A Practical Guide to Connecting with Customers

Image Credit: Connect Me by Thomas Hawk via CC License

Image Credit: Connect Me by Thomas Hawk via CC License

This post was originally published on the FCR blog on February 2, 2016. Click here to read the original.

I consider myself to be an amateur collector of viral customer service stories. My all-time favorite is “United Breaks Guitars,” in which United Airlines broke a customer’s guitar and refused to assume responsibility for it. Little did they know that the customer, Dave Carroll, was a songwriter and he’d take to YouTube with his negative customer service experience—to the tune of 15 million views and counting.

On the flipside, there are plenty of viral stories where a company “wowed” the customer and we all get to feel good about it. Thanks to the broadcasting power of social media and to companies like Zappos, Nordstrom, and others that are setting high standards, business leaders are actively trying to trap this “wow”-level of service in a bottle and replicate it for every customer experience.

The definition of a great customer service interaction undoubtedly varies from industry to industry and company to company. As head of quality assurance (QA) at FCR, we evaluate the quality of our interactions over a number of typical components, including the welcome and closing, following proper security protocol, giving the customer correct information, solving the problem, displaying empathy, and properly documenting the case.

There is, however, another value that is making its way into QA. Some call it “wow” and others call it making a personal connection with the customer. Whatever you call it, merely following protocol and not being a jerk is no longer good enough. The modern customer service experience requires pizzazz. At face value, that sounds like a lot of work. If done right, though, it doesn’t have to be; all you need is a little strategy.

The Growing Responsibility of Customer Service Professionals

For the typical support professional, interacting with a customer might require having a myriad of programs and windows open on his or her computer. These might include the customer record in the CRM, a phone app, company website, ticket system, knowledge base, some internal or external chat tool, and of course, personal notes that ensure they don’t miss a step. All the while, they’re expected to write a 200-word internal note to document everything that happened during the interaction. With mile-long call and chat queues and exploding email inboxes, it’s inevitable that the word “multi-tasking” creeps it’s way into the conversation.

Jeff Toister, author of Service Failure, has written extensively on the correlation between multi-tasking and poor customer service. And now management wants to tack on an unreasonable expectation that agents should make a meaningful connection with each customer?

It’s not as unreasonable as it sounds. Customer service expert Shep Hyken has a nice way of putting all of this into perspective. In a recent post, he talked about the importance of consistency. Hyken defines this level of customer service as being consistently above average. Anyone can impress a customer once in awhile, but it’s a lot more challenging to perform at a consistently high level.

Here are some practical ways to consistently connect with customers without adding a bunch of extra work to your already-full plate.

  1. Start and end each interaction the right way. A proper greeting and closing seem like common sense, but I’m amazed at how often I email customer service and they respond without a proper “Hi” or “Hello.” These small salutations are easy to overlook but so powerful in starting the conversation the right way.

In the same way, it drives me crazy when the email signature doesn’t include the name of the person responding. Signing your name to the email is a great first step in helping customers feel like they are interacting with a human being and not a faceless organization. As an added bonus, make sure the customer feels validated in sharing their problem and that you are grateful for their business.

  1. Use the customer’s name. I can’t tell you how often I catch myself asking for someone’s name and then not listening to the response. When meeting new people, I make a conscious effort to use their name in a sentence, and I’m much more likely to remember it at that point.

In the book How To Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie said, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” In text-based interactions like email, the key word when using the customer’s name is “naturally,” and it’s unlikely you’ll find a natural way to use it more than once. In cases when you are speaking with the customer, aim to work their name naturally into the conversation two or three times.

  1. Look for connection cues. Empathy is a super power possessed by all great support professionals. It’s the ability to recognize the emotional state of the customer and respond in a way that shows you understand how they feel and you will work tirelessly to resolve their issue.

In the book The Pursuit of Social Business Excellence, Vala Afshar and Brad Martin perfectly capture this by saying, “Your problem is our problem until it’s no longer your problem.” Responding with empathy requires that you recognize emotional cues from the customer. When speaking with them, it’s easy to pick up cues from their language and tone of voice.

Picking up these cues in written communication is much more of an art form, but it’s essential to seek clues into their emotional state in their writing. In a case where they are frustrated, a simple statement like, “I’m sorry to hear that you are frustrated. I’m here to get this problem solved for you” goes a long way. Knowing that a human being understands how they feel and has taken ownership of their issue builds a bond of trust.

