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I was just talking with a representative of a local insurance agency who mentioned that the older clients love her.  Why?  Because they love the fact that she listens to them and takes time with them and will explain slowly any technology that they may not understand.

This is very instructive.  I often say that in service, you must be almost like a chameleon, adapting and changing your interaction and communication style depending on the different needs of each individual customer.  Now let's take a closer look at an encounter with one of these elderly customers.  The insurance rep patiently listens while the customer tells her all about what has happened in her life since last they met.  A great builder of relationships, the rep remembers that the last time the client was in, she mentioned her grandson was graduating from college.  "Ms. Oaks, I remember you mentioning your grandson's graduation.  I hope that went well.  You said he would be looking for a job... has he been able to find one?"  

The personalized customer service and attention to detail has made Mrs. Oaks a client for life.   It is not about the sale, it is about the life of her client and being genuinely interested in that life.  It also recognizes that this particular client is a bit lonely since her husband passed away and enjoys having conversation with her insurance rep when she has the opportunity.

Now here is the challenge... what if Mr. Lansford, a busy young professional is sitting outside the office while the conversation about the other client's grandson drags on and on.   Someone in the office needs to recognize that he may not be on the same relaxed time frame as the grandmother now illuminating the rep on the fantastic job her grandson has post graduation.  As a matter of fact, Mr. Lansford is getting really irritated by being kept waiting.  Unless someone steps in to offer more immediate service, he is not going to be a happy camper.

This scenario plays out thousands of times every day in every type of business imaginable in service encounters taking place in-person, via telephone and even via automated encounters.  A savvy service rep knows the fine art of balancing the spend time vs. move on and help the next person equation.  Likewise, a great customer service team knows when someone needs to be 'bailed out' of a too long conversation with a customer.

One of the best things any customer service rep can do to build customer service relationships is to address not only the needs of the current individual being served but also those who may be 'next in line'.  An astute team member buzzes in and says, "So sorry to interrupt but your next appointment is here."  The skilled service rep will be bold enough to use that message and combine it with the friendliness of the rambling customer to politely say, "Mrs. Oaks, it's been great visiting with you.  They just buzzed in and my next client is waiting. I hope you will stop in again soon!"

Here is where the chameleon needs to quickly change color.  While greeting Mr. Lansford, the rep makes a few visual observations and determines that Mr. Lansford is in a bit of a hurry and maybe even a bit irritated for having to wait.  In a much more matter of fact tone than the previous conversation this greeting follows:  "Mr. Lansford, so nice to see you.  My apologies for the wait, it has been a hectic day today."  Staying in full control of this close encounter, the rep gets right down to business... "Mr. Lansford, I have your home insurance quote ready for you.  Let's review it together!"

In your next customer service training session or customer service meeting, take the time to list several categories of customers by age, product lines, personalities, etc. and identify common traits and special needs of which you are aware.  If multiple staff members do this together it is likely to be a more instructive exercise.  After all, as a team we can all learn from each other's close encounters.  When one rep has a certain approach with a customer, that may be a successful approach to use with other similar customers.  This is also a great time to, OH NO, discuss when you have failed with a certain customer type.  Be brave enough to identify what went wrong, the why behind it and explore what different approaches could be tried with similar customers in similar close encounters.  The only bad mistake is one we don't learn from! 

Is being a chameleon being phony?  Quite the contrary, quickly adapting to the varied needs of your customers signals that you are a true professional with extraordinary customer service chameleon like superpowers.  Use those changing colors to give exceptional service to each of your varied customers! 

A world recognized customer service expert, Teresa Allen is often asked to share strategies for customer service success in her highly rated customer service keynotes and customer service training programs.  To contact Teresa, contact her via email: tallen@allenspeaks.com.
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 Recently I had to call the contact center of FootJoy regarding an order I had placed on their website for golf shoes.  With a size 11 woman’s shoe, it is almost impossible to find golf shoes in local retail outlets.  In the FootJoy order process, the size menu defaults to a size 5.5 and you change it to see if your size is available.  I was excited to be able to find a pair I liked and ordered the size 11.   When I got the confirmation email it said size 5.5 ...  Oh NOOOO!

