Customer Service

Initiative, Customer Service, and Your Browser Choice (NOT Election Results)

Posted by on Nov 8, 2016 in Change, Customer Service, Innovation |

We’ve heard enough about about selecting a president, so I’m writing about selecting a new employee. Have you ever thought of asking what internet browser they use at home?  I wouldn’t have.  But now I might. What is it we want in employees?  We want people who are productive, loyal, satisfied in their role, can take initiative, right?  I just read an interesting study investigating what might be correlated with all those qualities, and therefore what would be a predictor of the right applicant. I remember reading about a Met Life survey years ago looking at predictors of success in their agents that found optimism to be a key factor.  But a browser choice??? This research was on over 50,000 customer service and sales agents from many companies, all of whom had taken an online assessment as part of their application process, investigating why some agents stayed in their jobs longer than others.  The research  compared the applicants’ characteristics against data on the subsequent hires, trying to find a pattern for who ended up staying in their jobs the longest. They looked at expected factors such as a previous history of job hopping, which did not turn out to correlate with staying in the job longer.  They ran the question of internet browser sort of on a whim, since they happened to have had the data.  Paydirt! It turned out that those who had used Firefox or Chrome to fill out the online assessment stayed in their jobs 15% longer than those who used Safari or Internet Explorer.  Wondering if it was coincidence, they also looked at performance on sales, customer satisfaction and average call length.  The Firefox and Chrome users again surpassed the others.  They were even 19% less likely to be absent from work. Why?  Michael Housman, the head of the research team, surmised it might suggest the ability to take initiative.  Safari and Internet Explorer come loaded as the default when you buy your computer.  You have to be an informed consumer and take an extra step to switch to Firefox or Chrome. So maybe people who will take initiative in one area of their lives will also take initiative in other areas. For example, in the way they help their customers.  Or the way they configure their job or their perspective on their job so that they are more satisfied, rather than accepting the “default.” It makes me wonder how can we hire for initiative, and also cultivate initiative in our teams. Adam Grant in his book Originals describes his effort in helping Google design a brief class to teach their non-tech employees strategies to make their jobs better – ways they could take small or larger steps to make their jobs more interesting to them.  This 90 minute class turned out to make a huge difference in both their performance and their satisfaction.  Seems to me, they taught them how to take initiative. Change rarely happens in huge leaps, it happens in small steps.  Those small steps together become new patterns of behavior, especially when reinforced by leaders and by peers....

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Horrible Customer Service Story – Lacking the 3C’s

Posted by on Aug 18, 2014 in Customer Service | 0 comments

This story describes the difference between horrible customer service and great customer service.  Think of three C’s – competence, courtesy, and compassion.  If you have employees make them read this. It starts with a couple having pre-paid reservations at an inn in Rockport.  It finishes with the couple ending up somewhat traumatized. The friendly couple were looking forward to spending a mid-summer get–away night.  They arrived at the inn to find the front desk unmanned, with a sign providing a phone number to call for the manager.  (Not a particularly welcoming beginning, but perhaps efficient, since it was a small inn.)  They called the number and the man who answered said he’d be right there.  A few minutes later he emerged.  The couple introduced themselves and introduced their service dog.   Here’s where the story goes downhill rapidly. As he looked with distaste from the couple to the dog, he asked if they expected the dog to stay on the property.  They explained that the man had Parkinson’s Disease and needed the dog to assist him with balance problems and in rising from chairs.  He didn’t acknowledge the explanation, and instead informed them curtly that he would not honor their reservation and would refund their money.   They were distressed and wondered where they would go on a busy summer evening.  He offered to call a “Pet Friendly” hotel.  They explained politely that this was not a pet and they understood it was the law that a service dog had to be allowed.  He said he didn’t care, that he wouldn’t “do that” to another innkeeper in town.  They offered to show him the certification documents for the dog. He ignored them and went behind the desk.  At this point the husband was so uncomfortable he took the dog outside. As the manager started to process the refund, he lectured the wife about how they should call ahead to find a pet friendly hotel.  He went on to talk about how the dog would disturb his guests and leave fleas.  Finally, he referred to all the people who tried to claim their dogs were therapy dogs just so they could take their pet on vacation.   The wife again asked to provide the service dog certification they carry, and he finally grudgingly agreed that if she were to provide it, the couple could stay.  But when she offered the option to her husband, he was overcome with emotion.  He felt the whole experience at the inn would be too unpleasant. So back to competence, courtesy, and compassion.   Competence is knowing how to do what you do.  Skills, rules, ethics, etc.  Courtesy is being polite and delivering what the customer asks for.  Compassion is being caring, putting yourself where the customer is, using empathy to try to understand their experience. This manager wasn’t competent, because he didn’t either know or care about the ADA law which requires a service dog to be accepted in public places, and that he cannot by law require...

