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

brailledisplay

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.

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

boxI 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!

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

Photo Credit: Chasing 42

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?

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

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?

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 A Blank Canvas

20141016_160151Last week, we celebrated customer service and kicked it off with a team paint night. You can read all about it here.

My painting was inspired by our three part blog Cultivating Customer Service post with Nate Brown (@CustomerIsFirst) from back in August. You can read them here, here and here. In our series, we discussed the customer service garden. And, this metaphor always stuck with me.

Why?

Here’s why I filled my blank canvas the way I did:

1. Customer Service Begins From The Ground Up

Recently, in talking about customer service with the owner of a restaurant I was dining at, he told me, “You can train someone to wait tables. But, you can’t teach someone to give a damn.” It all begins with hiring awesome people. You must look through the resume they hand you into the eyes and heart of the person sitting at the interview–who is this person and will they match with our culture? What are you hiring for? Do you have your vision outlined?

2. Customer Service Is Ever Growing

There are endless learning opportunities in customer service–both in the office and lessons you can take with you outside the office. You must look at it from this perspective though, as it isn’t always obvious when you’re stuck on the phone with a screaming customer. What can you learn about this experience on the phone helping someone solve an issue that you can carry with you?

3. Customer Service Requires Nourishment

With every rain storm, you see more growth. Sunny days bring happy flowers. But, too much rain or too much sun can cause the garden to die. How can you keep the right level of nourishment for your team? I may be wrong but I think this all leads back to vision and everyone being on the same page.

4. Customer Service Is Unique

Every flower bud blooms the same way but not at the same time. There is a rainbow of petal colors. No two leaves are edged the same way. Everyone brings something to the table that needs to be appreciated. The unique qualities are ways that help us learn and grow even more as a team.

So, you’ll see, I’m no artist but this painting has some meaning!

What does customer service look like on YOUR canvas?

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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5 Steps To A Winning Service Recovery

Companies that listen to customers are like a glass of cool water on a hot day.

Companies that listen to customers are like a glass of cool water on a hot day.

A few weeks ago I spent some time airing out my grievances with my bank over their handling of the recent Home Depot security breach.  To summarize, they discovered that my debit card may have been compromised and they immediately canceled it.  I had no cash and no back up credit card, which meant I was in a pinch to do basic things like buy food and put gas in my car.  Because of delays with their supplier of debit cards, it took me two weeks to receive new cards.  My point of the post was that none of this was actually my bank’s fault, but I am their customer and they should be working to minimize my inconvenience.  Needless to say, my pleas to customer service were met with canned responses.

After writing that blog post, I shared it with the bank and asked them to forward it to management.  I am delighted to say that my bank listened!  I received a call last week from Thomas, the customer service manager and when it comes to service recovery, he scored a perfect 10!  Here are the steps he followed:

1. Thank the customer for the feedback

Before he said anything else, Thomas thanked me for caring enough to share my blog post with him.  Vala Afshar says “A social business views customer feedback as a gift. Accept graciously, unwrap enthusiastically, and share.”  Clearly, Thomas has the same perspective.

2. Apologize for the inconvenience

Thomas’ next step was to sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and hardship this situation had caused me.  After receiving only canned responses from frontline customer care, a sincere apology was like a glass of cold water on a hot day.

3. Listen to the customer

Depending on how fresh the situation is in the customer’s mind, allow extra time to cool off. Even though you may be well aware of the situation, listen to the customer and even allow them to rehash their concerns if necessary.

4. Explain the problem

When the time is right, you owe your customer an explanation on how you plan to improve.  Thomas did just that.  He then shared with me that due to the level of urgency in protecting the assets of their customers, they acted quickly but possibly too quickly.  He also explained that they are aware of the delays in sending out debit cards and this is a major problem.

5. Share the solution

The next step is to share your plan for improvement.  Thomas first remarked that he had shared my blog post with their customer experience committee.  In response to my concern they are taking two actions.  First, they are evaluating new debit card vendors to see if they can improve the time it takes to deliver these to customers.  Second, rather than canceling debit cards in these cases, they are going to instead temporarily lower credit limits.  This allows customers access to some of their money until the new debit cards are received.

To a customer on the verge of switching to a new bank, I was delighted to receive this call.  It appears that my bank has discovered the fact that effectively listening to and responding to customer feedback drives both customer loyalty and organizational improvement.

These security breaches are becoming all too frequent these days (ie. Home Depot, Target, etc).  Assuming my bank makes good on Thomas’ promises, and I believe they will, I have no reason to take my business elsewhere.  On the contrary, I’m proud to do business with any company that listens to its customers!

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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Awesome Culture As Easy As Customer Service

Yours truly rocking the circle desk.  How can I help you?

Yours truly rocking the circle desk. How can I help you?

This post was originally published on the ICMI blog on October 1, 2014.  Click here to read the original post and other great resources from ICMI.