​Needless to say, Cinderella was not going to fit in those 5.5s!  I knew I had changed it to size 11 because I was excited to see that they had ONE pair left in my size.  I called FootJoy customer service.  Joe answered on about the second ring with a professional greeting, requested my name and asked how I was doing.  It immediately struck me that he sounded sincere, so I replied, “I’m great Joe, how are you?”  He said, “Wonderful, how may I help you today Teresa?” This was a great start for the conversation that followed.

When I relayed my issue, I fully expected a response that included at least a hint that I may not have selected the right size.  Not Joe, he immediately expressed regret on the order snafu and immediately focused on the future by clearly explaining what ‘we’ needed to do next for me to get the shoes the fastest.  He also commented on the fun colorful shoes I was ordering. He asked if he could put me on hold while he checked with the delivery department to see if they could still cancel the order.  In a minute or two he came back on the line and confirmed that it had not been shipped out yet and that he would be able to cancel the order. He suggested ordering the new pair right away with a separate order since they only had one left in stock in my size and knew I didn’t want to miss getting it.  He then explained how he would immediately process a credit to my credit card for the original order.  He further explained how both charges would be on my card for just a few days, but that the credit would soon appear thus rendering only one charge.  During this entire conversation, he sounded so clear and confident that I had no doubts my situation was being handled appropriately.

Think about how differently this could have gone.  I could have called and been put through a long menu of service options, followed by a hold time, followed by a rep who sounded like they could care less about me or the product I had ordered, and who instilled no confidence in a good solution.  Think about when you call customer service of a company... have you written a script in your mind of how it will probably go?  Joe was able to surpass the expectations of my mind script by a mile.  As I hung up the phone, I pondered this and realized what a clear illustration my close encounter with FootJoy was of the all important Cs of customer service:
  • Courtesy from the greeting to the conclusion of the call
  • Compassion for my situation evident throughout the call
  • Clarity about what actions needed to be taken by the company and by me the customer​
  • Confidence in outcome instilled though confident handling by the representative

Kudos to Joe and to @FootJoy for hiring and training him to maximize customer close encounters!
Is your call center using the 4 Cs of Customer Service in every close encounter?  If not, give me a call and we can discuss training in these common sense service principles. 

Remember… service excellence happens one customer service close encounter at a time.  Invest in your success!   

To fire up the 4 Cs of Customer Service in your organization, give Teresa a call at 800-797-1580 or email her at tallen@AllenSpeaks.com.  Teresa is ranked in the Top 5 of the World's Customer Service Experts on GlobalGurus.org and is ranked as a Top 5 speaker on Speaking.com
When you NEED experience and you WANT fun,
Teresa is the Perfect Speaker for your meeting or convention!
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​At the conclusion of any year it is wise to look back a successes and failures but also to move forward with a specific strategy for improvement and growth.  The five steps below are critical for review of 2017 and planning for future success in 2018:

1. Study and prepare for your customer journey
Identify customer types and map their journey from purchase research through product delivery and customer service follow ups.  Find the specific customer touch points and analyze how you are doing and what improvements can be made.  Study customer feedback data to see where negative customer experience can occur and seek proactive customer conflict avoidance strategies.  Make sure that every employee knows how they fit into the customer journey and desired satisfaction and delight.

2. Provide customization through choice of channel and choice of product features
We are in the era of customer service customization.  Even small business must find ways to adapt to individual desires.  Whether it is a small grocer offering a choice of self service or full service or a large call center offering alternatives of hold or call back, placing the power of choice in the hands of the consumer is critical to winning customer loyalty.  Before adding customer service channels, however, every organization must make sure they have mastered the intricacies of current customer service channels.  Delving into new customer service methods before current methods are mastered is a risky venture.  If you open a Twitter account with the intent of responding to social customer service complaints and then have only intermittent interaction, it would be akin to opening a call center and only answering the phone every few hours.  Financial and staffing commitment are necessary to any customer service channel expansion strategy.