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Gratitude, Vulnerability and Upping Your Risk Tolerance

Posted by on Nov 25, 2013 in Customer Service, Innovation, Self-awareness | 0 comments

Gratitude is an obvious topic this time of year, but surprising coupled with vulnerability. Being actively grateful for your customers, your staff etc. is good for your heart AND good for your business, and can prepare you to dare to take good risks. Here are some ideas for customer and staff gratitude and  three ways to develop a practice of gratitude at work. CUSTOMERS:  I love when companies appreciate my business – something beyond the perfunctory thank you, or pre-printed Thanksgiving card.  A personal note from the owner of the car dealership where I purchased my Prius. A follow up phone call from a new restaurant. Small businesses can really outplay the big guys where this is concerned. STAFF:  Back when I was an employee, I really noticed if I got a sincere thank you – whether for going way above and beyond or just for a small job well done.  A small gesture like a high quality chocolate bar with a sticky note attached that said “thanks for staying to finish yesterday.”  It made me do even more. RISKS:  You won’t take risks if you can’t be vulnerable.   In her book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown reports that her research on vulnerability showed that our desire for safety presents us from anticipating joy.  She calls it foreboding joy.   If we won’t anticipate the joy of being loved for fear of being hurt, we won’t risk a relationship.  If we can’t anticipate the joy of success for fear of the shame of failure, we won’t risk trying for that next big goal at work. Brown reports the most “surprising” antidote to shutting down the potential of joy is the willingness and practice of gratitude.   “Scarcity and fear drive foreboding joy.  We’re afraid the feeling of joy won’t last or that there won’t be enough, or that the transition to disappointment will be too difficult….”  She goes on to explain that if scarcity drives fear, then practicing gratitude is “how we acknowledge that there’s enough and that we’re enough.” PRACTICE OF GRATITUDE:  Apparently her research showed that the results came from tangible gratitude practices, more than merely having an attitude of gratitude or feeling grateful. So here are three ideas of creating a practice of gratitude to choose from, and just like any other habit or skill, practice means using some discipline to do it regularly, even if uncomfortable or without any seeming benefit at first Before you leave your office, write down three to five things you are grateful for that day.  Keep an ongoing file and just add the items each day, watching the list of things you are grateful for mount up. Make a point to express your gratitude out loud to one person (staff, vendor, customer, colleague, boss) daily. Once a week, send a note of gratitude to someone with whom you’ve interacted. I’ll leave you with my gratitude for reading my words today, and with this quote from Lucius Annaeus Seneca (ca. 4 BC–AD 65), who...