  1. Use templates carefully. Templates or scripts are a great way to save time and ensure that a correct and consistent message is conveyed to the customer.

On the other hand, a response that does not address the issue the customer contacted support about can spell disaster. The last thing a customer wants is to feel like they are corresponding with a robot. A response that is tailored toward their issue shows that a human being took the time to critically think about the solution.

Going back to the previous points, be sure to include the proper greeting, closing, and empathetic language along with the template so it doesn’t look like a template.

The Responsibility of Management

For those of you in leadership, you can help your team in their pursuit of customer connection by doing the following five things:

  1. Keep account notes to the length of a Tweet or less. Coach your team to only include the essential facts, leave out their personal gripes and feelings about customers, and boil it down to something that’s about the length of a tweet (140 characters). This keeps it manageable and doable.
  2. Invest in training. I’ve seen enough personality and strength assessments to know that some people are naturally relational and some aren’t. These skills can be learned, but that takes time and experience. When I say investment, I don’t mean send them an email with a link to this article. Spend the time necessary to design a course and then take your customer service team off the production floor to give them time to learn and practice these skills.
  3. Focus on tools. The market for customer service tools is hot right now, and the best part is that they are cost effective, simple, and they integrate well with one another. It’s time to ditch that homegrown phone and ticket system and get something hosted in the cloud. With cloud-based applications, companies can connect all of their support channels so customers can email, chat, or call and be easily identified. Tools like Help Scout can free up agents to focus on the customer rather than search for information about the customer.
  4. Recognize that there will be trade-offs. In his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown introduces us to the idea of trade-offs. It’s a simple concept: if you put a new responsibility on the plate of customer service, something else has got to go. It’s your job to help your team know what to keep and what to drop.
  5. Empower, empower, empower. Find ways for your agents to say yes and solve problems for customers. Sure, it might take them a little longer to resolve an issue, but it’s worth it if customers only have to call or email once to get their issues resolved. I recently polled my colleagues at FCR and found that they value the ability to solve problems more than anything else in customer service.

If I were to ask you to close your eyes and think about your last great customer service experience, you would undoubtedly say that the person you worked with was friendly and engaging and was able to resolve your problem quickly and efficiently. If I were to ask you how this affected your loyalty to that company, you’d most certainly say it sent it through the roof.

In a business climate where “wow” is becoming the standard, I couldn’t be more excited about what this means for customer service. The companies and support professionals who continually seek opportunities to connect on a human level with their customers will thrive. The ones who don’t—well, they’ll continue to fuel our hunger for entertaining stories that go viral on social media.

Jeremy Watkin is the Head of Quality at FCR, the most respected outsource provider. He has more than 15 years of experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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From Frontline Customer Service to Leadership

This article was originally written as a guest post on the ICMI website with my colleague Sheri Kendall-duPont. The original article can be found here.

When I (Jeremy) was first promoted from a front-line customer service position into leadership, I struggled mightily in a couple areas. The first was in the process of evaluating and coaching my team. Having been in their shoes, I evaluated them by comparing them to my own performance in that same role. This made for some ineffective and sometimes argumentative coaching sessions. The second area where I struggled was in communicating contact center performance to upper management. They wanted me to establish KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and proactively manage to those and I was much more comfortable reacting to the circumstances that would arise through the course of supporting customers.

In a recent post, Jeff Toister of Toister Performance Solutions shared some compelling research from Zendesk indicating that mid-size companies with 500 to 5000 employees struggle more with customer service than smaller or larger companies. I had the opportunity to discuss this in a hangout with Jeff and share some theories as to why this might be.

In contact centers, the skills that the top representatives exhibit typically include a friendly demeanor with customers, the ability to react quickly to any problem and respond with solutions, and the capacity to process a maximum number of tasks in a reasonable amount of time. The folks that do this well typically are the ones who are eligible for leadership roles as they come available.

Our theory is that mid-size organizations struggle more with customers because many were smaller organizations that rapidly grew and had to quickly promote their top customer service performers into leadership positions. Without proper leadership experience and training, this can be a recipe for some growing pains.


We recently asked customer service professionals who made the jump from the front lines to a leadership role to name the top skill they wish they possessed prior to their promotion.  We were delighted to receive 80 responses, of which 68 (85%) were from our colleagues at FCR.

When asked What’s the number one skill you wish you had learned before you were promoted to a supervisor or manager position the results were fairly well distributed. There are three clear themes we’d like to highlight.