Culture is a funny thing isn’t it?  A poor culture almost ensures that your employees will be running for the exits with your customer experience suffering in the process.  Ask your newest hire what they think of the company culture and they can tell you if your culture is attractive or not.  Now ask your customers and I bet they can tell you a lot about the culture based on their interactions with customer service.

I’m here to tell you that there is hope—and us customer service folks are perhaps better equipped to improve our company culture than anyone.  What’s the trick you ask?  You know all of those awesome customer service skills that help you wow customers?  Point a few of those inward toward your colleagues and watch your company culture shift.  Allow me to name a few so you get what I’m talking about.

1. Lead with empathy- We love the word empathy and for good reason.  It’s all about genuinely caring about the feelings of another person.  Raise your hand if you don’t have empathy somewhere on a QA form in your call center.   Customer service leaders, how do you rate the level of empathy you show to your staff?

2. Watch how you talk about people- Gossip is a fantastic culture killer.  It’s so easy in customer service to get in this mode of customer bashing.  I know I’ve been guilty of it.  Talking poorly about customers affects your attitude toward those customers.  In the same way, talking poorly about other employees has that same effect.

3. Demonstrate that can do spirit- Nothing is more deflating to a customer than when they call customer service for help only to hear a “No. Sorry, I can’t help you.”  In the exact same way, employees hate hearing this same line internally.  When an employee comes to you with a problem, adopt a buck stops here mentality and take responsibility for the solution.  Then they get to go back to the customer with a solution rather than a sad face.

4. Lighten up a little bit—or a lot- I love nothing more than a customer service professional that is personable and friendly.  It’s like talking to a person instead of a robot.  In the same way, it’s ok to have a little fun with your colleagues.  It’s ok not to be all business all the time.  Teams that laugh together stay together!

5. Seek to understand- Those difficult customers are really the true test.  By seeking to understand where the customer is coming from, we set ourselves in the best possible place to work with them.  The same goes for employees.  Those difficult relationships are going to require extra effort and understanding.  Tools that help understand the unique strengths and ability of your team are invaluable.

As leaders, awesome company culture doesn’t just happen and it’s not as simple as planning trips to play paintball or buying lunch for the office—though those can’t hurt.  To build a fantastic culture, practice all of those customer service skills that you preach on your most important customers—those people serving your customers.

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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#CSWeek Is About Caring

keep-calm-we-care-for-youCustomer service week was so fantastic, we figure it would ok to let it spill over into a second week.  What do you think?  Thursday of customer service week was all about caring.  Caring is about connecting with each customer on a human level, taking complete ownership of every opportunity to serve.  The challenge to care is really twofold.  We need to show our internal AND external customers that we care.  Here are some things we did last week.

How did you care for internal customers?

Jeremy: Thank you notes are so powerful.  I took part in an exercise where we wrote thank you notes to our internal customer service staff to simply thank them for their work toward our AWESOME vision.  As leaders of a team, it’s often easy to go to a negative place.  This is dangerous!  It sounds cliche but a constant “attitude of gratitude” toward your colleagues is critical to success.  It’s a mentality and a lifestyle.  Let your decision to be grateful lead your heart and all of the feelings will follow! 

Jenny: Thank you notes are powerful–well said, Jeremy! I definitely don’t show my gratitude enough (lame of me, I know). I find I get caught up in the whirlwind of work to be done and need to step away to show how much I really do care about the team (because well, I do more than they even know). I did bring in sunflowers for each customer service representative on Thursday and filled a Phone.com mug with water and placed one flower on each rep’s desk.

How did you care for external customers?

Jeremy: I focused much more on our internal team during the week and owe a handful of our customers notes of gratitude.  I did call Verizon to install a network extender in our office.  Andrea in Tier2 was amazing and I told her so.  I also got to be the first to wish her a happy Customer Service Week!

Jenny: Besides saying thank you and expressing my gratitude with words, sending a card or a funny picture in an email, I’m always looking for more ways to care and show gratitude for external customers. It’s an ongoing process!

What was your most significant takeaway?

Jeremy: By far, my most significant takeaway was how many times I was on the receiving end of the gratitude last week.  I am not on the front lines but got treated like that by members of my team and others in the organization.  It was especially awesome to see people from other departments write kind notes and emails to our customer service team.  That sort of thing makes me very proud!

Jenny: The most significant take away was that it is really easy to show you care–that you can do little things, like random cards, drawings or flowers or Starbucks–and people appreciate it so much and it totally makes their day.

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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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.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ YouTube 

Coffee And Customer Service: #CSWeek In Review

customer_service_weekIf you’re worn out at the end of the week, you know it’s been a great Customer Service Week.  We have been documenting the events of the week on the blog but wanted to spend a few moments discussing our takeaways from this AWESOME Customer Service Week.  Don’t miss this 10 minute hangout.  After you watch, tell us about your favorite Customer Service Week activity with your team!