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best customer service tips

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24 Seconds that Will Change Your Life

This post originally appeared on my blog in July 2014. It has been shared thousands of times on social media, Huffington Post and on my site as well. I welcome your comments below.

Life gets complicated. We all have the same 24 hours each and every day. And it’s up to us how we spend our time. We need to invest our time wisely in order to maximize our day and yet, no matter how good we are with time management, we never seem to have enough time to accomplish what we set out to complete when we wake up in the morning. Putting one more responsibility on your daily to-do list may not seem like a practical thing to do, and yet, what I am about to share is so simple that even the busiest person can carve out 24 seconds for it.

People Skills 101 teaches us the importance of building connections. Without relationships, all business will come to a halt. You might have an amazing product or service but without solid relationships, you have no business. And on a personal level, without connecting with others, life will be far from happy. So my 24 second task is designed to help build, strengthen and solidify existing relationships. It is fast, effective and reliable. And best of all, it requires no prep, planning or practice. Ready?

Take out your smartphone. I know you have one. Some of you are reading this blog on your smartphone (according to Mailchimp, 32% of you are actually reading this blog on your smartphone). I only have 24 seconds, so do it now. The clock is ticking. Pick any name on your contact list. It does not need to be a client, anyone will do. Send a text message saying the following:

“Just thinking about you. Hope you are having a great day.”

Hit send. Boom. 12 seconds. Repeat it one more time. Task complete, 24 seconds. And done. If you are fast at texting like my son Adam, you may even be able to send out three or four text messages in the 24 seconds you’ve allotted. 

Here is what happens when you start this practice. Sometimes, you will get nothing in return, and that’s ok. Many times you will get back a response saying thank you and wishing you a great day in return. But every time you send a message like that, you are making the receiver of your text smile, feel good and be happy. I am confident I do not need to tell you the importance of happy people in your life. Happy is contagious and if done right, happy will be paid forward. Ultimately happy will come back to you, guaranteed.

Make it a practice to pick two or three contacts during your day to send text messages to while you are standing in line, pumping gas, or having your coffee at Starbucks. Try not to repeat the names too often since your goal is to be random. Approach this task to spreading happy, not to gain business. If some of these messages are being sent to customers, you are proving (12 seconds at a time) that you are a human being, with feelings. Important rule of this practice -- You cannot text about business, unless the response from the recipient involves business. 

Switch up your message. It would not be unusual for me to send a message saying, “I love you. That is all.” or “Thanks for being in my life.” or “My life is better because you are in it.” If that doesn’t sound like your voice, build your own set of messages that work well. Under no circumstances should you send this message as a group message (don't automate this practice -- I want you to stay human please).

I’ve been doing this for over 15 years, and many days I send out much more than 2 messages. I know that as a result of my messages, others have adopted this as a way to spread love, happy and good vibes as well. I now get messages daily from friends, clients and others telling me to have a great day. Plenty of times those messages come to me when I am in a tough spot in my day or when I have had a challenging moment. 

Twenty four seconds wisely invested can change your life. Want to try this out? I am happy to be the recipient. Feel free to invest 12 seconds and send a message to me. 410-340-6861. I will return the love, I always do.

I am passionate about my message and ask that you spread this message on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I would love to get text messages from around the world wishing me a happy day and I wish the same for you too.

Want to find out about other simple to adopt techniques that can change your life, check out my Business Building Bootcamp by clicking here.  I am available to present my programs to your group as well. You are welcome to message me or email me at doug@dougsandler.com

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Myths Busted: Great Customer Service Starts Here

I’m a fan of the Discovery series called MythBusters. Every episode Jamie and Adam (et al.) work to prove or debunk a myth (or myths) through a series of experiments involving trial and error, advanced exploration and communication. What fascinates me is the high relatability factor of the myths they present. It may be a statement of the obvious, but this is why they became myths in the first place. With customer service being my focus, I explored the myths believed to be most prolific in a wide variety of industries for companies big and small and developed a hit list of five myths related to providing great customer service. Following each myth I provide additional insight, personal observations or explanations for common misconceptions.

MYTH - Great customer service starts with understanding the customer is always right.