Leadership Skills

At 28%, it’s clear that the most important skill for leaders in a contact center is the ability to deal with difficult personalities. This speaks to both the responsibility of handling escalated customer issues and dealing with the variety of personalities represented in the people they supervise. The ability to effectively manage and coach others at 11% and general leadership skills at 14% means that 53% of respondents crave more tools to lead, manage, and work with others effectively.

Contact Center Technology

Given the high dependency of contact centers on spreadsheets, it’s no surprise that the second highest individual category was advanced Excel knowledge at 17%. Couple this with the 9% who wanted better understanding of contact center technology and there’s a clear opportunity to train specific the technical skills required for leadership.

Business Acumen

Another aspect of a transition to leadership in the contact center is the need to be able to communicate effectively with clients and with colleagues in other areas of the business. 11% of respondents believed that a better understanding of business and finance would help them in these interactions. In addition, 5% wanted a better understanding of contact center terminology which really speaks to those conversations about KPIs that translate the performance of the contact center to business results.

Equipping Colleagues For Leadership

Now that we understand what some of the challenges are in moving people into leadership roles, here are three things we are doing at FCR to prepare our front line colleagues for leadership roles.

  • Create a coaching culture: We are focusing significant energy and resources on training our existing leadership to coach the right way. Our coaching with compassion model focuses leaders on being coachable themselves, listening deeply to the person they are coaching, and demonstrating a willingness to serve. When our leaders model this type of coaching in this way, we effectively change the culture of our leadership.
  • Build a leadership pipeline: We are identifying our potential leaders at FCR. In addition to producing great work, we look for colleagues possessing excellent communication skills, strong emotional intelligence, humility, and coachability. Once we identify those traits in an individual, we train them.
  • Focused Training: We are training our colleagues for leadership in a few different areas.
    • Exposure to business and technology: Our internal learning management system (LMS) and the thought leadership efforts of our blog and internal newsletter are designed to help future leaders understand key business competencies and important tools like spreadsheets and other contact center technologies.
    • Assign projects above current duties: Future leaders are given opportunities to run cultural events in our centers or complete an extra project to develop abilities in addition to their customer service responsibilities. This also affords them valuable experience building presentations and engaging with clients.
    • Leadership training: Our Leadership training program focuses on the importance of serving those we are leading so they can deliver better service to customers. They are given tools to better understand their colleagues and create a workplace that is motivating and work that is fulfilling.
    • Microlearning: Through tools like our LMS, Lynda.com, and our lending libraries in each of our contact centers, our leaders can learn at their own pace in bite-sized chunks.

While we focused on contact centers in our study, one of our colleagues rightly observed that the move from a task role to management spans a variety of industries. By committing to identifying colleagues who are not only top customer service performers but also have the passion and humility to freely share knowledge and best practices with those they lead, we are demonstrating an investment in the development and well-being of our colleagues.

Sheri Kendall-duPont’s passion for creating positive change within organizations led her to FCR. In her current role as the Manager of Colleague and Leadership Development she has developed programs that have inspired those in leadership to create a coaching culture. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from Northwestern Christian University and a Master’s Degree in Training and Development from Roosevelt University. Her career in education began in 1999 and since then she has developed workplace learning opportunities for non-profit organizations, institutions of higher education, government agencies, healthcare organizations and contact centers.

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Jeremy Watkin is the Head of Quality at FCR, the most respected outsource provider. He has more than 15 years of experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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Roasting Up Tasty Customer Service

ironsmithIronsmith Coffee Roasters is my local coffee shop on Highway 101, steps away from where I work. A day doesn’t go by, usually around the 2pm afternoon slump, where coworker’s voice rings through the office, “Ironsmith, anyone?

A week ago, my coworker, out for a walk n’ talk, decided to grab a cup of coffee. We found our way to Ironsmith but they were not open.

Inside, we saw one of the baristas standing at a whiteboard and people sitting around a table in what appeared to be a class on coffee. A sign on the door said they were closed for an event.

STOP–this is perfectly normal! Businesses can do this. They host events all the time that require them to close. No biggie! You just deal with it and go somewhere else.

What happens next is what sets Ironsmith apart. 

An owner of the shop had set pots of their freshly roasted coffee in the front of the shop. There were cups, lids, sleeves, straws, sugar, and cream.

