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Should You Offer "Extras" to Unhappy Customers?

February 23, 2017

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While it is common for companies to offer customers refunds, discounts, "extras," and more to make amends when things go wrong, Evan Horowitz of Evan Horowitz Advising is not convinced that this is a good move.

"It’s common, if you feel that you have broken your commitment to the customer, to see that as an opportunity to win them back," he tells readers of Customer Communicator newsletter, "but a lot depends on the type of business that you are in and the kind of relationships that you have with customers."

In fact, he says, "If you are working on building long-term relationships with customers and you can resolve an unpleasant situation to their liking without relying on gifts or other things, you can build a much stronger relationship with that customer than you can by bribing them with some sort of gift or reward."

Again, it depends on the type of business.

"If your business is more commoditized and transactional, then some sort of gift might work better," says Horowitz. "But if you know your clients personally and you are trying to build better relationships, then the best thing that you can do is to let them know that there is somebody on the other end of the line who is on their side, and who is ready to go to bat for them when things go wrong."

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Update or develop guidelines covering the situations in which reps may offer a gift or discount.
  2. Identify the extent of the gift. For example, waive fees up to $XX, provide free service for X number of weeks, provide coupons, etc.
  3. Subscribe to Customer Communicator newsletter so that you and your frontline staff can receive monthly ideas, information, and inspiration on improving the service experience each month.

How to Deliver Bad News to Customers

February 9, 2017

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Most reps will occasionally have to deliver bad news to customers. They have to report late shipments, stock shortages, equipment and service delays, and any number of other issues that customers aren’t going to be happy with.

So how do you deal with those situations? Is there an approach you can take to pass the news on to the customer without creating a difficult and emotional interaction that just adds to the stress? Is there ever a good way to deliver bad news?

Evan Horowitz of Evan Horowitz Advising believes that there is. "Bad news is something that all companies face," he says, "but the situation can get worse if it is not handled well. Customer service reps can accidentally aggravate the situation if they are communicating in the wrong way."

In the February issue of Customer Communicator, Horowitz shares five rules for delivering bad news.

Rule #1: Don’t be impulsive. Delivering bad news impulsively, as soon as you hear about it yourself is generally a bad idea, says Horowitz.

A spur-of-the-moment report that, "Oh, this bad thing has happened, and I just want to tell you about it," is not the optimal approach. "The rep might be genuinely interested in helping," Horowitz says, "but when there is a problem — especially if it is a serious problem — you want to have a completely thought out scenario before you let the customer know about it."

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Work with your frontline team to develop templates around how to address "bad news" situations — both for written and voice communications.
  2. Clear the way with other departments to ensure that your frontline team can get problems resolved quickly and to the customer’s satisfaction.
  3. Subscribe to Customer Communicator newsletter so that you and your frontline staff can receive ideas, information, and inspiration on improving the service experience each month.

Customer Service Reps Become "Listening Posts"

January 26, 2017

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Earlier this month, five leading service experts shared their insights into the coming changes in customer service and the role of the customer service professional.

Writing in Customer Communicator newsletter, John Goodman of Customer Care Management & Consulting, reminds readers of their unique role as the eyes and ears of the organization.

Even as automation and self-service become a bigger part of the service experience, reps need to be involved in providing feedback to management for continuous improvement efforts.

"Part of the rep’s job is to be listening, and continuously asking, ‘Why am I getting this call?’" he says.

But for this to work effectively, managers must set up an effective input mechanism. It might be as simple as an email box that reps can use to report a recent customer difficulty or other snags in the system that come up.

Goodman adds that you also need someone to handle those notes as they come in and to make suggestions for internal improvements.

The final step in the process, Goodman says, "is to provide feedback to the frontline on what you are doing with their customer feedback — even a short note that says, ‘Here are three things that we have done this month based on frontline input.’"

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Read the full article with advice from John Goodman, Richard Gallagher, Barbara Burke, Chip Bell, and Shep Hyken. It’s online now.
  2. Learn more about tapping into multiple "listening posts" with this article from John Goodman.
  3. Subscribe to Customer Communicator newsletter so that you and your frontline staff can receive monthly ideas, information, and inspiration on improving the service experience each month.

Empathy is Never Out of Style

January 11, 2017

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Several of the experts who contributed to the Customer Communicator’s annual outlook article noted the ongoing march toward more technology in the service center. However, they remind readers that this must be accompanied by the interpersonal skills that make each customer feel valued.

With the greater emphasis on alternative customer channels, expanded databases, and customer analytics at many companies, customer service training can sometimes focus on these technical issues and skills, and this often pushes soft-skills training to the back of the line, says Barbara Burke, author of The Monkey, the Moon, & Maybe.

But the truth is that customer satisfaction is still based largely on how much — or how little — the service rep makes the customer feel valued.

"So while the customer service rep of the future not only has to get the job done, fix the problem so that it stays fixed, control the call, navigate toward a solution, offer customers options, and educate the customer on how to avoid similar problems in the future — reps also have to make sure that they connect with the customer on an emotional level and make the customer feel valued," Burke says.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Read the full annual outlook article. It’s online now.
  2. Learn more about Barbara Burke’s wonderful books for frontline reps.
  3. Subscribe to Customer Communicator newsletter so that you and your frontline staff can receive monthly ideas, information, and inspiration on improving the service experience each month.

Try a "Relaxation Response" in the Service Center

December 8, 2016

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There’s a lot of stress that goes along with the job for anyone working in customer service. And it can take a toll on customer service reps’ composure and productivity, says Genella Macintyre, author of Five Steps to Reducing Stress.

Fortunately, as she tells readers of Customer Communicator this month, there’s much that reps can do to manage stress, and there is much that managers can do to support these efforts.

One approach that Macintyre recommends is using a "relaxation response" in difficult situations. This involves injecting some physical activity into the situation.

For example, one of the things Macintyre advises doing when confronted with an angry customer is simply standing up. "Because then you physically have to move. You are still listening, but once you have to direct your mind, even for a fraction of a second, to something physical, that serves as a distraction. And that will break the connection enough to keep you from becoming completely caught up with that angry person," she says.

Having a squeeze toy or something like that on your desk can also help as a way to provide that distraction, Macintyre says.

Creating an environment where reps are encouraged to move when needed is important. But equally important says Macintrye, "Managers should let employees know that they understand what is happening, they know it is difficult, and they appreciate the effort that reps put into their work."

