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Customer Service Training – The Chaser

Posted By: Micah on June 7, 2011 in Customer Care, Customer Service Training, Featured - Comments: No Comments »

Customer Service

End Call

Have you ever been hung up on?  What do you do when a customer hangs up on you?

Being in Customer Service & Sales for the last 10+ years, I’ve had my share of people hanging up on me.  Over time I’ve learned the art of the “Call Back”.  I’ve integrated this into my customer service training after perfecting it on the phones.

Is the customer not getting their way?  Is the conversation too heated?  Is this a way for the customer to show dominance over the phone call?

Most people I’ve talked with assume that at this point, you’ve lost the customer or the ruined any opportunity to salvage the situation.

NOT TRUE!

But you do need to be careful moving forward.  Let me introduce “the Chaser”.  Follow the steps below for the best chance of success:

The Chaser

1. Check your ego at the door

Mahan Khalsa describes this concept very well in Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play. “…our ego is focused on gettting our needs met…it interferes with clear, objective thinking…[and] our ego can blur the focus”

More likely than not, our ego is what got us in this situation in the first place.  If not checked at the door, this next conversation will end up worse than before.  We must avoid taking offense to what has been said and the audacity of the hang up.  Only then will this tactic work.  If you are unable to do this, STOP!  Leave this technique to more experienced reps who can control their ego and can realize the benefits of this tactic.

2. Call back within 10-30 seconds

Timing is everything.  When you take a shot & chase it with a better tasting drink, you do it immediately so you can avoid the bad taste.  If you don’t execute this chaser immediately, the customer will lose the taste for the situation and give up, closing all windows of opportunity to save the situation.  This means you need to think fast, check your ego immediately, and be ready to roll with anything.

3. Reset, move toward your goal

Now that the phone is ringing, make sure you’re ready to insert yourself quickly in order to reset the situation and start off on the right foot.  Here are a few ice breakers that have worked well for me:

“Hi ___.  Sorry, I think we were disconnected.  I wanted to make sure we finished resolving this.”

“Hi ___.  We were getting a little heated there.  Lets start over.  {restate the issue}”

“Hi ___.  I didn’t mean for that call to get so crazy.  Let’s get down to brass tax.”

In every situation you are demonstrating confidence in resolving this situation and it sets you up for your resolution pitch.  Time to close the deal.

In my experience, though scary, these call backs usually end up with a much better resolution than a customer leaving on a bad note.  With the proper customer service training, you can execute this to perfection.  At the very least, you are able to ensure they leave the situation with a brighter or more acceptable taste in their mouth.  At the very best, you salvage the relationship and continue serving a loyal customer.

RE: How to diffuse an angry customer

Posted By: Micah on July 28, 2010 in Customer Care, Customer Service Training, Featured - Comments: No Comments »

Angry Customer

Angry Customer

Today I read a post on Service Untitled, How to diffuse an angry customer.  Cheryl talks about the poor service shown by a local shoe store and some great ideas to improve it.

  • It is important to hear the person out and thank the customer for bringing the problem to your attention.
  • Call back the customer because it is important to preserve the relationship and keep her as a customer. Thank her for giving you the opportunity to help her and apologize for her dissatisfaction, even if she is wrong.
  • Look at each complaint as special since each customer can amount to more business and be prepared to modify standardized procedures when exceptions present themselves as practical and realistic.
  • Explain to the customer what can be done to rectify the situation…Consumers do not want to be scolded; they want their problems solved.

A comment from one of her readers reminded me of some experiences & thoughts I’ve had while helping customers (emphasis added):

“…It would send the message you’re doing what the company is telling you to do without giving it your own personal touch and empathy.
The above-and-beyond way complaints are sometimes handled may satisfy customers in the short term, but makes them adjust their expectations for the future upwards. In the end that leads to unrealistic expectations.
In the example above, if the customer were allowed to return the shoes without the box, next time she would maybe return only one shoe, because the heel broke off and she threw one away already. If that were allowed, she might return next time with only the receipt and no shoes and still expect her money back. That may sound silly, but I’m afraid that is what this world is coming too.

