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customer service


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.


Famous Movie Quotes That Have No Place in Customer Service


Famous Movie Quotes That Have No Place in Customer Service

When the players are all in place and the cameras are rolling, movie stars must follow the director's lead and interpret the deeper meaning to each line they read.  Interpret the tone wrong and they will fall flat, but utter the words properly and they may find themselves immortalized for eternity. 

In business, especially when working to provide exemplary service, those in a position to make or break the customer experience, need to closely guard each and every word out of their mouths. Take a look at the scripted lines below and see why they have no place in customer service today.

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!
— Rhett Butler, Gone With The Wind

One of the biggest problems I find when speaking to organizations everywhere I go is that there is usually a small percentage of people that simply don't care about the customer's point of view. The white paper (5 Biggest Mistakes Made in Business) linked here, outlines as the "grand daddy of all mistakes," failure to care. Customers can sense when you do not care about them. It hurts your business when you do not care what the customer thinks, since they have the option of spending their money somewhere else and if you do not care, they will run from you.

Here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!
— Oliver Hardy, Sons of the Desert

Mistakes are bound to happen, it's what happens next that really counts. If you make another mistake you will possibly lose your customer due to errors made. Make many errors and you stand a good chance of going out of business. Although no one is perfect, work hard to learn from your mistakes, take corrective action and stay in the game. If you make an error with your customer, come clean, take responsibility and make it clear to your customer you are sorry.

I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.
— Don Corleone, The Godfather

Don't be so sure that you have the exact offer that will make your customer happy. Remember, unless you are totally seeing it from your customer's perspective, there is a chance your customer may not agree with your terms. Be open-minded and prepared to work out another solution or present another proposal if the offer you make does not resolve the concerns your customer has.

Nobody puts Baby in a corner.
— Johnny Castle, Dirty Dancing

Don't ever back your customer into a corner. Presenting ultimatums or giving your customer no "out" may have them running for the doors at the first opportunity to leave you. Present plenty of options to your customer and if those don't fit the bill, be ready to present more. If you feel as though you only have one option for your customer and it doesn't seem to fit very well, be prepared to take your company out of the running. Not everyone is the perfect customer for you.

To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people!
— Wanda, A Fish Called Wanda

Using sarcasm with a customer is not a good idea, especially when your relationship is fresh. When writing emails, text messages or using social channels watch your tone and reread each exchange before hitting the SEND button. Also, getting in an argument with a customer is never a good idea, even when you win, you lose. Not all people are going to get along. If you are not a good match for your customer, maybe there is someone else in your company that is; watch what you say, how you say it and know to whom you are saying it.

Love means never having to say you’re sorry.
— Jennifer Cavilleri, Love Story

When you are wrong, say you're sorry, even if you do not think it is important to say it. Those words, "I'm sorry," if said in a genuine and caring way will prove to your customer that you really care about their business. Follow through with action and correct your error as best you can, as quickly as possible. Don't forget to follow up with the customer to confirm you fixed the problem and corrected yourself and that your customer is satisfied.

I do love a great movie quote and I am constantly looking for inspiration to help get me to the next level in business. We've taken movie quotes to a whole different place in this blog, and we do the same with our podcast (The Nice Guys on Business). At the beginning and end of each of our 120+ episodes we have our voiceover guy Steve O'Brien read a famous quote. Can you figure out what movie they came from?


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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Five Top Tips for Providing 5-star Service


Five Top Tips for Providing 5-star Service

In order to grow your business and add depth to your client list, your goal should be to create a lasting, memorable and very positive experience for your customer. Long gone are the days of being satisfactory, there is way too much competition out there to be less than stellar or exemplary when it comes to customer service. Additionally, it's no longer just about the product you provide. Service, support, sales, operations and every other department within your organization must work in tandem, delivering the same amazing service to your customer to keep them coming back. According to Shep Hyken, an expert in customer satisfaction, "Customer service is not a department, it's a philosophy." Going above and beyond is an important factor in getting your customer to come back again and again. Your brand is exposed to the market through a multitude of channels. Word of mouth can make or break your business. Search engine results, social media channels and good old conversations with friends can help you build your client list or bust it completely.