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Congratulate reps for handling difficult calls without getting upset or angry themselves.
  2. Encourage reps to get up and get away from their desks during scheduled breaks.
  3. Subscribe to Customer Communicator newsletter so that you and your frontline staff can receive monthly ideas, information, and inspiration on improving the service experience.

Is Your Service Team Wowing Customers?

November 22, 2016

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Providing an outstanding service experience starts with three letters P-O-S, says T. Scott Gross, author of Positively Outrageous Service.

To provide that level of service, frontline reps have to be ready to do something that is random and unexpected, something bigger than life, something that is playful and personal to the customer. It might be providing extra service, or extra value, or even extra attention.

"The aim is to do something that makes the customer say ‘Wow.’ It’s something that creates customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth about your organization," Gross says.

But before reps can deliver POS, they need to know their limits and management’s expectations. "Oftentimes, when an employee is faced with an opportunity to step out of the box and ‘wow’ the customer, he or she is not thinking about the customer — instead, they are wondering, ‘If I do this, am I going to get clobbered by my boss?’"

By modeling that positive, playful out-of-the-box behavior, Gross says that managers can eliminate the fear and empower reps to wow customers.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Do something positively outrageous. If service leaders aren’t willing to be playful with customers and staff, than positively outrageous service isn’t going to happen.
  2. Learn more about building POS. Read an article from T. Scott Gross.
  3. Subscribe to Customer Communicator newsletter so that you and your frontline staff can receive monthly ideas, information, and inspiration on improving the service experience.

Enhance Teamwork in the Service Center

June 6, 2016

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Working in customer service can be stressful and demanding. A team approach provides a structure for sharing and support aimed at making the customer experience more consistent and more positive.

While a team approach allows for more autonomy on the part of team members, that doesn’t mean the manager isn’t involved.

In fact, say Mario Moussa and Derek Newberry, two of the authors of Committed Teams: Three Steps to Inspiring Passion and Performance, whether the manager is acting as team leader or simply overseeing the activities of the team, he or she needs to be in close contact with the team, communicate regularly, and help in terms of sharing information, decision making, and conflict resolution whenever appropriate.

Their research suggests that an "empowering" style of leadership with teams, rather than a "directive" style, tends to be more effective in the long run.

An empowering style is all about giving your team some level of autonomy or flexibility in defining roles and tasks.

A certain level of empowerment or autonomy will also ensure that the manager or team leader doesn’t become a bottleneck for the team, slowing things down when team members have to wait for a decision. "Instead, what you have created is a team that can respond really quickly, and they are not relying on you to delegate everything and to decide everything for them," say Moussa and Newberry.

"Some of the highest functioning teams that we have seen are the ones where, yes, a leader might have to step in at some point and make a final decision, but the entire team is onboard, or they at least feel that they have been heard," they say.

In the June issue of The Customer Communicator newsletter Moussa and Newberry shift their focus from management to the frontline and talk directly to reps about embracing teamwork.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Learn more about team-building. Read chapter one of Committed Teams.
  2. Check for signs of bottlenecks. If you find any, replace them with training and empowerment.
  3. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator newsletter so that you and your frontline staff can receive ideas, information, and inspiration on improving the service experience.

Bring Story-Telling into the Service Center

May 20, 2016

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It’s often been said that, "Great leaders tell great stories." But it is also important for frontline service staff to tell stories as part of their daily routine.

As humans, we learn from stories, "and stories can inspire us to action," says trainer and author, Joseph A. Michelli, in the May issue of The Customer Communicator newsletter.

There are a lot of positive stories that come out of rep’s interactions with customers, and it is important that they be told. "Otherwise workplaces can get to be very negative, with people complaining about all of the things that aren’t going well," he says.

A regular practice of having reps share their best and most positive customer service stories at the beginning of every shift is, "a great way to inspire people to get out there and take on the day’s challenges," says Michelli.

Similarly, department managers, team leaders and supervisors can use the power of storytelling to inspire the team, explain important concepts, and get buy in for change.

As the Harvard Business Review notes, "leaders who can create and share good stories have a powerful advantage over others. And fortunately, everyone has the ability to become a better storyteller."

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Hone your storytelling skills. Read the article How to Tell a Great Story from the Harvard Business Review.
  2. Schedule daily huddles with your team and include time for reps to share success stories.
  3. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator newsletter so that everyone on your frontline staff can receive ideas, information, and inspiration on improving the service experience.

Help Your Staff Get Past "WHYB" Moments

May 5, 2016

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Mercedes-Benz USA is one of the most valued and recognizable brands in the world, yet it too has found that it has to make an effort to ensure that its customer experience lives up to those brand expectations.

Joseph A. Michelli, organizational consultant and author, worked with Mercedes-Benz to map out and improve that customer experience. He reported on his findings in the book, Driven to Delight. And he recently spoke to The Customer Communicator newsletter about lessons the Mercedes-Benz experience offers all frontline customer service reps.

One of the many strategies he shared is the "WHYB" process, which aims to eliminate barriers to delivering consistently excellent service.

Reps were asked to complete a "What’s Holding You Back" form which allowed them to identify and challenge both personal and organizational barriers.

The information collected was used to create individual action plans, to develop new training agendas, and to suggest changes in organizational policy and protocols.

And as editor Bill Keenan points out in The Customer Communicator, anyone, at any level, can start their own personal WHYB process.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Create a WHYB process for your team.
  2. Read Michelli’s most recent book Driven to Delight.
  3. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can receive motivational ideas like this each month.

Invite Laughter into the Service Center

April 25, 2016

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April is also known as National Humor Month, and humor is a great technique for keeping stress out of the workday. When we laugh, our blood pressure drops and we increase the amount of oxygen in our bodies. It’s also a good way to clear your head and give yourself a mental break.

To bring a little humor into the workplace, Bill Keenan, editor of The Customer Communicator newsletter offers readers 11 suggestions including:

  • Lighten up your workstation. Hang posters, cartoons, or signs that will put a smile on your face.
  • Create fun awards for your team like: Most Creative Idea, Best Sense of Humor, Nicest Smile, Friendliest Phone Voice, Most Likely to Be Adopted by a Customer, etc.
  • To loosen up before a team meeting, try brainstorming wacky topics — like "25 uses for a paper clip."
  • Share a story. Customers can be funny; there’s no denying it. And sharing those stories in a respectful way can lighten the mood. Read two of our favorite stories. Details are below.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Read. For more ideas on humor in the workplace read Apples and pineapples: Seven more ways to share a smile at work.
  2. Start Smiling. Implement at least one idea today.
  3. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can receive information like this each month.

