Coffee And Customer Service: Nice Guys Finish First

niceguysToday’s Coffee and Customer Service hangout featured an extra special treat for our viewers.  We had the privilege of hanging out with our friend, new author, and customer service expert Doug Sandler.  In the hangout, Doug told us all about his brand new book, Nice Guys Finish First.

Don’t miss out on a sneak peak of some fantastic stories from the book, sure to improve the level of customer service you deliver to your customers.  Doug also provides valuable advice to anyone interested in writing and publishing their own book.

To learn more about Doug and read his blog, check out DougSandler.com.

Thirsty For Some #CustServ Inspiration? Here You Go!

4483951306_55f6fe43b0_z Customer service is no easy gig. Whether you’re a representative, supervisor, manager or director. Whether you work for a multi-million dollar corporation, a start up or a mom and pop shop, things are going to break. And, things will be confusing to your customers. Your company and the customers are going to need someone there to help educate and restore.

This is where YOU come in.

  • You’re going to need lots of patience, empathy, kindness (even when you don’t want to be) and creativity.
  • You’re going to need to be able to think outside the box and to be ready on your toes to jump from issue to issue.
  • You’re going to make a variety of mistakes and not know the right answers to all the questions.
  • You’re going to deal with policy change and people you really enjoy working with leaving to other opportunities.
  • You’re going to learn new things every day from customer experiences that will blow your mind. Or, make you fear the sake humanity (just kidding…but sometimes it does feel that way!)
  • You’re going to be showered with compliments for helping resolve an issue and you’re going to have screams slung at you for not being able to solve an issue quick enough.

How’s that for a Monday?

Plus, you have to remember that customer service isn’t anything with the rest of the company–those who develop, program and engineer, network and monitor the system, keep track of the finances and market the next product launch.

While there may feel like a great divide from you, answering customer service calls at your desk to the network system administrator or the COO , we must remember:

We’re all in this together. 

We must all work together to stay afloat, even during the worst of storms.

When you arrive at work, no matter who you are in the company, with a mindset of working together with everyone, even those behind the scenes, it creates a team building culture. And, that team building culture creates a strong foundation to build a stronger company. Sure, you will struggle–no one said it would be easy–but you’ll do it. Even if something that usually takes you a week to do takes you a month. You’ll do it. And you’ll do it together.

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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We’re Writing A Book!

Question-mark-on-book-1kda8osHow about that blog post title for a bold declaration?  We’ve been talking about it for a while but I’m officially declaring that awesome customer service will become a book filled with many of the valuable lessons we’ve learned over the course of writing this blog.

Why the bold declaration?  I attended a workshop yesterday about how to get a book published with authors Sandra M. Younger and Doug Brunk.  In it they equated writing a book to running a marathon.  All of a sudden it clicked.  I AM disciplined enough to train for and run a marathon.  I can write a book.

Why are we writing a book?  Great question.  If nothing else, we want to have a book of awesome customer service that holds everything new members of our team need to know in order to be awesome.  If that happens to leak out to others in the world, so be it.

How can you help?  Thanks for asking.  I invite you to cheer for us on this journey.  Ask us how we’re progressing.  This idea is no longer something stuck in my head.  There’s now no place to hide and the accountability and encouragement will be appreciated along the way.

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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Driving Change In Your Call Center One Survey At a Time

Thinking smiling woman with questions mark above head looking upDo you want to throw more fun work events into the lives of your customer service team but are not sure where to begin? 

Do you supply snacks and beverages to your customer service team but never know what people actually like to munch on?

Do you want to develop an incentive program for your customer service reps but are not sure what type of rewards will motivate them?

Have no fear–the answers await you!

And no, not inside a crystal ball.

Who knows your customer service reps best? Your customer service reps themselves.

Want to drive change in your call center? Ask and you shall receive. For large important requests or small social requests.

Yup, ASK.

If you want to know what sort of events will get your team together after work, ask them what they’d like to do and come up with fun plans based on their feedback.

If you are a generous company who supplies snacks to those in the office, ask what sort of things they like to eat and purchase those for your team.

If you are searching for what type of incentives motivate your team, asking them about it may surprise you–often times, it may not always be about money.

While yes, some folks may respond with outrageous requests, it’s up to you, as the leader, to find the common ground between everyone on your team.

What are some super easy ways to gather answers from your team?

Face to Face 

While this may seem quite “old school”, having an open discussion face to face, whether in a group or one on one, and asking the questions can lead to openness and honestly in the team. Everyone likes to be heard, after all.

Email

Okay, it seems really straight forward but if send an email stating your questions and asking for feedback. While many people get many an email, it could get lost in the shuffle or in Spam, but give it a shot. It never hurts to try.

Survey Tools

Make tools available to your team to easily answer questions. Using free platforms such as Question Pro, Survey Monkey , or even Google Forms and tracking the results can lead to many open and honest answers, especially if the surveys are anonymous.

This post isn’t anything life changing or ground breaking. But, if you want to see BIG change in your call center and have it stick, it’s a great reminder for all of us how important it is to ASK your customer service representatives what they want and create a fusion of this to fit your culture. Assuming what they want doesn’t get you anywhere. Your team is heard, you have your answers and change is waiting in the wings for you to begin!

