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Team Effort at the Resort

During the Christmas holidays, my wife and I took a quick weekend trip to Lakeway Resort & Spa located in the hills of Austin, Tx. The resort allows for a great view of Lake Travis and is absolutely beautiful at night! From the moment of our arrival until our departure, the service was impeccable. Beginning with the spotless parking lot and the greeting at the resort entrance, I felt that we might be in for some extraordinary customer service. Marcus Davis at the front desk provided great check-in service. He advised us of the facility’s amenities, evening events and patiently answered my wife’s questions. Service during the happy hour was provided with a touch of class. After our arrival, we took a self guided tour of the resort. Every resort associate that we encountered wore smiles and proactively offered assistance! The outdoors fireplace was an added attraction on a brisk winter night. During checkout, I asked if the manager was available as I wanted to bring awareness to how a customer feels about the level of we experienced during our stay. Front office manager Jon Moser appeared and was thoroughly grateful when advised of how pleased we were with the level of customer service. When you combine the physical facilities with the great customer service, it’s just fitting that Lakeway Resort and Spa is the January 2013 recipient of my “Now That’s Customer Service!” Award. Great job guys!

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Web Chat – Is Less More?

Web chatting, as an option for customers to utilize for communicating with companies, is on the rise. According to the 2012 Fourth Annual BoldChat Live Chat Effectiveness report, one in five shoppers prefer online chat over any form of communication. In looking to be effective at properly communicating via this channel, one question requires consideration – Is Less More? Is it necessary to have long wordy conversations or are short, straight to the issue chats sufficient for the chat customer?

Studies have shown that most customers choose to experience an organization via their website because of ease, speed and convenience. Forrester Research has predicted that online retail sales will reach $250 billion by 2014. It seems quite natural that customers may want to communicate with your company while shopping online. What type of conversation is the chat customer anticipating? Is it necessary to chat in the same manner that one interacts over the phone? When web chatting with customers, it’s important to do so in short sentences. Get right to the point with your answers as long paragraphs are inappropriate when chatting. Chat agents should possess a high level of product/ service knowledge so that they can communicate in a quick, concise manner. They should be expert navigators of your organization’s website as this will allow for locating and retrieving the proper information for developing responses to customer requests.

Chat customers expect to be serviced quickly, efficiently and thoroughly. Establish chat guidelines for your chat agents. Provide “one touch” capabilities that allow your chat agents to ask repetitive questions and provide common answers with the touch of one key. An FAQ database and cheat sheets are invaluable tools for your chat agents. Avoid information overload when chatting with your customer. Provide only pertinent and relevant information. Stick to the issue at hand! Overwhelming your customer with wordy and lengthy responses may cause frustration, which can certainly create an unhappy customer. Just as it’s critical not to ramble when communicating with your customer via phone or face to face, it’s even more important not to ramble when web chatting your customer. Remember, this is the customer that seeks a quick and timely communication session! Be careful not to lose the personal touch with your customer. While “one touch” usage allows the agent to be efficient, balance that with utilizing the customer’s name during the chat or asking open-ended questions that allow your customer to fully express themselves should they choose to do so. If there is information that every chat customer is required to provide, proactively get them to do so by prompting them to have the information ready prior to their beginning the chat session. This helps your chat agent to be more efficient and possibly may assist in reducing the chat session length.

In the chat world, Less Is More in the quest to provide great chat customer service. The right communication method coupled with the right chat tools and combined with superior product/service knowledge can lead to your customer experiencing a great chat session with your organization!

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The Power of Enthusiasm In Customer Service

A key ingredient to success in the customer service industry is enthusiasm. This component is crucial to both gaining and retaining customers. Whether you’re on the phone, face to face, emailing or web chatting, your level of enthusiasm is apparent to your customer. Have you ever noticed how most customers will mimic your actions? If you walk fast (not too fast!), they will walk fast. If you smile when speaking, they will smile when speaking. If you add enthusiastic punctuation when emailing or chatting, your customer does the same. Enthusiasm is contagious! Here are a few tips on enthusiasm.