Making A Positive Impression on Customers

April 12, 2016

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There’s a lot that customer service professionals can do to make a more positive impression on customers — and to keep them coming back again and again.

In the April issue of The Customer Communicator newsletter, Editor Bill Keenan shares advice from three customer service gurus.

Get personal. Chip Bell, author of Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service, suggests that one important thing customer service reps can do is "pay attention to the personal things that matter most to customers."

He adds: "Customers today want personalized treatment, and that means being a perpetual customer sleuth on the little things that matter to them. Look for cues to start a personal dialog around the customer’s interests, not just their needs and requirements."

Stay positive. JoAnna Brandi of JoAnna Brandi & Company suggests that reps "nourish their own positivity. The more that we can do to be in a good mood " being in a positive place and radiating that positivity out — the easier it will be for the customer to recognize it and to take part."

Show respect. Jeff Toister, author of Service Failure, suggests that "reps should work hard to show respect for their customers. This includes taking time to understand the customer’s issue rather than simply pushing toward a resolution."

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Share. Start making a more positive impression on customers. Share these three insights with your service team.
  2. Read Service Failure and Sprinkles. Each is packed with important insights and information on improving the service experience.
  3. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can receive information like this each month.

Breaking Bad Service Habits

March 24, 2016

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We all have a bad habit or two that we’d like to break. But there are also those negative habits that people can fall into over the course of a career in service and never be aware of.

"You can’t correct what you don’t see," says Bill Keenan, editor of Customer Communicator newsletter. So he asked customer service professionals to identify the most common bad habits and negative behaviors that they see among coworkers in the service center.

The answers were varied but four bad habits consistently topped the lists:

  • Failing to show concern for the customer. "If you can’t empathize or show any type of concern, it may come off as not caring about that person," explains Ray Picket.
  • Breaking promises. "When a customer can’t trust your word," says Jo Sprowl, "then they tend to not trust anything about you or your company."
  • Taking things personally. "Keep in mind that if you get upset, you are giving your customer the power to control your feelings," explains Rachel Dillon.
  • Failing to stay positive. "Researchers have found that it takes five positive people to combat the energy of one negative person," says Megann Wither, "so I would encourage everyone, instead of focusing on avoiding negativity, challenge yourself to embrace the positive."

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Share. Awareness is the first step. Share this list of bad service habits with your team.
  2. Read the article 5 Steps to Breaking Bad Work Habits.
  3. Subscribe to Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can receive helpful advice like this each month.

Help Your Service Team "Lean In" to Customer Criticism

March 10, 2016

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Dealing with criticism is a big part of the job in customer service, and reps must often respond to criticism from customers, managers and coworkers

This month’s issue of Customer Communicator offers advice from Richard S. Gallagher, author of What to Say to a Porcupine, on how to deal with criticism. The trick, Gallagher says, is to "lean in" to criticism by acknowledging it and even agreeing with it.

"It is a disarming technique aimed at finding out whatever you can most agree with about what the other person is saying — and then trying to acknowledge that, or agree with it with gusto," he says.

If you tell a customer that he or she is wrong, Gallagher says, "you are throwing a switch that is going to turn on the instinctive ‘friend vs. foe’ reflex. But if, instead, you ‘lean in’ and say to the customer, ‘I understand. If this happened to me, I would be furious too’ — then you have put yourself emotionally at eye-level with the customer, and you have absolved them of the burden of having to explain their position to you. In fact, you should try to frame their position as that of a totally reasonable person — even if you disagree with them, and even if you can’t give them what they want."

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Watch a video featuring Richard S. Gallagher discussing how to deal with difficult customers.
  2. Review the importance of "leaning in" to criticism at your next team meeting.
  3. Subscribe to Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can learn firsthand about techniques like "leaning in."

Stamp out Negativity with two Simple Rules

February 25, 2016

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Negativity in the workplace can bring everyone down, but there are some simple steps that everyone on the customer service team can take to rise above it.

In the February issue of Customer Communicator newsletter, Editor Bill Keenan spoke to psychologist Paul White about practical ideas for maintaining a positive work environment. Essentially says White, author of Rising Above a Toxic Workplace, each individual can make a difference by adhearing to one Never and one Always.

NEVER become part of the problem. "It’s not that you should never make a negative comment, but you shouldn’t play a part in ramping up the negativity. Just don’t get caught up in the drama. Sometimes you just have to excuse yourself and walk away, so that you are not adding to the negative energy," he says.

ALWAYS share the positive. The second thing that individuals can do is to always have some positive comments to add to the conversation, even if it is not directly related to the business at hand, and is more of a distraction. "If you can bring out a positive comment about the weekend, the weather, the local football team, or whatever — it helps to keep things more under control," says White.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Read a blog post from Dr. Paul White titled, 5 Ways to Tell If Your Workplace Is Toxic.
  2. Model the behavior you want from your service team by following Dr. White’s ALWAYS and NEVER rules.
  3. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can learn about ideas like this each month.

Award Winning Rep Shares Tips

February 11, 2016

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If you think you get difficult calls in your service center, meet Alicia Ross. Ross is a communications officer handling 911 calls for the city of Durham, NC. The calls that she gets can range from a child picking up a cell phone and calling accidentally to calls about domestic disturbances, auto accidents, and other emergencies.

In almost all cases, however, her job is similar to that of other customer service professionals. Active listening, remaining calm and level-headed, and reassuring the caller that help is on the way are all critical aspects of the job

Because of her exemplary performance under stress, Alicia received the Frontline Spotlight Award from The Customer Communicator newsletter this month.

Editor Bill Keenan says that Ross was a natural choice. "I try to select frontline reps who are both exceptional service providers and who have something to share about our field," he says. "It’s really interesting for readers to see the wide range of work that customer service professionals do and the lessons that can be learned in the most unusual places. As service providers, we never stop learning and improving our skills."

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Learn more about the Frontline Spotlight Awards.
  2. Nominate a service star on your team.
  3. Read advice from past winners.
  4. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can learn about motivational service providers like Alicia each month.

An Easy Way to Improve Voice Quality

January 28, 2016

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"Smile when you dial" is one of the reminders that Adam Toporek, author of Be Your Customer’s Hero, keeps by his phone to remind himself to smile and to keep his voice positive when speaking to a customer.

Others are "Are you smiling?" and "Shoulders back. Smile!" While the reminders are helpful, he says in the January issue of The Customer Communicator that you need to use a few tricks to keep the messages from blending into the background.