I struggle with both views, because as a Customer Care Manager, I want to do everything I can to keep my customers and get them to speak positively of me and my company. On the other hand, I don’t want to give away the farm. Am I supposed to keep giving into customer demands until I drive my business into the ground?

To Be or Not To Be

So which side are you supposed to stand on? I would debate that neither side is the right side. Giving into the customer and showing them excessive courtesy can fix the issue and relationship in the short term but long term, it’s generally not scalable and will come back to bite you. Not giving up any ground, being short and condescending hurts your relationship in the short term and, again, can bite you in the end because you’ve lost any loyalty you may have had.

I apply this to any other relationship in our lives. In certain cases you can be one extreme or the other, and you’ll end up just fine. Take for instance growing up with a sibling. You can be a complete jerk to them, get in fights, and out right hate each other one day. The next day, you’re playing like nothing happened. Similarly, you can do something totally over-the-top nice for them, and the next day you’re fighting as if it never happened.

As we grow up, we start treating our relationships a little differently. Take another instance: dating & courtship. As we run into issues, we can be over-the-top apologetic and get through it in the short term, but is the issue actually resolved? Or are we now expected to spend $500 every valentines day? On the other hand, we can resolve the issue by being short, even verbally abusive, but the resolution may get resolved or it may just end up in a nasty breakup with suit cases flying out of windows and compromising pictures showing up on facebook(…awkward).

Successful courtship & a healthy relationship requires attraction, loyalty, sacrifice, and proper communication from both sides. Proper communication includes resolution tactics that identify, resolve, & learn from each issue/situation. Just as many of our dating lives aren’t perfect (some farther from perfect than others), the business-to-customer dating life often isn’t perfect either. To be successful, both sides need to sacrifice to resolve issues. So here is how we resolve issues:

Identify

In order to rectify a situation, you need to know what the situation is. Often times a conversation will start out with one issue or concern in the forefront, but will fail to address the underlying issues that caused it in the first place. Both need to be resolved, but if you want to avoid the situation again, you really need to find out what the underlying issue is.

Resolve

Now that you’ve figured out what the problem is, let’s resolve it. This needs to happen through sacrifice. Both sides need to sacrifice in order to get to a win-win situation. Unfortunately, the customer has usually already sacrificed (at least they feel that way). They’ve usually paid out some $$$ and feel wronged because of the situation. That means it’s the companies turn to sacrifice. Not so much that it will kill the business, but enough so the customer feels like their sacrifice is met and we can move forward. Also, once promises are made, execution is critical. The biggest part of the resolution is the follow through.

Learn

Ok, now that we’ve put a plan in place, let’s not go through that again! It’s time to take a personal inventory of our processes to make sure we don’t have another customer in that situation. (especially not the same customer!) When our processes are taken care of, it’s time to get back to business as usual. ie. dealing with the next set of issues that are thrown on our plate.

Here is an updated post on how to diffuse and angry customer.

Do you hang out with your Clients?

Posted By: Micah on July 27, 2010 in Customer Care, Customer Loyalty, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service Training - Comments: 1 Comment »

Customer Service and Relationships

Getting PWND

Hanging with the Boys

Every Friday night my buddies come over for video game night.  — That’s probably a little more information than I should share. But now you know…I’m a nerd. — During that night we usually hook our Xboxes up to a LAN and plan games over Xbox Live…and get PWND by a bunch of twelve-year-olds.  My wife (as you probably are now) have questioned why we do this at our age.  Quite frankly, it’s because we have fun hanging out with each other.  We laugh, make jokes, curse at the TV & in general, have a great time.  We do the same thing with College Football, Basketball, BBQs and any other reason to get together and hang out.  The point is, we look for reasons to hang out with each other because we enjoy the company.

Hanging out with Customer Service

Let’s contrast that with the relationship we have with our clients.  It seems like every Friday night, 10-15 minutes before closing time, one of our clients calls in to our customer service line.  Generally, they aren’t laughing or making jokes; however, they do tend to curse (or at least they want to).  They’re usually not calling in to spend some quality time building a personal relationship, rather they are calling in because the feel like something isn’t right.