3. Listen to the customer voice
Many technologies are now available to monitor the customer voice and even to route specific voices to specific responses.  For 2018 what is your strategy for gauging customer satisfaction by listening to and monitoring your customer voice?  Simply having a ‘feel’ for satisfaction is no longer a valid strategy even for a small business.  Have a plan in place to formally measure satisfaction and delight at each touch point on the customer journey (see step 1).  Investigate customer voice monitoring and response technologies that can enhance your customer experience.

4. Make service EASY
At the holidays we know everyone is short of time and stressed out.  The sad truth is that for most consumers, business and personal, these factors now exist almost year round.  For this reason, having a handle on customer effort possibly through the use of a Customer Effort Score (CES) metric is critical to success and growth.  Once again, this demonstrates the link between many of these customer service points.  Customer effort in the eyes of the consumer may be a direct reflection by the consumer on whether you gave them ‘their’ choice of channel on their customer journey in the time frame they expected.

5. Have a social service crisis plan
One needs only to have turned on cable news or surfed YouTube videos to understand the magnitude and possible positive or even more likely negative spin that can result from even one close encounter with a customer.  This points not only to having a media crisis plan in the unfortunate case that something does ‘go viral’ but more importantly points out the need for employee customer service training on how words and actions matter critically in an extremely connected world.  Customer service policies need to be examined to see if they support the company mission or if they pose a potential risk of firestorm if they are abused or misinterpreted by an individual employee or customer.  Foster a discussion with your customer service team on what delighted them during their holiday shopping and what made steam roll from their ears.  If they had a bad experience, ask how many contacts they shared it with and if they can remember any of the many viral service blunders of 2017 and how those widely publicized incidents impacted their image of the associated company brand.  Have a plan for customer service training on customer conflict response and proactive conflict avoidance in 2018.

Review these five customer service strategy steps and have an intentional rather than accidental strategy for moving forward and you will bolster your success path and profit potential for 2018 and beyond!

Teresa Allen is the Ranked #1 on Global Gurus list of the world's top Customer Service Experts.  She is often asked to share strategies for customer service success at meetings held across the globe.  Teresa can be reached through her website at www.AllenSpeaks.com or via telephone 800-797-1580.  This article may be reprinted if this credit box is included.
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There has always been a debate on whether customer service scripting will make customer service representatives sound too mechanical and less spontaneous.  A recent interaction with a credit card representative highlights exactly why scripting at least as a guide is necessary.

My daughter was about to travel out of state and had lost her debit card.  I had an extra card on my business card with her name on it since she sometimes does work for me.  I told her she could use it on her trip and made a call to the credit card company to make sure the card was still valid since it had not been used in a long time.  I was assured all was good to go.  A few days later, I was called by my daughter who told me that charges were being denied.  (Now we won't even get into why she was charging $3 and $5 items to my gold card!?)
 called the card company and they transferred me to the fraud protection unit who lifted the hold on the card and said she should have no further problems using the card.  Fast  forward 24 hours and again I get a call from my daughter saying that again charges were being denied. 

At this point I am a bit ticked off.  I had spent a good twenty minutes the previous day clearing up the matter and since on vacation did not look forward to going through it all again.  When I realized that they were going through the exact same process that had failed the day prior, I asked to speak to a supervisor.  It was a Saturday evening at 5pm.  I was told that the supervisor was in a meeting and would not be out for over an hour.  'On a Saturday night your supervisors are in a meeting?' I was a bit skeptical about there being a meeting of supervisors at 5pm on Saturday.  'Surely you have some supervisor who can talk to me... you are a big company!'    She put me on hold and came back and said that no supervisor could talk to me.  I then asked her how SHE could explain that after I had approved all future charges on this card in a specific location by my daughter, WHY this happened again.  Her reply? 

"Ma'am I'm sorry but our system is beyond our control." 

Seriously?  This is what this well known organization wants to convey to me when I am upset... that their system is out of control?