When we approached, the looks on our faces showed surprise by the generosity. Could this reallllllly be free? The owner, who was near the open window, smiled at us and said, “Just because we’re closed doesn’t mean you get to miss out on coffee. We gotta keep our locals happy. It’s on the house! Help yourselves.

And, we did.

Ironsmith definitely didn’t have to give away free coffee.

But, their stance clearly shows how much they care about roasting delicious coffee AND caring for their customers.

My experience was taken up a notch even when they were not actually open.

So, thanks Ironsmith!

Thought I’m Putting In Your Head With This Post:

What is a random act of generosity you can surprise your customers with?

Be sure to follow Ironsmith on Twitter (@ironsmithcoffee) and be sure to support them if you’re ever in Encinitas!

Jenny is the Visitor Support Manager for DMV.ORG. With over a decade of customer service experience, Jenny has been recognized through social media channels as a thought leader. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Be sure to follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn!

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The (Not So) Scary Future Of Contact Centers

Photo Credit: Andreas Dantz via CC License

Photo Credit: Andreas Dantz via CC License

This post was originally published on the FCR blog on January 22, 2016. Click here to read the original.

I was able to take a little time off over the holidays and the last thing I wanted to do was read another book about customer service. I polled my Facebook friends for suggestions. There were many fantastic books to choose from but I finally settled on Ready Player One by Ernest Cline; suggested by FCR’s own Matthew Achak.

While Matthew’s recommendation didn’t disappoint, I do have one beef about the book. Near the end of Ready Player One, there’s a scene about customer service which was exactly the thing I didn’t want to read about on my vacation! All kidding aside, the book was fantastic.

Cline portrays a world about fifty years from now that’s dark, dreary, and barely inhabitable. Most people spend the bulk of their time in a virtual reality called Oasis which was created by the programming geniuses of today. Oasis is largely maintained and governed by a major corporation.

In the story, Wade, the main character, accrued a huge debt in Oasis and was captured by Corporate Police. They put a tag in his ear and forced him to work as an indentured servant in the contact center at Helpful Helpdesk, Inc. until he paid off his debt. Treated as a prisoner, he didn’t make enough money to ever pay it off and would thus be forced to work there forever.

I love how Wade describes life in the contact center:

Helpful Helpdesk, Inc. took millions of calls a day, from all over the world. Twenty-four seven, three sixty-five. One angry, befuddled cretin after another. There was no downtime between calls, because there were always several hundred morons in the call queue, all of them willing to wait on hold for hours to have a tech rep hold their hand and fix their problem. Why bother looking up the solution online? Why try to figure the problem out on your own when you could have someone else do your thinking for you?

He goes on to talk about customer courtesy software that filters his voice to ensure that it always sounds cheerful. When he loses it and swears at a customer his mic is muted so the customer never hears it, a courtesy violation warning flashes on his screen, and the infraction is logged for his next performance review.

The funny or not so funny thing about this portrayal is that this doesn’t seem all that far fetched for any of us that have either worked in contact centers or interacted with contact centers. Think about some of the key elements in this story:

  • Endless call queue
  • No hope of promotion
  • Stupid customers
  • Unhappy customer service staff
  • Artificial intelligence interfering with interactions
  • Performance reviews to review everything they did wrong.

If Cline’s portrayal of the contact center of the future is accurate, the future is indeed bleak – both for contact center professionals and customers.

The Real Future of Contact Centers

When I reflect on the future of the contact center, I see something quite different. In a previous post, I talked about the correlation between employee engagement and customer satisfaction. Here are three things we focus on at FCR that ensure that the future of the contact center is bright.

1. Culture, not coercion.

There will always be aspects of customer service that are difficult. People are difficult. A dynamite culture that makes people excited to come to work and interact with their colleagues can give contact center professionals the energy to sustain a great attitude through the variety of issues that come their way. One of our goals at FCR is to have fun while doing great work. If you need an example, check out my post onNational Talk Like A Pirate Day. This is everyday life in our contact centers.

2. Employees are developed, not dead-ended.

Opportunities to learn and grow are incredibly motivating. On the other hand, the absence of opportunity feels like a dead end. In a recent post for ICMI, Manager of Colleague and Leadership Development, Sheri Kendall-duPont and I discussed FCR’s strategy for equipping colleagues with the tools and knowledge necessary to be leaders. When leaders learn to take a holistic approach to leading colleagues and coach them with compassion, the future development and growth of colleagues becomes the priority.

