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.

✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰

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.

 

Customer Service- Yes That Was Your Out-Loud Voice

shoutingOver a two day time period this week I was presented with many examples for this article.

I was asked to wait at a store because the employee was checking something on their personal phone.

My best friend works for a bank. She noticed a discrepancy on her online statement so she called the appropriate number to discuss it with them. The first woman she talked to could not pull her up by her account number. After several attempts it finally pulled up and the agent told her, “Oh, there you are, you must have read your number to me wrong.”

She was then transferred to another agent, who she explained again that she was an employee and had seen a discrepancy. He asked why she was calling now; why not wait until she got her statement – that is what most people do. My best friend is not most people. Then he began asking her a list of questions. One was “employer”, she said she was an employee of the bank and he responded, “Yeah, I heard you the first time.”

I asked her if her issue ever got resolved after all this fun and she said she was not sure. Almost 40 minutes on a call being told she was reading numbers wrong, calling at the wrong time and even being a bother for answering a question and she did not even know if her problem was resolved.

A family member of mine had medical issues this week. We had to go to the doctor to get two medications and received directions to take one Monday evening and come back Tuesday morning to take the other.

Now, let me say this, this family member is a cancer survivor and has been dealing with medical issues for 14 years. We are no stranger to medication, instructions and doctors’ offices.

When I went to get the prescriptions filled I was treated to a tremendous amount of conversation at the pharmacy. One tech ignored a customer standing right in front of them and held up their hand when the customer said, “Excuse me”. Another was complaining about a customer not understanding her id card and what a pain it was to explain it. It was a hodgepodge of disrespecting customers and a general feeling of not wanting to be there.

Tuesday we arrived at the doctor’s office and handed the technician the medicine as instructed. She looked at us and said it was the wrong one. The instructions she had were completely opposite of what we were told. When the practitioner came in and the technician apprised her of the situation, her response was, “I knew that was going to happen, I would have put money on it. You misunderstood what I said.”

Throughout all these adventures my best friend and I wanted to scream out, “I CAN HEAR YOU! You’re using your out-loud voice!”

It is so easy in an age of being able to talk anywhere, any time with anyone that we tend to forget two things in having this amazing technology: space and professionalism.

We tend to forget that not only can the person on the other end of the line hear you, so can everyone else in the general vicinity. This then lends itself to one on one conversations. The technicians at the pharmacy, I believe, thought that because they were talking to each other no one else could hear them in that big open space.

The advantages to technology is you can attend business meetings remotely, even dressed in your pjs – not that I have ever done that. But that relaxed environment flows to our in person interactions. Responding to a customer with “Yeah” instead of ‘yes’; blaming, dismissing and forgetting the most common ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are more prevalent.

One side note: normally this behavior is attributed to young people. I am in my mid 40s, I officially get to say young people when talking about 20-somethings, yay me.

But in every one of these instances, no one was under mid 30s. We cannot blame bad behavior on the young.

The difficulty is we are not consciously aware when we are behaving in such a manner. Don’t think anyone can hear you? Try sneezing. That is a phenomenon that I love, you can sneeze in a store and people three isles away will chime out, “bless you”.

The bigger issue is this: each customer service agent, no matter what profession or title is a representative of not only themselves, but their organization. The results can mean lost customers and revenues.

There are lots of banks, pharmacies and retail stores to choose from – why would I go back to one in which I felt like a bother or burden to those being paid to provide service? Who wants to feel disrespected or under-appreciated?

As a manager or leader it can be quite difficult to address these issues, as stated before, we are normally not aware of our own behavior. You also do not want to come across as a micro-manager.

One thing I found most helpful and impactful when working in an office with individuals that exhibited these behaviors was to address it immediately, in a non-confrontational and quiet manner by saying, “That was your out-loud voice.”

They were normally caught off guard and I would explain that someone else could hear the comment or that I know they were probably thinking the comment in their head, but it was said out-loud. It was gentle enough to not be confrontational; quiet and directly to them with no other employee hearing so as not to be embarrassing and with a touch of humor to allow them to accept the concept without feeling berated.

We need to reclaim our space and our professionalism. I am not throwing stones; this is something that I am very mindful of because I have also made a slip in judgment about being in a public area thinking no one was around but me. There are even times that my boyfriend or best friend will tell me, “That was your out-loud voice”.

I believe detaching from personal technology can do wonders. Few companies do not allow personal phones in their work space so it is up to us to limit and monitor ourselves. We need to put down our phones now and then.