I was promised a call back by a supervisor.  Big surprise - that call never came.  So Lynn RVPG... (that was her rep number given to me when asked) maybe you never told the supervisor I was upset?  Not a good call!  If you did tell a supervisor and they never called back, even worse!

Lessons we can all take from this customer service close encounter?
  • Review possible scenarios that will cause customer conflict and angst
  • Determine causes of customer conflict and customer complaints to avoid such scenarios
  • When service failure occurs, have a scripted explanation that builds confidence in your company - not destroys it
  • Have supervisors available at all times if possible; Sometimes your customer just needs to talk to a voice of higher authority
  • If a supervisor is not available and a front line rep gives a promise of a call back, make sure it happens
  • One final thought:  what are the expectations of the level of service provided by your firm or organization.  In this case we were talking about a very reputable company, so my expectations were pretty high.  When you market based on an expectation of a high level of service, you are in greater danger of a higher level of dissatisfaction when service failure occurs!
Your customer service image should never be 'out of your control'.  Customer service training for customer confict and customer complaint scenarios will go a long way to protect and build your brand.  Customer service scripts should not make your customer service reps sound like robots but it can protect your from an out of control image!

​​Teresa Allen is the Ranked #1 on Global Gurus list of the world's top Customer Service Experts.  She is often asked to share strategies for customer service success at meetings held across the globe.  Teresa can be reached through her website at www.AllenSpeaks.com or via telephone 800-797-1580.  This article may be reprinted if this credit box is included.
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​Customer service failures have captured the headlines in 2017.  As such, companies are becoming ever more aware of how their brand reputation is linked to individual customer service encounters!

As a consumer, how can you take advantage of this customer focus?  Here are
5 ways to become a customer service expert consumer:
1.     Know your rights.  
Whether you are flying on an airplane or buying groceries, there are certain implied and government regulated consumer rights.  Take time to learn what you can and cannot expect both legally and ethically from the businesses you buy from.    Much talk followed the United Airlines passenger being dragged off a plane and the subsequent incident involving a family that was asked to leave when the name on the ticket didn’t match the name of the person flying.  Every airline ticket you buy comes with about a page of fine print detailing what you as a passenger can and cannot do.  Read it in advance of traveling.  Just because the law and a ‘contract of carriage’ states that a business CAN do certain things, it doesn’t mean that it behooves them to do so in light of likely social media backlash. (see point 2)

2.    Know avialable channels of communication and the power that they put in your consumer fingers!
Years ago, an incident like the afore mentioned passenger being ousted from the plane would have probably garnered a brief spot on the local news and a possible paragraph in the local newspaper which would be used to wrap fish the following day.  In an era of 24/7 cable national cable news coverage and millions of smart phones, Twitter accounts, and Instagram followers, even an incident far more insignificant than this can have long lasting repercussions for an organization.  So how does that help you?  For starters, make sure you have a Twitter account and know the Twitter handles of the companies with whom you do business.  You will often get more immediate service using these channels than through an 800 number or a customer service counter.  Also, make sure to sign up for frequent customer identification clubs.  Whether it be an airline miles club like the American Airlines Advantage program, or a discount card at your local bagel shop, it demonstrates that you are a repeat valuable customer and are one worth listening to.  Recent events demonstrated that a post referencing @Delta or @United on Twitter will likely be read by a host of their other frequent flyers, millions of consumer, and possibly the media, so they have to listen to you! The other benefit to you can be faster service via social media channels.  As a 2 million miler on American, I know that American an incredible social media support team @AmericanAir and that if I am experiencing trip issues, a response will be almost immediate via this channel whereas even their elite telephone line may experience long wait times during travel interruptions.

