We salute the following winners of Customer Communicators Frontline Spotlight Award. These individuals have been recognized for making a positive contribution to their organizations by maintaining the highest levels of service quality and professionalism.
Below they share a few of their secrets to service success.
For Timothy Knab, understanding customer priorities is essential. Sometimes he is working with a customer with a job six months down the road. And sometimes a security system just went down. So you have to understand the customer, listen to them, understand the priority of what they are facing, and put as much urgency into it as you possibly can, Knab says.
Customer service advocate
Bosch Security Systems
When she is working with customers, Warzyn values the opportunity to make a difference. Its not just a matter of answering the phone and giving an answer, she says. Our culture here is truly based on making an impact. So having that opportunity to go above and beyond to make a difference on every call — that is very fulfilling.
Advanced customer care professional
Product knowledge is critical, says Werner. When something new comes out and I see it for the first time, I dig in and learn everything I can ... the more you know, the more it helps you to do your job better, and it gives you a better perspective on how your job helps contribute.
ATS repair advocate
Jimenez succeeds by personalizing each customer call.
Customer support representative
I listen to learn what I can and then adapt to what the customers needs are, she says. Sometimes they just want to vent, so I listen and help them slow down. Others might be a little older, and I need to raise the volume but still maintain that tone of care.
Developing personal relationships with customers is very important to Squadrito. It makes the job more rewarding and when problems arise they can be dealt with in a very positive way. Having a personal connection with customers makes things a lot easier, she says.
The CORE Group
Customer education is often part of the service job, Pickel tells Customer Communicator. Sometimes its just not possible to help. But we try to do our best to educate customers, so they are made aware of what is going on, and so they come away better informed.
Customer relations representative
Working in the fraud department, JoBenita Davison often has to deal with customers who are none to happy. She deals with those challenges by keeping a positive attitude throughout. You have to understand the stress the member is under and just put yourself in their shoes.
Member service representative
Navy Federal Credit Union
If she doesnt know the answer to a customer question, Radford is not shy about admitting it. The important thing, she says, is to acknowledge that you dont have an answer and to assure the customer that youll get an answer, whatever it takes.
Senior customer care service representative
For Steve Kovac, problem solving is at the heart of the service job. So he takes a team approach to the tough problems. By working on solutions together, Kovac finds that problems can be, the greatest opportunities we have to talk things out and to learn more.
Director of visitor services
Carnegie Science Center
Internal customers are just as important as your outside customers, says Sanders. It can be easy to focus on external customers, but sharing your best self and your service skills with internal customers will build the kind of teamwork that supports external customers as well.
If you think you get difficult calls, meet Alicia Ross. She handles 911 calls for the city of Durham, NC. Despite what you might think, her job is similar to that of other customer service reps. She says that active listening, remaining calm and level-headed, and reassuring the caller that help is on the way are all critical aspects of the job.
911 communications officer
One of the things that Perkins likes most about her job is that she can inject a little bit of herself and her personality into each customer conversation. That personal touch helps build rapport with customers and makes work feel a little bit less like work, she says.
Customer service specialist
Association for Child Development
Dillon is always improving her skills, but admits that she does jump ahead to solutions sometimes. To counter that, shes working on trying not to be so trigger happy, she says. I want the customer to finish telling me about what they see going on. Because even though it may be the same thing I have seen repeatedly, there may also be a slight difference.
Tier ll service technician
ACT Technology Services
The goal of UPMC Health Plans is to resolve every issue or problem in one call. If you call us once with a specific issue, that should be the only time you have to call us, Evan Parana says. Now that might mean we have to call 10 other people and send 20 emails to get the issue resolved, but ultimately, the point is you only have to call in once.
Senior customer service agent
UPMC Health Plan
For Kelly Moran, follow-up is an important part of the service job. If I set a deadline, I always make sure I get back on or before that time, she says. And I always offer customers my contact information, as well. So even if I say I will get back to them the next day, they can always reach out to me if they have any questions in the meantime.
Customer love representative
Were dealing with live plants, so things can and do go wrong, says Kate Frazier. And when they do, the result can be the loss of thousands of dollars worth of young plants. Excellent service recovery skills and a strong, supportive team can help in these situations, We have a good team here that works well together and is very supportive — and that makes it a fun place to work — and makes it less stressful too.
Customer service rep
Ball Seed Company
Ana Agund, always keeps her organizations service motto in mind — In Latin it is Ut prosim, which means That I may serve. With this motto in mind, positive interactions are sure to follow. And as Agund says, It really is a good feeling to know that you are doing something productive and that you can have a positive impact on people.
Wellness program coordinator
Virginia Tech University
The first rule of customer service, says Angela Twohig, is effective listening. That involves, the ability to hear what people are actually saying, and what they are perhaps not saying, so that you are better able to reach a conclusion that will be reasonable for both the customer and the company ... even if it is to find a polite way of saying no, Twohig says.
Helping people makes the service job worthwhile for Teresa Sheppard. She recently had clients who lost everything they owned, including their home, to a devastating fire. Sheppard went out personally to view the damage and offer moral support. Sometimes people just need to feel that you are there for them, that you hear them .... she says.
St. John Insurance
When a customer is in trouble, Mitchell is there with technical and emotional support. In one case, a soldier was in the process of having her father named as her dependent. During the process, the father passed away. While her work was done, Mitchell kept in touch. I just knew how hard it would be for her, Mitchell says.
Military pay technician
Defense Military Pay Office
Corra doesnt let the fact that she is communicating mostly through live chat get in the way of building rapport with customers. There is always a cheery tone to her words and her openings and closings are always personalized so that the customer knows there is a caring person at the other end of the keyboard.