His solution?

Change the messages and their location regularly. Otherwise you will get used to seeing them, and they will lose their impact.

Another technique Toporek uses is to stand up when he is on the phone, as a way to convey energy and emotion. "If I have an important phone call, or I just happen to feel my energy sagging, I stand up," he says. "You’re simply more confident and energetic when standing, and that comes across over the phone."

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Print and share colorful "Smile While You Dial" reminders for your team to use.
  2. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can receive practical ideas like this every month.

Ask the Extra Question

January 14, 2016

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Asking questions is one of the most powerful tools service providers have for helping customers.

So consultant Shep Hyken recommends "Asking the extra question" to ensure complete understanding of the customer’s needs.

As he explains in the January issue of The Customer Communicator newsletter, "asking the extra question is a powerful way to understand customer expectations, gain clarity, and avoid potential misunderstandings."

For example, If a customer calls with a request for information on his account and says he needs it "quickly," if you simply say, "OK," and go to work on it, you really have no idea whether or not you are going to meet that customer’s expectations in getting the information back to him.

If instead of saying, "OK," you answer with a question like "How quickly do you need it?" you are going to have a better sense of those expectations. And you can work with the customer to modify his expectations if necessary.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Schedule time to discuss the power of asking the extra question with your team.
  2. Reinforce the message with this anecdote that Hyken provides from a business lunch:

    He and six guests ordered several appetizers, including a special request for seven mini-hamburgers. But the waiter heard that as seven orders of mini-hamburgers, for a total of 21 burgers.

    When the food arrived, Hyken asked about the extra burgers, and the waiter said that seven orders of mini-burgers in addition to the other appetizers sounded odd, but he just assumed that the order was correct and didn’t ask any questions.

    The lesson, says Hyken, is that sometimes people say one thing and mean something else. Even an expert communicator can end up with 14 burgers in a doggie bag.

  3. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can receive practical ideas like this every month.

Listening Tips — The Three Ss

December 23, 2015

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Listening is a vital part of customer service, says Editor William Keenan in the December issue of The Customer Communicator.

And good listeners rely on more than just their ears. They get their whole body into the act, even when they are dealing with customers over the phone.

Keenan recommends keeping the three Ss in mind to avoid distractions and remain focused on the customer.

  • Sit up straight. Even though you can’t see the caller, assume a position of concentration. Imagine that the customer is facing you and give him or her your complete attention.
  • Shift. When you feel your attention starting to drift, change your body position. Straighten up, stand up, or turn away from potential distractions.
  • Stare. The mind often follows the gaze so keep your eyes fixed on the work at hand or focus on a neutral object on your desk.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Share the three Ss with your team.
  2. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can receive practical ideas like this every month.
  3. Train. Help your team hone their listening skills with the Guide to Effective Listening training package. You’ll find self-study guides, glancers, a leader’s guide, quizzes and more. Learn more.

Create a Motivation Bank

December 10, 2015

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During the busy holiday season, things can become even more hectic for service professionals — and, it may be hard to remain cheerful and motivated throughout a long day.

This is when your frontline staff should make a withdrawal from the Motivation Bank.

As this month’s issue of The Customer Communicator explains, the Motivation Bank is a place to save positive messages from customers and coworkers.

When the job gets stressful, reps can go to the bank to read or hear, "Thanks for your help," "Congratulations on doing a great job," or "I couldn’t have finished that project without your help."

It’s a simple, but very powerful way to manage stress and focus on the importance of the service job.

If the people on your team don’t have a Motivation Bank, it’s time to open a branch.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Share the Motivation Bank concept with your team.
  2. Encourage everyone to open a branch, by providing brightly colored file folders labeled "Motivation Bank."
  3. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can receive practical ideas like this every month.

Use the "Six-most" system to stay focused

November 25, 2015

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Every time-management expert has their own approach to getting through the daily round of tasks. But author Scott Ford has the simplest. That makes it one of the most likely to be used in the busy customer service environment.

In the November issue of The Customer Communicator newsletter, he explains what he calls the "Six-most" system.

"At the end of each day, list the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow, in order of importance," Ford says.

"Doing this the night before allows your subconscious to work on it in advance."

Then, the next day, work your way through the list in order, but don’t move on to number two until you’ve completed number one. "You may not get through all six items every day," he says, "but you will be surprised by how much more you accomplish overall."

And he adds: you will also find that, by staying focused on your list, it will be a lot easier to avoid distractions.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. If you provide productivity tools for your frontline staff — low-tech or high-tech — make sure they are well trained and getting the full benefit of those tools.
  2. Share the Six-most technique at your next team meeting.
  3. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can receive practical information like this every month.

Avoid These Bad Service Habits

October 15, 2015

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There are three bad habits that consultant Jeff Toister sees again and again in customer service centers.

"They are all interrelated, and they are a real challenge to customer service reps," he says, "not only because they hurt service levels, but because they are partially driven by instinctive behaviors — and that means they are a lot more difficult to spot and control on the individual level."

The first of the three bad habits that Toister identifies is multitasking — where the rep is trying to do too many things at once, and isn’t paying enough attention to the customer.

The second is falling victim to emotional "triggers" — or letting the "fight or flight" and other reflexive responses get in the way of the issue at hand.

And the third is the "me focus" — where, he says, our natural inclination is to see things from our own perspective, and not the customer’s.

Most, if not all, reps are going to deal with one or more of these problems at some point. And Toister offers reps a number of strategies for dealing with each in the October issue of The Customer Communicator, the training and motivation publication for frontline service professionals.

With all of the habits that Toister discusses, "our ability to recognize them and to do something about it gets eroded throughout the day," he says. "The more mentally fatigued we get the harder it is to deal with difficult situations."

But research suggests that taking regular breaks throughout the day — to unplug completely and to relax, even briefly — will help reps to stay more attuned.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Create a "quiet room" where reps can unplug and relax.
  2. View a webinar in which Jeff Toister provides additional information on breaking bad service habits.
  3. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can receive practical information like this every month.

Restoring Civility to Customer Service

August 10, 2015

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In a recent survey, seventy percent of respondents said that civility has eroded in the last few years and two-thirds said they think the United States has a significant problem with rudeness.

August is National Win-With-Civility Month, and what better time to focus attention on ensuring that everyone on the service team is treating customers and coworkers with courtesy and respect.