3.    Be reasonable and courteous no matter what your method of communication. 
Yes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but a rude squeaky wheel doesn’t always get the best results.  Have some compassion for the real person on the other end of the telephone line or your social media post and you may get more swift and compassionate action.  If I am on the phone, I always listen for or ask the representative’s name when starting the conversation.  I thank them by name in advance for their help and show empathy for the job they have.  It is amazing what this can do for a stressed-out service representative who has just listened to the last five contacts rake them over the coals.  At this point, I also indicate the amount of business I have brought them in the past and my expectations of continued great service.  If, however, a courteous and productive response does not follow, I am not afraid to request that my issue be escalated to a supervisory level.  (see point 4)


4.    Realize that supervisors DO have more power than the first voice or text contact you have.
I will never forget dealing with my mortgage company after a tornado hit my house.  Even though we had significant equity in the home, the mortgage company did not want to release any of the insurance funds they had received without what seemed like a ten-step process for each of the dozen or more contractors which we were going to have to use.  I had finally had enough in my stressed-out state of life, and in a phone call with an unbending representative asked to speak with a supervisor.  She assured me that she was a supervisor which I knew was probably not true, and refused to transfer me.  I then asked for the proper spelling of her name so I could get it right in my nationally syndicated customer service blog and hung up the phone.  Within an hour, she called me back and said that a supervisor had given permission for a release of partial funds! Now here is the truth of customer service today.  You don’t have to be a columnist to be able to speak to a supervisor.  Every consumer today yields great power with even a veiled or implied threat of a post on social media.  Making sure to get a representative’s name before there is such a conflict (see Step 3) assures knowledge that they will be held personally accountable for what follows in the customer service encounter.  Any smart business will conduct front line customer service training that empowers customer service reps, and also instructs them on when another voice becomes an asset to customer complaint resolution.
(see Step 5)

5.     Learn lessons from customer service encounters in your personal life that apply to your work life!
Most consumers are also employed in the workforce.  If you are one of those consumers, realized that you are enrolled in the University of Life every single day.  What do you like and dislike about your customer service encounters as a consumer?  These are the very same things that the customers of the business you work for will like and dislike about you.  If you are a manager, have a monthly meeting where staff is encouraged to tell their customer service stories of nightmare and delight.  It will not only be quite entertaining, it will be significantly educational.  My customer service keynote and customer service book, “​Common Sense Service: Close Encounters on the Front Lines” is exactly that.  I share the lessons learned from real close encounters that I have experienced on the front lines of business.  The amazing thing about stories is that they are incredible memory anchors… far more so than 5 points on a PowerPoint slide!  Write your own book at least in your mind.  Encourage your team at work to do the same.  The benefit will be better service to your customers and great stories to share with friends at your next cocktail party!

Teresa Allen is Ranked #1 on Global Gurus list of the world's customer service experts who is often asked to share her expertise in meetings across the globe.  To connect with Teresa, visit her AllenSpeaks.com website or call 800-797-1580.  This article may be reprinted if this credit box is included.
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Much of current investment in customer service is focused on expanding capabilities in digital service channels and artificial intelligence.  Recent customer service studies, however, have illustrated the need to focus on the human element of customer service.  Read on to find out the important findings of these studies.

Accenture Strategy’s Global Customer Pulse Research found that 88% of customers use digital channels at some point in their shopping journey.  While 41% want even more digital options, only 36% of customers believe that digital channels are better than human interactions.  

Adding digital service channels to the customer’s menu of choices is obviously designed to drive loyalty.  But what if all these new customer options are not doing that at all?  Accenture’s study points out that even with the myriad of available service channels, only about 25% of customers were willing to recommend a business to others and a whopping 65% decided to take business elsewhere.  These numbers are staggering given the investment in more expensive technologies that have been added to the customer service foray in recent years.

So what is going on?  Accenture suggests that organizations who are increasingly relying on digital may be abandoning the human personalization that leads to up-sell and cross sell opportunities.  58% of customers still prefer to deal with a human to get a quick answer to a question and when service issues arise, 73% prefer human interaction to a “digitized voice and blinking cursor”.  Even Consumer Reports is weighing in on this issue, identifying the biggest complaint in customer service as the inability to speak to a real person when a problem surfaces.

Does this mean we should not invest in digital channels?  Certainly not, but it does point to it being necessary to give the customer choice of digital and human in their journey, particularly when it comes to conflict and complaints and complex interactions.  Equally important is the ability to switch channels midstream should an issue become more complicated.