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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Leadership And The Power Of Choices

One chose the path and the other chose the rocks.

One chose the path and the other chose the rocks.

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership lately.  In particular, the way we influence others.  After having one of those days, I wanted nothing more than to go for a hike with my three favorite hiking buddies.  We have a nice little canyon within walking distance of our house that boasts a wide trail, water, mud and rocks– perfect for little boys.

As we hiked, we came to a portion of the trail that had a very narrow, walkable section with a very wide part with lots of rocks and mud.  I did my best to highlight the correct place to walk.  My 3-year-old, Sam, was hellbent on trudging through every obstacle.  When it came time to cross the stream, both boys were as excited about running through the stream as I was about keeping my feet dry.

My wife and I have been spending quite a bit of time in recent months allowing our kids to make choices and experience the natural consequences of those choices.  For example, run through the mud and you will deal with heavy, wet feet.  Of course, I dealt with the consequences of that choice when it came time to carry him.  The method isn’t totally perfect.

So often we think of leadership as a my way or the highway sort of proposition.  After all, I’m the leader therefore I must know best.  I’m reminded of two aspects of great leadership.

1. Great leaders model greatly- Great leaders practice what they preach because they realize that the practice has a much more significant impact than the preaching.  In the case of my kids, my chief goal is to model a better way for them.  On my customer service team, if I can’t practice awesome customer service with my staff, how are they ever going deliver awesome customer service to our customers?

2. Great leaders allow others to succeed…and fail- As leaders, our job is to place people in the best possible position to be successful.  It is also our job to allow them to learn and grow along the way, even if at times they fail.  We will have opportunities to model and mentor along the way but ultimately they need to be able to choose the course of action they take.

I am increasingly amazed at the life lessons I learn from these little beings I’m responsible for.  As leaders, don’t forget to join them in the mud once in a while as well.

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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Cauliflower And Customer Service

Fresh White Beechs_lg

Jeremy’s beech mushrooms.

cauliflower

Jenny’s Romanescu Cauliflower

Did you miss our extra lively hangout today?  Have no fear.  You can watch it now!  In this latest installment we talked about some of the craziest vegetables we’ve eaten.  We then talked about our two favorite blog posts over the last two weeks.

Don’t miss this hangout.  Also, we have special guest Doug Sandler joining us next week to talk about his new book, Nice Guys Finish First.  Stay tuned for more details.

Serving Both Sides: Being The Middle (Wo)man In Customer Service

be10e-middlemanWe’ve all heard it before:

The “I’m in a different department” line: “I can’t help you because the issue is handled through a different department. I’ll have to transfer you.”

The “It’s out of my hands” line: “That problem is actually caused by an outside vendor that we subscribe to services with. It’s out of my hands.”

The “It’s an upper management decision” line: “I can’t help you. I am not authorized to make that decision. I will need to escalate this to upper management.

While yes, sometimes the situation IS out of your hands, you still have the customer on the phone with you or standing in front of you. You still have to do something, right? How are you supposed to handle a situation when you have no control over what happens?

In customer service, we’re always serving both sides: 

Our customer

&

Our business

I manage the number transfer department for Phone.com and I am in this position just about every day.

We are a phone provider and when a customer transfers their number to us, they are actually transferring it to our account with our carrier.

Our carrier handles the actual provisioning of the number. The customer handles their personal account information. Neither the customer or our carrier can actually talk to each other for legal reasons. I can’t physically make the number transfers happen. I’m just the middle (wo)man who relays information from the customer to the carrier and from the carrier to the customer and back again!

So, when something goes wrong, I talk to the customer then I share the information with the carrier. When the carrier replies, I share the information back to the customer.

Basically, it’s like that childhood game of telephone. Just with actual phones, not cans.

How does one do this effectively, without confusing the customer, passing the buck and getting the job done right?

Glad you asked. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way:

Learn The Lingo: Even though you can’t technically fix the problem and you must escalate to someone else, be aware of words and phrases that are used often with the folks you are escalating to. This will help to get issues taken care of sooner than later when you talk their language. If you must escalate, notate the situation clearly, with the lingo you know and make sure that the issue is placed in the right hands.

Communicate Clearly To The Customer: What do you need from the customer to ensure a smooth transition of this issue? If you need a copy of bill dated within 30 business days from the current provider of the telephone number that shows the number listed on the document, communicate it to them. Don’t just tell the customer you need a copy of bill. Having all the proper details ahead of time will proactively take care of your customer.

Ask And You Shall Receive: When in doubt, ask. Have a problem that you’re not sure how to solve and you might have to escalate? ASK someone for help  beforehand. Perhaps you CAN solve it yourself. In some cases, this may  mean asking the folks you might be escalating to, if they are accessible to you. When I have issues with a number transfer, I’ll ask 10,000 questions to the carrier to make sure I have all the right information to take back to the customer. This saves so much time. If you do have to escalate, make sure to gather all necessary information from the customer, even if it means asking them 10,000 questions. It will only ensure that the resolution comes sooner than later for their situation.