1. Enthusiastically Acknowledge Your Customer – Your acknowledgement of your customer is the initial opportunity to put your enthusiasm on display. When you’re face to face with your customer, can they see the light in your eyes? Are you proactive in moving toward your customer or do you wish they would go in another direction? Your enthusiasm for what you do should make it easy for you to reach out to your customer. Can your customer hear the enthusiasm in your voice over the phone? Your voice tone and inflections tell your customer if you’re really interested in providing assistance. Did you know your enthusiasm level is evident when web chatting with or communicating via email with your customer? These two methods of communication can be somewhat cold and indifferent when improperly done. Recently I experienced a computer virus and contacted a repair company’s chat line via my smart phone. I started the conversation with “My laptop has a virus. I need assistance please.” The person responded by chatting “Sorry to hear that! We’re here to help! May I offer our on site service to you? We can have someone at your location within 45 minutes!” This person’s punctuations and word choice led me to believe that he really wanted to help. When web chatting, utilize word choice and punctuations that match how you would exhibit enthusiasm if you were face to face with the customer.

2. Enthusiastically Provide Assistance – I visited a big box home improvement store in search of a home alarm system battery. Right away upon entering not one, but two employees offered assistance. When advised of my reason for visiting, both offered to assist! One associate practically tore me away from the other stating, “I’m pretty sure we have that item. Let’s go and find it!” Now I don’t know if these employees received sales commissions – I was just happy that I didn’t have to walk all over the store in search of that battery! It’s important for your customer to see, feel and hear your enthusiasm. Make sure that the customer doesn’t feel that they are interrupting you when seeking assistance. Eye contact, facial expressions, voice tone, body language and word choice are all important during the service interaction. Ask questions to make sure you understand the needs of your customer. Your customer feels valued when you ask probing questions in order to provide the best solution to their needs. When done in an enthusiastic manner, you contribute to the building of a long-term relationship. I recently presented my “Now That’s Customer Service!” Award to a young man for his enthusiasm in attempting to locate a particular shirt during a visit to a local retail store. He searched high and low in the store for that shirt – with a smile on his face and pep in his step. When it became apparent that the shirt was not available in my neck size, he advised me that he could order the shirt and have it in the store within 3-5 days. How could I turn him down? I was infected with enthusiaminitis!

3. Enthusiastically Show Your Appreciation – Most customers want to feel appreciated after choosing to utilize your products or services. Can they see, hear and feel your enthusiasm after the service interaction/product purchase? First of all, provide an enthusiastic closing to the purchase or service transaction. A heartfelt smile or handshake administered with a touch of enthusiasm can go a long way in making your customer feel important. When ending your phone conversation with your customer, enthusiastically thank them for calling and remind them of how much they mean to your company. Do the same when ending your web chat or email session with your customer. Enthusiastic service coupled with an enthusiastic “Thank You” can endear a customer to your business. Most customers can tell the difference between a scripted (required) and a genuine “Thank You”. Make sure that your “Thank You” is enthusiastically genuine!

Enthusiasm is a powerful emotion. Incorporate enthusiasm into your service delivery experience to increase your chances of creating repeat business. Your customers have emotions. Remember your goal in customer service is to provide a great experience for your customers. Do so by Enthusiastically Acknowledging Your Customer, Enthusiastically Providing Assistance and Enthusiastically Showing Your Appreciation. A great experience produces positive emotions. Make sure that experience is filled with enthusiasm. It’s contagious!

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The Customer Is Wrong – Now What?

I remember this conversation like it was yesterday. After advising a customer that I would be handling her insurance claim, she stated that she was advised that her policy did not allow for the usage of a rental vehicle. “I have full coverage which means I should be put in a rental car while my vehicle is being repaired!” is what she emphatically repeated. After checking her policy, I advised her that unfortunately, her policy did not include rental coverage. She became extremely irate and accused the company of misleading her in the definition of full coverage. While I was not privy to the initial conversation when she became a policyholder, this was now a situation for me to handle.

