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Most of your customers are reading the emails you send on their phones or tablets. And they’re reading your messages while they’re on the go, or doing a couple of other things. Like you, your customers are busy.

You can make it easy for customers to quickly read and understand your message by doing just a few key things. Just as companies design their websites for customers to access information with just a few clicks, you need to structure your emails, so that they can be quickly read, and understood.

Today, I’m giving you four things you can do to make your emails easier for customers to read and understand, by making them scannable.

1. Write in short sentences.

Keep your sentences to 15 -20 words. This makes your emails more scannable, as we keep in mind that many people are reading emails on their phones.

2. Write in short paragraphs.

To make it easy for your customers to grasp what you’re saying, make your paragraphs short, just like you’re doing with your sentences. Make sure your paragraphs are no more than 2-3 sentences. That way they’ll be easy to read.

3. Completely read your customer’s email before typing your reply, and reread it after you’ve typed your response.

You do this to be certain that you’ve answered every question in the customer’s email. When you fully answer your customer’s issues, you reduce the chances of the customer needing to email back with follow-up issues. This tip makes things easier for you.

4. Proof for grammar and spelling mistakes.

A correctly written email, without errors, is easier to read. Here’s another reason to focus on grammar: With every email you send out, your company’s reputation is on the line. Grammar matters. So carefully proof for any mistakes.

Proofing my emails is one of my biggest struggles. So, to help me, I use a free service called Grammarly.com. Grammarly reads my emails and finds grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice, and style mistakes, and then fixes them for me. If you struggle as I do, Grammarly or a similar service might help you.

I explain each of these four tips in this three-minute video, which is a part of my customer service eLearning catalog. Use this video to position your employees make emails scannable and easy to read.

Keep your sentences and paragraphs short, make sure you have answered all of your customer’s questions before you hit send, and always carefully proof for grammar, word choice, and spelling errors. When you do these things, you’ll make your emails easy and quick to read.

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Too many hiring managers focus on candidates’ work history when filling customer service roles. They get excited when they read that the candidate has six-plus years working in customer service.

But past work in customer service is not a reliable indicator of future success in serving your customers.

To consistency deliver the best possible customer interactions, you need to hire for emotional intelligence —hiring people with empathy, friendliness, and connection, and then train those people on your systems and policies. These are the people who will do the best job for you.

In this article, I’m going to show you how to hire for emotional intelligence using eight strategic interviewing questions.

The Goal In Interviewing for Customer Service Jobs

We’ll get to the interview questions in a moment. But, for the questions to work, you have to set up the interview properly. When you interview candidates for customer service jobs, you want to get them relaxed and confident, so they can authentically communicate with you. Here are four things, precisely, for you to focus on in your interviews.

Make the candidate feel as comfortable as possible

Small talk is a fantastic way to get candidates relaxed. Talk about anything – traffic, the cup of coffee you spilled in your last meeting, or a unique piece of jewelry the person is wearing. You want candidates to relax because when people are relaxed, they are more communicative and genuine.

Get Candidates to Tell You Stories

When you ask interview questions, and I’ll give you several questions to use, encourage the person to provide you with detailed examples of how they recently handled specific situations. When candidates talk to you through stories and examples, you’ll get honest and comprehensive insight into how the person is likely to perform in a similar situation at your company.

Laying the Interview Foundation

After making a little small talk and getting your candidate relaxed, set the interview up by saying something like, “I’m going to ask you some questions and what I’m looking for is specific examples that illustrate how you have responded to specific situations in the past. I’ll be taking notes as you talk, but you keep going. Feel free to take your time and think about responses before answering the questions.”

Taking Notes

While your candidate is telling you stories of how they’ve handled specific situations in the past, you need to be taking lots of notes. I want you to jot things down so you can go back and take a close look at how all of the people you interviewed measure up to your expectations. It will be easy to forget the many examples you’ve heard during interviews, so you need to take meeting notes.

