Customer Service – Are You Even Listening?

customer service reading a script

The customer is not always right.  The computer is not always right.  They system is not always right.

But do you know how to make it right if your clients or customers have a problem?

I have been a business owner for several years.  There is one thing that drives me every morning rain or shine, weekend or week day, feast or famine.

It is not the benefits of setting my own schedule, the ability to choose the clients I work with, the freedom to explore new opportunities or the control of my finances; although these are all great perks, they are not the driver. There is only one true core to my business:

It is a privilege and honor to provide service to my clients.

I remind myself of this after each win with a client – and when there is a challenge.  This week is a great example.  I spoke to two different clients who were thrilled with our work.  I spoke to three others who are beginning new opportunities.  I also spoke to one who was not happy.

I do not always get it right the first time.  I let my clients know this and encourage open feedback.  Bless my client, he is a very polite, respectful gentleman.  Yet, he was not happy with the initial direction.  He was kind in attempting to relate his thoughts.

I encouraged him to give me open, straightforward feedback, even if it meant he hated it. This allowed him to be more honest with me which allows me to zero in on exactly what I need to do.  I encouraged the negative feedback and then thanked him for providing it to me.

Not all companies have the luxury or desire to be selective in choosing their clients.  Some offer services that cater to a wide range of markets.  Some want to be so big that the more clients the merrier the company.  The revenues and conquering of markets and competitors takes a backseat to that fundamental core of having the privilege to serve. Clients take a backseat to expansion and profits.

I personally experienced this today.  I have a service provider that is huge.  I am just one little guppy in their ocean of customers.  I noticed two errors and called to have them corrected.

Long story short – the computer made two mistakes.  The first was reading the system wrong and showing a bill for twice the amount owed.  The second was a reconnect charge when service was not interrupted.

I spoke to three representatives, two initial level and one the next level up.  I was told that the system made a mistake on the billing but not on the fee.  Each one was staunch in telling me that since it was showing on the system that the service was interrupted, than it was true, nothing could be done, pay the fee.

I was told, “I am verbalizing to you that the system says this happened.” I have to admit, that is the first time I have ever had someone tell me they were ‘verbalizing’ something to me.  Where I come from, we normally said, “And I am telling you…”

I was also told that the only solution they could provide is that I would have to pay the fee. In what world is that a solution?  I will admit, I am very impressed with the wordplay used by this organization.

I walked away from this experience feeling that I had just experienced three conversations, no, not conversations, three sessions of reading from a script to a blank wall – and I was the blank wall.

More importantly, I walked away grateful.  This was a wonderful reminder to me to remember my core guiding principle: it is a privilege and honor to provide service to my clients.

Back to my original question: do you know how to make it right if your client has a problem?

No matter the size of your company, your customer base or service you provide; here are three things that will help make it right for your clients when there is a challenge:

Listen

Recognize

Bend if Possible

 

My biggest frustration is feeling as though with the three individuals I talked to, no one listened.  They spoke to me, but not with me.  If one person had said, “let me make sure I understand this” and reiterated what I had asked, I would have felt like a client – not a blank wall.

Listening is not, “I understand you are frustrated and I am sorry to hear that.”  No you are not.  That is a script.  When a client explains a frustration and you respond with a canned line, that is not listening.  That is responding.

My second biggest frustration is the refusal to recognize that there might be an issue with a system, process or program.  If it screwed up one thing, is it not possible it screwed up another?  If one of those three people took the time to say, “There is a possibility that our computer screwed up more than one thing” it would have validated my thoughts. Even if there was not a darn thing they could do about it.

My last frustration, and most minor, was the ‘solution’ was not a solution.  Since they had not heard me, no recognized that there might be an error there was no reason to attempt any type of solution.

The bottom line is, I am paying a fee – no matter what the discussion.  Perhaps I would not have such a bee in my bonnet about it had I been treated like a person.  Validating frustration, recognizing the potential for an error – even if it cannot be corrected – will go a long way in keeping clients.

Sometimes a solution is not possible; however, there are times that it is possible to bend – offer an alternative to bridge the gap even if you cannot repave the road.

In customer service it is paramount to remember that behind each account name and number there is an actual person, not a revenue source, for whom you have the privilege to serve. You may forget this, but they will not when they choose another service provider.

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As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about how we can help you.

 

Do You Want To Be Right Or Do You Want The Help?

not listening

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My father’s patience with me was a constant.  I believe he was so patient because he helped create the reason patience was needed.  The first piece of advice or words of wisdom that I remember my dad giving me was, “you can do anything a boy can do, except pee on a tree.”

That was my dad.

He instilled a sense of independence, curiosity, pride and exploration in me.  Before I took shop in high school, I was using his power tools in the basement or under the deck to build things. I loved to explore and try things and he let me, while keeping an eye on me.

There were times I wanted to do something and I was convinced I was right or knew the right way to do it. I refused his help and said I could do it myself.  He patiently watched me fail and then gently asked if I wanted to know the right way.

The pride he taught me was to have pride in what I did and not let it stand in the way of asking for help.  I learned to ask why or why not instead of challenging the right way when I thought I was right.