A similar report by Verint on The Digital Tipping Point notes that when given the choice of how customers like to interact with organization, picking up the phone (24%) or going in store (23%) are still the most popular options.  Surprisingly, popular social apps such as Facebook and Twitter do not fare well in this study.  Only 3% of consumers indicated a preference for contacting via social and mobile apps.  Why do customers prefer a human element within customer service?  Verint’s global study indicates that it is because they are more likely to negotiate a better deal and receive good service.

A very notable graph in the Verint study shows significant disparity between customer service channels businesses are planning to offer and customer’s preferred communication channels.  Live chat (32%) and mobile apps (27%) score highest on future investment while the consumer’s preferred options – in branch and telephone contact – show little to no future investment increases.







What does this mean for you as you plan your strategy for 2017?
Here are 5 Steps to Take:

1.     Look at recent customer service studies in more detail.   Some point to differences in varied industries that may be important for you.  (study links here)
2.    Talk to your own customers and find out what they want.  While studies are important, they cannot compare to ‘Management by Walking Around’ and customer survey data for your own business and market.
3.    Realize that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution.  Customers are increasingly demanding multiple channels and more importantly a choice of channel for different contact/transaction types.
4.    Know your customer’s journey and plan a strategy for contacts along that journey.  Every business, even similar businesses in the same market have their own unique branding and customer strategy.  Make sure your customer service is aligned with that branding and strategy for every contact point.
5.    Invest in the human side of your customer service through customer service training and communication training!  Realize that customer engagement in linked to employee engagement.  Invest in your employees and they will invest in your success!

It is a complicated customer service world out there sure to become even more complex in coming months and years.  Instead of being overwhelmed by what you cannot do, focus on specific steps to maximize the impact of your digital and human touch points.  This will build your success and your profits in 2017 and beyond!

Teresa Allen is currently ranked #1 on GlobalGurus.org list of the world’s top customer service experts.  Allen speaks at meetings worldwide on the impact of customer service on success and profits.  Contact Teresa about your meeting: tallen@AllenSpeaks.com 800-797-1580  
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A Year End Customer Service Inventory: 5 Questions to Ponder
1.    Are we becoming more or less connected to individual customers?
2.    Have we automated routine customer service tasks?
3.    Are we working to minimize point of dissatisfaction on the customer journey?
4.    Are competitors out-serving us?
5.    Does every customer feel appreciated?
As we approach the end of the year and look forward to the next year of serving our customers and building profits, the following self inventory will build our success:

1.     Are we becoming more or less connected to individual customers?
Customers are not served as a group, they are helped one at a time.  Thus surveys showing the percent of customer satisfaction is somewhat worthless if it is not supplanted with specific individual feedback from different customers in varied points on the customer journey.  When examining survey data, do not overlook individual customer comments (and if you don’t have a place for comments, add them NOW!).  Customers can be the best business consultants for the new year if we will just ask them how we are doing and LISTEN to their answers.  This can be achieved through surveys but also through conversations.  Since it is likely that front-line employees have more in person contact, either face-to-face or telephone, it is critical to tap into their insights in both formal and informal ways.  Direct supervisors should solicit customer feedback information at least weekly if not daily.  They should then report in a formal written way the feedback received to management and specifically to marketing.  Do you have a means to collect this feedback?  If not, make it a priority for the new year.

2.     Have we automated routine customer tasks?
Customer Effort Score (CES) is one of the rising stars of customer service metrics.  This is common sense of course as the most valuable asset of any human being living today is their time.   What has been done this year to minimize the effort of customers at various points on the customer journey.  These critical points include the product/service search, the inquiry, the order process, the delivery, and post-sale touchpoints.  Be careful here however… while customers want routine tasks automated, growing evidence suggests that more complex interactions indicate a preference for human touch.  In other words, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! While I might prefer chat for a routine question, I may want to speak to a live representative when you have completely messed up my order!

