Customer Service

Become a service champion: Provide consistent, outstanding service to your customers in 7 steps

Posted on May 14th, 2015 by Jamey Hopper

Follow these seven steps to become a service champion:

  1. Listen
  2. Do what you say you will do/Build a culture and system of accountability
  3. Focus on them (the customers) and their needs
  4. Hire for passion and fit
  5. Train your staff to be service superstars
  6. Build a culture of respect
  7. When you fail, have a great service recovery system

Notice I did not say seven easy steps.  These steps are hard to do.  But these are the right steps to take.  If you can master these seven steps you will rise to the top of your field.  All other factors will fall into place.  It does not matter what your product is, what your prices are, how large your company is or even if you have the latest technology.  Follow these steps and whatever the game, you will win!

 

Below is a brief discussion of each of the 7 steps.  I will follow up in future blogs discussing each step in detail.

 

Listen

Become an active listener.  Most people in the world today focus on talking.  Very few truly focus on listening.  Being a good listener takes both training and effort.  There are some skills needed for one-on-one listening and different skills needed to listen to your customers as a whole.  I will take a journalist’s approach and discuss the W’s of listening – Who to listen to, What to listen to, When to listen, Where to listen, Why to listen as well as How to listen.  Through this approach I will cover both individual and group focused listening.

 

DWYSYWD/Accountability

It is truly sad how little accountability there is in our world today.  It is all too often a great surprise to find a company that has employees that will “do what you say you will do (DWYSYWD).  Within most companies there is an unfortunate lack of accountability.  Accountability must start at the top and must work its way down throughout the entire organization.  Once everyone becomes fully accountable the power that is unleashed is staggering.

 

Focus on them (the customer) and their need

Many people in the world today are self-absorbed.  Unfortunately, they usually bring that attitude to work with them.  Dr. Covey in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” recommended: seek first to understand, then to be understood.  Many companies focus on their products or features or services and fail to ever focus on the needs or desires of their customers.  Being a service champion requires a commitment to serving others before serving yourself.  Follow the platinum rule rather than the golden rule – serve others the way they want to be served, not the way you want to be served.

 

Hire for passion and fit

Many people have written of the need to hire for passion, fit or attitude and train for skills.  I find that most companies continue to hire for skills.  In my experience it is rare to find a person that has a positive attitude and a passion for success that cannot acquire the skills necessary to be a star in almost any role within most companies.  A number of years ago our company went through some turbulence.  Those with positive attitude and passion found new opportunities to succeed within the company.

 

Train your staff to be service superstars

Many great companies are great because they place a focus on training and employee education.  Studies consistently show that training reduces employee turnover and increases employee and customer satisfaction.  Unfortunately, the results may not be immediate and training can be expensive.  Therefore, many companies choose to take shortcuts when it comes to training.  There are many great sources of training material today available for free on the Internet.  Much of the training can be self-directed.  Also, employees themselves can create a great deal of the training material needed that is unique to your industry and company.  Take advantage of the skills that are already within your organization to produce great learning opportunities for all of your staff.

 

Build a culture of respect

I have found no greater story of how company culture can have a positive impact on a business than the story of Zappos.  I highly recommend that you read about it in Tony Hsieh’s book “Delivering Happiness”.  I also suggest you read Dr. Paul Marciano’s book “Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work”.  Dr. Marciano gives you the tools to build a great culture – use the “respect” model.  This is the best way to ensure that passion and accountability stay at high levels within your organization.

 

Have a great service recovery system

All humans (and even some computers) make mistakes.  At some point even highly motivated and well-trained employees will fail to properly serve a customer.  That is the day when a great service recovery system is needed.  With a great system properly executed, the customer satisfaction level can even be elevated beyond their previous heights! Please understand that great service recovery is not about simply giving a customer their money back. A great service recovery system requires using all six steps mentioned above to insure lifetime customer satisfaction and delight.

 

Put all seven steps together and your company is sure to be successful in any environment.

 

Thanks for Listening,

Jamey

Take Action, Form a Habit

Posted on May 1st, 2015 by Jamey Hopper

Several years ago I was sitting at the hotel bar after a day of meetings at an industry conference when an acquaintance commented on a presentation I had given at a similar conference a few years previously.  I was gratified that he even remembered the presentation.  He said that he had taken pages of notes.  I asked if he had used any of the ideas in his business.  He said, “No, those pages are still sitting in my desk.”  How often do all of us attend great sessions at conferences, hear great ideas, write furiously to capture every jewel the speaker is sharing and then fail to act on a single one of them?

