Monthly Archives: December 2010

An Interview with the authors of Who’s Your Gladys?

The following is an interview with Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest, the authors of Who’s Your Gladys, about customer service.

How do you handle an abrasive customer who is pushing all your buttons?

Show her even more care. Sometimes the more challenging customers can turn out to be your biggest, most vocal supporters. When you depersonalize abrasive behavior and see it as a call for help, you become a catalyst for the best kind of change. Look for the positive qualities in your client’s negative behavior.

What helps stressed-out customers relax and develop trust in your company?

Customers want to know that their needs will be met. Become aware of your customers’ expectations and concerns, and let them know what you will do. Reassure them and take action. Putting your customers’ fears to rest helps them relax and work with you, instead of against you.

What is the most direct way to find out how to make your customers’ lives easier?

Ask questions. Tap into your curiosity and start by asking yourself, “What information would allow me to be more helpful to this person?”

How do you address your customers’ emotional concerns?

Notice what your customers’ stress points are, and let them know what you will do about them.

Why is it important that you be consistent in the way you present your services to customers?

When customer service is arbitrary, you get arbitrary results. Plan your service processes, train your employees, and then refine the processes based on customers’ responses. Patterns will emerge, and you’ll get more repeat business.

How can your company become a customer favorite?

Authentic interest in your customers creates uncommon success. When you know what customers need and you respond accordingly, you create a connection that keeps you in their minds and contact lists for years.

What do I do if I don’t know how to solve a customer service issue?

Acknowledge that you don’t know how to solve it; then work quickly to find the answer. Most clients don’t mind hearing “I’ll have to check with my boss” as long as they know you’re truly trying to help them. Having the right customer service attitude is the most important step toward success. Always be open to learning new things about your business and about customer service.

What is the best approach to dealing with unusual customer requests?

The key is to remain calm and attentive. If a customer calls you with an odd request, stand back and think before you say no. Perhaps meeting that request might be possible with minimal extra effort—effort that could pay off in a stronger client relationship.

What is the best possible way to communicate with customers during a crisis? How do I provide “calm in the storm” for my customers?

If something has gone wrong, offer your personal apology. Even if the circumstance isn’t your fault, you can feel sorry that your customers had to experience difficulty. Most customers want to feel important, and being rushed conveys several things—including disorganization, lax service, and, most of all, stress. The calm you feel gives your customers permission to relax and trust you.

What can I do to counteract my feelings of impatience with a customer?

Shift from being impatient with your customer to being impatient for your customer. When you express urgency in resolving a client’s issue, the client will sense it and will appreciate your efforts.

How can I become more conversational with customers?

You are more likely to have a relaxed, enjoyable interaction with a customer when you let down your guard. Talk to your customer the way you’d talk to a friend and he’ll most likely let his guard down as well.

How do I recover from a costly mistake?

The best way to recover from a mistake is to learn from it. Whether you see it as tuition toward your education or as an opportunity to test your integrity by keeping your promises despite financial loss, you will ultimately grow from the experience.

What can you do to help your customers handle waiting?

Customers who are treated to an entertaining experience or an unexpected nicety when they’re forced to wait are less inclined to complain about the inconvenience. High-end salons and spas typically offer tea or coffee to their customers when they’re waiting for their stylist or masseuse.

Marilyn Suttle is the founder of Suttle Enterprises LLC, through which she has taught thousands of people across the country how to have happier, more productive relationships with customers. Lori Jo Vest has been involved in relationship-based sales and customer service for over 20 years, most recently with television production studio Communicore Visual Communications.


Tips for Managers to Help Frontline Employees Remain Calm and Give Great Customer Service

The following is a guest post from Renee Evenson, author of Award Winning Customer Service and Customer Service Management Training 101.

If you manage the frontline, then you understand that your employees are likely to be the recipient of bad behaviors during the holiday season. It is tough to remain calm and composed when you are being treated badly and the normal response is to meet rudeness with rudeness, to treat others as they are treating you. Yet, what may appear to your employees as rudeness is more likely to be that customers are hurried, frazzled, and short on time. When that happens, people don’t take the time for the niceties, the basic courtesies we learned as kids. Please, thank you, and I’m sorry go by the wayside.

When it comes to dealing with customers who may be quick tempered and come across in a demanding manner, it takes special skills by frontline employees to remain calm and composed when they are being treated badly. How can you help calm the storm that may be raging within your employees and help them deal effectively with customers’ poor behaviors at a time when they are likely to be feeling the same pressures?