While being the middle (wo)man will always be a part of our lives in customer service, being aware of this and being prepared for this will allow us to be even more awesome at helping others.

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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Awesome Preparation Produces Awesome Improvisation

jazztrumpetFrom as early as I can remember, I have been a musician.  From elementary school all through high school I played trumpet.  One of my favorite groups to play in was the jazz band.  I don’t want to spend too much time tooting my own horn but I was pretty good.

In fact, I was so good that I got to solo on occasion.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with jazz, soloing means improvisation.  In the world of improvisation, the part isn’t written out.  The soloist has the chord changes and is responsible for knowing the notes in each of those chords and playing something that fits with the song.

One of my shortcomings as a soloist was that I opted to rely on my ear to play what sounded good and didn’t practice and study how to truly follow the chord changes.  This is what sets the great improvisers apart from the good ones.

On a recent trip to Starbucks I stepped up to the counter and quickly noticed they were out of my typical green tea.  Uh oh!  After the barista confirmed this, she quickly offered to steam their iced green tea for me and make it hot.  Thinking that was a suitable alternative, I ordered it and was not disappointed.

This barista knew everything about her product and everything that could be done with that product.  Musically speaking, she knew all of the notes in the chord changes and then improvised perfectly by creating a drink that wasn’t even on the menu.  The result of this beautiful solo act was a happy customer.

This is a great reminder that great improvisation is the product of great training and preparation.  This lends perfectly to Jeff Toister’s concept of The Magic Window where our aim in customer service training should be to get our agents to a level of unconscious competence.  In the world of awesome customer service, it ensures that our customers receive service that is always consistent with our vision and values.

What companies do you work with that do some of the best improvisation?  Can you tell that they are well trained to handle just about any change thrown at them?

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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3 Tips For Using Positive Language With Your Customers

512927_1280x720On my drive to work, the local radio station made a joke about a new mobile app that allows you to type the bad news you have to deliver in English then spits out the translation in Spanish.

While the mobile app isn’t real (why not?!), we must ask the question:

Why Spanish?

A recent study shows that Spanish is the happiest language, using more positive words than negative. English came in third. Chinese came in last of the 10 languages.

Therefore, if we were to deliver bad news in Spanish, it may not sound, well, so bad.

In customer service, we are constantly looking for ways to turn negatives into positives.

Perhaps we should all learn Spanish and deliver our not so happy news to our customers?

Just kidding.

But, this does bring up a good point:

How do we deliver the not so good news to our customers in the best way possible?

Mistakes happen. Programs break. Features do not work.

And, we all know what occurs after this:

–>Our call queue raises and so does our patience (and that of our customer).

So what’s the best way to deliver the news to the customer?

Ask yourself this question:

What would YOU want to hear?

  • Would you prefer to hear a frosted over answer, sprinkled with fake smiles?
  • Would you prefer to hear the honest, super technical truth of the situation?
  • Would you prefer to hear a mix of both?

While you can only spin something so many ways, we recommend moving toward the side of honesty over frosted smiles.

But HOW do you do this?

Here are THREE handy happy tips:

  • Think Before You Speak: Review your words and your facts before you share them with the customer. Do you need approval for legal reasons before admitting that something on your end broke? Seek out what you need and consider all honest options before breaking the news.
  • Show Empathy: Your customer isn’t going to be happy knowing something isn’t working. Stand in their shoes and toss in genuine empathy–and mean it–while giving them the low down on the situation.
  • Take Responsibility: If your company is at fault, own it. Take full responsibility for what happened and see it through to the end and make sure you have done everything in your power to get it fixed and follow up with the customer.

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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Twitter=Access To Thought Leaders

Thought-LeadershipThere are three types of people in this world–those who understand Twitter, those who think they understand Twitter, and those who simply don’t.  In my early days on Twitter, I tried to use it in the exact same way I use Facebook for purposes like tweeting with my friends.  That was fun until I realized that only about thirty of my friends are even on Twitter.

I think I’m still in the camp of those who think they understand Twitter but I’m moving closer and closer to the light with each passing day.  In recent years, I’ve met some pretty fantastic people as I’ve come to realize that many authors and thought leaders are quite active and approachable on the site.  To name a few, I’ve had amazing interactions with customer service thought leaders like Shep Hyken, author of numerous books, Jeff Toister, author of Service Failure, and Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest, authors of Who’s Your Gladys.

A bit star struck at first, it’s so powerful to realize the ability to connect with these thought leaders and realize that they are on a journey of learning and improvement in their field.  I am grateful that these folks are human and eager to interact and share with others.

More recently, I tweeted at a couple authors and was thrilled to get a response.  Les McKeown, author of a powerful little book on leadership called Do Lead has been extremely responsive.

On a more personal note, after recently saying goodbye to my 14-year-old chocolate lab, I listened to Marley and Me and thanked author John Grogan on Twitter.  I was so excited to get a response from him.

Is your favorite author or artist on Twitter?  Take a moment to reach out to them with comments or questions.  You may just find that they are much more approachable than you think.

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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