Sample Interview Questions

1. “Describe for me one of the most challenging customer interactions you’ve encountered, and how you responded to that situation.” The answer to this question will help you gauge how the candidate handles demanding customers. 2. “Tell me about your biggest customer success story when things started out poorly.” Listen carefully to the answer to this question. You can learn about how a person handles problems and how stress impacts them. 3. “Can you walk me through a situation where you felt you had no control over the outcome and discuss how you felt about that?” This question helps you determine a person’s need for control. If your customer service jobs don’t give employees a lot of power to control outcomes, and the person has a high demand for control, this position may not be a good fit. 4. “Describe a situation where you had to consider details from multiple sources to make a final decision.” What you’re looking for here is, can the person work with multiple parties to make the best decisions for your company and your customers.

These next four questions help you determine if the person is genuinely interested in serving customers and working in a customer service role, or if they’re merely looking for a job.

5. What do you like most about being in a customer service position? 6. What do you want from your next job that you’re not getting from your current position? 7. What part of your current job do you enjoy the most? The least? 8. What are some of the things in a job that motivates you?

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One of the easiest ways to make your conversations with customers more conversational, and friendly, is to speak in complete sentences.

It is so familiar to hear interactions like this:

Last name? First name? Zip code?

It’s undoubtedly efficient to ask customers questions in this manner. However, it’s not the friendliest approach. In this article, I’ll talk to you about instantly improving your ability to connect with customers and sound friendly by just speaking in complete sentences.

Yes, speaking in complete sentences will take a few more seconds, but it’s so worth it, because of how the conversation will flow, and how you’ll be perceived, by your customers.

When you have to ask your customer questions, I want you to do two things:

  1. Always ask in complete sentences.
  2. Moreover, use “please” and “thank you” whenever it makes sense.

It will sound something like this:

“Can I please have your last name?”
“Do you happen to have your claim number?”
“Thank you. One last question for you.”
“Can I please have the email address associated with your account?

When you speak in complete sentences, you sound friendlier, and the conversation will have a casual, natural flow. So, try to always speak in complete sentences with your customers.

This fantastic tip comes directly from my Telephone Skills online training course, which is part of my customer service eLearning catalog. Learn more about our online classes and sample courses here.

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Studies show the average business call lasts 2 minutes longer than it needs to. Customer service employees struggle with call control for a variety of reasons, including they don’t want to be rude to the customer, they aren’t sure how to move to closure or because the customer is rambling or angry.

Using the principles of harmony, assertiveness and leading from the martial art Aikido, Myra walks your employees through the steps to politely and confidently control conversations.

The outcome of this training is employees who possess the soft skills to make customers feel heard and understood, politely lead conversations and assertively bring calls to closure.

Take this course now for free.

Here’s a 60-second introduction to the free course. If you like what you see, use the link at the bottom of this page to go directly to the full course.

Key Takeaways:

  • An introduction to the communication chain and why you must never leave the chain unlinked – because that makes customers talk more.
  • How acknowledging customer concern makes customers feel heard and understood – feelings that tend to remove the need for customers to ramble on.
  • Perfect statements to help employees gain control with aggressive customers.
  • How to use the “topic grab” approach to politely get a long-winded or storyteller to get to the point.
  • How asking 3-closed-ended questions back-to-back instantly puts you in control of ANY conversation.
  • 4 ways to politely bring the call to closure after you have met all of the customer’s needs.

Take my Call Control Online training for free, and then share it with your employees.

Learn more about my online customer service training
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Tomorrow morning I’m headed to Phoenix to deliver a workshop at the Salesforce Trailblazers for the Future Conference. I booked an extra night at the Arizona Biltmore just because I wanted some “me time” for relaxation and reading. I do this a lot, adding a day or two on to a business trip to chill, explore, and enjoy local restaurants. Do you take time just for you?