Asking for help is not an easy thing to do, yet it is worthless if you are not going to listen to the answer and counterproductive if you are going to argue that you are right.

In all the years I have been coaching and writing resumes, I can count on one hand the number of clients who preferred to be right rather than listen to the professional advice they had paid for.

That is the beauty of owning your own company; you can choose not to work with certain clients.  There are clients I have referred to others because it became obvious, very quickly, that they wanted to be right.  They would pay well to argue with me just to be right in their own mind.  I think that is a waste of time and money.

It becomes a detriment in the workplace.

I have a very good friend who is a director in the financial industry.  She is extraordinarily brilliant in the ways of compliance. Her opinion is highly valued and sought after.  But there are times…

There was a project that she was called on due to her expertise and asked to consult.  The gentleman that requested her help fought her at every turn.  She could back up every recommendation with rules, regulations, examples and case studies yet he refused to listen.  He had to be right.

It became obvious, very quickly, on his team that he was not willing to listen to any input that could propel the project.  His primary objective was instead to be right, no matter the cost to the company, project or his team.  His respect level from his peers, team members and leadership plummeted.

I have another good friend that owns a marketing company.  She is amazingly talented in the ways of marketing.  Her clients reap measurable and immeasurable benefits from the work she does for them.  But there are times….

She will get a client who comes to her and tells her they need a complete revamp of their company.  She and her team go to work diving in to get all the information to create exactly what the client needs based on what they want.  Then in presenting the information, the client will tell her that they don’t think they should do it that way, they think this other way is the best way.

In each case I just want to ask two questions:

If you know so much, why did you ask for help in the first place? 

What is the cost of being right?

In paying someone for assistance, you are wasting your time and money; in the workplace, you are destroying your reputation.

The two women mentioned below are very close friends and we have one thing in common – we are a bit forthright.  In other words, we do ask the above two questions to those that asked for help.  You might think that we get a nasty rebuttal; but instead we normally get surprise.

Those that are insistent on being right normally do not realize their behavior.  They may be nervous about the situation or so engrossed in doing a good job that they fail to realize they have become their own worst enemy.

When pointed out in a gentle but firm way the priorities realign and the process continues smoothly.  But there are times….

Sometimes people are just buttheads.  Let’s face it, they just are and you cannot change that.  However, it is best to know what you are dealing with – someone who is so badly wants things done right that they go a little self-centered nuts or a true self-centered jerk.

Unfortunately, this seems to be a management style.  Ask your team for help then ignore them to prove you are the leader.  If this behavior continues the team no longer gives it their A game and the manager is left as an island alone, wondering what happened.

If your team is not engaging as much as you would like, perhaps you have been behaving in a not so team-like way.   It takes a bit of clean up after being called out for wanting to be right rather than getting help, yet it can be done.

The best way to avoid this is twofold:

Listen

Ask why or why not rather than standing firm that you are right. 

You will get the expertise or assistance that you need and perhaps learn a thing or two.  You will also show your team that their input matters and you put the project before the individual.

That is called a win-win.

 

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I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.

–Lisa

Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at companies, professional organizations and colleges speaking to leadership, sales, teams, transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about career mobility, personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

Stop Trying to Sell Alarm Systems to Dogs

guard dog onThere are “no solicitation” signs posted in my neighborhood; apparently, they are merely decoration.

Yesterday, I had a young man knock on my door, clipboard in hand.  After battling through three rambunctious and very noisy dogs, I squeezed through the door while holding back the troops with my foot.

They immediately went to the front window on full alert and sound.

After introducing himself, the young man asked me if I had a security system.

Without a word, I turned around and looked at my front window, complete with the boys, a Lab mix and a Pit mix standing on their back legs, now as tall as me, and Puggle sounding off on full volume and returned my look to him.

“Yes.” I answered.

I do not think he heard me or missed the subtlety of my gesture.  He then proceeded to tell me that his company was doing a promotion of installing high tech alarm systems complete with electronic key pads on the doors, electronic thermostat and video cameras that could all be controlled by my smart phone.

My smart phone is already smarter than me, I do not need to give it control of my home, too.

I politely told him that I was quite satisfied with my current alarm system.

His next selling point was that I could check in on my dogs any time throughout the day to see what they are doing when I am not home.

I know what they are doing when I am not home.  I see the remnants of it when I return.  I also know the mischief and mayhem happen in the first few minutes after I walk out the door, as I have forgotten something and come back within a minute to find utter chaos.  The remaining time of my departure is followed by naps.  Lots and lots of naps.

I do not need a video camera to watch my dogs sleep.  They afford me this opportunity while I am home.

Tried as he might, I just was not biting on the new alarm system.  Not even getting me interested by letting me know that it would make my home more energy efficient.  Unfortunately for him, two days prior I just received my energy report from the utility company and this homeowner is rated lower than an energy efficient home. 

Yay me, no sale.

I will say one thing about this young man, he was confident.  Confident that I was going to buy this.  Confident I needed it.  Confidence did not lead to a sale.