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Changing a culture of bad service, or any other culture

Posted by on Apr 5, 2013 in Customer Service | 0 comments

How do you change the culture of an organization if it isn’t working?  I’ve thought about what I’d do if I took over the large ophthalmic practice where I suffered through an unpleasant experience this week. What is culture?:  John Kotter wrote in a Forbes Magazine blog on September 27th that organizational culture is often misunderstood, both what it is and how it works.  He defines it as “group norms of behavior and the underlying shared values that help keep those norms in place.”  It doesn’t matter what you say your values are.  What really matters is how they are acted upon, whether at work or at home. Some places and people have espoused values that are largely ignored.  So a statement of values or a restatement of values isn’t a “fix” for culture. Values versus behavior:  I’ve seen a company have a value that states employees respect one another but people are always showing up late to meetings.  Or another that has a stated value of transparency, and yet most of the rationale behind decisions goes unstated. There’s a healthcare organization that focused on wellness but only for patients, not for staff.  What are the real values at these organizations? Bad service:  So lets get back to this large practice I visited.  My complaint was that the customer wasn’t important to them.   How was that demonstrated?  Upon entering for the first time, I faced a long counter with three people seated behind it and two others standing behind them and no one acknowledged me.  Apparently a conversation about their clothing was more important. At the next station, the technician didn’t introduce herself or greet me.  She asked me to sit and hold my belongings in my lap while she did a test which she did not explain, then asked me to follow her to another room where more tests followed.  Intent on recording everything in her computer, she asked me a series of questions without ever making eye contact.  Once complete, she sent me to a hallway of chairs to wait, where I sat for almost one hour, listening to others complaining about the wait. Finally I was called by another technician who again didn’t introduce herself but just pointed into a room and told me to take a seat.  The technician then sat down alongside a woman in a white coat who did not look up, or introduce herself.  Both women had their backs to me and the one in the white coat proceded to ask me questions until I stopped her and asked who she was. At that point she said her name, with the explanation that “most people here know me.”  Upon completion, I was handed a piece of paper and told to take a left and a right and check out at the counter. So what is the value that drives this unpleasant culture?  If I were being generous, I might say the value is on technical excellence.  They have a lot of whiz...

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What does your customer or patient experience with you?

Posted by on Feb 7, 2013 in Customer Service, Mindfulness, Sales | 1 comment

Do you know what it’s like to be your own customer or patient or client?  What’s it like to work with you? I’ve recently experienced some pretty lousy customer and patient experiences and it’s got me thinking about how you and I can improve how we provide service. So there’s my mom lying on a bed in the ER having been brought in by ambulance for a long-standing chronic but dangerous condition.  When the ER physician came in he started telling her things about her condition rather than asking questions.  He even told her that what we were telling him about her experience prior to arrival must be wrong.  It was condescending and arrogant at worst, extremely inattentive and rushed at best.  He certainly didn’t take the time to focus on her. There may be all kinds of mitigating reasons why he behaved as he did but all I could think about was how much better our experience would have been had he started by asking questions.  “What do you think is wrong?”  “What do you know about your condition?”  “What’s been your experience in the past?” During her stay, a different doctor who had only seen her once the previous day for about 2 minutes, decided to take it upon herself to tell her about hospice care, without asking whether my mother wanted to hear about it at all, nevermind without family present.  My mom called me in tears. The visiting nurse who came to her home once she was released was similarly focused on telling rather than asking.  I imagine her charge is to educate her patients about their condition to help them and also prevent re-admittance, but in her zeal to educate she totally ignored what my mother and I already knew and had experienced many times.  She just never asked about what our experience had already been. In a completely opposite case, I was buying some electronics and the sales person used all kinds of jargon.  I couldn’t understand him and he couldn’t help me.   Then he got irritated with me.  Needless to say, I didn’t buy the equipment at that location. In these cases, what seemed to be missing was meeting us where we were at.  You’re so familiar with what you do, or what you sell, and perhaps very comfortable in the routine through which you offer the service, that you make gross assumptions about the other person. Sometimes it’s not about assumptions, it’s just lack of attention.  Pay attention to the person in front of you, their agenda not your agenda.  Don’t be distracted by what’s happening in another room, or what’s on your to-do list. So today, think about how you deliver service, whether to your patient, to your customer, or to the other people in your company.  Try to put yourself in their shoes.  Watch their faces.  See if you’re connecting, if you’re delivering great...

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