Monthly Archives: November 2011

Renee Evenson on Customer Service Training Tips for the Holidays

Renee Evenson photoThe following is a guest post from Renee Evenson, who has worked in the customer service management field for over 30 years and is the author of  Customer Service Management Training 101: Quick and Easy Techniques That Get Great Results.

Providing exceptional customer service should be every business person’s goal throughout the year because displaying good customer service skills keeps customers happy. But then comes the holiday season and along with the feelings of peace and good will to all come the overwhelming feelings of stress to make sure everything is taken care of—decorating, cards to write, holiday dinners to prepare for, parties to plan, and all that gift buying. And when customers feel stressed, they often display bad behaviors. They may snap at you, make unreasonable demands, and become angry or upset quickly.

And it isn’t only your customers who may exhibit bad behaviors. If you manage customer service employees, then you know how frazzled they can become during the holiday season. So how do you help your stressed-out employees provide exceptional customer service to customers that are nearly running on empty?

Regular customer service training will provide your employees with the tools they need to handle any customer in any situation. But during the holidays, when everyone is likely to feel overwhelmed, you can give your employees the gift of some quick customer service training tips to help them provide a consistently high level of service throughout the holiday season and beyond.

  • Don’t take a customer’s bad behavior personally. Try to see the situation from the other person’s perspective. Rather than judging, assume the customer has a reason for his or her actions. Showing compassion and displaying empathy will help you respond to the customer objectively.
  • Never respond to rudeness with rudeness. Rather, keep your cool, stay calm, and speak respectfully. Staying calm keeps you in control of the situation and you’ll feel better when you do.
  • Getting the customer on your side will make it easier for you to interact with him or her. Try to establish a rapport and find common ground. Say something like: “This time of the year is so busy isn’t it? I sense that you’re in a hurry and I’m going to take care of this right away for you.”
  • If a customer is upset or angry, respond with a phrase of empathy, then assure the customer you’re going to take care of the request. Say something like: “I understand that you’re upset and I’m going to help you. Can you explain to me what you need me to do?” By using a calming voice and steady tone, you’ll help calm your customer.
  • Listen carefully and pay attention to the customer’s facial
    expressions and body language. Try to match your facial expressions to the customer’s mood. In other words, don’t ignore a customer’s emotions, but rather show that you understand.
  • Do what you say you will when you say you will. Rather than make a promise you’re not sure you can keep, make an honest commitment you know you can meet.
  • Always take a moment to show that you empathize with your customers by showing compassion and concern. Doing so will not only make you feel good, you are likely to make your customer’s day go a little better.

Renee Evenson has worked in the customer service management field for over 30 years, including 15 as a customer service manager and trainer at BellSouth Telecommunications. She has a degree in organizational psychology and is the author of Customer Service Training 101, Customer Service Management Training 101, and Award-Winning Customer Service.

Yesterday… Micah Solomon on Building Customer Loyalty in Retail During the Holiday Rush.

Coming tomorrow… Jim Joseph on Whether Temporary Holiday Rush Employees Hurt the Brand.

Micah Solomon on Building Customer Loyalty in Retail During the Holiday Rush

Micah Solomon photoThe following is a guest post by Micah Solomon, a sought-after business advisor and speaker, coauthor of Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit and author of the upcoming High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service, on how to build customer loyalty during the hectic holiday shopping season

In retail, the holidays inspire short-term thinking, by default:  You are hoping to turn your ledger ink from red to black.   Your employees are looking for commissions that will brighten their holiday, if not their year. And everyone is just trying to get through one frantic day after another.

I get it.  My business, and many for which I consult, revolves around seasonal purchases.  But I know you can find a hundred compelling articles telling you how to maximize your retail operation for the short term, so I’m going to direct a few words to a different purpose: how to use this season to build customer loyalty, and the resulting brand equity, for the long term.

You don’t need any more pressure on your sales team to manically try to rack up sales.  But you do need help to make sure it’s done in a way that encourages your customers to come back for more and that ultimately builds your customers into true loyalists who will advocate for your business through direct word-of-mouth and on their online social networks.