I realized after the exchange, and giving the pups treats for being such good guard dogs, that many job seekers approach interviewing and job searching the same way.

They are so completely focused on what they have to offer that they miss an important part: listening to what is needed.  It is like telling a prospective employer that you are really, really good at xyz.  The prospective employer then tells you that they don’t do xyz and you respond, “but you should hire me anyway because I am really, really good at it.”

Not going to happen.

Demonstrate adaptability.  How? Know your strengths, be comfortable in explaining them as a benefit to a prospective employer; however, make sure you are listening in order to change your pitch to match their need.

Personally, I thought it was comical that for every benefit he brought up, I already had a solution and yet he kept going.  After a few minutes of this, I went from being amused to being insulted. 

What made the switch?  The fact that he was not listening.

Listening is the key here.  By listening to what the prospective employer wants, needs and expects you can demonstrate respect, adaptability and present yourself as a solution to their problem.  Without listening, you are merely holding a one sided conversation with no positive result on the horizon.

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

www.CareerPolish.com

 

Do You Look At or Listen To Advice?

monkey no seeYesterday I was on the phone with a business partner discussing an opportunity in another state while my son was visiting.

I wasn’t sure what he was doing during the call other than keeping the dogs occupied, which I appreciated; but it turns out he was listening intently.

I found this out after the call when he sat down across from me and said, “Do you mind if I give you a little advice?”

Alrighty then.

My 20 year old son is actively searching for a job and looking forward to college in the fall. I’m a coach of all things pre-employment. See the irony here?

But there is one thing I know about my son – he is extremely intelligent and insightful, so I welcomed his feedback.

It was good.

Completely relevant and sound.

Oftentimes we don’t listen to what we are told because we are too busy looking at the person that is giving it and dismissing it before we have even given it a chance. That whole judge a book by its cover thing.

I know my sons gifts and I also know that he is my biggest supporter and protector so anything he would have to say would only be in my best interest. It allowed me to listen with an open mind and have a conversation with him.

When someone offers advice before you judge if they are worthy think first about their motives.

Is it being offered to help, for your best interest and in a positive way? Then listen. No matter who it comes from. It is a gift and you should take heed.

Everyone has something to contribute but often we do not allow others to do so because we think they can’t possibly understand. Well, if that were the case wouldn’t you have it all figured out already and not draw the attention of someone who wants to help? Think about that for a minute.

When someone gives advice and it is actually received you give a gift back to them – appreciation and validation. There is no better feeling than appreciation so not only are they helping you but you are helping them.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
http://www.CareerPolish.com

Talk To Me In A Way I Can Listen To You

I had dinner with a friend of mine this weekend and had the most wonderful conversation. At one point we were going over a finer point of the discussion and it came down to one word; which he called semantics. To me that one word made a huge difference. Being a writer I think I am more sensitive to semantics and specific words than most people – or I just could be weird that way. Either way it got me to thinking – go figure.

The following night another friend mentioned something to me and when I responded he rolled his eyes. Not very nice if you ask me, and I told him so. He said it wasn’t what he meant. So I told him to just say what he meant. It seemed pretty easy to me. More eye rolling. Got me thinking so more – go figure.

When I first talk to a client I will frequently ask questions like, “does that make sense to you” just to make sure we are still on the same page. I know how easy it is to start down the path on in the same conversation and end up at two completely different destinations. This fact is complicated even more when both genders are participating in the conversation.

Men and women think, speak and perceive differently. I’m not saying either one is better or more correct than the other – just that we use different processes. I know the following are generalities, but in my experience they ring true: men tend to be more frank; women tend to see interpretations. Think of it like a Sunday drive.

Men know the end destination, they know the route they want to take, know when they need to stop for gas, don’t make additional stops or concessions – here is where they are going and here is how we are going to get there, period.

Women pack a lunch. We look at the scenery as we go, we look for additional stops that might be “fun” along the way, don’t mind taking a veer or two along the way – here is where we are going but it is the drive that is the focus and all the things along the way.

Sometimes these can be very complimentary – the attention to scenery may be necessary for someone who is very destination driven in order to not miss any of the finer points. The focus on the end result may be vital to the lollygagger in able to reach the destination on time.

The next time you are in a conversation with the opposite sex keep in mind that their mind is processing your words and message in a manner which is very different than how you are presenting them.

When listening women have to remember to try not to over-analyze what is said and concentrate on just the message before us. We can always ask a few clarifying questions but it is vital that we start with just the message as is. For men you need to hang in there through the whole message to get the meaning. Boil it down and then ask if you understood it correctly. We may sigh or roll our eyes but at least you will know if you got it right or not.

When speaking women must remember to boil down the message to the essence of importance; men must remember to make the drive a little more interesting and not just point A to point B.

Adapting your listening and speaking style to your audience will save a lot of frustration and help ensure much clearer communication. Sometimes we get frustrated because we think our message is pretty simple; however what is simple to one is complex to another. If it is truly important for your message to be understood than you must respect the other party’s comprehension process in order that you both arrive at the same destination.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Coach-Strategist
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.
http://www.CareerPolish.com

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