Un-Bursting Bubbles in Customer Service

sparkling water bottle 258x300 Un Bursting Bubbles in Customer ServiceNothing beats a positive customer experience story shared over a glass of wine after a busy day.

Here’s a story for the WIN:

My Aunt Robin loves herself some refreshing sparkling water but was tired of buying bottle after bottle of the bubbly from the store.

She purchases a Sodastream (@SodaStreamUSA). Easy as that!

She can now whip up her own flavored or unflavored sparkling water at any time.

So, you can imagine how the bubbles of happiness burst when the new Soda Stream stopped working.

Dreading the call to the Sodastream support, she expects the call to take a long time. Wait on hold forever. To be difficult to troubleshoot. That they wouldn’t be able to do anything to help. That she’ll just have to buy a new one anyways.

The time comes to call.

It’s not so bad.

After some brief troubleshooting, it sounds like it’s not fixable. She’ll need to send it back to them and they will send a brand spanking new Sodastream at no cost.

The support rep says that she’ll email an address label in a few moments.

It’s been 2 hours. It doesn’t arrive.

Aunt Robin calls back and speaks to another helpful representative. Turns out, they sent it to the wrong email address.

No problem–they resend it within seconds and apologize for the inconvenience.

The postage paid envelope is printed and the broken Sodastream is placed in the mail.

Within a few days, the new Sodastream arrives on the doorstep. Cheers and bubbly for all!

The trick here:

Follow through on your word and un-burst the burst bubbles of customer!

 Un Bursting Bubbles in Customer Service

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

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Lead With Empathy And The Customers Will Follow

bruce123 300x300 Lead With Empathy And The Customers Will Follow

My last image of my dog Bruce. In his last moments he got to be with the three things he loved most: food, ball and me.

One thing they fail to tell you when you adopt a dog is that they eventually get old.  Over the past year my chocolate labrador retriever, Bruce really began to show his age and I had been dreading the inevitable for quite some time.  Last Wednesday, I called Rancho San Carlos Pet Clinic to schedule an appointment to have Bruce put to sleep.

Without turning this post into a eulogy, I was completely floored (in a good way) by the way my vet cared for me during this difficult time.  While most customer service professionals are seldom called upon to empathize with the death of a loved one, we can learn so much from those who are frequently in these situations.  Here are a few of my takeaways.

1. Lead Strongly With Empathy- When I called the vet to schedule the euthanasia, the very first words out of the receptionist’s mouth were “I’m so sorry.”  On Friday, as I sat in the examination room, the very first words out of Jeff the vet’s mouth were “This sucks.”  Both of these responses were almost instantaneous and certainly delivered before they had completely gotten a read on my emotional state.  And yet these comments very powerfully gave me a deep sense of connection that Bruce and I were not going to have to go through this sad time alone.

Notice that there are certain situations where you can actually rehearse and prepare an empathy statement.  In the case of someone experiencing the death of a loved one, you can without hesitation respond with empathy.  Think about appropriate responses ahead of time.

2. Reassure With Empathy- When I arrived at the vet with Bruce, I was a mess.  Did the receptionists tell me to pipe down?  Absolutely not.  Instead they handed me a box of tissues and joined me in giving Bruce some love.  Again, I wasn’t going through this experience alone.  They were right there with me.

I ended up staying in the room with Bruce until the end and Jeff was amazing at talking me through every step.  He intently listened to some of my stories about Bruce’s life and interjected some of his own.  He assured me that Bruce wasn’t feeling any pain and that I had made the right decision.  He allowed me to stayed through the entire process and made it clear that he didn’t mind my present emotional state.

3. Follow Up With Empathy- Rancho San Carlos Pet Clinic has always been great at the follow up–hence the reason they are my vet of choice.  On this occasion however, they sent us a signed sympathy card along with a booklet of poems and such to help us as we grieve.  What a wonderful gesture.

