%.

Perhaps I don’t have a study to confirm the percentage and I’m just pulling that number out of a hat, but after my experience this week with taking a lunch break every day (okay, except for Wednesday), I can report back to you with the following results:

  • Increase in lunch enjoyment: I actually tasted my food and didn’t scarf it down like a starving dog, like I do when I eat at my desk. Plus, I had an opportunity to chat with other co-workers, which was a great social perk.
  • Increase in a positive mindset: I felt happier and more relaxed after taking this break and returning to work. Others at work also commented on my lunch break accomplishments. This feedback was great fuel to keep me going!
  • Increase in a clearer mind: My mind was able to stop thinking and recharge. When I returned to my desk, I felt ready to take on the next challenges, not dread them with an exhausted mind.
  • Increase in desk cleanliness: I returned to my crumb free desk with a smile. My keyboard also thanked me for no smudges of salad dressing on it’s keys.
  • Increase in overall energy: With the day broken into two chunks, I bounced into the next few hours of work with a newfound boost of energy and was able to tackle SO MUCH!
  • Increase in productivity: This is the one we really care about right? Because being more productive means more $$ for our company! With all this positivity, a clear mind and energy flowing through me, I found that I accomplished MORE–I was able to address problems and come up with solutions faster. I was able to reply to my emails and return phone calls with more oomph and zest, which makes for happier customers, which in turn, means they are more likely to stay with you, which means long term revenue. I also was able to check off more items on my to-do list AND leave work after a good 8-9 hours, instead of the usual 10+.

Wednesday snuck up on me and after moving a meeting from 11:30am to 12:30pm, I found myself eating lunch quickly while talking during the meeting. Sorry to my coworkers if I spit any food on you!

The Lunch Break Lesson: From experience, taking a lunch break is absolutely worth it. I will continue to work on taking my lunch breaks, as often as I can, and finding measurables to prove that this is one challenge worth taking. I hope you do too!