3.     Are we working to minimize the points of dissatisfaction on the customer journey?
The answer to this question implies that the customer journey has been mapped which can in and of itself be a daunting task, especially for a smaller business.  Do not be intimidated… you can start small and grow your understanding and use of this critical tool, but make the commitment to get started!  Not doing so risks silos in your organization where none is accountable to the customer for the overall experience.  A great first step is to review reports on customer complaints, and then to talk to individual customers about how and when the process failed them.  Information can then be used to design training to avoid these points of dissatisfaction.

4.     Are our competitors out-serving us?
While we may not have access to our competitor’s latest internal reports on customer satisfaction, in a transparent world of customer interactions, much information is available to us.  We must monitor not only our own social criticisms and accolades but those of our competitors as well.  In so doing, we can strengthen our weaknesses and market to our strengths.  What channels are competitors using to serve our common markets?  Recent studies show that the wider our channel options, the more likely our customers will receive the service they desire. Caution must be used here however… just because our competitor has launched a new social media channel does not mean we should immediately jump in blindly.  The only thing worse than not being in a channel is being there and not being ‘present’ due to a lack of research, preparation, and ability to follow through.

5.     Does every customer feel appreciated?
Customer appreciation needs to happen every day, not just at year end with the standard holiday card.  Look for ways to connect with customers through individual appreciation.  Remember that your front-line staff will most likely not show appreciation to customers if they do not feel appreciated themselves!  It is also critical to realize that no two customers wish to be appreciated in the same way.  Take the time to get to know what makes especially your most important regular customers tick and look for opportunities to strengthen your relationship through unique appreciation sprinkled throughout the calendar year.  Doing so only at the holidays risks that our message is lost in the waterfall of cookies and cards.

Certainly the world of customer service has gotten a lot more complicated this year and is sure to continue on that path in the coming months.  Taking a specific inventory of where we are and where we need to go will eliminate some of the stress caused by the changing world of customer service!

Teresa Allen is an internationally recognized customer service expert and customer service keynote speaker currently ranked #1 on GlobalGurus.org list of the world's top customer service experts. She is often asked to share her expertise at meetings in customer service keynotes and training.  To contact Teresa, call 800-797-1580 or contact her through her website at www.AllenSpeaks.com.  This article may be reprinted as long as this credit box is included.
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The holidays bring insane traffic, crowded stores, stressed budgets...
oh yes...and special times with family and friends! 


My wish for YOU is that you experience more of the latter than the former. But unfortunately, we are all out there trying to wrap up our list and may experience some 'interesting' situations. There is a silver lining in that cloud. You and your employees can learn some very valuable lessons to take back to your business if you notice the GOOD, the BAD, and the UGLY of holiday shopping experiences!
Below is a simple downloadable form that you can email out to your staff that will make them more conscious of what they like and dislike when shopping. These common sense observations will open their eyes to what their own customers like and dislike about their close encounters with YOUR business.

Click on the link at the end of this article to download!

This exercise is not just for front line employees. Your managers should complete the exercise too and make a mental note of what management did wrong or right to lead to the positive or negative impression that you received of the business you are evaluating.


Let employees know that you will ask them to review their observations with co-workers and managers after the first of the year. I hope you will share your BEST stories with me. The first 5 to comment on the blog post with this subject will receive a book or audio CD of Common Sense Service to reward the staff members relaying the story.

Happy HOLIDAYS !!
holiday_customer_service_observations.pdf
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​While watching the never ending media commentary on the the 2016 election, it has occurred to me that the political arena is not the only place where a new reality has emerged.

The fight for customers in this year's consumer election is also now totally in the hands of the disgruntled or delighted individual. Just as it seems that the power of multi million dollar campaign spend by super pacs has little effect, the investment of millions in product advertising campaigns now pales against the screaming voice of the customer. Whether it be a United Breaks Guitars song or the audio of the Comcast employee who kept a disgruntled customer on the phone for 45 minutes, the single customer service close encounter on the front lines has repercussions in today's marketplace louder than even a Super Bowl ad campaign.