My dog Bruce really was quite a dog.  He had an insatiable appetite for food, tennis balls, underwear, socks and a myriad of other items he could swallow.  The moment he saw a tennis ball, his pupils dilated and there was only one thing in the entire universe that he wanted.  While he was a troublemaker, he was the perfect family dog.  He was big, goofy, always friendly and great with kids.

While I will miss having this big, furry animal following me all around the house and wagging his tail furiously when I return home from work, I can rest assured that I did what was best for him.  I’m truly grateful to the folks at Rancho San Carlos Pet Clinic for taking care of Bruce AND me.  I am a customer for life.  That’s exactly the power of customer service experience laden with empathy!

 Lead With Empathy And The Customers Will Follow

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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Why Stories Are Essential To Contact Center Culture

This post originally appeared on the ICMI blog.  Click here for the original article and to read more fantastic customer service content form ICMI.

Customer Service Week got a bit crazy this year in our contact center.  The many details are a blur, but allow me to chronicle a few activities I participated in.

trogdor 220x300 Why Stories Are Essential To Contact Center CultureFirst, I joined several of my team in a group paint-in, each person painting an image of what customer service means to them.  One person painted Trogdor the Burninator—an image that will grace the walls of our office and bring me joy for years to come.  This was just one of many unique images that fueled a rich discussion.

Second, we encouraged our agents to draw pieces of paper out of a choose-your-own-adventure hat, giving them permission to do whatever the paper said.  For some it meant getting a drink from Starbucks, and for others it was an extra thirty minutes on their lunch break.  My favorite still was the one that said, “Find an obscure food and make your boss eat it.” That one just happened to be picked by the same employee who drew Trogdor.  He headed out to the grocery store and purchased a harmless jar of pickles.  I proceeded to consume the whole jar in about five minutes but felt sick for the next 24 hours!

Next, several of us attended a farewell lunch for a colleague, at which point I learned that another member of our customer service team had drawn “Dare your boss to do something!” from the hat.  I was dared to toast the guy who was leaving.  I took it a step further and sang, “You Are So Beautiful To Me” and in the process, made a complete fool of myself.

Finally, I arrived at work on Thursday to see that my desk had been reconfigured into a circle circledesk1 300x300 Why Stories Are Essential To Contact Center Culturepod.  The beauty of a circle desk is that you can swivel in all different directions to speak to people as they approach.  And while it certainly didn’t help my focus, it was good for a few laughs.

By now you’ve come to realize that words like foolishness and shenanigans are commonplace in our office.  The reason I share these stories with you is to illustrate the fact that cultures are built on stories that are told and retold among their members.  A shared experience has the power to unite the members of a culture.  In the same way, negative stories that are told, often in the form of gossip, have a negative and destructive effect on culture.

My point is this: Before you discount my stories as mere shenanigans, consider that they will be told for years to come.  We have photos and videos to constantly remind us of these events, and these fun stories are defining our work culture.  When we are together, we tell them and write some new ones in the process!

Customer service leaders, if you want to build a unique culture in your organization, it’s time to let your hair down a bit and write some history with your team.  Customer Service Week has now become a wonderful time to do just that!

 Why Stories Are Essential To Contact Center Culture

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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5 Reasons Why You Need to Take Care of Yourself

KeepCalmAndTakeCareOfYourself 257x300 5 Reasons Why You Need to Take Care of Yourself

This post was originally published on October 14th, 2014 for Attitudes 4 Innovation (@Attitude4Invtn). To read the original post, click here.

The flight attendant stands in the middle of the aisle way, holding the neon yellow oxygen mask in her hand. She says, “And remember, in the event of an emergency, secure your mask first before assisting others.”

Why do they suggest this to passengers? Why does this matter at all? Don’t we want to sacrifice ourselves, be as selfless as we can and do everything to help others first?

Yes and no.