Here are four places to start:

  1. Purpose before function.  Have as many meetings as it takes to drill into employees their purpose in your company, as opposed to their function.  A job function is something such as opening and closing the store each day, selling, handling returns, and sweeping the floor.  A purpose is something along the lines of “to provide a pleasant, memorable, safe experience to our customers.”  If employees truly understand their purpose, they’ll know to put down the broom and help out when a pregnant customer, kids in tow, is having trouble juggling her shopping bags.
  2. Set your clocks forward. Modern customers expect speedier service than any generation before them.  (Not only speedier than their parents expected, but even than they expected this time last year!) In this age of smartphones, Twitter, Amazon, and Zappos, don’t expect customers to return if you make them wait.
  3. Don’t leave the language your team uses up to chance. Develop, rehearse, and hold yourself strictly to a list of vocabulary words and expressions that fit your business brand perfectly–-or, at the very least, carefully excise those expressions that don’t work for your brand.  For example, the expression “No worries!” sounds fine coming from a clerk at a Bose® Audio Store in Portland, but would be exceedingly off-brand for Tiffany on Fifth Avenue. Equally important, search and destroy any vocabulary words that could hurt customer feelings.  For example, you should never hear your employees tell a customer “you owe us_______.” (Tell them to instead try: “our records appear to show a balance of_____.”) Language truly matters. Words spoken by your staff make up at least as much of your branding, as perceived by customers, as all the print and online advertising you invest in.
  4. Be patient when filling positions–even when you’re going a mile a minute just to keep up.  In an organization aiming for superb service, a single disagreeable or unresponsive team member can erode customer loyalty and team morale.  This is why it can be better to leave a position unfilled rather than rush to hire someone unsuitable for customer-facing work.

When January comes, be ready to perceive–and capitalize on– the upside of returns.  In retail, it is assumed that returns are bad for the bottom line.  But here’s the flipside: A return, at least one that is made in-store, means the customer is in the store!  It’s a shortsighted retailer indeed that doesn’t want a customer to enter its store. Sometimes a return gives you a chance to introduce yourself to an entirely new customer who received the item as a gift, but in the wrong size or color, and is now showing up at the slowest time of the year, when you really need traffic.  Don’t waste this chance to wow him or her!

Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit jacketMicah Solomon is a top keynote speaker and consultant on customer service improvement, sales, the customer experience, and company culture. A successful entrepreneur, he coauthored Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit and is the author of the upcoming High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service. His expertise has been featured in FastCompany, Inc., Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Forbes.com, and elsewhere.

Yesterday… Books for Customer Service During the Holiday Season.

Coming tomorrow… Renee Evenson on Customer Service Training Tips for the Holidays.

Books for Customer Service During the Holiday Season

Buying Styles jacketBlack Friday is only four days away, and with it begins a season of not only frazzled shoppers, but also frazzled customer service reps and  retail employees. Look here this week for guest posts from our customer service authors, as well as a five book giveaway of Buying Styles: Simple Lessons in Selling the Ways Your Customer Buys by Michael Wilkinson with Richard Smith, Tierah Chorba, and Lynn Sokler.

Your employees are a big part of how your customers view your company, so make sure they give each customer the best service they can, even when they are stressed out by the insanity of the holiday shopping season!

Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service jacketDelivering Knock Your Socks Off Service, 20th anniversary edition, by Performance Research Associates.

Customer Service Training 101: Quick and Easy Techniques That Get Great Results by Renee Evenson.

Learn the secrets to superior service!

Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization by Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon.

The Experience Effect: Engage Your Customers with a Consistent and Memorable Brand Experience by Jim Joseph.

The holidays don’t always bring out the best in us, do they? How to handle a difficult or unhappy customer.

Who's Your Gladys? JacketWho’s Your Gladys?: How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan by Marilyn Suttle and  Lori Jo Vest.

Knock Your Socks Off Service Recovery by Ron Zemke and Chip R. Bell.

Check back tomorrow for a post by Micah Solomon on Building Customer Loyalty in Retail During the Holiday Rush!

See earlier: Sales During the Holiday Season

Coming tomorrow… Micah Solomon on Building Customer Loyalty in Retail During the Holiday Rush.

I Got My Dream Job and So Can You Now Available on NetGalley

Our upcoming book, I Got My Dream Job and So Can You: 7 Steps to Creating Your Ideal Career After College by Pete Leibman, is now available for review on NetGalley. If you are a book reviewer, journalist, librarian, professor, bookseller, and blogger, or other book professional, we invite you to download an e-galley of the book today. Click HERE to submit your digital galley request for I Got My Dream Job and So Can You.

How to land the job of your dreams—even right out of college. Recent graduates looking to enter the workforce face a discouraging job market and stiff competition for even the most entry-level positions. Yet with the right attitude and strategies, they can break into any organization in any industry and start climbing the ladder to success. In I Got My Dream Job and So Can You, Pete Leibman shares his proven and simple system for career success.