Unfortunately, they are very correct.  Something isn’t right.  They are forcing communication, communication that should have been there prior to this call.

On occasion, one of my friends will have issues with me, or visa-versa.  We are usually able to get over it extremely quickly and move on with our lives.  The reason for this is because we’ve spent so much time hanging out.  We know we don’t need to take something personally because we trust the other person.  A mentor of mine called this the “bank of trust”.

Bank of Trust

Every time my buddies and I have an interaction, we either make a deposit or a withdrawal from the bank of trust. Every night my buddies get together to have video game night, we all make a deposit to this bank of trust with each other. As our balance increases, our trust of that individual increases and we feel less anxiety when they require our trust. ie, should I let my buddy borrow my car? should I let him watch my house while I’m on vacation? etc. On the other hand, if we have a negative interaction, we end up taking a withdrawal from the bank. ie. if my friend broke my couch during game night, or if he dinged my car when he was borrowing it.

Customer Service isn’t so different. Every time we have an interaction, we’re either making a deposit or taking a withdrawal from the bank of trust. So back to the late Friday call, this is generally the customer showing us that we’re withdrawing again and our balance is getting close to zero or maybe even in the overdraft (customer cancellation).

So what can we do to avoid overdraft fees? Well, just like your bank, you need to add more money to the account. In order to do this, you need to have positive interactions with your clients. Not just answering their call, not just contacting them now and again, but you need real positive interactions. I get to know my buddies birthdays, their family, what’s going on in their life, all through the time we spend hanging out. Why not do the same with your client? Next time you’re on a strategy call, find out who they are, when is their birthday, what are their hobbies? Share with them what yours are. On the next call, follow up on what you found out. This personal interaction will make large deposits into your account and can be the saving grace when you break their couch, dent their car, mess up on their campaign, etc.

How Valuable are your Customers?

Posted By: Micah on July 22, 2010 in Customer Care, Customer Loyalty, Customer Service Training, Featured - Comments: 2 Comments »

Customer Retention

Saving Clinets

I often find myself in a situation where I’m deciding how much effort should be put into keeping or saving a client. My accounting department would say, “hold them to the contract because they agreed to it!” Though my accounting team has a good point (they’re trying to keep our business viable), is the next few months of payment, their cancellation fee, or their initial purchase really all the customer is worth?

The community will give you a resounding “NO!” The Harvard Business School Published an article nearly 10 years ago discussing what a customer is worth.  They mention two things that every customer reliant business (ie. every business) should remember.

  • First, the internet is a very cost effective way for you to market.  This means that your competitors have a very cost effective way to market as well.
  • Second, “as customers gain near-perfect information on their alternatives, switching barriers are dropping dramatically.”  This was written ten years ago and I would say that the barriers are nearly invisible at this point.

Customer Loyalty is constantly diminished with the ease at which they find other viable options out there. Clients and consumers will find better prices than yours, they’ll find better products than yours, and they’ll show you no concern as your competition whisks them away.

A point that the Harvard article failed to touch on (probably because it has only become much more prominent over the last few years) is the speed & reach of word of mouth.  So that’s going up as my third bullet point here.

  • Third, Social Media is dominating the online traffic and provides users the fastest and broadest reach for word of mouth.

Here’s a fun video that illustrates the speed and power of social media:

This means that a bad customer experience can and will probably be in the hands of hundreds, even thousands in a matter a few minutes. Many of those people can and should be potential customers. Many will be current customers.

So what are the options at this point?  Do you need to bend over backwards for every client?  Do you need to cater to every need at the client’s whim?

The phrase, “the client is always right” has never been more correct than it is today.  However, that doesn’t mean that you have to go out of business trying to satisfy clients. But we’ll talk about diffusing angry customers in another post.

Right now let’s recap how valuable a customer is.  My accounting department sees the initial value: the clients purchase/monthly subscription.  The rest of my company, especially my marketing and service teams, need to look at the value of the client relationship (again another post).  That relationship will keep that customer coming to you rather than your competitors, AND all of their friends/followers, their friends/followers, their friends/followers, etc.

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