If you spend all your time assisting others and neglecting your own needs, your capacity and strength to take care of everyone else diminishes. Sure, you can get by with this for a while but it will catch up with you.

The goal is to take care of yourself to take care of others. This doesn’t mean being self centered and not having any consideration for others. It means to put a balanced focus on the most important person: YOU!

Not convinced? Here is some advice:

5 Reasons Why You Need To Take Care Of Yourself To Take Care Of Others:

1. Stay Healthy

We’ve all heard of the overweight parent huffing and puffing while running to catch up with their child. The idea is clear: the parent must put focus on their health in order to stay active with their growing family.

But, it goes beyond just keeping up—we’re all aware that being overweight can cause heart and other serious health issues. If you want to be around to see your children grow up, take care of your health now.

Or, think about the folks who volunteer their time to build houses for the homeless—these people need to ensure their sustenance is maintained to keep their energy levels high while performing arduous construction tasks.

And nurses, those selfless individuals who work crazy hours to take care of their patients—their health is just as important. If the nurse isn’t making sure she’s healthy, how can you rely on her to care for someone you care about?

2. Set An Example

When you tend to the needs of your mental and physical health, you are leading by example. Your children will mimic this and learn how to balance taking care of their own needs, as well as effectively taking care of the needs of others. This will then spill over into other important relationships, such as with your boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse, friendships and coworkers. Set the bar high and encourage others to a positive mindset of ensuring your own personal care.

3. Strengthen Your Relationships

As we said in “You Set an Example”, you taking care of yourself will show others how to do it for themselves. This in turn will strengthen your relationships by each party having the ability to be open about their needs.

Communicating openly is a huge part of taking care of yourself. A lot of us are like giant sponges—we soak up and store every thought and emotion during the day until it weighs us down right before we turn in for the night.

We must find a solution that will give us the ability to wring out that sponge to avoid carrying around the heaviness. In most cases, talking helps and, in turn, creates stronger foundations for relationships in the long run.

4. You Become More Mindful

Imagine if everyone in the world took one moment every day to take extra care of themselves. The world would be such a better place! Taking care of yourself to take care of others isn’t just about physical health—it’s also about mental health. Keeping your emotions in check and communicating your feelings honestly with others keeps you from stuffing everything inside and weighing yourself down. The opportunities for resentment toward others are lessened and you are rewarded with a greater peace of mind.

5. Because if you don’t, no one else will

‘Nuff said.

 5 Reasons Why You Need to Take Care of Yourself

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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Defining Your Own Customer Service Title

original 300x253 Defining Your Own Customer Service TitleWhen I was a kid, I just didn’t fit in at school. I wasn’t a band geek, I didn’t play sports nor was I super intelligent. If you knew me back then, you may remember me as the super shy klutzy girl who loved Hanson, dyed my bangs neon pink, rode horses, played guitar, volunteered around town and laughed for no reason at pretty much everything. I never really knew how to define myself because I was all over the place and, at that time, was not proud of not fitting in to a certain niche because that meant you were not cool. And as a kid, who doesn’t want to be cool?

However, as I grew older (and wiser?) I have learned to embrace the fact that I just don’t fit in with one clique.

And, as I worked my way through various jobs, I finally found one where I “fit in”.

I’m quite a lucky gal to say that I work for a pretty incredible company.

And at this company, where we put customer service first on the list, I’m able to really define my own customer service.

With some recent company changes, I realized that my original job title didn’t quite seem to apply any longer. I was a bit frazzled with this, again, trying to understand just where I fit in, so I jokingly adjusted my direct email signature to:

Cheers,

Jenny Dempsey

Your Giggly Go To

Wearer of Many Hats

Phone.com

I had no clue that it would receive so many “I LOVE IT! TOTALY FITS YOU!” comments.

So, understandably, while not everyone can do this in a professional setting, if you do have the opportunity to–or even if you don’t, what would YOU pick for your the real title that you feel you deserve? What sums up what you do on a daily basis?