3. Technology enhances, it doesn’t eliminate the human connection.

Contact center technology of the future will differ vastly from what it is now. It will enable us to better understand the key roadblocks customers encounter on their journey. These issues can be fixed and self help will improve. Nothing will ever replace the human connection, however. Great customer service professionals will more frequently be put in positions to connect with customers and find solutions rather than being stopgap measures for the shortcomings of a system.

As you can see, my future of the contact center is quite a bit different from Ernest Cline’s. Thanks to an ever growing focus on customer service professionals and the customers they serve, the future is bright— very bright.

Jeremy Watkin is the Head of Quality at FCR, the most respected outsource provider. He has more than 15 years of experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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5 Observations From A Student Of Customer Experience

Photo Credit: Jirka Matousek via CC License

Photo Credit: Jirka Matousek via CC License

This post was originally published on the FCR blog on January 15, 2016. Click here to read the original.

One of the best ways to improve your customer experience is to become a student of the customer experience. It’s not difficult to do. It really entails first realizing that you are a customer and then observing and learning from your various interactions with other people and organizations. Great customer experiences are so much about relationships that you can learn as much from interpersonal interactions as you can from companies.

Over the past week, I’ve had a series of noteworthy customer experiences. Some of them were more about having the right systems or tools in place, and others were about customer service professionals who were focused on delighting their customers. The best experiences happen in the convergence where great customer service professionals are put in positions where they have the right tools to deliver that experience.

Make Setup Effortless

I recently took my family down to the local bowling alley for the first time. With young children, we used the bumpers which I must say enhanced my score tremendously! One typical hurdle in any bowling experience is figuring out how to enter each bowler’s name into the system and get started. This bowling alley took that problem away altogether. They asked for our names at the front counter and entered them into the system right then and there. All we had to do was lace up our shoes, select a ball, and start bowling.

At the end of our game, the gentleman at the front counter remarked that he hoped our kids had a great first time bowling and printed a copy of their scores to take home.

Upsell When It Makes Sense

My car was way overdue for an oil change. Needing something quick, I opted to take it to Jiffy Lube. They had great ratings on Yelp and did not disappoint in person. One of my beefs about typical repair shops is the way they upsell extra services. I dread the moment when they walk into the waiting area holding a greasy part and say “You need to replace this” without adding much of the why behind it.

In the case of Jiffy Lube, they washed my windshield and vacuumed my car as part of their standard service. During the course of their inspection of my vehicle, they brought the air filter in just to show me it didn’t need to be replaced. Then they showed me that I had a couple lights that were out. Knowing that lights can be a pain to replace, I agreed to have them do it.

While customers may be resistant to upselling, highlighting all of the nice extras that you are doing for them (vacuum, windshield, etc) can put them in a frame of mind where they are more receptive to paying for extras— especially when it’s convenient and you explain the benefit to them.

Help Customers Remember

I typically purchase tires from Costco and enjoy the fact that rotation and balancing is included for the life of the tire. The only problem with rotating tires is that you’re supposed to do it every 6,000 miles, which is on a different cycle than oil changes (Yes I know these cycles vary depending on who you talk to). The point is that it’s hard to remember yet another thing to maintain.

On my last visit to Costco it’s like they read my mind. After rotating my tires, they put a sticker on my window indicating when the next rotation was due. Helping customers remember when to do maintenance, especially when it doesn’t cost extra, sure is nice.

Put Customers At Ease

I recently took my kids on their first plane flight. Ask any traveler and one thing they undoubtedly dread is going through security. Who enjoys emptying their bags and disrobing in front of a bunch of people all for an unfriendly TSA agent? It sounds like a bad dream.

This trip was different. Upon entering the security line, a couple TSA agents literally ran over to us to give my kids stickers and wish them well on their trip. Way to go TSA at the Portland Airport! When you make my kids happy, you definitely put me at ease too.

Adapt To Their Needs

On the same trip, we stopped at the airport McDonald’s to get Happy Meals. I asked my boys what they wanted. One said “cheeseburger” and the other said “grilled cheese.” Knowing they didn’t have a grilled cheese, I ordered him a hamburger.

At that point the cashier looked at me with a smile and said “Actually, at this other place I worked at, we made a grilled cheese for someone once.” It was almost as if he was daring to break the rules. From the back I could hear the cook say “Wait, what’s up with this hamburger order?” The cashier walked back to the cook and explained what to do. Sure we would have been satisfied with a hamburger but we were delighted with a grilled cheese and what a difference that made.