What got me thinking along these lines was an event that recently happened at my office.  Last week an employee returned the book “Just Listen” by Dr. Mark Goulston to me saying he had really enjoyed reading it.  I asked him what his takeaway from the book was.  He said, well, I will become a better listener.  Fortunately I was on my game that day and I immediately said that was not good enough.  I asked him what habits he would adopt from the book.  As he was thinking I explained to him my goal of adopting five habits from the book.  I also told him several other employees were reading the book and each had agreed to form habits from at least five of the techniques recommended by Dr. Goulston.

After some thought, he said that mirroring was a technique that he would like to adopt.  Throughout the remainder of the conversation (at least until we both started laughing) I started mirroring his body language as accurately as I could.  Obviously I used the technique poorly as it led to laughter instead of better understanding.  But it is a great technique to use and one that I will practice for use in a serious situation instead of when I am trying to have a bit of fun.

I challenged him to discuss the five listening habits he would choose with his personal coach and to work on making them a part of his life.  It is also a technique I will discuss with my coach and add mirroring to the techniques of “making others feel felt” and “be more interested than interesting” to become a part of my own life.

The wonderful thing about improving listening skills is that they are a tremendous asset in every aspect of life: work, home, social settings or in any encounter.  The other point I would like to leave you with today is to accept the challenge of making change happen in your life.  Change is hard and rarely fun.  Yet there are reasons that we read books and go to conferences.  We want to learn and improve our lives.  The improvements only happen when we take the steps necessary to enact changes, never from simply taking notes and putting them in a desk drawer.

Thanks for listening,

Jamey

One Simple Change Made Me a Better Listener

Posted on April 13th, 2015 by Jamey Hopper

Listening in an office environment is rarely a challenge.  It is easy to focus on a speaker when there are only two or three people in a room, when the speaker is at a lectern or at the head of the table, when the room is quiet except for the speaker and so on.  Fortunately, I have had success listening while in the office.

One of the great personal challenges I have experienced is listening in social settings.  I fall into the trap of eagerly talking and engaging in conversation rather than focusing on listening to others.

In my quest to improve my listening skills, I am re-reading Dr. Mark Goulston’s book, “Just Listen”.  My goal is to identify and adopt five habits that will empower me to become a better listener.  I mentioned in a prior post that one of the habits I aspire to form is the ability to make others “feel felt”.  The next habit I chose to adopt is to “be more interested than interesting”.  Rather than engaging in conversation, in social settings the goal is to be an interested listener.

Last Friday afternoon when completing my personal report card for the day, I wrote down the challenge to work on forming this habit.  It happened that I had the occasion to try out my new skill/soon to be habit at a couple of social events over the weekend.  I did end up listening far more attentively than I normally would at a social gathering.

By an odd coincidence, I ended up being an interested listener to the significant other of two people very close to my wife, one each at two different parties.  Later when my wife and I were walking our dogs, I told her stories about these two people she had never heard before.  She was quite surprised that I had heard stories she had not.  It all came about because I focused on being interested rather than interesting.

My challenge is to use this start to make the breakthrough I have long sought to better listening in a social setting.  Stephen Covey counseled “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  I thoroughly enjoyed Covey’s writings and have tried to adopt the “Seven Habits”.  In spite of the wisdom of this lesson, which is obviously very similar to Goulston’s lesson, I never was able to put it into practice.  Maybe now with the extra teaching and inspiration from Dr. Goulston I can both be interested and understand people a bit better.   The journey to becoming a better listener continues.

Thanks for Listening,

Jamey

Serving Sodas in New Zealand

Posted on April 3rd, 2015 by Jamey Hopper

I mentioned in my last posting that I had been on a lengthy vacation.  My wife and I spent a fabulous three weeks in Australia and New Zealand.  It was a wonderful trip and I highly recommend it to anyone willing to endure the lengthy flight to get there.  It was beautiful, clean, warm (summer over there when winter here) and everyone was extremely nice.

While in New Zealand I took the opportunity to eat lunch at a Subway one day.  Yes, that franchise has reached around the world!  Anyway, remembering my recent experience of buying sodas for others at a Subway in Carencro, Louisiana, I took the opportunity to buy sodas for others in Napier, New Zealand.