My best friend and boyfriend have made an incredible difference for me in this area. When we spend time together, the phones are put away. It makes us more conscious of the time together, our location and space. Conversations are better, events are more fun and interaction with others more enjoyable. It helps remind us that we are all in a shared space.

Challenge yourself to keep your phone put away during an event, lunch, dinner, shopping or our running around. Be fully engaged with where you are and see if you do not notice the disconnect in others and their interactions. Then ask yourself, “Am I doing that? And more importantly, am I doing that to my customers?”

Is That How You Treat Your Mother?

Logan mite-e-ductsSometimes I really just want to ask people in a service industry this question.  Then again, those that I want to ask probably wouldn’t get it anyway so it would be a complete waste of time.  But still….

 

I think treating a female client the way you would your mother or grandmother and a male client how you would treat your father or grandfather would be a pretty good rule of thumb.

 

I had some experiences this week which inspired me for this blog.  I always see experiences as a way to grow and learn; thus, I must share.

 

My friend just bought a home.  One thing that was recommended before he moved in was to have the ventilation system cleaned.  It is an older home and I don’t think it had ever been done – ever, in many, many years.  Easy enough and it makes sense.

 

So I scheduled the appointment for Tuesday afternoon.  I got a call that morning asking if I could move the appointment to late morning or – now.  So I rearranged a few things and met them early at the house.

 

The representative was very pleasant.  When opening the furnace I started hearing things like “this isn’t good”, “oh, all this needs to be done”, “oh this is going to be a problem.”  Hint – bad sign

 

Now, keep in mind a thorough inspection was done by an extremely reputable inspector with no stake in the game.  He wouldn’t even recommend anyone for work as it would be a conflict of interest. Hint – good sign (There were a couple inspections actually by different parties.)

 

He had asked me about something with the house and I told him of a small remodel my friend is going to be doing.  The representative pipes up and says he can do that while he is there, he is licensed with the state.  Hint – bad sign

 

A few minutes later he comes out in the garage where I was painting to tell me that he has very bad news.  Hint – bad sign

And here is where the fun begins….

He cannot clean out the system because just by putting his hand in the vents he can tell that the foundation has crumbled the entire system and cleaning it would make it worse.  A whole new ventilation system is going to be needed to be put in through the ceiling.

 

That’s when he popped into the attic, looked around and promptly came back down to tell me the entire attic was covered in mold.  Big ol’ germ fest up there.

 

Oh, and I would also need to replace the furnace because it is the original one that came with the house. (Remember the inspection?  That will come back into play soon).

 

Now for just the ventilation system it would be a little over $2,000; but he recommends a new furnace and all for a price over $5,000.

 

He gave me his business card and wrote his personal cell number on it “because he would be able to schedule me in faster if I call him directly.”  Hint – bad sign.

 

I noticed on the business card it had a line for technicians to write in their name.  Hint – bad sign, your techs are not staying long enough to put their name on a card?  Or you are just handing your business card out to sub guys so little lack of quality control there.

 

After he left I noticed that he had just placed the vent covers upside down on the vents without putting them back in as he found them.  Hint – bad sign, disrespect for home and homeowner.

 

At this point I start flipping out.  I will be honest – I really was.  Normally I am much more astute and on my game, but I’m blaming it on the paint fumes in the enclosed garage.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  I mean it wasn’t even my house, I couldn’t get a hold of my friend and I’m all wonky on paint fumes so all those things didn’t even register.

 

I called my inspector.  I told him the story and he pulled the report.  That’s when he became as incensed as I was freaked out.

 

There is no mold in the attic.  He went in that attic from top to bottom and photographed the entire thing complete with a whole litany of pictures.

 

It’s an older home, seeing sand and rubble in vents is not an indication that the foundation is crumbling around you run, run for your lives.  It means it really, really needs to be cleaned.

 

Oh and the original furnace?  It is long gone.  The one that is in the house is only about five years old.

 

At this point I had calmed down and was coming down from the paint.  But this is where the excellent distinguish themselves from the good.

 

My inspector, Mike Bower of Principle Home Inspection Services is excellent.  He went a step further at this point and personally researched ventilation cleaning companies.  He reached out to contacts that he knew to get their professional opinion.

 

He looked at referrals, asked a lot of questions and narrowed it down to the highest recommended based on his research and the recommendations he was given.  He then called that company!  He asked about their process, service, cost and crumbling foundations.  Hint – good inspector going above and beyond to calm freaked out person

 

Vent cleaning guy: bad way to treat your mother.

Inspector: what a good boy, your mother would be so proud.