Each of these experiences was relatively small and routine but when compared with the alternative, they made a whole lot of difference. My goal is not to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the customer experience, but to observe the things other people and companies are doing right and emulate those in the experience I want to deliver.

Tell us about a great customer experience you’ve had recently? What made it great? How was it different from an average or poor experience you’ve had?

Jeremy Watkin is the Head of Quality at FCR, the most respected outsource provider. He has more than 15 years of experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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If Not Now, Then When In Customer Service?

WhenThe super complex life question, “If not now, then when?” was shared on my office whiteboard a couple of weeks ago. I write a daily quote for all to see.

Needless to say, there are many ways to answer this one question (see photo of feedback).

And of course, seeing the responses that my intelligent and creative coworkers shared got my wheels spinnin’ and of course I must relate it back to customer support somehow. Yes, I am that outrageous. Does this surprise you at all though?

Ultimately, here’s the one impactful thought that I took out of this:

There are many ways to read the same thing.

When a visitor arrives on our website DMV.org, they view our partner advertisements. They see display advertisements. They read through our content. What we display on our website makes an impression on them. They begin to form their own perceptions about us based on what they see. Some visitors even take the time to share their feedback about their experience with us. This process is mostly out of our control.

What we CAN control is how we react.

I envision reacting…or responding, I should say, to feedback looking like this:

Make your customers as happy as this little lamb!

Make your customers as happy as this little lamb!

Yes, it looks like a happy little L.A.M.B.!

This is a fresh and updated spin from a post I wrote titled Bahhdd Feedback! from January 2013.

When we receive bahhhddd feedback (see what I did there), here are the steps we can considering taking:

L is for Listen

What does this customer have to say? Why are they saying it? We give the customer our ears.  What happened during their experience to take them down a bad road? We must first seek to understand their journey and we can do this by listening.

A is for Acknowledge

We stand firm and acknowledge that a negative situation happened and apologize for it. We own up to the mistake. We take responsibility and we acknowledge that to the customer.

M is for Move

What can we do to take action and move this situation around to get better results? What can we repair? What can we take away and learn from? Ultimately–what moves are we going to take to improve.

B is for Boost

After the dust clears from the bad experience and the customer has rode off happily into the sunset, we’re left with one question: How can we make sure this doesn’t happen again? While we can’t change the way the customer perceives us, we can boost communication and make changes that enhance the experience for the customer.


There is no better time to pay attention to the gems of feedback we receive from customers than right this very second.

Jenny is the Visitor Support Manager for DMV.ORG. With over a decade of customer service experience, Jenny has been recognized through social media channels as a thought leader. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Be sure to follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn!

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Reviewing Chief Customer Officer By @JeanneBliss


I recently completed a journey through the book, Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action by Jeanne Bliss. Jam packed with customer experience wisdom, it took me a bit to chip my way through it. In the book, Bliss shares a game plan for breaking down silos in our organizations in favor of working together to develop a laser focus on our customers and the way they experience our product or service.

Rather than summarizing the entire book, I want to take a few moments to highlight my three favorite takeaways. Here goes:

1. Weaving customer focus into the company’s power core

Bliss introduces the concept of a Power Core. She defines a power core as “the strongest skill set in the company or the most comfortable to senior executives.” The six power cores are product, marketing, sales, vertical business, information technology, and customer.

As the area of greatest strength in the organization, she warns against trying to change the power core. Instead, Bliss says that “the end game is to incorporate the drive for managing customer relationships and profitability into the power core.” She goes on to define each power core in detail and give strategies for infusing customer focus.

One example I found particularly interesting was in her description of the product power core. A company like Microsoft fits in this group and she showed how incorporating error reports into their software allow Microsoft to get on the spot feedback about their software directly from customers.

2. Begin tracking Guerilla Metrics

In my favorite section of the book, Bliss lays out the metrics necessary to gauge the success of the customer focus. She calls them Guerilla Metrics “because getting them into your organization as a regular part of the discipline and conversation is a campaign you’ll need to forge.” The five guerilla metrics are as follows:

  • Volume and value of new customers
  • Volume and value of lost customers and the reasons they left
  • Which customers renewed their service and why
  • Revenue and profitability by customer group
  • Referrals by customer group

Bliss goes on to talk about the importance of consistently tracking these metrics, reviewing them regularly, and setting up systems of accountability to ensure that someone champions them. Many organizations track a variety of KPIs but it’s so easy to lose sight of why they are tracking them and what results they actually drive. This clarity around the most important metrics is critical.

3. Who drives the change?

My final takeaway from the book occurs near the end where Jeanne Bliss identifies the likely areas in the organization that will drive the customer focus. These groups include:

  • The office of the president
  • Marketing
  • Customer Service
  • Companywide hoopla
  • Grassroots uproar

While the customer effort can have varying degrees of success with any of these, the office of the president is the best because it reaches the entire organization and can most effectively bring about this change. She goes on to give a job description for a chief customer officer, shares guidelines for determining who in the organization should play that role, and gives possible organizational structures for the department.

Chief Customer Officer is full of real life stories of companies that successfully focused on their customers, many of which come directly from Jeanne Bliss’ wealth of knowledge and experience. This book deserves strong consideration for anyone serious about delighting their customers. By the way, there’s a Chief Customer Officer 2.0 and you can bet that it’s now on my reading list.

For customers to recommend, they feel so strongly about a company that they have created their own words to describe it.
— Jeanne Bliss, Chief Customer Officer

Jeremy Watkin is the Head of Quality at FCR, the most respected outsource provider. He has more than 15 years of experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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A Fuss Free Moving Experience

moving-clip-art-RTAk5jETLMoving is stressful.

It being my 16th move in 16 years doesn’t make it any easier.

This time around, movers were hired through Priority Moving of San Diego.

On moving day, the crew arrived right on time and with smiles on their faces. They applauded the stellar packing job my boyfriend (also a serial mover) and I did.

With friendly attitudes and a professional demeanor, the guys, Josh and Steve, took good care of our items as they packed it into the truck.

Hiring movers is a new experience for me though, as I am quite used to taking care of it myself. This time, I sat on the kitchen counter, talking to the guys as they walked in and out, carrying boxes and furniture, drinking Starbucks.

When we arrived at the new apartment complex, they parked on the street next to our building. It was in front of two garages from other units.

An older woman approaches from her unit, yelling,

“This is illegal, you cannot block my garage! You must move right now.” 

I instantly think to myself, “Oh great, gotta love meeting the new cranky neighbor!”

Josh, the moving manager, says to her, “Oh we’re waiting for a locksmith. We locked our keys in the truck!”

The woman begins to look even more furious.

Josh laughs and says, “Oh, just kidding, ma’am, we’ll be moving our truck for you right away!”

She nods and looks relieved. He hops in the truck and leans out the window toward her at her open garage, “I used to have one of the same cars that you do–great gas mileage!”

She smiles and nods again.

Josh hops in the truck and moves it away from her garage. As he’s about to park the truck in a different spot, the lady is in her car and rolls up next to him on the driver side.

They are speaking together and eventually, she’s laughing and smiling. She waves as she drives away.

While this situation was quite the fuss, Josh handled it with humor and kindness.

I was impressed by this small act of taking a chance with a situation that resulted out of frustration and turning it into something positive.

She wasn’t even the customer, he didn’t have to be nice to her but he was.

A little kindness…and joking…can go a long way!

Jenny is the Visitor Support Manager for DMV.ORG. With over a decade of customer service experience, Jenny has been recognized through social media channels as a thought leader. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Be sure to follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn!

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Receiving vs. Earning


This post was originally published on the FCR blog on January 6, 2016. Click here for the original.

My customer service career started more or less by accident many moons ago. I was fresh out of college and absolutely clueless about what I wanted to do with my life. I took a job in customer service while I “figured things out,” found that the work suited me, and here I am today.

After a few years on the front lines, I was offered a role managing a small customer service team and gratefully accepted. It was at that point that I really wished I had listened more and slept less in my management classes in college.

One process that was particularly challenging was the performance review. Nevermind the fact that I was nervous about managing people who were previously my peers. I felt like a total failure when trying to deliver reviews.

I went and spoke with a mentor about my frustration and uttered something like “…and I gave them this score on their review and they reacted this way.” He quickly stopped me and asked,

“Did you give them the score or did they earn the score?”

You know that moment when a light comes on? Insert that here.