Before I wrap things up in my office today and prepare for tomorrow’s early flight, I’m sharing with you three things you can do to pre-empt an escalation with a customer. These tips will help you handle interactions in such a way that you significantly minimize the chance of a customer becoming so incensed that they feel they have to talk to a supervisor.

1. Reflect Your Brand Promise

One of my clients is a furniture protection plan company. A point of upset for a lot of their customers is when customers discover that the damage to their furniture is not covered under warranty. Customers get intensely agitated because they feel what they purchased is not the same thing as the service they are receiving. I encouraged agents in this company to reflect the brand promise in every interaction. I had them focus on explaining first what the protection plan did cover, and then by quickly going over a few of the many benefits of the plan.

Instead of merely telling the customer that their damage was not covered, I instructed agents to say something like, “You have an excellent plan here. It covers such things as scratches and broken pieces. In this case, we do not cover discoloration of the leather, as fading is a natural occurrence that comes from body oils and usage. If anything else should come up, though, please give us a call, and we’ll be happy to look into things for you.”

Reflecting the brand promise, in this situation, is reminding the customer of the many benefits the protection plan does offer, and by serving customers with a friendly demeanor.

2. Don’t Push

When people feel pushed into a corner, they push back. If a customer feels you are defensive, rude, or unhelpful, it is natural for them to push back. They push back with their words, tone, or by asking to talk to a supervisor.

You can pre-empt an escalation in aggression or an escalation to a supervisor by not allowing yourself to push because pushing will almost always result in your customer pressing back.

I describe the Don’t Push idea in this short video. Use this video to teach your employees not to push.

3. Give Any Bad News Directly

One of the biggest reasons customers escalate is because you’ve told them something they don’t want to hear. You’ve given them bad news. When you have to give your customer lousy news, it’s best that you are direct. Directness sets you up as confident and knowledgeable, and this helps customers to accept your word as the final word. You need to be courteous and regretful in your approach, but you do need to be direct.

Make it easy for your customers to accept the lousy news by being direct, empathetic, and by offering any next steps. For my furniture protection plan client, I developed these responses for giving bad news directly: “It is our company policy that we cannot process a claim that involves damage that is the result of normal wear and tear over time, rather than a single incident. We have a responsibility to the company to uphold the integrity of your warranty. When furniture performs as expected and is not the result of a single incident, we cannot take responsibility and accordingly cannot process a claim.” “Although you might not agree with the company’s decision, I’d like to explain it so that you understand why the claim was denied.”

“I can appreciate how frustrating this must be for you. We cannot cover this damage because it is beyond the scope of your warranty. Your warranty covers such things as _____, ____ and ____. It does not cover ______.”

Make sure you reflect your brand promise in your words and approach with customers. Don’t inadvertently push your customers with a bad attitude. And finally, give bad news directly and with confidence. When you do these three things, I think you’ll find that you are pre-empting escalations and feeling far more in control of conversations with challenging customers.

Myra Golden’s engaging training with your employees focuses on the soft elements of service – the sound, flow, and feel, so that your employees go back to work fully prepared and inspired to express the soul of your brand, and assured in their ability to handle challenging customers. See how we do it.
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In this video, taken from my online customer service training suite, I answer the questions I’m asked most often about what’s appropriate for business texting. We’ll look at everything from grammar in text, to emojis, to what to do if you get a prank text.

Watch the short video, and use it in your own customer service training.

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One of the most significant challenges facing companies today is attracting and retaining right-fit front line customer service professionals. For sure, this is challenging, but you can find and keep good-fit employees if you know what’s important to Millennials as it relates to the job search and company culture.

Millennials now make up about 50% of the workforce. And Millennials approach jobs and careers differently from Generation X (my generation) and Baby Boomers.

When I work with companies on finding, hiring, and retaining the best customer service employees, I focus on three things.