It’s an interesting expression of yourself–everyone sees your email signature and uses that to define who they are talking to.

I’m sure you can come up with some funny ideas and I’d love to hear them!

 Defining Your Own Customer Service Title

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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Coffee And Customer Service: Our Views On Customer Service

In today’s hangout, we discussed our week in customer service.  First we discussed the meaning of our customer service paintings.  We then discussed thoughts on goals, insights gained from a visit to Junior Blind of America, and two simple ways to say yes to your customers.  Don’t miss it!

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Customer Service Through A Different Lens

 Customer Service Through A Different Lens

A computer with a braille display.

I have been fortunate during my years in customer service to speak with several blind customers and work to assist them in using our service.  Generally those interactions were pleasant but challenging as I sought to tailor my approach to someone who might not necessarily be able to see what I was seeing.  I have always left those encounters with a laundry list of ways we could make our website and service more accessible to our customers.  But, I always wished I could get more of a firsthand look from their perspective.

I recently had the privilege of traveling to Junior Blind of America to witness people who are visually impaired and working in contact center roles.  In addition to having a school for K through 12, Junior Blind trains visually impaired adults to use various technologies to make them successful in the working world.  Much of the training prepares them for careers in contact centers roles.  Here are just a couple of my takeaways from the experience.

Wowed by technology

I was completely floored by the level of technology being innovated for the visually impaired.  I witnessed agents using JAWS (Job Access With Speech), which is software that reads everything on the computer screen for an agent.  Contact center agents are typically equipped with a split headset.  In one ear they hear JAWS and in the other they hear the customer.

DaVinci HD is a system with a camera.  Agents with some sight can place documents under the camera, magnify the text, and even change the text and background colors.  Other screen magnification programs are used to allow agents to quickly magnify their screen so they can read it.

By far, the most amazing was the Braille Display, which looks like a funky keyboard.  This display features six buttons that can be used for typing in braille.  In additional, it features a braille display that allows users to read the words on a webpage in braille.   As they scroll through the page, the braille changes.  I have every reason to believe that any contact center agent using this assistive technology can be as, if not more, proficient as many agents with perfect eyesight!

Amazed by the people

My second takeaway was the people.  I met both Mark and Bert who were the people responsible for training the students on the technology.  They had two things in common.  First, they were both blind from birth.  Second, they have turned that challenge into an advantage.  For any prospective employees going through their training program, a couple values ring true.

1. A visual impairment is not an excuse- In the working world, there is no excuse for being late to work or a myriad of other things.  Employers need their employees to be reliable and proficient.

2. Agents must be proficient- As they take their employees through their training program, their goal is to ensure that they are proficient on the technology required to be successful in a contact center role.

As I consider how to better support visually impaired customers and possibly hire visually impaired employees, I found this experience to be incredibly insightful.  Finally, if you are considering hiring someone with a visual impairment in your contact center, there may be state and federal programs to assist with the selection of employees and the purchase of and training on the use of various assistive technologies.

 Customer Service Through A Different Lens

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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2 Easy Ways to Not Turn Your Customer Away

box 300x200 2 Easy Ways to Not Turn Your Customer AwayI need to ship a guitar.

I didn’t want to go dumpster diving in the high desert of Southern California, with the rattlesnakes and tarantulas, so I opted to purchase a box.

I head to the local Staples (@Staples) store to buy a box large enough to hold this guitar.

I approached a store clerk who tried to help me look for a box that might work, but nothing would make the cut.

He then said, “Hold on right there, let me go look in the warehouse.

I wait a few minutes.

He comes back with a large, slender box–just the exact size I needed.

He says, “You can take it for free. I hope it works!

I thanked him several times and walked out of the store with my free box. I then eventually returned the very next day to ship the box from the same store (instead of another one closer) as a thank you.