The August issue of The Customer Communicator, the training and motivation publication for service professionals, offered these tips:

  • Pay attention to customers and coworkers. Focus on them and listen attentively to what they have to say.
  • Greet and acknowledge customers warmly.
  • Make sure your conversations involve a back-and-forth dialog and aren’t one-sided.
  • Speak with kindness and avoid any trace of sarcasm or condescension.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Use your regular team meetings to focus on courtesy and respect and how they can benefit your organization. In a world that is increasingly rude, you can stand out by providing a high level of courtesy and respect.
  2. Also discuss what respect should look like, and sound like, in your department and the specific behaviors that are involved.
  3. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can receive motivational information like this every month.

Anyone Can Be a Customer Service Hero

July 24, 2015

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You don’t need a cape, or superpowers, to be a hero to your customers. In fact, anyone can be a customer hero says Adam Toporek, author of Be Your Customer’s Hero.

For Toporek, being a customer hero depends on three things, which are within the grasp of every frontline service professional. The first is meeting — and whenever possible, exceeding — customer expectations. The second is creating a frictionless and hassle-free customer experience. And the third is doing both of the above consistently.

"Basically it comes down to creating a culture of customer centricity by putting the customer first — being there when the customer needs you, and making your personal interaction with the customer as memorable as possible," he says.

In the July issue of The Customer Communicator newsletter, Toporek outlines six steps that frontline reps can use to move from mild-mannered customer service rep to service hero.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Celebrate the heroes on your team during Customer Service Week. This year’s theme is Everyday Heroes™. For more information visit CSWeek.com.
  2. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can receive motivational information like this every month.

"CATER" to the Customer

July 10, 2015

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In difficult customer service situations, it helps to have a game plan — a strategy worked out in advance that takes the emotion out of potentially volatile situations.

For customer service author and trainer Adam Toporek, the best strategy is to CATER to your customers. In the July issue of The Customer Communicator newsletter, Toporek explains just what he means.

To CATER to the customer you must:

C – Concentrate on the customer. Let him or her know that you are paying attention and that you will do your best to understand the issue and to resolve the problem.

A – Acknowledge the customer’s communication. Acknowledge both the customer’s feelings and the details of what was said. Repeat the information to show that you are listening and acknowledge how upset or frustrated the customer might be.

T – Thank and apologize. At a moment when it won’t seem forced or automatic, thank the customer for bringing the issue to your attention and deliver a sincere apology.

E – Explain the reason why. When appropriate, offer an explanation for the problem or issue. The more valid the reason, the more likely the customer will be understanding of the situation.

R – Resolve the situation. Do everything you can to resolve the customer’s issue. And if you can’t give the customer what he or she is asking for, be prepared to offer options.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Share the CATER technique at your next team meeting.
  2. Cater literally means to provide food and drink, so change up your team meeting and provide some light snacks when you cover the CATER technique.
  3. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can receive great ideas like this every month.

Don’t Let Stress Affect Performance

June 25, 2015

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In a recent survey eighty-five percent of all workers reported that work-related stress is causing them to lose sleep.

The negative impact can be seen in impaired decision-making, illness, frayed nerves, and mistakes, say the report’s authors.

In the June issue of The Customer Communicator newsletter, frontline service reps are encouraged to monitor and manage their stress levels. Three effective techniques according to the survey’s authors are setting clear boundaries between work-life and personal-life, seeking out and taking advantage of stress reduction resources offered within the organization, and taking advantage of scheduled breaks for light physical activity and a change of scenery.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Look for ways to integrate stress-reducing behaviors into the workday. For example ensuring that your staff takes their scheduled breaks.
  2. Provide stress balls or putty for a brief moment of relaxation and a quick release of tension.
  3. Share yoga-based stress-reduction techniques with the Customer Service Group’s booklet Yoga at Your Desk — a collection of 23 exercises that can be done in just one to two minutes each either sitting at a desk or standing.

Dealing with Cranky Customers

June 1, 2015

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It’s happened to every customer service rep — they pick up the phone and the caller is angry, upset or abusive. If only all customers were in a calm and receptive state of mind.

Unfortunately, getting customers to that state isn’t always easy.

The secret, says Mark Goulston, author of Just Listen, is for the rep to take control of her emotions and then to help the customer regain control so that they can work together toward a solution.

In the June issue of The Customer Communicator newsletter, Goulston offers several strategies including what he calls moving from “Oh Fudge” to “Okay” or from panic to logic by using self-talk and breathing.

The first step is the “Oh Fudge” phase or the reaction phase, which is often an over reaction. The rep might say to herself, “OMG, this customer is terrible. This is a disaster. I’ll never be able to get through this.”

After acknowledging these feelings, the rep should breathe deeply and let go of the negative emotion.

The next step is the release phase, where the rep takes a moment to silently vent. She might say to herself, “This is a mess. I hate having to clean up these situations. Why does this always happen to me.”

After acknowledging these feelings, the rep should again breathe deeply and let go of the negative emotion.

The final step is to re-engage. Here the rep might say to herself, “Okay, I am ready to fix this.”

“It’s a way of talking yourself down from a potential over-reaction and getting yourself re-centered,” Goulston says. “And once reps have learned this process and go through it a few times, it will start to come naturally, whenever these situations present themselves.”

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Share this technique at your next team meeting and don’t forget to bring the fudge.
  2. Watch a video in which Goulston talks about learning to deal with difficult people.
  3. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can receive great ideas like this every month.

Keeping Basic Phone Skills Sharp

May 14, 2015

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While service channels like social media and mobile are growing, the most important skills that a typical customer service rep can have are still basic telephone skills. The phone remains the most common customer service channel and the channel of choice for those more difficult, complex, or sensitive customer service issues.

So it’s still important for customer service reps to keep their basic phone skills sharp, both to ensure that customer needs are met, and also to put the best possible face forward for your company.

There are dozens and dozens of important techniques and guidelines to keep in mind, but in the May issue of The Customer Communicator, Nancy Friedman of Telephone Doctor discusses the top 10 phone skills every frontline rep must master.

Skill number one is: Watch your tone of voice.

In the newsletter, Friedman reminds customer service reps that, on the phone, they are literally the voice of their organization, “so you don’t want your tone of voice to sound like you are bored, disinterested, or just tired,” she says.

You don’t want customers to get the impression that they are just an annoyance to you. However long you have been on the phones, “Do your best to put some enthusiasm in your voice and to sound as if you believe that every customer is important,” she says.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Ensure that basic phone skills are well represented in your annual training program.
  2. Create a protocol for reps to use to before speaking with a customer. A brief pause to Breathe in — Smile — Breathe out will help improve tone of voice.
  3. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can receive helpful information like this every month.