BUSTED - Companies that score extremely high marks in customer service go well beyond the philosophy of “ the customer is always right.” Unfortunately, the customer may always think he is right, but in reality, that just isn’t the case. It’s the perception of being right that draws the customer back to a company’s brand to solve a problem, make a demand or request a response. Regardless of whether the customer is right or wrong it is extremely important to acknowledge the query, to be open to the dialogue exchange (face-to-face, phone, email or social), to not get defensive, and to have a clear understanding that although the customer is not always right, being human and understanding their perspective will go far with every exchange.

The most important thing for every human is to be heard, effective customer service is letting your client know you hear them and will therefore do your best to help them.
— Shirley Impellizzeri, Ph.D., QME

MYTH - Great customer service is about being quick to resolve problems.

BUSTED- It’s about great communication. Everything starts with communication. Do not wait until you have all of your solutions lined up, neat in a row and presenting your findings to your customer. Great customer service is about keeping your customer in the loop, staying open and being honest with your communication. Some problems take awhile to resolve, and that is the reality of problems, especially problems that are unique. I can recall a problem I had traveling with Southwest Air from Baltimore to Seattle. The Southwest gate employee explained there was a delay due to not having a complete crew. Rather than leaving it at that, she explained (over the microphone) that the crew scheduled for our flight was flying in from the midwest had a delay, but was about 30 minutes from arrival. As time drew closer, she continue to update us every 5-10 minutes. As we got closer and closer to the time for the crew’s arrival she started to tell us a bit about her experience with these specific crew members. Finally, when the team arrived, we (the waiting passengers) felt like we knew them. We actually applauded for them when they arrived, excited to meet these famed crew members. Although the problem took longer than expected to resolve, Southwest kept the communication open and honest. They took a problem and made it part of a positive experience that I will remember for years to come.

MYTH - Great customer service is about being responsive to customers.

BUSTED - Silence is the customer service killer. I’m talking about customer silence. Over 70% of clients that have a problem or question will not call, post or reach out to your company for information or resolution. Exemplary customer service is about being proactive and reaching out to your customers to find out how their experience has been with your brand. Don’t assume because you do not get a complaint or questions from your customers that all is ok. The philosophy of “don’t stir the pot,” is like putting your head in the sand. A silent customer is not always a happy customer. Routinely reach out to your customers on a variety of channels to see how their experience has been with your brand. This can be a double edged sword. Don’t try to be on every channel unless you plan on having the manpower to be visible on every channel. If you do encounter a problem while communicating in a public space like social media, don’t be so quick to take it private. People are watching your every move. Here’s your opportunity to really shine so don’t go on the defensive. Work the situation to your advantage and the public forum you used to resolve your problem will become your stage for problem resolution.  

 

Excellent service is putting your employees first and building a culture that has them putting the customer first.
— Micha Mikailian

MYTH - Great customer service is about putting the customer first.  

BUSTED - Great service starts with happy employees. A management team that leads from the top down, putting the customer first and having little consideration for their front line has sadly misaligned priorities. A company that puts their employees first, creating a positive work environment, encouraging a positive, happy culture and designing programs that are “employee-centric” will also be putting the customer first. Companies that place importance on employee’s feelings will create staff that are happy and take more ownership in customers’ feelings as well. If you create an environment where you say the customer always comes first, you may be establishing an adversarial relationship between the customer and the employee.  If the customer wins the employee loses. More money spent on the customer is less money spent on the employee. If however, you put the employee first, making them happy, everyone wins, including the customer, the employee and your company. Winning companies, through action, that show the employee comes first (empowerment programs, better training, creative incentives, great work environment), will be rewarded with employees providing great customer service.

MYTH- Great customer service starts with having a governing set of policies and procedures specifically establishing how your company should respond to customers.

BUSTED - While having specific policies established to address customer needs is a good start, empowering your employees to make decision is crucial in providing exemplary service. Emphasize philosophy over specific tactics when engaging customers, getting to know their needs. Management that says they empower their employees yet doesn’t provide enough decision making power to them is putting on a stage show complete with ventriloquist and dummy. I regularly consult with companies, associations and organizations that claim they give their employees power to make decisions but in reality pull the plug when they have an issue with decisions made. It’s important, just like a parent raising a child, you give guidelines to your staff, but that you let them experiment and let them fail (or succeed) on their own. If you have provided proper training, they will recover, handle the issue and most importantly, they will have learned a lesson. Keeping a rigid set of policies and procedures is no better than having a robot on the other side of customer communication. There is no place for robots in customer service if your customer is a human. Human beings have feelings, emotions and needs that do not fit neatly in a policy manual.