Live chat rep
Boyle says she deals with the pressures of the job by mentally breaking away
when she gets a chance. I may take a walk or talk to somebody in the office
for a bit, just to get my mind someplace else, she says. And to others, she
advises, Be patient, and take advantage of the incredible support that you
have around you.
Relay interpreter and customer service trainer
Purple Language Services
When asked what advice she would offer to someone just starting in customer
service, Austin says, Put the customer first. And always treat the customer
like they are the most important thing at that moment, because as far as
they are concerned, they are. They need your undivided attention.
Customer service representative
SPX Hydraulic Technologies
Mike Bridges Working in Vegas isnt all bright lights and glamour, the hard work of
earning repeat customers is the key to success. For Bridges this message is
part of his regular training sessions with new hires. After all he says,
the guest is our most important job, and if we dont take care of them they
will not return.
Room reservations agent
Circus, Circus Hotel and Casino
Sharing and collaboration are key to Traceys success. For example,
says her supervisor, If she does not know the answer to a customer or an
agent question, she will find the answer, inform the customer or agent, and
then educate the staff so that if they are faced with a similar situation
they are armed with the knowledge and resources to respond appropriately.
Senior contact center representative
Philadelphia Insurance Companies
Brandi HeadIn this hectic call center, Head and the rest of the staff work to keep
pressure under control. All it takes is good jokes, some laughter, and
taking time out to make each other breakfast in the morning — that
upbeat and positive feeling lasts all day long.
Senior call center representative
Clayton County Water Authority
Stacey LarsonAfter 15 years in customer service, Stacy Larson has three pieces of advice
that she shares with newcomers: Stay calm, make sure that you ask for help
when you need it, and form good relationships with others within the
company. Even when Larson receives a call from work in the middle of the
night, she keeps point number one in mind.
Travel Tags Inc.
Sueanne LarsonTaking a giant leap outside of her job description, Sueanne Larson took on
the job of finding ways to better support 3Ms sales staff. Her efforts led
to the creation of a new sales support team and, as supervisor Patti Leslie
notes, despite doing two jobs at once, her energy level never went down.
Customer service supervisor
3M Sales Support Center
Nathaniel ParkinsonFor Nathaniel Parkinson, customer service is all about listening. And, as a
mediator and patient advocate he knows this from experience. If you cant
listen to what people are saying to you, and you arent hearing what their
problems are, then you cant fix them, he says.
Planetree educator program specialist
VA Maryland Health Care System
Christopher BenjaminMaking customers feel comfortable can help defuse anger and resolve
problems says Christopher Benjamin. When working with customers in person,
he likes to, sit down with them, side-by-side, and look at them in their
eyes so that they feel comfortable and welcome in this setting. That
level of care can make a huge difference in service outcomes.
Pinellas County Housing Authority
Justin Prescott is well known for his ability to handle any call. Heres his secret:
When I am making a customer service call, I think how nice it would be to
have a friend there that I could speak with who could help me out. So I try
to be that friend when people call in — especially if there is a problem,
because that is when you need a friend the most.
Loan servicing account specialist
Navy Federal Credit Union
Scheduling time to work with busy patients, clients or customers can
be a challenge. For Kristensen and other staff members, the solution is
strenouous ten-and-a-half-hour days when needed. We try to make time for
those whose schedules leave them time only early or later in the day, she
VA Outpatient Clinic
For Beverly Reese, going above and beyond is more than a simple catch
phrase. Its what service is all about. Take the time that a patient couldnt
afford frequent trips to the medical office for his treatments, Beverly
purchased a discounted bus pass for him at her own expense. Actions like
that make the words come alive.
Front office supervisor
Arkansas Oncology Associates
Leon Doty has learned a lot about working with people in his 30 plus years
on the job. But perhaps the most important lesson for service providers, in
all fields, is to remember to deal with the person before dealing with any
Battle Creek VA Medical Center
When Michael Gervasi learns that a customer is having a special
anniversary, returning from the hospital or marking some other milestone, he
doesnt hesitate to request that flowers be sent to the customer. Its the kind of personal touch that makes Gervasi a top rep and his customers
Customer care rep
Martindale keeps a quote in his cubicle that reads, A gentle answer turns
away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. And thats what he tries to keep in mind when he gets a difficult call. You just want to back off,
let them vent, extend empathy, and apologize for whatever the situation
was, he says.
Call center agent
Linton is happy to attribute much of her service success to a positive
team environment. Everybody is willing to help each
other out, and when things do get stressful, you can get up and go laugh
with your coworkers and talk about stuff outside of work. That type of team environment can make all the difference, especially during hectic times.
Customer service representative
One of the greatest challenges that Lederle faces is moving quickly between
different types of customer calls. Especially tricky is the switch from
collections to traditional customer service. The secret she says is to never
assume you know why someone is calling but to take it, one call at a time.
Senior account support advisor
GreatAmerica Leasing Corporation
In todays high-tech world, Bellefontaine uses a decidedly low-tech method to
keep track of customer requests and to ensure that they are handled
properly. Issues that cant be resolved on the spot are entered in a
journal for internal follow-up and eventually a follow-up call to the
Customer service representative
The Chronicle Herald
One of the challenges Swetts faces is that customers have very different
levels of technical expertise. How does she make sure shes not talking
over someones head? Sometimes its as simple as taking the time to reread something you are sending the customer, she says, and making sure it is
geared to their level of understanding.
Software customer support rep
South Ranch Inc.
A full profile of each award winner appeared in the pages of the monthly frontline training and motivation newsletter The Customer Communicator.
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