Here are some tips that you can employ to help your employees remain calm and composed and give exceptional customer service throughout the holiday season:

  • Now more than any other time during the year, you must be a hands-on manager. Spend time with your employees. Pitch in and help them, maintain a supportive environment, and expect everyone to support and help each other.
  • Listen to your employees. Discuss what they are dealing with during the busy holiday season. Show empathy and allow them to vent. Listen to their complaints, even if the complaints are about customers. Let them get it out.
  • Then talk to your employees. Don’t let yourself be pulled into the complaining mode. Rather than talking negatively about your customers, help your employees understand the situation from the customers’ perspectives. Talk to them about not taking bad behaviors personally.
  • Remind employees about the importance of remaining composed. In the face of rudeness it may be difficult but it is their responsibility to handle all types of customers. Employees will feel better when they stay calm and in control rather than losing it with a customer. Teach your employees to keep their own emotions in check. Taking deep breaths, silently counting to ten, repeating a meditation word, picturing the customers’ words flying past them—whatever calming techniques work for them should be used.
  • Reinforce customer service expectations. Particularly when faced with bad behaviors, showing empathy and establishing a rapport with customers is important. Smiling warmly and saying something like, “This time of year is crazy, isn’t it? It looks like you’re in a hurry,” and then assuring the customer in a confident manner, “I’m going to take care of this as quickly as I can for you,” usually calms customers.

Handling all customer requests by finding the right solution for each customer efficiently and effectively will leave your customers with a good feeling about doing business with your company. If you can help your employees understand the importance of giving exceptional customer service to your customers, especially during this busiest time of the year, you will help everyone to remember what the season is all about: Peace and Good Will to All.

Renee Evenson has worked in the customer service management field for 25 years, 15 of them as a customer service manager at BellSouth Telecommunications, where her duties included staff training and development.

Tips for Giving and Receiving Knock Your Socks Off Service During the Holiday Hustle and Bustle

The following is a guest post from Performance Research Associates, author of Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service, Fourth Edition.

Let’s face it, with the busy-ness of the holiday season upon us, many customers  as well as service providers are dreading the next few days of long lines, over-worked store clerks, frustrated shoppers, low inventory, and a seemingly endless search for that perfect gift for Aunt Thelma, little Tommie, or their significant other.

While the list of tips below probably won’t remove all the stress associated with this time of year, it can most definitely make your shopping experiences more relaxing – and maybe even enjoyable.

And for you service providers out there, we’ve included some tips for you as well.  We know your job is stressful – even during the calmest times of year – and we know how hard it is to Knock the Socks Off your customers with every contact.

For Frustrated Holiday Shoppers:

  • Prepare to be served well. Customers who receive outstanding service mentally prepare themselves to be served well.  Be aware of the difference between preparing to be served well, and having an “entitlement” attitude.
  • Reveal a little of your personality. By allowing the service provider to see a little of who you are, you invite them to take an interest in helping you.
  • Explain, don’t complain. A question about a product is why the service provider is there to help.  Whether by instant chat, phone requests, or Tweeting, the service provider will serve you better if you are positive.  Start by explaining the problem and asking for help, rather than by making accusations, blaming or making demands of the service provider.               
  • Look ‘em in the eye. A service provider is more likely to treat you like a person, instead of a number, if he or she actually sees you.  Make eye contact.  If you are shopping on-line, you should still be humane.  You’re more likely to get a humane reception.
  • Speak up. Tell the service provider exactly what your need or the problem is—and what you would like to see happen to fix it.  Don’t get exasperated if the provider asks you to repeat yourself.  When the service provider clearly understands your situation, she is in a much better position to assist you.
  • Ask how long you will have to wait. In person, on the phone, or on the Web, ask how long you should realistically expect to wait for a response to your concern.  Don’t take “I don’t know” for an answer.  Be polite, but insistent.
  • Say “thank you.” Service providers appreciate recognition for a job well done and their patience in helping you—and may try a little harder to please a pleasant customer.  Do you want their job this time of the year?
  • Most important, Be Friendly! If you’re kind to a service provider, treat them like you care, chances are the person handling your transaction will respond in kind – and who knows, you might be the person who turns their day around!

For Service Providers on the Front Lines:

