Wow Your Employees First!

During my customer service career, I have seen many reminders advising employees to “Wow the customer!” It’s important to “Wow” the customer as this is a surefire way to increase customer retention. What about employee retention? I think it’s critical to “Wow!” the employee first. An organization’s ability to “Wow!” its employees has multiple impacts to the level of service provided to the customer.  Money and benefits are not always the primary drivers of employee retention. Here are a few ways to “Wow!” employees:

“Wow!’ Employees With Great Core Values – Core values are the guiding principles by which an organization determines how it will operate. Wow your employees by including integrity in the core values so that it’s apparent that everyone is held accountable for the actions. True integrity includes communicating honestly with your employees. It also means making agreements that you can keep.  Wow your employees by making sure that respect is one of your organization’s core values so that they know that they will be treated as someone who has something to contribute to the organization’s success regardless of their position. Make sure that they are spoken to in a professional and respectful manner at all times.

“Wow!” Employees With Comprehensive Training – It’s important for employees to “Wow!” the customer during interactions. “Wow!” your employees by providing comprehensive and practical training. Make sure employees have the “tools” required for providing a great customer service experience. These “tools” should include the proper product/service knowledge to assessment customer needs, to answer customer questions and to resolve customer issues. Make sure your employees are product/service “experts”. Another “tool” is hands-on training with whatever they will utilize when interacting with the customer. Make sure they thoroughly understand who/what their actions impact when performing their duties as well as understanding who/what impacts their functions. This step creates an awareness of how their actions will impact others within the organization as well as understanding how others’ actions impact them.

“Wow!” Employees With Great Management – The attitude and actions of supervisors/managers are a major factor in maintaining positive employee morale and employee retention. “Wow!” your employees by making sure supervisors/managers are equipped with both people and operational skills. When your employees feel that supervisors/managers are competent in both of these areas, contentiousness and apathy are less likely to become a factor in your organization. “Wow!” your employees by driving out fear in your organization. Employees should not be the victims of intimidation or fear reprisal from supervisors/managers when raising questions and concerns. “Wow!” your employees by insuring that managers regularly solicit ideas and suggestions for improvement. Reward them for implemented ideas and suggestions. “Wow!” your employees by requiring supervisors/managers to regularly spend time with employees as they perform their duties in order to get their perspective. Regularly review workload requirements to insure they are not out of balance with performance goals. “Wow!” your employees by getting their input on performance criteria and goals.

“Wow!” Employees With Loyalty – It has been stated often that employees should be loyal to the organization. That’s a two-way street! “Wow!” your employees by displaying the same loyalty to them that you expect them to display toward the organization. Do you expect them to be loyal to the organization during times of crisis? Employees expect the organization to be loyal to them during their time of crisis. When the organization asks the employee to go the extra mile for the organization, remember to reward the employee for doing so. Just as you reward your long – term customers for their loyalty to your brand (you are doing this right?), do the same for your long-term employees for their service and dedication to your organization. “Wow!” your employees by reminding them that they are the reason that your organization is successful. Yes – the customer is important to the success of your organization, but it takes great employees to take care of the customer. Your willingness to “Wow!” your employees with loyalty will certainly increase the level of service experienced by your customers!

Create a “Wow!” experience for your customers by creating a “Wow!” experience for your employees first. “Wow!” them with Core Values, Comprehensive Training, Great Management  and Loyalty.


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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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Metrics – Friend or Foe?

Metrics are important in any business setting. There’s another old business adage that states “What gets measured gets done.” While I believe this to be true, there are two issues that I feel are important when discussing performance measurement – 1. Determining What To Measure and 2. Properly Establishing the Metric. Defining these two items are critical to the long-term success of any performance measurement system. Let me explain why.

Friend or Foe? – Metrics are primarily utilized to define performance targets – # of orders processed per hour, average handling time (AHT), on time shipments, etc. While these are all important for measuring performance, one must remember that there are real people being held responsible for meeting these targets. These real people are dependent upon the proper setting of performance standards. Believe it or not, your metrics will receive either “friend” or “foe” labels from those whose job it is to perform to the metric. This is the primary reason to properly develop your organizational metrics. The health of your organization and level of service received by your customer are dependent upon your ability to get this right.

Determining What To Measure – Now I’m a big proponent of measuring what’s important to the customer. I like to say I have two sets of metrics – external and internal. External metrics are based upon what the customer says is important. Determine what your customer feels is required for a great customer experience. Spend time asking your customer what’s important. Spend time asking the people who service the customer what’s important to the customer. Check your industry to see what others are measuring. Is anyone measuring what’s important to the customer? Internal metrics are based upon processes and procedures that contribute to the external metrics. If your customer states on-time shipments are important, then look at what processes impact on-time shipments. Create metrics for the processes; perhaps in this case the percentage of error free orders for example. Should your customer state an easy check-in process is important, what internally impacts the check-in process? Remember to ask the customer what’s important and develop metrics accordingly.

Properly Establishing The Metric – Now this is where the people part of your metric system begins. In the old days, I actually witnessed production workers timed via stopwatch to establish a performance standard for their particular production operation. While this may seem at bit antiquated today, this method left no doubt as to the amount of time required for process completion. The production worker was allowed to provide insight as to why the production equipment was operated in a certain manner. The production analyst was provided with the pros and cons of pushing the equipment to the limit versus operating the equipment for long-term output with less down time for maintenance. When developing measurement standards, it’s my opinion that the inclusion of the people who perform the job must be included in the process. Their “up close” perspective provides valuable insights that are crucial to properly establishing the metric. Getting their input goes a long way in preventing the “foe” label being stamped on the metric system. When workers can see that measurement standards are created from real world scenarios, they are more inclined to “believe in the system” which results in a better experience for the external customer. It’s crucial to be able to communicate how the metrics were created. Be open to questions on methods utilized to determine the proper metric number.

It’s important to utilize metrics to determine how well your operation is performing. In order to make sure your metrics are considered as a “friend” by both customers and employees, Determine What To Measure and Properly Establish the Metric.


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