1. Developing an attractive social presence (This is tremendously important merely to get Millennials to consider a company.) 2. Hiring for motivational fit. You want people who are motivated to deliver exceptional customer interactions, people who are the best cultural fit for your brand and your customers. 3. A solid coaching and motivation strategy. You’re going to have to coach to develop your people because this is extremely important to Millennials.

Let’s look at each of the three elements of attracting, hiring, and retaining Millennials.

Social Presence

Back when I was job searching, more than twenty years ago, employees looked for want ads in the newspaper and online. You then sent in a resume and hoped for a callback. This is not how Millennials look for jobs.

Millennials start out by researching a company’s social presence. They’re checking you out on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. They pay particular attention to what current and former employees have to say about what it’s like to work for your company. GlassDoor.com is a popular site for employee reviews.

Take the time to follow your company’s social media footprint. What’s out there about your company’s culture, corporate responsibility, and what negative remarks are turning potential candidates away from you? Before candidates consider sending you a resume, they are all up in your background on social media. So get in the conversation and make sure the online chatter sends your intended message.

Motivational Fit

You want people who are intrinsically motivated to do customer service work so that employees will enjoy doing the job, engage in the position, and engage with your customers, and in general, excel in the role.

I have prepared a selection of interview questions to equip you to hire capable, right-fit employees for your culture. These questions will also help you quickly weed out candidates that are not a good fit. Take a look at my questions here.

Coaching and Motivation Strategy

Millennials grew up getting constant praise and feedback from their parents, teachers, coaches, and peers. In the workplace, they want your feedback. What are they doing well? What do they need to do differently? What do they need to master to move up?

A lack of feedback is a de-motivator for Millennials. Don’t wait for the annual review to talk to them. Offer feedback, both constructive and encouraging, consistently and genuinely, and you’ll be giving Millennials precisely what they’re seeking.

My video below shows 7 creative and effective ways to motivate Millennial customer service professionals.

Improve your chances of attracting, hiring, and retaining the best Millennials for your customer experience. Make sure your social footprint is positive and full of the details of your culture. Take the time to screen for people who are a motivational fit for your service goals. And when you’ve hired the best Millennials, give them constant and genuine praise and constructive feedback. When you do these things, you’ll wake up one day and realize you’ve created your dream workforce.

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I’m sipping black tea and listening to classical music while I custom design a customer service workshop for a utility on the east coast. One of my deliverables for this training is to equip employees with the skill of giving lousy news to customers in such a way that the customer accepts the employees’ answer as the final word.

You’re in for a professional development treat today, because I’m sharing with you what I’ll facilitate in Philadelphia next month. You’re about to learn how to deliver bad news with confidence and in such a way that you minimize backlash from customers.

You can give a customer bad news easily and without fear of how your customer might respond when you use 4 Keys. When you have to deliver bad news to your customer, you need to:

Say what you have to say Assertively

Acknowledge how hard this is for the customer

Manage Expectations

Offer Options, when it makes sense

Let’s look at each key.

Key 1: Say What You Have to Say Assertively

I believe you can say anything to anyone if you say it the right way. My definition of assertive is, say what you mean, mean what you say, without being mean when you say it.

So, give news in a straightforward way that is also gentle. Here are some ways I’m going to help my utility client provide lousy news assertively. Look at these examples and think of how you can adapt the concept to provide your customers with horrible news.

“So, the previous owner has an unpaid balance. What this means is, for you to have your services connected, the balance has to be paid first. We are not able to turn the water on until the balance is paid.” “It’s possible to have a second meter placed on the property. But this can only be requested by the property owner. Even if your landlord calls us to make the request, a few things have to happen. A new water line needs to be put in, and a plumber must confirm that the property can indeed support an additional water line. The property owner will take on the expense of installing the new water line, if it can, in fact, be installed.”

These are examples of saying what needs to be said, meaning what you say, without being mean when you say it. How might you adapt these statements to fit your interactions with customers?

