On this fantastic Friday, we did a hangout to discuss our week on the blog and talk about our new mobile site. We hope you enjoy!
On this fantastic Friday, we did a hangout to discuss our week on the blog and talk about our new mobile site. We hope you enjoy!
I picture it happening like a knight in shining armor, riding up through the woods, on a white stallion, here to save my day from bad customer service. I’m swept off my feet, lifted up and carried on the back of a giant horse to fantasy land where customer service is better than anything you’ve ever dreamed of. It’s where every amazing magical Shep Hyken moment plays out, everywhere you go.
Then, I wake up.
How many of us read stories of amazing customer service, feel truly inspired and then step out into the world and receive nothing but blah experiences. I must admit, the majority of my customer experiences lately haven’t been anything to write home about. I’m constantly craving that one experience that makes me feel valued, respected and well, pretty dang awesome.
Alas, I wonder, are my eyes just clouded with customer service fairy dust? Are my expectations setting the bar too high? I strive to provide the best customer service that I can, every single day at work. And, the more I read and learn about amazing service, the more I expect it. And, the more I expect it, the less I seem to receive it.
Yikes! Am I turning into a customer service snob? (I’ll save the answer to that for another time).
Possibly, I just need to sit back, relax and to stop looking so hard for ridiculously great service. Sometimes, when you’re not looking for things, that is when they come to you, right?
But, I wonder–am I alone in this? Are we all looking for a customer service knight in shining armor to save the day? Can the customer experience actually be saved? Or, is are these just tall tales, reserved for sharing around the campfire?
Did the customer service knight in shining armor pay a visit to you lately? If so, I’d love to know! Please do share with me in the comments section of this post.
My good friend Al Hopper has a fun angle to his customer service blog where he compares customer service to popular movies. He was kind enough to let me in on the fun a few months ago where we talked about the movie “Forest Gump.” In case you missed it, check out part one and part two of our discussion.
This time, Al let me pick the movie and I chose the classic, critically acclaimed “Happy Gilmore.” In the process we found the movie to be a treasure chest of customer service wisdom. Here are some of our favorite quotes.
IRS Guy making excuses after he repossesses Grandma’s house: “I’m not taking her stuff so don’t take this out on me.”
AL: Ugh! This makes me cringe when I hear this from a Customer service representative. You may not ‘be’ the owner of the brand you work for, but you should “act” like an owner! I know, it’s tough when we get attacked by a customer we are trying to serve and we are taught not to take it personally. However, if we truly believe in our brands, we should take it personally FOR and WITH the Customer!
JER: Man, parenting has helped me so much with customer service. My kids yell, kick and scream to get their way. As their father, it has nothing to do with me or whether they like me but has everything to do with getting their way. This is where my analogy ends though. The customers should probably get their way if you want to keep them as customers. Your kids probably shouldn’t get their way. But either way, I don’t take it personally anymore.
Ben Stiller after Happy Gilmore tried to bribe him when he drops his Grandma off at the retirement home: “I can take extra special care of your grandma for free.”
AL: I loved this scene, and not just for Stiller’s awesome ‘stache! It was all about the experience! It didn’t matter that Happy and Grandma had just run into the Mista Mista Lady begging to be let out of the “resort.” Stiller was able to make Happy feel good about leaving Grandma in a strange new place.
JER: Haha this is great, especially after Adam Sandler offers him a dollar. In our jobs, rewards may or may not come. Our spirit should always be to deliver awesome service for no extra charge. Never mind the fact that the Ben Stiller character is a total jerk.
Chubs’ advice to Happy when he gets particularly angry: “Think of a place that’s perfect. Go there and all of your problems just disappear. Your own happy place”
Kevin Neeland’s similar advice to Happy: “You’ve gotta harness the good energy block the bad.”
AL: How many managers do you know that rock out to that same tune? I’ve run into a few during my time in a contact center. I’ve even used the mantra myself. Good customer service agents have embraced this practice and are better prepared for the next call.
JER: I love Jeff Toister’s concept of attitude anchors. In a job that is often difficult and thankless, we constantly need to find ways to motivate and channel that good energy. We need to find ways to embrace the unique beauty in each person we serve.
Announcer Vern Lundquist anticipating another outburst from Happy: “Here comes the putter throw. Wait he’s restrained himself.”
AL: Ahh, the experienced contact center agent! You know they want to go off on someone by the way they are grinning and clenching their fists, but they have learned the art of not letting it creep into their voice or tone online. ;0)
JER: True story. I threw my phone once after a customer yelled at me. I remember that often when I get yelled at now and choose to smile and focus on the problem and not take it personally.
Happy after going to his happy place: “It ain’t over yet Mcgavin. The way I see it we’ve only just begun.”
AL: I look at this one and think of the All-Star Customer service agent that is not willing to settle at a roadblock in a servicing need. Happy just became determined that his customer needs something done and he won’t stop until that something has been accomplished! Play on, Happy!
JER: In the final, dramatic scene of the movie, Happy has to overcome adversity to win the golf tournament. Great customer service representatives are amazing at finding creative solutions for customers. A customer may present a problem that is outside of the scope of your service. With a little creativity you may find an alternative and gain yourself a customers.