What was most striking about this experience was the shock of the sandwich artist when I paid her for four sodas for future customers.  It was only four but you would have thought it was four hundred from her reaction!  She was stunned that anyone would anonymously buy drinks for other customers.  When I returned an hour or two later she said the recipients had been extremely grateful, but she still looked at me like I was a bit daft.

It was great to be able to do a small bit to repay the people of New Zealand for the wonderful hospitality they show to visitors.  From small things like a smile or a helping hand, it is remarkable how a few small gestures from the people you encounter on a short trip can convey an impression of friendliness for an entire nation.  I would love for others to say the same about our state and our country.  Maybe we can each do a little every day to make the changes that will ensure that they will.

Thanks for listening,

Jamey

Just Listen

Posted on February 25th, 2015 by Jamey Hopper

I wrote that I would be focusing on Listening for the next few weeks.  During this time I am going to re-read Dr. Mark Goulston’s outstanding book: “Just Listen”.  My goal is to find five different lessons that he teaches in the book that I can make personal habits that will make me a better listener.

I learned that two of the other managers in the office will be reading the book also, so I extended the challenge to them – find five habits to form while reading the book.  I also recently had the opportunity to meet with another person in the office who is looking to further his career.  I suggested that he should read the book.  He will also seek five lessons to become habits.

My thought is that if we share our five desired habits with each other, especially if some of the habits chosen are the same that others chose, we will be able to help each other establish and maintain the good listening habits.  Change is hard – especially when it involves something done every day, such as listening.  We will each have a much greater chance of establishing new habits if we reinforce the behavior we desire in each other.

I will write again in a few months to let you know how the experiment works.  If anyone reading this would like to join us, please share the habits you hope to form.  I know that speaking a goal out loud and writing it down are two ways that help achieving/reaching the goal.  Good Luck!

Thanks for Listening,

Jamey

Customer Service and Soda Service

Posted on February 15th, 2015 by Jamey Hopper

I have written a couple of times about serving coffee and soda to employees at my office.  There is a “rest of the story” that holds quite a lesson for business leaders.  It involves my favorite book for leaders, “Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work” by Paul Marciano.  As an aside, I bought two more copies of the book for people in my office only minutes before writing this.  I have probably purchased 20 copies of the book so far, and I am sure I will purchase many more.  I am in the midst of reading it for the 8th time in the past 14 months – I really like this book!

As is clear from the web site hosting this blog, Dexcomm is in the call center industry.  Staff turnover is generally high in this industry and while turnover at Dexcomm has been below industry averages, our turnover has historically been high as well.  We have made a number of changes to our style of management over the past year that have had a significant impact on improving our company’s performance and on reducing our staff turnover as well.  One significant event was a Leadership Training weekend we conducted last July.  We spent about 18 hours that weekend in a training session with ten of our managers.

We used Marciano’s book as the basis for our training.  We covered the drivers of the “RESPECT” model he describes in the book over the two days of training.  One of the sessions was on Consideration.  We listed different ways that we, as managers, could be more considerate in the office.  Among the suggestions were such things as: respectful interruptions, sincere greetings and coffee and soda service.  Each person at the training session, students and instructors alike, agreed to adopt two of the consideration tools and to work to make them personal habits.

While there are likely many more factors involved than just the adoption of tools of consideration, the clear fact is that since last July staff turnover is at its lowest level in company history.  Once again I recommend Dr. Marciano’s excellent book, “Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work”.  But I also recommend adopting tools of consideration for your office.  It is a great benefit to everyone!

Thanks for Listening,

Jamey

Unforeseen Customer Service Circumstances

Posted on March 12th, 2013 by Shome

Customer Service Blog Unforeseen CircumstancesOn Sunday, February 10, Carnival Triumph, a cruise ship became stranded in the Gulf of Mexico as it was on its way back to port. The engine had caught on fire, resulting in a loss of electricity throughout the ship. It made nationwide news, if not worldwide, and it was covered through a variety of mediums, including print and online newspapers. The ship had to eventually be tugged to Mobile, Alabama–its original destination was Galveston, Texas–and it Mobile late on the night of Thursday, February 14. Originally, Triumph was supposed to reach back to Galveston on Monday, February 11.

 Unforeseen Circumstances

Imagine about 4,000 customers becoming angry, impatient, anxious, and scared. Imagine about 4000 customers having to wait for three hours for a hamburger, and imagine about 4000 customers without electricity, and broken sewage. And of course, all of this is happening in the middle of the ocean, on a ship.