Key 2: Acknowledge How Hard This Is For the Customer

Another way to look at this is, empathize with the customer’s situation. A little empathy from you can make it easier to accept the bad news, and it sets your company up as an entity that cares about its customers. Acknowledge how hard it is, like this.

“I realize this is not what you want to hear.” “I’d be upset, too.” “I understand why you feel that way. We’ve had other customers in this situation, and here’s what we found worked best.” “I realize this whole thing has been frustrating for you.”

After statements like these, you’ll need to go into advising the customer on any next steps. Here’s one way to acknowledge how hard things are and immediately go into next steps, “I realize you’re upset. I’ll give you guidance on what you can do to get this charge removed.”

Key 3: Manage Expectations

Managing expectations is for you to be transparent, fully disclosing everything your customer needs to know. Never hold back on details, like a potential fee to be incurred, because your customer needs all the information so that they can make the right decision. Managing expectations might look like this:

“We can send someone out to inspect the meter. If we find the meter is working properly, you will be charged $195.”

Be upfront and disclose everything your customer needs to know.

Key 4: Offer Options

When you can give customers options, they feel like you’re on their side, that you’re trying to help. Telling a customer, “You might call your landlord to see how they want to handle the past balance.” or “You always have the option of hiring your plumber” is what I mean by offering options.

Put the four keys together, and it might sound like this, “So, the previous owner has an unpaid balance. I realize hearing this must be frustrating for you. For you to have your services connected, the balance has to be paid first. We are not able to turn the water on until the balance is paid.”

When you deliver bad news to your customers using these four keys, you come across as concerned and helpful. While your customers still won’t like what they’re hearing, it will be easier for them to accept what you’re saying.

My course, “Delivering Bad News to a Customer” for Lynda.com and LinkedIn Learning is now live! If you struggle with how to deliver bad news to customers, you’ll want to take this class.

Here’s a description of the course:

Customer service is about providing the best experience to a customer—yet, a lot of the time customer service reps find that their hands are tied and that what the customer wants is not something the rep can deliver. How can CSRs work to keep the relationship with the company strong and intact? This course outlines a simple four-step approach that can be used in a variety of customer service settings. Learn about communication styles, methods, and approaches that can be applied to challenging situations like delivering bad news, handling concerns, and more.

Topics Include:

  • Communicating clearly
  • Acknowledging the customer’s concerns
  • Being open to additional questions
  • Offering alternatives
  • Reviewing customer service policies
  • Communicating on the phone or via email
  • Interacting with customers in person

Duration: 48m 13s

Watch Delivering Bad News to a Customer on LinkedIn and on Lynda.com Or, bring this training to your company.

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In a few weeks, I’ll be delivering my popular 3-Step De-escalation Workshop at Customer Contact Week in Las Vegas. Attendees in my session will learn precisely how to de-escalate with extremely challenging customers. If you’re in the Las Vegas area on June 21, check out my course and please say hello to me before or after the workshop.

Today I’m giving you a preview of the three steps I’ll be sharing in-depth at the Customer Contact Week Conference. My de-escalation steps are Respond, Reframe, and Resolve.

Step 1: Respond

It’s not okay to tip-toe around anger, or merely ignore the customer’s frustration. Silent treatments like these only make the customer more intense. Your aim is to defuse emotion and steer the interaction into constructive dialogue. So, the first thing you have to do in your de-escalation strategy is respond to the customer’s feelings. Speak to biggest concern your customer is expressing. This concern might be anger, frustration, or fear that nothing will/can be done to fix their problem, etc.

Here are some ways you can respond to concern:

“I can see your point on that.”
“I realize this has been frustrating for you.”
“I understand and will do my best to take care of this for you.”
“We want to get to the bottom of this as much as you do.”

Make sure you respond to concern, not just in phone interactions, but also in chat, emails, texts, and social media. It works the same way as it does on the telephone.