The old adage “the customer is always right” is not always true. Whoever created that adage may have meant that even when the customer is wrong , they’re still right if you want to keep them as a customer. Periodically when servicing customers, it becomes apparent that the customer is wrong – “wrong as two left shoes” as my Dad used to say. They may have misread, misinterpreted, misunderstood or perhaps been misinformed by someone else within your organization. Whatever the case, it’s now up to you to navigate through these dangerous waters. Here are a few tips to assist in keeping yourself afloat:

1. Preserve the customer’s dignity – When it’s apparent that the customer is wrong, be careful not to “rub it in”. Refrain from statements such as ” That’s not correct.” or “I don’t know where you got that information.” Put your investigator hat on and ask questions such as “Can you please tell me where you received that information?” or “Would you allow me to verify that for you please?” Doing so has a two-fold effect: 1. It shows the customer that you’ve taken their statement into consideration 2. It gives you an opportunity to develop your plan of action to resolve the issue as well as retain the customer.

2. Apologize – Even though you know the customer is wrong, go ahead and apologize for the misunderstanding. Doing so will assist in removing some of the tension from the situation. Remember that the customer is a feeling, human being. Depending on the situation, the customer may be somewhat embarrassed by the predicament. Mentally place yourself in their shoes for a moment. Your apology creates a pause in the situation, thereby creating space for you to be heard by the customer. I have found that when one attempts to resolve an issue without acknowledging the customer’s frustration via an apology, it can take twice as long to bring the situation to a close.

3. Exhibit Kindness When Delivering Bad News – Where your resolution options allow for you to meet the customer’s request, it’s pretty simple – you just resolve the issue. Often when the customer is wrong, internal boundaries prevents one from resolving the issue in the customer’s favor. In my example with the policyholder, corporate policy did not provide the option for me to place the customer in a rental vehicle when rental coverage does not exist on the policy. It was now up to me to tell her that she was ineligible for a rental vehicle. It’s important to be kind when delivering unpleasant news. Someone within the organization may have provided incorrect information. Your customer will appreciate your willingness to empathize. I stated “I understand how frustrating this can be, especially now. Unfortunately, because the policy does not contain rental coverage, I am unable to place you in a rental vehicle. However I can call the rental car provider and request that you be given a discounted rate for a vehicle. May I do that for you? “While she was not totally pleased with the outcome, she was appreciative of my offer to save her some money on the rental car costs. If other options are available, utilize them. While they may not be exactly what your customer wants, they may assist in resolving the issue and providing some degree of satisfaction to your customer.

4. Educate Your Customer – Cautiously – When a customer is wrong, its important at some point during the interaction that they be provided with the proper information. Proceed with caution here. You must be able to gauge if your customer is receptive to this information. What’s their voice tone like? What is their body language saying. If chatting online with the customer, what words are they choosing to communicate? When I reached this moment with my customer, I asked “May I assist you in getting the rental coverage added to your policy? The cost is very minimal – in fact so minimal that it may surprise you.” She was agreeable to my request so I proceeded to conference her with the proper department in order to get the coverage added to her policy.

5. Apologize – Again – It always good to close this type of interaction with an additional apology. Okay, now I hear someone saying “I already apologized once. Isn’t that enough?” I say go ahead and go that extra mile. Remember, the customer really does not want to be wrong, so you want to reassure them that you want to retain their business. A simple closing statement such as ” I’d like to apologize once again for the misunderstanding” can go a long way in soothing the customer’s ego. Think long-term here!

Sometimes customers are just plain wrong. How you handle the situation will determine if they remain a customer. Remember to: 1. Preserve The Customer’s Dignity. 2 Apologize 3. Exhibit Kindness When Delivering Bad News 4. Educate Your Customer – Cautiously and 5. Apologize – Again.

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