Have a myth that you want proven or debunked, please reach out to me in the comments section below and let’s work on it together.  I have a FREE e-book being released in less than 30 days on Providing World Class Customer Service:  Can't Miss Steps to Creating A Great Experience . If you would like to get an advanced copy of the e-book, click the box below and I will send an email to you along with bonus input from over twenty industry experts on the "how-to's" for great customer service.

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Where have all the humans gone?

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Where have all the humans gone?

Recent experiences with my credit card company, a local hardware store and a home delivery food service company have me pondering the simple question, where have all the humans gone?

"Please listen carefully, as our menu options have changed." More than menu options have changed in today's automation age; relationships are falling by the wayside and the customer journey is being detoured as companies hide behind the guise of increased efficiency, more specific analytics, better customer service, improved productivity and big dollar savings as reasons.

There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.
— Sam Walton

There has been a paradigm shift in the way organizations big and small deal with incoming customer traffic. Phone automation including interactive voice response (IVR) has taken over. The improper overuse of phone automation is pushing clients to competition, damaging a company's reputation and frustrating customers. If a little is good, a lot must be much better. NOT! Reception has been replaced by an 800-number, a voice activated robot and a touch tone keypad. When poorly implemented, the customer experience suffers, along with any positive vibes we had about the company. Failing service grades equate to lost business. We will spend our money somewhere else.

Don't get me wrong, when it comes to technology, I am all in, but if you want to really frustrate me, try wasting my time and I will take my business to the competition faster than you can say, "Please hold, your call will be answered shortly."



Is it just me or does it seem like no one wants to talk anymore? Call me old school, but when I pick up the phone to call a company, I'd love to have an opportunity to quickly, if not immediately, speak to a human being. Business has gotten wise to guys like me, so they have replaced the "Operator" button (0) with the, "Please listen carefully..." auto-response. They claim to appreciate my business, at least that's what they tell me 12 times as I am waiting on hold because they are experiencing call volume higher than normal. With all the analytics companies have access to, shouldn't they know when to expect "higher than normal" call volume and staff accordingly? And while I appreciate that they are working with other important customers just like me, I am thinking these other customers must have the inside skinny on how to reach a human being faster than I do.

Is our business really as important to them as the robotic voice claims? In theory I am sure it is, but in practice I think not. At a time when exposure to a customer should be at it's highest, companies are doing their best to avoid human contact. And while they think we might appreciate the automated instructions on how to access frequently asked questions on their website, we would have done that already if we thought we could find the answer quickly. Finding the solution to the problem online is even more challenging than finding the 800-number to call to reach a human being.



As a result of hammering, stammering and manipulating my way through automation, unlocking the secret passage, making it to the bonus round and actually speaking to a person, why is my reward sometimes a stiff, ill-prepared, script reading, mumbling representative with their headset microphone adjusted too close to their mouth? Attention C-level execs, business owners, customer service managers and people in a position of authority, if you are going to make me climb to the top of the phone tree, at least make the reward of speaking to a real person a satisfying victory. Invest in training your front line, your business depends upon it.

Maybe one day there will be touchtone keys for empathy, compassion, rapport and appreciation. In the meantime I will continue hitting the "0" button, waiting for a human to pick up the phone. I hear Tuesdays and Thursdays before 7AM are days they experience their lightest call volume, at least that's what their robot tells me.

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Forget Content, Contact is King

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Forget Content, Contact is King

Marketing basics 2016, “Content is King.”  The problem you’ll face with that 101 approach is that no matter how amazing your content is, you are missing the bigger picture.  Using your content to broadcast your message to the masses will do little in today’s social world. Building business relationships, in conjunction with your marketing program will get the biggest impact from all of the content you are creating. 

People want a connection with you, they don’t just want to be force fed your content. If marketing is a spoke of the wheel, relationship(s) is the air that fills the tire.  Engage and get involved or your marketing will be flat.  Change the tone from, I can provide this for you, to, let’s communicate and work on this solution together.

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