  • Get smart about your company and its products. With knowledge, you’ll get an edge on answering customers’ questions and resolving their dilemmas.  Check in before each shift you work to make sure you are up-to-date on current inventory, special offers and what is the “hot” item customers are seeking.  You may even be able to offer value-added service when you can tell the customer about a better deal, free shipping or a new item arrival.
  • Listen to the customer, aggressively. If the information is complex, confirm your understanding by repeating it.  Ask questions if you are unclear about anything.  This will enable you to better respond to customers requests.
  • Respond to customers’ problems with empathy, not sympathy. The trick is to become emotionally aware without becoming too emotionally involved.  Be caring but stay calm.  Otherwise, you’ll end each day worn out and frazzled.  Keep the focus on the customer by recognizing clear signs of emotion – frustration, anger, confusion, impatience or even relief and happiness.
  • Make the customer right. Give customers the benefit of the doubt.  Even if what a customer says sounds wrong to you, that doesn’t mean that it is.  And even if it is wrong, your customer ALWAYS deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.  Right or wrong, the customer is ALWAYS the customer and without him or her, you could easily be without a job.
  • Stick with the truth. Telling the customer that “everything will be fine” when it might not be is risky.  Being honest, without hammering away on the things that may go wrong, is always a better course.  Be careful not to quote company policy or procedure as a first recourse.  Take time to explain the why’s to customers and make sure the customer understands why doing business with you is to his or her advantage.
  • Again, Be Friendly! Respect your customers!  When they’re waiting in line, don’t take a personal call, don’t talk about going on your break in 10 minutes.  Instead, give your customers your undivided attention.   Let them know that you appreciate them doing business with you and that you hope they’ll continue to do so.  But don’t let them know with a robotic, “thank you and come again.”  Rather convince them with your smile, your eye contact and your genuine pleasure at being able to knock their socks off!  They’ll be back!

Performance Research Associates (PRA) consults with wide-ranging companies on customer service issues.  With offices in Minneapolis, Dallas, Orlando, and Ann Arbor, PRA boasts an international who’s who of clients, from GlaxoSmithKline to Harley-Davison, from PriceWaterhouseCoopers to Universal Studios Theme Parks.

Webinar Reminder: Difficult Performance Reviews

Our American Management Association New Media Team will be doing a webinar with Paul Falcone, author of 2600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews, next week. He will be sharing how to have more effective review meetings with your employees.

How To Turn Painful Conversations Into Positive Results
December 16, 2010, 1:00 – 2:30 PM
Price: $149

For most managers, the toughest discussions of the year are coming up soon in the form of annual performance reviews.

Naturally, these sessions can lead many to feel uncomfortable.

The way you handle these conversations is even more difficult when you have to deliver feedback in this environment of economic uncertainty.

However when conducted properly, these sessions provide you with a great opportunity to help your employees focus on their goals and boost their morale—while correcting flaws that can hold them back.

This 90-minute interactive Webinar provides tested methods to help you prepare for and conduct these discussions in a way that invites balanced participation, stays true to your message, focuses on performance, gains acceptance and reduces defensiveness.

Click HERE to sign up for the webinar.

For more information on 2600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews click HERE.

Paul Falcone is Vice President of Employee Relations at Time Warner Cable in Los Angeles and was formerly Vice President of Human Resources at Nickelodeon. He is the author of 2600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews, 101 Sample Write-Ups for Documenting Employee Performance Problems, 101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees, and 96 Great Interview Questions to Ask Before You Hire. He lives in Valencia, California.

Webcast Reminder: Double Your Value: How to Get Paid More and Be More Valuable to Your Customers and Your Company

Our American Management Association New Media Team will be doing a webcast with Mark Thompson, co-author of Now, Build a Great Business: 7 Ways to Maximize Your Profits in Any Market, next week. He will be discussing how to boost your business.

Double Your Value: How to Get Paid More and Be More Valuable to Your Customers and Your Company
December 15, 2010
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EST
Price: Complimentary

If you could boost your value to your boss and company in 7 easy steps, would that be worth an hour?

A decade of research by a Stanford, Harvard, Berkeley and Wharton-trained team revealed seven clear and simple tactics used consistently by over 300 of the world’s most successful people, including billionaires, entrepreneurs, CEOs, Olympians, Nobel laureates and Academy Award winners in 110 nations.

This intensive Webcast explores the inside story behind the key principles revealed in best-selling authors Mark Thompson and Brian Tracy’s groundbreaking new book Now, Build a Great Business.

What You Will Learn

In this Webcast, you’ll gain practical insights into the mindsets of high performers based on Mark’s personal interviews with Richard Branson, Ford CEO Alan Mulally, Zappos/Amazon’s founder Tony Hsieh and many other extraordinary business leaders. Join us to discover:

Three secrets that unlock value for every person who matters to your success
Five ways to present your services to maximize your value over your competitor’s
And much more!

This Webcast that will make you worth more! While attending this program is FREE, reservations are required.

Click HERE to sign up for the webcast.

For more information on Now, Build a Great Business, click HERE.

Mark Thompson is the New York Times best-selling coauthor of Success Built to Last and Now, Build a Great Business with sales expert Brian Tracy (Amacom). Thompson knows what makes people and products valuable. Forbes Magazine called him one of America’s top investors with the Midas Touch, having invested in Facebook, Schwab and Apple’s top iPhone and iPad applications companies. He was Chief Customer Experience Officer for Charles Schwab and a former director of Best Buy and Korn Ferry. He is a member of the Board of Governors of Peter Drucker’s Leader to Leader Institute and a visiting scholar at Stanford University and the World Economic Forum.