PETE LEIBMAN, despite being told it would be “impossible,” networked his way into a job with the NBA’s Washington Wizards right out of college and was promoted to management when he was only 23. Today, he is a popular keynote speaker, and the founder of Dream Job Academy, a career-training program for young professionals.

Career hopefuls will also find inspiring stories of other young professionals, creative strategies for leveraging social media in the job-search process, and the 5 secrets that will skyrocket their earning potential once they are hired. In short, all the information they need to land the job of their dreams—in any economy.

Click HERE to submit your request for a copy of I Got My Dream Job and So Can You: 7 Steps to Creating Your Ideal Career After College on NetGalley.

NetGalley is a service for people who read and recommend books, such as book reviewers, journalists, librarians, professors, booksellers, and bloggers.

There are a number of different reading options for this e-galley:

  • Quick Browse. Preview the galley using NetGalley’s web-based reader.
  • Download Galley. Read a Protected (DRM) galley on your computer, Sony Reader, B&N’s Nook, Kobo Reader, or other device. You’ll need Adobe Digital Editions (free software). You can also read on your iPad or iPhone via the Bluefire Reader app.
  • Kindle. Send a NetGalley file to your Kindle device, using your @Kindle.com or @free.Kindle.com email address. Make sure to follow the instructions here. Note: The Kindle button works for Kindle devices only. By pressing the orange Kindle button for a NetGalley title, you can send the file to your Kindle device. You will not be able to share that file with any Kindle apps (like Kindle for PC or iPhone).
  • Email Publisher. This button will allow you to email the publisher directly to request a reading option not currently enabled.

You can find all of AMACOM’s e-galleys on NetGalley HERE. You can review how to get AMACOM’s digital galley request approval on NetGalley HERE.

Ask a Business Book Publicist, Part 1

Once a book goes in to production, an author’s attention usually turns to publicity. The publicist assigned to a book works to get reviews, interviews, feature stories, and Q&As with magazines, newspapers, radio, TV, podcasters, bloggers, etc. Film and TV’s portrayal of publicists can leave the impression we spend all our time planning parties, booksignings, and wining and dining. That can be a component of a publicist’s job, but only in so much that those events present an opportunity to get attention from the media. At AMACOM, the publicity department also works with social media and spearheads AMACOM’s social media presence.

I thought since publicity seems to be something almost all authors are interested in, I’d start a semi-regular series “Ask a Business Book Publicist.” Below are some frequently asked questions we encounter from authors and my answers.

When do you start working on publicity for a book?

We begin to evaluate the publicity potential of our titles well before books make it in to our seasonal catalogs. In fact, someone from the publicity department participates in AMACOM’s editorial committee that evaluates proposals, so we’re thinking about publicity potential from proposal stage. Once catalogs are printed, we mail them to an extensive list of media contacts. But for most of our trade books, we begin in earnest about 4-5 months before pub date. That’s when the manuscript goes in to production, and that’s usually when we first get to evaluate a book in depth.

Do I really need to fill out the author questionnaire?

Only if you want to help sales and marketing staff quickly understand your book and your view of the target market. (That’s a yes.)

When should I launch my website?

In all likelihood, an author’s online presence is part of what helped him or her sign with a publisher. But if an author lacks an online presence, creating a website is essential for pitching media. So launch at least 5-6 months prior to publication date. The media’s first line of research is just like everyone else’s: they Google it. If an author’s name or company doesn’t come up on the first page of search results, you can imagine they start to question if an author is really an “expert.”

Will you get me on Oprah?

Ha! The show ended last spring, but had a big huge cultural impact and is recent enough to illustrate this point: while landing an author and book on Oprah was within the realm of possibility for many books, it was also improbable. Oprah’s show was the show everyone wanted to be on, so ooddles and ooddles of publicists were vying for the producers’ attention. And top-tier media is very selective (they can and ought to be!). Pinning one’s definition of success on a few top-tier media outlets is not wise. Success is whatever moves you closer to your goal, whether that is increasing consumer awareness of your book (and thereby drive sales), building a strong platform, or establishing an author as a thought leader.

Should I hire an outside publicist?

This is entirely up to an author. It really depends on what the author’s goals, time, and budget are. I advise authors to consult with their publicist first to find out what the publisher’s plans are, get some suggestions for publicists to talk to, and ensure that it’s a coordinated effort from the get-go.


What do you want to know about business book publicity? Post your questions in the comments, and I’ll answer as best I can.