What unique insights do you gain from these quotes? Please share with a comment and stay tuned for part two of this post playing soon on Al’s blog!
Over the past two weeks, I’ve taken Don Miguel Ruiz’s wisdom and shared two of The Four Agreements and how they relate to customer service. Check ‘em out if you haven’t already:
Now, come along with me as we move on to the third agreement:
Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life. ~Don Miguel Ruiz
In customer service, when you assume you know what the customer is going to say or do, jump in and interrupt them with your response, your new name is going to be Jack! (teehee Jack…what you are if you “assume”…get it?)
As much as we think we know the customer’s problem because we’ve heard the same story from other customers, we still need to listen. This situation might be different. Don’t just assume you know right away what the issue is…even if you actually do.
We’re always making up stories in our minds and eventually, will begin to believe them. This only leads to misunderstandings, stress and ultimately, a not so hot customer experience.
Here, these might help:
3 Tips for Gaining Clarity in Customer Service
By not making assumptions, you’re staying present in the situation, which allows you to stay part of the customer experience. By not making assumptions, you’re not making up scenarios in your mind and causing unnecessary misunderstandings. By not making assumptions, you’re gaining more clarity from your customers, which gives you opportunities to improve and learn.
By not making assumptions, you’re on the journey toward being even more awesome!
I had an interesting insight while running this weekend. I have a few courses that I run pretty regularly near my house and can point out most of the spots where I have either stumbled, tripped, or rolled my ankle in the past. The combination of running in the dark, on trails, or new terrain is a recipe for the occasional fall.
As I was running, a thought occurred to me. I never hurt myself in the same place twice. Instinctively, I know where to swerve, where to shorten my stride and what places to avoid altogether. Clearly this is a self-preservation response to ensure that I don’t get hurt again. I have a favorite trail that I haven’t run on in over a year since spraining my ankle. Is there a point where I should forgive that trail or is that just a recipe for another sprained ankle?
My thoughts then went to times in life where I’ve been hurt. I can easily rattle off a list of relationships where someone hurt me or perhaps I hurt them, and in an effort not to be hurt again, I either made certain topics off limits or avoided that person entirely. Clearly this is natural but is it healthy? Here are the things I am contemplating as I examine this in my own life.
1. Is this a defense mechanism I have set up that prevents me from growth and improvement?
2. Is this defense mechanism completely healthy or could I potentially grow by tackling a difficult issue?
3. Is there anything to be gained by letting down this defense?
4. Is this something I can potentially work through with another person who can see my blind spots?
5. What can I learn from my missteps and turn it into a positive experience?
Does this resonate with you? My fear is that my natural self-preservation instinct would keep me from reaching my full potential as a father, husband, boss, employee, among a number of other roles I fill.
Are you missing out on some beautiful paths in life because your first venture resulted in injury?
Jenny and I have had an ongoing battle from the day we started working together some nine years ago. I saw this picture of her with a pole on Facebook and have never let her live it down. Fortunately she hasn’t filed charges against me for the abuse she’s taken over that photo.
Well, five or six years later, I apparently thought it would be a good idea to flip off a camera. The next day the picture appeared on Facebook. From that day forward I knew there would be a price to pay for any comments made about the pole photo. Touche Jenny! I of course did not want my mom to know I flipped off a camera and asked her to take the picture down from Facebook. There’s no running for president now for either of us is there?
Isn’t this just like customer service and life? I personally have been known to screw up at both. On any given day I may be impatient, angry or sarcastic among a myriad of other things. In light of our recent customer service awards it can become easy for us to look at ourselves through rose-colored glasses or perhaps “hero goggles.” Certainly our two or three readers see us that way!
When it comes down to it, I’m human. I’m a guy who flips off cameras and doesn’t want his mom to know about it. Did I tell you about the time I threw my phone after a customer yelled at me? Did I tell you about the time I yelled at a customer only to find out that I was to blame?
If you want to emulate anything about what we’re doing in customer service, I hope you’ll emulate our desire to be transparent. Join us in our journey toward awesome. If we win awards but aren’t better human beings, better equipped to serve one another, that is nothing I want to be a part of. On the other hand, if we’re about making a difference in the lives of others, I’m all in!
Context Travel knows customer service.
Offering a wide variety of walking tours for the “intellectually curious”, they guide their customers through areas chock full of history. With such intricate detail, you feel like you are receiving a personal tour from a local.
I have had the pleasure of experiencing one of the Context Travel tours in New York City over a year ago. It was a generous gift they gave to our company to say “Thank You” for the service we’ve provided.
Since Jeremy is far, far away in the land of sunshine, I took the reins and met up with the lovely Context team.
In a super casual atmosphere, we talked about:
Customer service is an art form and there are so many ways to fine tune it, no matter what industry you are in.
There is something truly powerful in being able to inspire others. Afterward, I felt incredibly inspired from the discussion we had about customer service and the experience we give to others. So, thank you again Context Travel, for giving me this opportunity!
So, to everyone in customer service–let’s keep walking the walk and talking the talk!