 

Two of my close friends were on Triumph. I was very curious to hear about their experiences on the ship, and I was able to catch up with one of them on Friday, which was the same day he had gotten back to Lafayette after what must have seemed like a 20 hour car ride, I imagine.

 

When I asked him about the trip, the first statement he made was that they had a great time. When I asked him if the media was reliable in its coverage, his answer was threefold. He said some of the information was exaggerated, some of the information was true, and some of the information was somewhat true. He again said that they had a wonderful time. Then, without asking about the crew members and staff, my friend brought them up, saying that they were great throughout the whole experience. He said that they were still nice, and that they were trying their best, with what they had, or didn’t have, to make them feel as comfortable as possible.

 

I actually didn’t think about it until my friend mentioned it–when I thought about the Triumph situation, I was just really thinking about the customers or passengers, and my friends; however, just like the customers, the staff  and crew members were in the exact same scenario. Not only were they in the exact same situation, but they also had to cater to 4000 or so customers. That’s a lot of pressure and stress to deal with while being stranded out in the middle of the ocean, and according to my friend, they handled it with great diligence and kindness–reacting to unforeseen circumstances, out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.

What Does a Healthy Organizational Culture Look Like?

Posted on March 11th, 2013 by Dexcomm HR Department

More businesses are seeing a direct return on investment in areas like customer service and bottom line figures. Can a healthy organizational culture influence customer service? If so…

What does a healthy organizational culture look like?

The Institute for Business, Technology, and Ethics (IBTE) has developed Eight Traits Of A Healthy Organizational Culture (Fostering A Sharp Customer Focus). The IBTE believes that any good organization must have an inspiring, shared mission at its core–and it must have capable leadership in place and in development. Assuming these two factors are present, the following eight traits define a healthy organizational culture:

  1. Openness and humility from top to bottom of the organization. Organizations whose executive management team does not mind getting their hands a little dirty succeed more than those who don’t. These organizations learn what works and what doesn’t work from the doers in order to build more effective processes, etc.
  2. An environment of accountability and personal responsibility. Denial, blame, and excuses harden relationships and intensify conflict. Successful teams hold each other accountable and willingly accept personal responsibility.
  3. Freedom for risk-taking within appropriate limits. Both extremes–an excessive, reckless risk-taking and a stifling, fearful control–threaten any organization. Freedom to risk new ideas flourishes best within appropriate limits.
  4. A fierce commitment to “do it right”. Mediocrity is easy; excellence is hard work, and there are many temptations for shortcuts. A search for excellence always inspires both inside and outside an organization.
  5. A willingness to tolerate and learn from mistakes. Punishing honest mistakes stifles creativity. Learning from mistakes encourages healthy experimentation and converts negatives into positives.
  6. Unquestioned integrity and consistency. Dishonesty and inconsistency undermine trust. Organizations and relationships thrive on clarity, transparency, honesty, and reliable follow-through.
  7. A pursuit of collaboration, integration, and holistic thinking. Turf wars and narrow thinking are deadly. Drawing together the best ideas and practices, integrating the best people into collaborative teams, multiplies organizational strength.
  8. Courage and persistence in the face of difficulty. The playing field is not always level, or fair, but healthy cultures remain both realistic about the challenges they face undeterred by difficulty.

On the contrary

Julie Rains of Wise Bread gives some telltale signs of an unhealthy organizational culture. She says that if you are observing these signs in your organization, chances are your ailing culture will need work.

If you find your organization exhibiting any of the following behaviors, it may be a sign you may have an unhealthy culture.