I want to take just a few moments to compare receiving and earning. When we receive something, it is given to us by someone else. It’s not something we necessarily earned or deserved and therefore, we have little or no control over what it is or how much it is. Certainly in the right context, receiving a gift is welcomed and appreciated and the giver is fulfilled in giving the gift.

In the context of a performance review however, giving someone a certain set of scores whether good or bad, places the responsibility on the giver. It insinuates that the receiver has no control over their performance.


To earn something is to work for it and be compensated accordingly for the level and quality of work that was completed. Unlike giving, the earner of the compensation has significantly more power and responsibility over the reward or compensation they receive. In the case of a performance review, it becomes a review of what they earned based on their work rather than what someone else gave them.

There’s undoubtedly a variety of opinions out there around performance reviews and their effectiveness. It’s absolutely critical to make sure that what your employees are producing aligns with the company vision and mission and that they are compensated for their contributions toward those goals. That’s largely a topic for another post.

In the meantime, if you are in a leadership position where you are reviewing the work of those you lead, stop giving them scores. You can surrender much of that responsibility that you’re likely carrying around. Instead focus on what they are earning and how you can equip and motivate them to earn more and help us achieve our ultimate goal together.

Jeremy Watkin is the Head of Quality at FCR, the most respected outsource provider. He has more than 15 years of experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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What Nordstrom Does Right With Trunk Club

My clothing shopping typically consists of visits to:

  • The Thrift Store
  • Target
  • Forever 21

While there’s nothing wrong with these stores, as I venture deeper into my 30s, I begin to think that maybe I need to stop shopping in the discount Junior’s department.

Stepping foot into a department store shoots me with pangs of anxiety, therefore I refuse. Yes, I refuse.

Until Trunk Club.

My fantastic coworker shared this new service from Nordstrom in which you:

  • Are assigned a personal stylist free of charge.
  • Fill out a “style profile” of clothing that you enjoy wearing.
  • Your stylist shops for you at Nordstrom, choosing items you like but also choosing items that would flatter you but that you may not otherwise choose for yourself.
  • Your stylist sends you an email with a “preview” of your “trunk”.
  • You receive said “trunk” in the mail with the clothing.
  • You have 10 days to try on all the clothing, pick what you love and ship the remaining items back, free of charge.
  • With your credit card on file, they only charge you for what you purchase.

I was intrigued, so I gave it a shot.

I ended up feeling like some posh rock star, living the life of luxury with a personal stylist. 

I receive my first “trunk”, almost 10lbs of clothing, in the mail via UPS:









I open the “trunk” and am greeted with a personalized welcome, along with the name of my stylist:











I then take out the amazing clothing and try everything on while blasting the Spice Girls and having a pretend fashion show in front of the mirror:











I choose the items I love, pack up the rest and stick this pre-paid shipping return label on the trunk and drop it off at UPS (you can also schedule a pick up):











Nordstrom continues to enhance their customer experience for those that don’t even step into their stores. 

After referring my sister to Trunk Club, we ran into a minor snafu. I was disappointed in how a situation was handled so I wrote to their customer support team.

Of course, my situation was responded to with the utmost care and kindness. They responded with such generosity about the situation that I could hardly be angry with them. Therefore, I am a Trunk Club fanatic for life.

What Nordstrom Does Right With Trunk Club

  • No Membership Fees: This service is FREE which means it’s available to anyone who wants to try it. The doors are OPEN!
  • Bring The Store to the Comfort of Your Home: Before Trunk Club, I was more than likely to never step foot in an actual Nordstrom store out of feeling inadequate. When the store comes to me, I feel at ease and more likely to make a purchase. Nice job, friends.
  • Personalizing The Experience: This is JUST for me–the clothing selected are based on styles I like and they choose clothing that I would otherwise not purchase for myself but end up loving. Having that much attention makes a gal feel pretty confident!
  • Exceptional Customer Service: Nordstrom says YOU matter. Your stylist cares, the customer service team cares and they treat you like a million bucks, even if you only spend $100.

Trunk Club is for guys and gals looking to enhance their wardrobe with quality pieces of clothing. Want to look stylish? Try it out through my referral link below and let me know what YOU think:

Jennys’ Trunk Club Referral Link

Be sure to follow Trunk Club (@TrunkClub) on Twitter!

Now, me and my stylish self have some stylish things to do. Toodles for now!

Jenny is the Visitor Support Manager for DMV.ORG. With over a decade of customer service experience, Jenny has been recognized through social media channels as a thought leader. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Be sure to follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn!

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