Step 2: Reframe

After you’ve successfully responded to the customer’s concern, you’ll notice the customer calming down considerably. The calm is a direct result of the customer feeling heard and understood. You are now in control of the interaction. To maintain control, you must immediately reframe the conversation. You’re going to move the customer out of the past situation that caused the problem and into a focus on fixing the issue.

Here are some excellent reframing statements:

“I can see your point on that.”

“I realize this has been frustrating for you.”

“I understand and will do my best to take care of this for you.”

“We want to get to the bottom of this as much as you do.”

Another way to reframe with your customer is to use the three steps popularized by CEOs, law-enforcement officials, and politicians. These easy-to-execute steps are:

Here’s what we know
Here’s what we’ve done
Here’s what’s next

Just tell your customer what you know about the issue they’re experiencing, explain what you’re already done (If anything has been done), and then tell them what’s next. This three-step method works because it positions you as confident and transparent.

Step 3: Resolve

When you genuinely respond to the customer’s concern and effectively reframe the problem, you’ll glide right into the final step, which is to resolve.

Resolving the problem is either a resolution to the customer’s issue, or it’s an explanation of what happens next, or perhaps you explain why you cannot honor the customer’s request.

I find that some of my clients struggle with what to say when they can’t give customers exactly what they want. Here are some phrases I’ve come up with to help in these situations.

“It is our company policy that we cannot pay a claim that involves consumer error. We have a responsibility to the company to uphold the integrity of our products. When a product performs as expected and has no deficiencies, we cannot take responsibility and accordingly can offer no financial assistance.”

“Although you might not agree with my decision, I’d like to explain it so you can at least understand.”

“We appreciate hearing about your experience, but we cannot compensate you in this matter because you failed to follow instructions/did not read instructions/misused the product.”

Thank you for taking a look at my three step de-escalation strategy. My three steps will help you assertively take charge of interactions and move the customer forward. I hope you’re walking away with real ideas that will help you feel confident and in control when you work with challenging customers.
For more phrases, you can use when taking control of demanding customers and for more video tips, sign up for my online training, which provides intense training on De-escalation and other important topics.

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I was behind a truck recently that had a cool LED lighted border around the license plate. Little red lights danced around and framed the driver’s message. Here’s what this driver had displayed on his flashy license plate border:

“If your reading this, than your to close.”

Do you see what I saw? Not one, not two, but four typos! The message should read:

“If you’re reading this, then you’re too close.”

I just shook my head when I read the plate. I shook my head because the “Your” versus “You’re” grammar gaffe is very common, and it makes people look not so smart. (Not to mention the other typos!)

I’m sharing this with you because the number 1 Grammar Mistake in Business Emails, Chats and Texts is saying “Your Welcome,” when you really mean, “You’re welcome.”

All it takes to avoid the “Your vs. You’re” gaffe is to take a second and think about what you’re trying to say.

“Your” is a possessive pronoun, as in “your car” or “your phone.” Since you do not possess “welcome,” it makes so sense to say, “Your welcome.”
“You’re” is a contraction for “you are,” as in “you’re going to be so much more effective at writing emails because you took this course.” Or, “You’re welcome.”

Let’s look at some examples for when you use your versus you’re. You would not say “Your important to us” because you don’t possess the “Important.”

It would be correct to say, “You’re important to us,” as in “You are important.”

Let’s say you are including a customer’s tracking number in an email. The tracking number is the customer’s tracking information, so in this case, a possessive pronoun is appropriate. You would say, “I’m attaching your receipt.”

The whole “your” vs. “you’re” thing is a mistake a lot of people make, but getting it right just takes a few seconds to think about what we’re saying. Here’s a short video I created on the Your versus You’re mistake. Share this with your employees to make sure they don’t make the number one grammar gaffe in business communication.

This tip is from my Email Essentials Course, which is part of my customer service online training suite. Learn more about this training here.

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