Eliminate These "Forbidden" Words and Phrases

May 1, 2015

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There is a lot that customer service reps can do to ensure that conversations with customers go smoothly — and serve to build relationships rather than create problems.

In the May issue of The Customer Communicator, Nancy Friedman of Telephone Doctor points to several types of language that reps should avoid:

Dismissive language. When reps respond to a customer problem or issue with a simple, "Oh, sorry about that," for instance, Friedman sees this as a dismissive cliche, and not a sincere apology. The same applies when reps respond with "Oh, okay," when a customer lodges a complaint. "It’s as if the customer service rep isn’t listening or doesn’t really care," she says.

Colloquialisms and slang. The language that you use with close friends isn’t always appropriate when talking to customers. It’s important for reps to use appropriate language to demonstrate their professionalism.

Company jargon. "In most cases," Friedman says, "the language, codes, abbreviations, and technical phrases that you use for internal purposes are not going to be understood by customers. So slow down and use language that customers are more likely to be able to follow."

Weak and wimpy words. Reps should also avoid language that is likely to undermine a customer’s confidence in one’s efforts. For instance, saying "I’ll try," in answer to a customer request for help with a problem. That and other words like "maybe, might, I think, and I hope" all show a lack of confidence and should be avoided, Friedman says.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Ban at least one of Friedman’s forbidden words and phrases.
  2. Create your own "Forbidden List." A list of words and phrases that should not be used with your customers. Print copies for each rep to keep handy.
  3. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can receive great ideas like this every month.

Award-Winning Rep Heads Off Disaster

April 14, 2015

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Strong problem-solving skills, calm under pressure, and teamwork all play a critical role in customer service success. Especially when your product is vulnerable young plants.

Kate Frazier, a customer service rep for Ball Seed Company was recognized in the April issue of The Customer Communicator for her commitment to getting her customer’s live plants delivered safely despite freezing temperatures. Frazier explains:

"I had a customer who was expecting a very large shipment of young plants. But the weather across the country recently has been very erratic, and exceptionally cold. The customer’s order was shipped via air freight, and the customer had a standing order to have the product trucked to his door from the airport as soon as it had landed. But our supplier or forwarder missed that instruction."

The mistake was potentially going to result in a loss of thousands of dollars’ worth of plants, Frazier says, fortunately, she was able to work with her company’s supplier relations team to come up with an alternate method of delivery, and the plants got to the customer with only a two-hour delay.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Motivate and learn. Set aside a few minutes during team meetings for frontline staff to share service problems that they have successfully resolved.
  2. Create a low-cost award. Designate an item such as a plant, stuffed animal or inflatable to symbolize exceptional service. Move the award from desk to desk as reps share their successes.
  3. Nominate someone on your team for recognition in The Customer Communicator.
  4. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can read motivational stories like this every month.

Use "Sprinkles" to Keep Customers Loyal

March 31, 2015

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The personal touches that a customer service representative adds to his or her interactions with customers are what Chip R. Bell refers to as "sprinkles." And they are what customers typically remember about an interaction and what encourages them to come back to your company the next time.

"While customers value effortless service that is free of glitches, hassles, and delay," says Bell, "it is the emotional connection that they are going to remember and which will bring them back."

In this month’s issue of our print newsletter The Customer Communicator, Bell, a consultant and author of Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service, shares techniques for making those all important connections.

Ask about the weather, about the local sports franchise, or about how they are using a particular product — whatever makes sense to make the connection, to make the experience stand out, and to build that sense of loyalty in the customer.

"Efficiency might bring customers in," says Bell, "but it will be the sprinkles like, ‘How about those Cowboys!’ that bring them back."

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Empower frontline service staff to take a few extra moments with customers in order to make a personal connection.
  2. Read an excerpt from Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service.
  3. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can receive great ideas like this every month.

Introduce Humor in the Customer Service Center

March 17, 2015

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Using humor at work is an excellent way to build teamwork, reduce stress, and even increase productivity.

March is International Mirth Month, which makes it the perfect time to try bringing some humor to your service center.

Mike Kerr, author of You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work. suggests some easy ideas for injecting humor into the work day:

  • Create unique, fun awards, such as: Most creative idea, Best sense of humor, Most succinct memo writer, Nicest smile, Friendliest phone voice, Most likely to be adopted by a customer, etc.
  • To loosen up before a team meeting, brainstorm wacky topics, such as 25 uses for a paper clip.
  • Rename your meeting room or boardroom something fun and inspiring — Who wants to spend hours in a “bored” room?

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Smile. Even if humor doesn’t come naturally to you, you can still appreciate the humor of others.
  2. Get 15 more ideas from Mike Kerr for injecting humor into the workplace.
  3. Learn more about why humor is so important. Read the introduction to You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work.

Create a No Complaining Culture in the Service Department

March 3, 2015

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It can be difficult to maintain a positive attitude when working in customer service.

But it can be done, says Jon Gordon, a motivational consultant and author of The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy.

In the lead article of this month’s issue of The Customer Communicator, Gordon shares five important strategies for remaining positive.

Strategy number one: Stop complaining.

Complaining about anything — about customers, coworkers, the workload, even the weather — is only going to create an atmosphere of negativity, and that is something that you want to avoid at all costs.

Research shows that complaining in the workplace not only affects the complainer, but it affects coworkers — like second- hand smoke.

What you need to do, says Gordon, is turn the service center into a “No Complaining Zone.”

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Monitor your own language. Are you projecting the positive attitude you want from your frontline staff?
  2. Print and use “No-Complaining Zone” mini posters from Jon Gordon.
  3. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can learn about techniques like this every month.

It may be time to update, and speed up, your standards

February 24, 2015

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While email may be losing some ground to text messaging and social media as a customer communication channel, customers who use email are still looking for a quick response.

A recent survey by MailTime.com found that most customers (52%) expect a response to their emails within 24 hours, some 19% expect a response within 12 hours, and only 3% say they will tolerate a response within one week.

Charlie Sheng, MailTime co-founder, notes that when email entered the workplace in the 1990s, many people developed a routine of checking their inbox first thing in the morning and ignoring it the rest of the day. Today, those same customers are much more demanding.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Dust off your email response guidelines. Are they meeting today’s expectations?
  2. Train frontline staff in effective email communication with the Customer Service Group’s self-study training program.