  1. Playing favorites. Some employees have frequent contact with you, resulting in a strong bond. He or she pleased with you and your company. But others don’t get much support—coaching, mentoring or encouragement—from their managers and colleagues.
  2. Bending the rules too much. As a caring boss, you make sure that employees have the time off and extra resources to tend to urgent personal needs. But many of your team members may be frustrated by the low productivity of these high-maintenance employees.
  3. Employees fear taking risks. Your team members seem reluctant to introduce innovation, despite your encouragement to adopt new approaches. If you’ve blamed your employees for missteps when they made good-faith efforts to execute new initiatives, you haven’t adopted the right approach to employee growth.
  4. Employees are defensive. Whenever you rightly point out an area that needs improvement or a problem that needs a remedy, employees react defensively. If honest dialogue is rare, then employees don’t feel supported enough to function effectively.
  5. Employees give only positive feedback. People may not complain because they sense that negative comments are unwelcome. Or they may fear repercussions.
  6. Talented people giving average performance. Talented people want to deliver great results, not only for your business but also for their resumes. If your star employees are delivering average sales, productivity and profitability, they are not getting what they need from you.
  7. Customers complain often. Customer responses to your company reflect their treatment by employees, particularly your front-line staff. Lots of complaints means the culture you’ve tried to create has either not reached everyone or seems so contrived that customers are dissatisfied rather than delighted.
  8. Hearing bad news too late. You are unable to salvage relationships because customers abandon your company without fair warning. The complaints that seemed like isolated minor concerns turn out to be really serious ones. Customers are frustrated with your company’s failure to provide them with fresh, relevant solutions to their problems. And your employees are discouraged about the company’s ineffectiveness.
  9. Issues are repeated in meetings. If you hear about the same problems over and over, it’s likely that there is little or no effective action being taken to deal with them.

 For more on organizational culture

eBook How to Motivate Your Staff and Improve Employee Morale

Can a Healthy Organizational Culture Influence Customer Service? Click HereClick Here for Tips on Creating a Healthy Organizational Culture - Dexcomm

Intriguing Customer Service Application

Posted on March 7th, 2013 by Karl Schott

Talk to the Manager

Customer Service AppI received an interesting follow on twitter from a company featuring an intriguing customer service application recently. Talk to the Manager gives businesses an outlet for their customers to anonymously contact a manager to communicate compliments and concerns about service via text message.

People have several reasons for not voicing dissatisfaction with the companies they do business with. Companies that are great at customer service are constantly and actively seeking feedback about their products, their people, and the customer experience. One tough barrier to crack is that giving negative feedback to a business can sometimes be time consuming. Many dissatisfied customers would rather leave unhappy than wait ten minutes while someone at a counter goes to retrieve a manager to discuss a problem. Another is that some people simply are not comfortable expressing dissatisfaction.

The obvious risk is that if you don’t provide an outlet for your customers to give you feedback they could take to the Internet and share their concerns with the general public. Then things can really get out of control.

@sk the Expert - Karl Schott Customer Service ManagerAn anonymous text message can breech both barriers at once. It’s an interesting concept and seems like it might make a great tool to people who deal with a lot of customer foot traffic at their physical locations. It might make a great tool for a practice manager at a doctor’s office as well who is interested in feedback from patients about their waiting room experience. I’d love to know if anyone out there has any experience with the product.

 

 

 

 

Customer Service Tips: Reputation

Posted on March 5th, 2013 by Shome

Your Customer Service ReputationCustomer Service Reputation

Over at prweb.com, there’s this article called, “ShinyReputation.com Reveals Tips That Will Keep Customers Happy and Coming Back.” It talks about interacting with customers, and it provides some helpful tips. These are tips that companies should adhere to, already, but it’s nice to be reminded of our goals when helping customers. Here is the first tip from the article:

 

“It is important to treat the customer with the utmost respect at all times even when the customer may not always be right. Most patrons will recognize when they have been difficult and may comment on sites such as Yelp on how the business and its employees reacted to a particular situation.”

 

Notice that it states…”even when the customer may not always be right.” This can be tough some times, or perhaps, most of the times; however, to establish a solid reputation, companies should strive to go beyond the natural inclinations of dealing with a tough customer and provide excellent customer service no matter the situation. By building a good reputation, the word will spread around, especially with the Internet, recommendations or gripes can be easily communicated to the world. The tip above also refers to online venues that serve as a rating and review system for various service industries. One such site, as stated above, is Yelp. There’s even one for teachers.

 

Keeping track of what customers are saying about your business, whether it’s good or bad, can provide great insight with what is or is not working for your company. Perhaps, the customer’s review will help one to make changes to better serve its clients. Or perhaps, the customer’s review will let the company know that they’re on the right track. Sometimes the reviews can be bitter; however, take it all into consideration, and of course, if you were to respond, respond with grace and compassion. Building a positive reputation can be hard work, but it’s worth it as the companies mentioned in the linked article are now getting great exposure for their excellent customer service practices.

 

Dexcomm - Baton Rouge, LA

Dexcomm – Baton Rouge, LA

yelp Dexcomm

Dexcomm – Corporate Office

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