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The Sound of Silence

The sound of silence can be deafening and quite possibly disastrous for your business. Are you listening to what you can't hear?

The numbers are alarming. For every one customer that complains, over 25 customers who have had an unfavorable experience with a brand don't complain. Silence, zilch, crickets, nada, nothing. And these same customers are walking out the door with their money,  heading to the competition.  Complacency, due to a lack of complaints is not a good place to hang out.  Check out these points:

No news is good news.  Think again. Regularly survey your customers, ask questions that evoke emotion. Questions with answers like "satisfied" or "expected" provide no real value.  Survey questions that require your customer to defend your brand, will tell a lot about how your customer feels about you. "Please list the top reason that almost stopped you from using us?" Dig for the negative. 

Silence is golden. Silence is costing you money and can result in lots of red ink, bleeding your business of profits. Once you find out how our customers really feel about your products or services, take action to correct the issues that arise. What good is there in finding out problems, if you are not willing to correct them? Now is not the time to get defensive or for paralysis by analysis. Your customer speaks and their words have value to your business.

If a tree falls in the forest... Your customers want to hear from your brand. When you reach out to them, they are providing free advice to you that has tremendous value to your company. The more vocal your customer is, the more value they are providing. Every level within your organization should participate including management, sales, accounting, operations. This is not just about products and services, it's about people relating to people. 

Actions speak louder than words. Don't just rely on your front line to get information. Your customers would love to hear from the company owner, president or partner. If given an opportunity to discuss your products and services in a non-threatening, open and genuine environment, your customers will tell you how they feel. You just need to ask them.

With your help, the silent customer will become an advocate for your brand, shouting great things about your company from the mountain top, echoing referrals, future sales and profits as they go.





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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Mean People Suck

Photo by bayhayalet/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by bayhayalet/iStock / Getty Images

Why they feel like they have the right to not only ruin their day but to ruin someone else's day is beyond me. And for what reason? Often times I think mean people look for a reason to be mean, spread their poison, and to infect others. You can find them almost everywhere you go, disrespecting their server for less than 5-star service, even at a local diner. They are the customer in front of you at Starbucks complaining about getting their Soy Chai Latte with not enough cinnamon on top (First World problems). You might even run into them at the airport, yelling at the gate attendant because a lightning strike has delayed their flight, apparently thinking the airline employee has a direct line to the heavens. We've stood next to, queued up behind and even sat with mean people. They are embarrassing, unempathetic and unsympathetic. They have no filter and they absolutely have no couth. 

There is a way to get what you want when the expected size 10 service fits into size 3 shoes. It’s called, being NICE!

You may be in the camp of, "I pay for it, so I have the right to complain about it." If you reside in that camp, I do not disagree about your need for better service, but I disagree with your methods of trying to get it. There is a way to get what you want when the expected size 10 service fits into size 3 shoes.  Being mean, obnoxious or disrespectful should not be in your bag of tricks. Leave them in your interrogator's toolbox .

How do you handle great, mediocre or poor service and what value do you provide back to the provider of said service regardless of their grade?

There is a difference between communicating and mind-reading. People across the buying table from you cannot possibly read your mind. Simple transactions like putting gas in your car require very little effort; you swipe your card and you expect gas to come out of the pump. But more complex transactions require you open your mouth and ask questions. Better yet, discuss your expectations. While service providers should know generally what your expectations are, they cannot read your mind. Before you pop a cork, vent your steam into constructive conversation. The company you are working with wants you to be happy. Give them a chance to fix the problem and exceed your expectations in round 2.

There is a difference between communicating and mind-reading.

Share positive experiences with the company, but also share your remarks with the world. It's important to catch people in the act of doing something right; when you do, share your positive story with the company that provided the great service. A handwritten note, email or phone call will do the trick quite nicely. Social media makes it so easy to complain about poor service, but the same can be said about great service. Share your positive comments on social as well.

Be quick to praise a company directly for a job well done. Don't be quite as quick to start blasting off the negative press in a public forum if service is less than perfect. While the squeaky wheel does get the oil, the squeak doesn't have to be formed with thick rust. Allow moderate or poor service to be corrected. A company that has a track record of great service can still have a bad day or a poor experience. Watch how they handle the mistake, you might be pleasantly surprised with the results, given the chance.

Know the difference between cost and value, cheap and inexpensive.

Help resolve problems by being solution focused, not "you owe me" focused. Nothing is perfect and we all need help to resolve problems. Take a moment and look at what went wrong and what you might be able to do to help resolve a problem when poor service or a poorly made product finds you. When you are dissatisfied, be open to discussing the issues you face with the company that let you down. When you work hand in hand to help resolve your problem, you are potentially also resolving the problem for future customers as well.

Know the difference between cost and value, cheap and inexpensive. We live in a world where you get what you pay for. Before spending your hard earned cash, caveat emptor (let the buyer beware), understand what you are buying, in both dollars and value.  If you are buying hamburger meat, don't expect filet to be served.

We live in a service world, sometimes service is the only thing that differentiates one company from another. Your money speaks, if unhappy and dissatisfied take your cash somewhere else,  no need to be mean about it. But as you leave, provide your feedback in a constructive, useful way. As you would expect from another human being, be empathetic and nice and leave it to the poor service provider the choice of how they handle your remarks. I can guarantee if they keep up the failing grades and poor service, they will un-WOW themselves out of business.




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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?