Me: I think it’s about time for customer service to own the customer engagement and service element of our company’s social media activity.
CEO: Ok, but you had better make sure someone is constantly monitoring and responding to customers. I don’t want to see any service failures go viral.
Me: Yeah, sure, no problem.
That’s roughly how the conversation went. To give you a bit more background on the situation, we previously had a community manager who was essentially a middleman between customers and customer service. It seemed only logical to empower an entire team of customer service professionals to monitor our social media activity, making it a more viable support channel for our customers to use.
As I highlighted in a recent post, it’s entirely possible for a small business to set up a system for monitoring social media activity in their call center without breaking the bank. When you can count the sum total of your social media interactions with customers on any given week on two hands, this solution is perfect.
As our company grows and our social media activity increases, I am accountable to ensure there are no social media disasters, that I effectively track and document social media interactions as I would any other support channel, and that I make sure the agents handling and monitoring social media activity are well utilized. As I consider these things, here are a handful of factors I am closing monitoring. I believe these will ultimately push us to invest in better technology for social media monitoring in the future.
Increased Customer Engagement
At Phone.com we followed the lead of many other companies and created a separate customer service feed on Twitter. Slowly but surely we are seeing an increase in the number of customer interactions. While Hootsuite is perfect for our team of 3-5 agents to handle ten tweets per week, as we start to increase that volume tenfold, you can see where we begin to run the risk of a service failure. Additional technology might allow for better integration with our CRM and better tracking of customer satisfaction for these interactions.
Increased Agent Time
An increase in customer engagement via social media means an increase in the amount of time contact center agents need to spend monitoring and responding. With that comes the need to monitor service levels and the amount of time agents are spending on social media support versus other support channels. The metrics a contact center solution can provide are going to become more and more critical.
As our social channels become more popular, so will spam. The last thing I want is for agent time to be eaten up sifting through junk as they look for actionable material. A solution with spam filtering tools will need to be considered.
Increased Presence Beyond Twitter and Facebook
The social media land rush is not complete yet. There are already tons of social media sites with more to come — not to mention blogs and review sites. Keeping tabs on what our customers are saying about us on all of these sites is nearly impossible. A solution that is able to stay on top of this may very well be worth its weight in gold.
Finally, customer service via social media is a reality that growing small businesses simply cannot ignore. While it’s easy to start monitoring now, it’s critical that we have one eye on the future. Start searching for better solutions today to ensure you don’t miss a beat — or a tweet — tomorrow.
Now, stop reading this post and find the closest piece of paper and pen. Write down the following phrase in big, bold letters:
Don’t Take Anything Personally
Now, hang that note in a place where you’ll see it every day–your mirror, your fridge, your computer screen, wherever!
Last week, I wrote about The Power of Your Word in Customer Service , all about The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. This book, based on ancient Toltec wisdom, guides you toward finding personal freedom and erasing self-limiting beliefs. The four agreements discussed are:
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. -Don Miguel Ruiz
In customer service, we regularly take the punches of frustrated and angry people. We’re easily called names and talked down to simply because we’re just a voice on the other end of the phone. If we step back and look at the big picture, we’ll see that the person yelling and screaming about their service isn’t mad at you at all. They are mad that something isn’t working in their own life. They are “projecting their own reality” smack dab onto you.
You have the choice to eat this “emotional garbage, as Ruiz refers to it, or empty it out in the back of the trash truck to be taken to the dump. You don’t have to carry this with you. You have the choice to feel offended or to let it slide right off your back like a duck.
On our blog, we talk often about un-ruining someone’s day. While this is ultimately the goal in customer service, this particular post is more about YOU and making sure you’re taking care of yourself in order to have the strength to un-ruin your own day as well as that customer’s day, with your magical service skills.
So, how do you even begin to not take things personally? While I definitely struggle with this, here are some tips to get you on your way:
So, over all, it’s definitely not easy to not take things personally, in and out of the office. But awareness that it’s happening, acknowledgement of your feelings behind it and taking action toward steps to help you cut back on it are great steps in the right direction toward being even more awesome than you already are!
I just returned from a weekend in Las Vegas where I attended the 8th Annual Stevie Awards for Customer Service and Sales at the Bellagio Hotel and Resort. Our customer service team at Phone.com was nominated for Customer Service Department of the Year for a telecommunications company. That was award number 130 out of 131 to be handed out in the evening.
If you aren’t familiar with the format of the Stevie Awards, all nominees are winners of either a gold, silver or bronze award with the gold winners giving a brief acceptance speech. Fast forward through some networking, a fantastic dinner, 129 awards and about as many acceptance speeches, and about four hours later it was time for our award. Drumroll please. And the winner is Automated Systems Design, Inc. Congratulations to them for their Gold Stevie Award!
I collected our bronze award, took a couple photos and that pretty much concluded the evening. While gold would have been amazing, we are extremely proud of our achievement. The only problem is that the world did not get to hear my acceptance speech. So as not to let that preparation and anxiety go to waste, I have recorded my acceptance speech for you. Enjoy!
In all seriousness, we are so grateful for this award and I am so proud of our customer service team and what we have accomplished over the last year.