2 Easy Ways to Not Turn Your Customer Away

Don’t Say NO

So, they didn’t have the box size I needed. But, instead of telling me “NO” and sending me out to hit the road, they worked with me. Sure, they made no money off of me at this point, but they sure did turn my impression of Staples into a positive one–that I shall remember. We stress this often on our blog–how can you become a DJ and put your own positive spin on the “no” answer for customers?

Find Creative Solutions

Sure, you can’t resolve every issue. But, the one’s you can resolve–those that are a bit tricky, as in the one where they had nothing in their inventory to fit my needs–be creative. This store clerk went above and beyond by walking into the warehouse, off of the floor, and finding me this perfect sized box. You may not always have what fits right in front of you–but what can you find behind the scenes, a work around so to say, that may also do the trick?

See, super easy ways to help you customer, even when what you need may not be available right away.

Staples lived up to their catchphrase and made it super easy for me to get what I needed. Thanks Staples!

 2 Easy Ways to Not Turn Your Customer Away

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

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Monday Motivation: Run To, Not From

 Monday Motivation: Run To, Not From

Photo Credit: Chasing 42

The winds have changed.  We have moved into autumn and that marks the beginning of my latest marathon training plan.  In January 2015, I will vie to complete my sixth marathon.  If you had talked to me about marathons seven years ago I would have laughed in your face and yet, here we are.  Embarking on a 16-week marathon training plan is just enough to get me thinking about goals and motivation.

You may ask the question, “What possesses you to run 26.2 miles?”  I would love to state that I’m running toward noble goals like a healthier lifestyle, healthier relationships, finishing strong, or a number of other positive reasons.  Deep in my heart of hearts however, you might find that I’m running away from difficult relationships, a painful childhood, past failures and guilt, or being physically unhealthy.

Actually, on any given day, I might be a blend of the two.  If my motivation is to run away from negative experiences and relationships, it means I’m likely running out of fear and anxiety.  It most certainly means that I’m running aimlessly.  Take a moment to apply that to life.  Is that any way to live?

Instead of running away from the past, I choose to run toward the future.  I will run toward a healthier life and definitely healthier relationships.  I have found that when I embrace this mindset, all of those difficult relationships don’t seem so difficult.  I begin to find ways to make those better.  I find that I am better equipped to work through many of the difficult experiences of life all while aiming toward a greater goal.

How might you begin to run toward goals in your life rather than running away from the hurt of your past?

 Monday Motivation: Run To, Not From

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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Customer Service Is Circular And Colorful

jeremypainting e1413605746481 300x224 Customer Service Is Circular And Colorful

Behold Jeremy’s customer service masterpiece!

Compare my image of customer service to Jenny’s masterpience and you’ll quickly see that I am no artist–or at least not in the same conversation as Jenny.  I do however have my own perspective of what customer service looks like.

Customer Service Is Circular

First of all, customer service is circular.  Practically speaking, we have a 24/7/365 contact center so our customer service is ongoing and never ending.  Someone is always on the clock for Phone.com.

Customer service is also circular in a much more powerful way.  I want my staff to understand that they are always on the clock when it comes to customer service.  Whether they are at home, in the office, or somewhere in between, they can always be looking for opportunities to serve others and make a difference in their lives.  AWESOME customer service professionals don’t leave their AWESOME customer service skills at the office when they head home each day.

Customers Come In All Different Shapes And Sizes

As a customer service pro you may think you’ve seen it all, but just when you start to think that, you haven’t.  Customers come in all different shapes and sizes, and their personalities are often very colorful.  AWESOME customer service professionals never try to fit all of the shapes in the same box.  And they certainly don’t try to paint all customers one color.  Instead, they are experts at tailoring their approach in every situation to make a meaningful and lasting connection with each customer.  In fact, they are so good at doing it, they often don’t realize it.

Jenny and I have shared what customer service looks like to us.  If you were going to draw a single image of customer service, what would yours look like?

 Customer Service Is Circular And Colorful

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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