 

There is always more to sell, always more profit but at what cost?  Not only that, but add on top of it the anger issues.  I had to spend almost an entire day trying to be talked off the ledge and get a true response and action plan based on what is really there.

 

The other anger issue: the girl factor.  That will be tomorrow’s blog.

 

Mike, my inspector, had nothing to gain yet he took the time – his own billable time – to not only talk me off the ledge but do the research and make calls on my behalf.

 

Yesterday Logan with Mite-E-Ducts came out to the house.  He gave me a courtesy call and waited because I was a few minutes late.  Hint – good sign; I know he is on a schedule and their time is money but he was very nice about it.

 

When I arrived there was a huge company vehicle in the driveway, rather than the personal vehicle of the other guy.  Hint – good sign, professional and shows they are there for the job and have all the right tools.

 

He walked into the home and immediately put on the little booties.  That was a nice touch (the other guy just walked right in) and I appreciate the small details.  He did a thorough inspection including taking pictures within each vent.  Again, nice small touch.  Hint – good sign, attention to details.

 

Next he explained exactly what he was going to do, how and asked me if I had any questions.  Courteous and professional without the schmoozing or suck up questions or conversations.  There was no upselling at any point throughout the entire process.  Even when I asked about a new ventilation system in the ceiling he said they do not do that because it is a conflict of interest.  Hint – good sign

 

When he was done he cleaned up each location and even swept the driveway because a little rubble fell out of the major hose when he was putting it away.  Hint – good sign, nice touch noticing again the small details.

 

What are your clients saying about you and your staff?  Can you look at every one of your staff and say you would want them assisting your mother, grandmother, sister, girlfriend, wife or daughter?  You should have a two-part answer to this.

 

Not only should you answer an immediate “yes” but you should also be able to give a solid reason other than “they are a good guy.”   The first ventilation guy was a “nice guy” too.  If you can’t give a professional reason why then you need to rethink your staff.

 

I know most people do not come back to you and give you the positive reviews of your staff, only the negative.  But that doesn’t mean that the positive isn’t making a difference.

 

You can bet my friends and family will hear about the virtues and professionalism of Mike and Logan.  I am not going to let the other company know about their horribly disrespectful and lecherous behavior – my friend is taking care of that.

 

At the end of the day I have two resources I can personally recommend based on my own experience.  Yep, Mite-E-Ducts can do work at my mom’s house anytime and if she is ever needing an inspection done I will call Principle Home Inspection Services for her.

 

And just for you pessimists out there – no, I did not receive any discounts, offers or one single thing in return for mentioning either one of these companies in my blog.  Nor am I affiliated with either one and I do not know Logan or Mike outside of our professional interactions.  They don’t even know I am writing about them.   I believe exceptional service deserves to be recognized without reward – that’s just one of the reasons that is it exceptional.

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

www.CareerPolish.com

 

Engagement – The Key to Making The Right First Impression

I think it is human nature to want to make the right first impression, no matter what the circumstance. Deep down I think we all have that part of us that wants everyone to like us. As we get older, the need for being liked has a competitor – the need for being wanted. Whether it is as a potential companion or service provider we want to be wanted. Again, basic human nature and nothing wrong with that and it all starts from that first impression.

As kids, it was fairly easy –show up on the cool bike, with the best bat or even with the most coveted snacks and you made a great first impression. The rules change as we get older and it is more difficult to manage the scary world of acceptance.

As an adult, how do you know if you made the right impression? If you are at a networking event you cannot gauge this on the number of cards you collect because there are many professional card-passer-outers at networking events.

It is a simple test: when you first introduced yourself to someone, did they ask you a question? If so you have opened the door of engagement and therefore have the opportunity to set the tone for the right first impression.

Once you can get someone to ask you a question you can help direct the conversation and showcase the skills, abilities, services and offerings that could be important to that person or someone they know. This, in turn, could lead to business opportunities or stronger channel networks.

Before you network again, ask yourself this: what do I want people to know about me? Once you answer that question ask yourself: how do I lead into this, what question could they ask that would naturally open the door?

You must know what question you want them to ask in order to prepare your elevator speech. If you find that people are not naturally asking that magic question then take some time to think about what is their first response to your opening. How have they been lead to that particular response based upon what you said? It could simply be a matter of tweaking.

It is important that you prepare this opening carefully to try to reach the desired results as you only have one shot at making that first impression. Putting time and research into preparing a short introduction has the potential to pay off in very big dividends. Perhaps some of the people that you talk to are not going to be able to utilize your services; however, if you make that right first impression they will remember you for friends and family that can.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Transition Strategist
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.
www.CareerPolish.com

Back to top
%d bloggers like this: