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.

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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!

#CSWeek Is About (Super) Value

Do you recognize what superheroes we're trying to be?

Do you recognize what superheroes we’re trying to be?

As customer service professionals we are so often asked to be superheroes.  One moment we’re trying to handle two chats and a phone call, and another we’re talking a customer off a ledge, while IMing a coworker in another window talking them off a ledge.  It’s not an easy job–but somebody has to do it.

I occasionally encounter an awesome member of our customer service team who has made it their mission to conquer our ticket queue or a particularly long call queue.  They might try and rush their calls or even offer to sacrifice their breaks in order to make that happen.  My response to this noble gesture is, I don’t want you to be a superhero.  I want you to be AWESOME!  Why would I say something like this?  This super hero model is a recipe for burnout and poor customer service, and cannot, or perhaps should not, be sustained.

Sure, AWESOME and superhero can be synonymous with each other, but we must first redefine what a superhero is.  A customer service super hero is one who anticipates our customers’ needs, allowing them to gain maximum value from each contact with customer service.  There are four key elements that make up a customer service superhero:

1. Superheroes listen very carefully to what the customer needs and ask educated questions until they have a clear picture of a solution to those needs.

2. Superheroes take the time necessary to learn about those needs.

3. Superheroes are experts in your product or service and therefore can offer customers relevant solutions they didn’t even know existed.

4. Superheroes recognize that the customer’s time is valuable and that getting the price right the first time is critical.  They implement solutions for customers accurately so as not to waste time or money.

So on this customer service week, as several members of our Phone.com team dressed up as superheroes, we know exactly the kind of superheroes we want to be.

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 Choice

20141007_112452Yesterday, we celebrated CHOICE in customer service.

We have a CHOICE so why not make it a fun one? We had a Choose Your Own Adventure hat floating around where customer service representatives drew fun, mystery adventures of their own.

In the hat, we folded up pieces of paper that included things like:

  • Extra telecommute day
  • Extra 30 minutes on your lunch break
  • Make our boss, Jeremy, run around the parking lot holding a sign with your name on it saying, “[NAME] ROCKS!”
  • Make our boss, Jeremy, eat a jar of [insert food product here].
  • Lunch with the supervisor of your choice
  • Have Jenny or Jeremy hand deliver Starbucks to you on a morning of your choice
  • You pick the next happy hour event for the team
  • Dress up your supervisor day (you choose what they wear for a whole day)

Every customer service representative drew one option from the hat. If they liked it, they could keep it. If they wanted to try one more time, they could draw another from the hat and then pick between the two. Then, if they wanted to try and trade with another customer service representative, they had the option to do so as well.

While this is just a little exercise in choice, it made for a fun event at work and now we all have some fun things to look forward to.

I personally drew the Supervisor Dress Up Day and am very much looking forward to making Jeremy dress up.

One of our Tier 3 Customer Service team members is very much looking forward to sharing the jar of food that Jeremy will have to eat.

And, Jeremy is looking forward to me hand delivering him Starbucks one morning.

The majority of the team loved the extra telecommute day and 30 minutes on their lunch break. Can’t go wrong with that!

All in all–this was super fun and it’s a great reminder that when assisting customers, we do have a choice in understanding their unique needs and finding a creative solution to meet those needs.

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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#CSWeek Is About Quality Time

Our first service standard at Phone.com is Quality. Quality is all about listening to our customers and finding ways to continuously improve the service that we provide.  Naturally, we thought it would a good time to spend some quality time together as a team during this fine Customer Service Week.

On Monday evening, a small group of us stayed after work, ate burritos, and watched a bit of Ron Swanson.  If you aren’t familiar with him from the show Parks and Recreation, watch this clip for some true customer service genius.

The main event of our quality time together was to do a bit of painting.  In this exercise, we painted images of what customer service means to us.  As you can see from the images, we had everything from a happy face wearing a headset, to Trogdor the Burninator–symbolic of some of the crazy issues we face in customer service.

guysgals

This was a fantastic exercise to sit and paint together and then take some time to share the meaning.  What do they mean?  That’s for us to know and you to find out!  In the meantime, don’t forget to spend some quality time with your customer service teams this Customer Service Week.

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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Celebrate Customer Service Week With Us!

celebrateOctober 6th to 10th is National Customer Service Week where we celebrate everything customer service, of course!

There are a ton of fab ideas out there on how to celebrate, including Shep Hyken’s (@hyken) post Ten Customer and Employee Focused Ideas for National Customer Service Week.

Here are the awesome ways Phone.com is going to celebrate this week, breaking down each day of the week with our service vision:

MONDAY October 6th: QUALITY

Customer Service Paint Night 

Let’s spend some QUALITY time together and have our very own Customer Service Paint Night! You’ll be given a canvas, paint and free reign to create what customer service means to YOU. Does it mean a field full of sunflowers or is it abstract art splatters? We’ll also have magazines and decoupage if you’d prefer to make a collage.  We’ll be hanging these beautiful pieces of artwork in the office for all to see. Dinner will be provided for grumbling tummies!

TUESDAY October 7th: CHOICE

Customer Service Choose Your Own Adventure

You have a CHOICE so why not make it a fun one? We’ll have CSR story time where we share stories of service and YOU choose the outcome. We’ll also have a Choose Your Own Adventure hat floating around where you can draw a fun, mystery adventure of your own!

WEDNESDAY October 8th: VALUE

Customer Service Super Hero Dress Up Day

We are Customer Service Super Heroes creating VALUE with the solutions we provide to customers. So, let’s show everyone what we got! DRESS UP as your favorite super hero (Superman, Wonder Woman, etc.) OR create your own (Porting Diva, Super Support Man, Captain Networking, etc.). Wear your costume to work all day!
THURSDAY October 9th: CARING

Thank You Thursday

Let’s show each other how much we CARE and appreciate them!
For Customers: Write a caring email to an unsuspecting customer or give a customer you work with but haven’t heard from recently a call to just say HI. However you want to show you care, do it today!

For Our Team: Write a THANK YOU card or make your own card and give to a few co-workers sharing how much you care or thank them for their amazing work, just like a Smile. Drop the cards on their desks throughout the day. **Thank you cards will be provided in the office**

FRIDAY October 10th: ACCESSIBILITY

Walk A Mile In Your Shoes

Leadership will walk a mile in the CSRs’ shoes doing front line support. We’ll also be completely ACCESSIBLE to answer all your questions in real time in the office. Also, get ready to finish the week off at Jeremy, Jenny and Melissa’s Sundae Shoppe: Where we’ll get behind the counter and serve YOU sundaes, just as you like them, with all the fixins!

So, get ready to join in on the fun for the rest of the week to share in on how each event went. We’ll be posting pictures and Tweeting throughout the day!

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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