So why has the landscape changed in such a profound way, and what is the message for those involved in the fight for customers? The power of social media in every channel is now indisputable. Companies who strive for customer success and market position cannot afford to ignore the voice of the customer as heard via social. Sitting on the sidelines with only a passing interest may be just as dangerous. The pulse of the customer must be monitored consistently and constantly. But simply monitoring the customer's heartbeat is not enough. Engaging in social media with two-way communication is necessary to keep the heart pumping. Giving a jolt from the paddles in the ER when a bad customer service close encounter goes viral just won't guarantee that the ailing patient lives!

Do you have to be a corporation with a Chief Customer Officer and a team of hundreds to compete? If you are a large corporation, the simple answer is yes. If you are a small business, the answer is obviously "I can't do that!", so what do you do? First and foremost, listen to your customers where they are talking EVERY DAY. Find out what they are saying and respond quickly whether the feedback is positive or negative. What if you are a small hotel or B&B and not Hilton? You can still monitor Trip Advisor customer feedback and respond to complaints and compliments. Let customers know how you are going to make it better for the next guest. What if you are a mom and pop printing business? Take interest in your Yelp profile; pay attention to what customers are saying about your quality, responsiveness, and delivery time and make business adjustments with those in mind. The scale may be different but the truth is, it now actually may be EASIER and obviously less expensive for a small business to respond to customer input than for their counterparts in high ivory towers. There lies the small business competitive advantage in today's world!

I am your customer. Hear me ROAR.... If you want my vote in this year's customer election, you better be not only listening, but responding with a common sense customer service strategy that keeps my heart pumping and my wallet spending!

Teresa Allen is a highly acclaimed customer service speaker and is the author of Common Sense Service: Close Encounters on the Front Lines. Visit her AllenSpeaks.com website to find more ideas on building your customer service culture. To contact Teresa call 800-797-1580 or email tallen at AllenSpeaks.com

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As a provider of financial industry sales and service training for 20 years, I have been nothing short of horrified to learn about what Wells Fargo has been doing to their customers.  It truly was not a big surprise as my daughter opened Wells Fargo accounts as a young adult several years ago after moving to Los Angeles. Even though it has been many years, I have not forgotten her call to lament all the charges she was getting from Wells Fargo for products and services that she never requested.   I am married to 'an officer and a gentleman' (bank loan officer) and recall how it took him days of effort with nearly 4 hours on the telephone to get her out of all the accounts and services that they put her in without her permission.

Over the years when a potential bank or credit union client calls my office to ask about my sales training programs, I have asked two fundamental questions:

1.  Is your customer service where it needs to be?

In my humble opinion, it is not a good business decision to embark on sales training if your service is not top notch. Let us explore an analogy of olympic diving to illustrate this point.  The diver walks out onto the edge of the board, stands and thinks about the dive they are about to take and then has the all important bounce that propels them into the air giving them the inertia to have a good chance of completing the dive as designed.  If the right bounce is not there, the dive is doomed from the outset.  Similarly, unless you know your customers, and have asked questions to understand their needs, and have a strong foundation of service, you have no business attempting to sell them anything.  Yet many organizations look to sales training as a silver bullet to solve all of their problems.  Let me save you some money... invest first in customer service training, build strong relationships and then and only then invest in sales training.

2.  I tell the person inquiring about my financial service sales training programs that I am NOT in the business of teaching people to PUSH products and services on their customers and members.  

Why?  Pushing products and services on customers is a SHORT TERM success strategy.  I am interested in bringing a LONG TERM success strategy to my clients.  If you have your interests in mind more than your customer's, the customer will eventually see through your motives.  And that will be a fork in the relationship road that ever changes the dynamic of TRUST.  Wells Fargo is not the only financial institution or business to be guilty of such a strategy.  I have seen countless examples of this reckless approach (although none quite as blatent or widespread) in my 20 years of providing sales and customer service training to businesses of every type.  

Regardless of what industry you are in, learn a lesson from the failed strategy of Wells Fargo and others like them. Lead your staff to build relationships based on a position of trust that considers the customer's business and life goals and objectives a far more important factor than what your business happens to need at the moment.  If you do this with a foundation of great service, you will build long term profitable relationships!
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