How to Avoid Saying “No” to a Customer

February 10, 2015

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Saying “no” to a customer is one sure way to trigger a negative response that could lead to a difficult interaction.

But situations often occur in which there is no way to say “yes”. What can reps do to keep customers from becoming angry or upset?

According to Richard S. Gallagher, author of The Customer Service Survival Kit, there are ways to turn a “no” into a “yes”.

In the lead article of this month’s issue of The Customer Communicator, Gallagher offers frontline service reps several helpful suggestions, including the can-can technique.

With the can-can, you acknowledge what you can acknowledge about a customer’s request, and then offer what you can offer.

For example, when an item is out of stock, a rep can acknowledge the problem and can offer help.

Here’s the CAN acknowledge:
“I wish that we had this in stock, so that you could have this today.”

Here’s the CAN do:
“I can help you order this for future delivery.”

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Consider training your service team in the can-can technique.
  2. Read the introduction to Gallagher’s book The Customer Service Survival Kit.
  3. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator so that your frontline staff can learn techniques like the can-can each month.

Gratitude in the Workplace

January 27, 2015

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Expressing gratitude can lift other people’s spirits as well as your own, but studies show that people are less likely to express their gratitude at work.

In the January issue of The Customer Communicator newsletter, JoAnna Brandi, a customer service trainer and coach, says it’s time to change that.

She encourages customer service professionals to thank others regularly for their help and support, and to identify and acknowledge coworkers who contribute to creating a positive workplace.

For managers, expressing gratitude is even more important.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Take Joanna Brandi’s advice and start and end every meeting with gratitude and appreciation.
  2. View this fascinating 3-minute talk by Christine Carter on “Why Gratitude Works.”
  3. Bring gratitude to your workplace with our exclusive “On-the-Spot Recognition Kit.”

Meeting Customers’ Unspoken Needs

January 13, 2015

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In the January issue of The Customer Communicator newsletter, Editor Bill Keenan speaks with industry expert Trevor Spunt about the importance of listening for customers spoken and unspoken needs.

Spunt describes a three-part process that involves recognizing when a customer may be holding back information, building rapport so that the customer has the confidence and comfort to share concerns, and then working toward a successful resolution.

Central to the success of this approach is that it takes place over the course of a call rather than at the end when most reps simply ask, “Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Applying this process, says Spunt, can increase customer satisfaction and reduce callbacks.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Remind frontline staff to reach out to customers throughout the call through paraphrasing and questions to confirm that they understand the customer and that they are providing what the customer needs.
  2. Read the article, Callback metric helps uncover customers’ unresolved issues.
  3. Check out the special offer on Trevor Spunt’s book, Guide to Customer Surveys.

Mentoring in the Service Center

December 15, 2014

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This month in The Customer Communicator newsletter, Editor Bill Keenan speaks with Elizabeth Ghaffari, CEO of Technology Place about the benefits customer service reps can realize by partnering with a mentor.

Many studies have shown that working with a mentor can be especially useful to new workers. The relationship can reduce feelings of isolation and intimidation among new workers, get them up to speed on the job more quickly, and can help to reduce turnover, a perennial problem in many customer service organizations.

Whether new reps are mentored by senior reps, supervisors, or managers, Ghaffari says that the relationship will help new reps get better at accepting the risks of the customer service role and better at finding solutions to problems rather than focusing on the scarier aspects of the job.

Ghaffari provides frontline reps with tips on what to look for in a mentor and how to respond when asked to act as a mentor.

Today’s checklist ...

  1. Consider a formal mentoring program for your service team
  2. Read the article, Building and Managing a Mentoring Program
  3. Subscribe to The Customer Communicator.

Award-Winning Reps Share Success Stories

October 30, 2014

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As an account manager for St. John Insurance, Teresa Sheppard, provides award-winning service.

She recently had clients who lost everything they owned to a devastating fire. Sheppard went out personally to view the damage and offer moral support. Then she helped them through every step of the claims process.

The message for all service providers, says Sheppard, is that “Sometimes people just need to feel that you are there for them, that you hear them.”

And she continues, “It is such a wonderful feeling to be able to help put people’s lives back together in the face of tragedy.”

Sheppard’s serve-others attitude was an important factor in her winning a Frontline Spotlight Award from The Customer Communicator newsletter.

Six times a year, The Customer Communicator honors a frontline service provider who sets a shining example of service excellence.

Click here to learn the stories of recent winners.

Click here to nominate a frontline service provider for recognition.

Keeping Your Service Team Engaged

October 15, 2014

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Engaged employees bring more of themselves to the job, provide more discretionary effort, and generally need less help in determining what’s right for the customer.

But how can a manager know when an employee is becoming disengaged?

Jen Lawrence a corporate culture consultant and author of Engage the Fox, says to look for the following characteristics:

  • The employee shows signs of cynicism. A disengaged employee is likely to become cynical about the work that he is doing, the products or services he represents, or the customers he is dealing with.
  • The employee fails to bring his personality to the job. Customer service reps are often hired for their personality and their ability to relate to other people. If someone has lost interest in doing that, they are not engaged.
  • The employee is not helping colleagues. Being engaged also means being ready to reach out to help, or be helped, by colleagues.
  • The employee is not asking you questions. Curiosity and interest in the work that one is doing is a big part of engagement. An employee who has stopped asking you about the “whys” behind what he or she is doing may be disengaged.

In the October issue of The Customer Communicator newsletter, Lawrence provides tips that managers and their frontline staff can use to increase engagement.

Developing an Enthusiastic Team

September 4, 2014

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The first week in September is also known as International Enthusiasm Week, a time to focus on the importance of enthusiasm in building strong relationships with customers and coworkers.

But sometimes it can be draining to maintain a high-level of enthusiasm throughout the workday, particularly if that work is stressful or involves multi-tasking. Three approaches can help:

1. Encourage frontline staff to practice positive behavior. Smiling, moving around more, and using more expressive body language are key components of enthusiasm. Encourage your staff to use these techniques when they are feeling less- than-enthusiastic in order to keep their spirits up and convey a positive attitude.

2. Celebrate successes and bring fun into the workplace. Simple celebrations such as birthdays and work milestones, and major celebrations such as Customer Service Week can reinvegorate people and move the enthusiasm meter higher.

3. Keep training. Honing service skills and learning new ones will keep the job fresh, which naturally adds to the enthusiasm of frontline staff.

Additional tips for managers and their frontline staff on staying enthustiastic throughout the day appear in the September issue of The Customer Communicator newsletter. Subscribe Today.

To boost energy, get up from your desk for “microbursts” of activity

August 21, 2014

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After a long day working with customers, it can be difficult for frontline staff to maintain a high level of energy and enthusiasm. New research suggests that a five-minute walk can help.

If you spend most of your work day sitting at a desk, it’s likely that your energy levels peak at 8 a.m. and gradually decline throughout the day, says Janet Nikolovski, a scientist at Johnson & Johnson’s Human Performance Institute.

Breaking out of that slump requires nothing more than a few minutes of activity, Nikolovski says.

To prove the point, she asked office workers in the throes of afternoon doldrums to walk the stairs in their building for a few minutes. People who participated in the study rated their energy level on a scale of 1 to 10. Before they got up and moved around, their average energy level was 3. Immediately after the burst of activity, their energy spiked to 9. An hour later, the average energy level was still at 6.

The lesson is clear, schedule short bursts of activity throughout the day. Even if your frontline staff can’t get up to climb stairs, standing and stretching can have a similar positive benefit.

Additional tips for managers and their frontline staff on staying energized throughout the day appear in the August issue of The Customer Communicator newsletter. Subscribe Today.

Focus on First and Last Impressions

August 7, 2014

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This month in The Customer Communicator, author and customer service trainer Renée Evenson discusses the importance of making good first and last impressions with customers.

While making a good impression is always valuable, these beginnings and endings are especially important.

Psychological research, as well as everyday experience, shows that people tend to remember the first and last things that they hear, see, or read.

For example, the first and last things on a shopping list or the first and last things covered in a training session. Known as the Recency Effect and the Primacy Effect, they apply as well to conversations with customers.

But Evenson warns managers not to expect employees to innately know what to do and say. “All of these things should come up in their training, be reinforced in their coaching, and should be discussed regularly in team meetings,” she says.

Additional tips for managers and their frontline staff on how to make good first and last impressions appear in the August issue of The Customer Communicator newsletter. Subscribe Today.

Eliminate Negativity in the Service Center

July 24, 2014

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Working in customer service can be difficult and stressful, but managers can take simple steps to help reps stay motivated and positive.

Geoffrey James, author of Business Without the Bullsh*t, says that it starts with being a role-model for reps.

For instance, when a rep complains about having had to deal with a difficult customer, remind the rep that it’s the job of customer service to help the customer and that everything he does to help is a reason to be proud and positive about his work.

Managers should also ensure that their reps have the opportunity to take a break and get away from the phone and other stresses for short periods during the day.

Set up a “quiet room;” sponsor workplace exercise, wellness, or meditation sessions; or just give reps an option to step away from their phones occasionally.

Additional tips for managers and their frontline staff on how to maintain a positive attitude appear in the July issue of The Customer Communicator newsletter. Subscribe Today.

Set Goals for the Second Half of the Year

July 11, 2014

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July 1 was Second Half of the New Year Day, which makes July the perfect time to review the New Year’s resolutions that you made back in January to see how you’re doing.

In the July issue of The Customer Communicator, editor Bill Keenan offers this advice: Start by making a point of celebrating the goals that you have reached and maybe even setting a few “stretch” goals to get even better in those areas.

But equally important is to look at what you have not yet accomplished, and to ask yourself why you might have fallen short. What obstacles got in the way, and what can you do to remove those obstacles? You might also consider adjusting those goals or setting new goals that make more sense.

Keenan also advises frontline service professionals to work with a manager or supervisor to set realistic work and career- development goals for the next half of the year. Regular progress meetings and feedback are powerful tools for keeping on track.

Building Rapport with Customers

June 26, 2014

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To build true rapport with customers, Melissa Corra a live- chat rep for Web.com, goes beyond the typical techniques.

Corra was recognized for her work with a Customer Communicator Frontline Spotlight award.

“Most frontline reps are familiar with the techniques of mirroring and matching to build rapport,” says Customer Communicator editor Bill Keenan. “People often feel most comfortable with those who are like them, so it can be helpful to synchronize with the customer on the phone in terms of matching or mirroring their volume, tone, and rate of speech as much as possible.”

Corra takes this a step further. Because she communicates with customers via live-chat she also mirrors the key words, phrases, and writing style used by the customer.

It takes a skillful hand, but the result is very natural. As her supervisor says, “One minute she can seem like she is a Southern belle, and the next minute she is a California girl.”

To nominate a frontline rep for a Customer Communicator Frontline Spotlight award, visit: www.CustomerServiceGroup.com/spotlight_award.php

Amaze Your Customers

June 16, 2014

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In “Amaze Every Customer Every Time,” author Shep Hyken provides managers with tools for delivering “the most amazing customer service on the planet.”

But Hyken was quick to tell readers of The Customer Communicator newsletter that frontline service reps have an equally important role to play in amazing customers and building long-lasting relationships.

Hyken suggests eight steps that reps can take. Step number two is “Treat every customer the way they want to be treated.”

Many customer service reps use of the Golden Rule when dealing with customers: “Treat every customer as you would like to be treated.”

But Hyken suggests that reps upgrade that to the Platinum Rule: “Treat customers as they want to be treated.”

The difference involves a higher level of attentiveness to the customer’s needs. Not every customer is going to want to chat or be sociable, for instance. They just want to get their issue taken care of. Some might be open to suggestions and others might not. The rep’s job is to listen carefully, observe the signs, and respond in a way that corresponds with the customer’s needs and personality.

The June issue of The Customer Communicator includes additional steps to help reps and managers amaze customers. Subscribe Today.

May is International Civility Awareness Month

May 16, 2014

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Rudeness and incivility are everywhere these days, and can affect customer service reps as well as customers.

But we don’t have to give it free reign.

Use the month of May, which is International Civility Awareness Month, as a time to identify and eliminate incivility from your customer service operations and customer conversations.

Share these four tips from The Customer Communicator with your service team this month:

  • Pay attention, focus, and listen. That’s the first step to polite, gracious conversation.
  • Greet and acknowledge every customer pleasantly and professionally, no matter how you feel.
  • Speak with kindness and keep your language free of any hint of condescension, ridicule, or gossip.
  • Respect the time, space, and differences of others especially those of customers and coworkers.

The May issue of The Customer Communicator, the training and motivation publication for service professionals, includes additional ideas for increasing civility in the workplace along with a civility self-quiz. Subscribe Today.*/

 

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