Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Loose Lips Sink Ships

Chances are you are part of a team of CSRs. Maintaining a positive dynamic to that team is critical to your success. Throughout the day, you depend on each other, help each other with problems, and cover for each other. Unlike the brief interaction with a customer, this is a long-term relationship. You spend more time with your co-workers than you do with your family!

So it makes sense to give these relationships some of the proper care and feeding that you would any other relationship. And in the work world, nothing erodes trust and teamwork faster than gossip. There is a famous quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt that says, “Small minds talk about people; mediocre minds talk about events; great minds talk about ideas." I’ll take that a step further. Truly small minds talk about people and events they know.

A gossip talks about the people closest too them. They betray trusts by repeating things said in confidence. They grind the rumor mill by spreading half-truths and sometimes outright lies. They instigate and promote division. Clearly, this person is a burden for the team to carry.

If you are dealing with a gossip, take a cue from the zoo and “Don’t Feed the Animals.” If you gossip with them or even just listen, you are contributing to the problem. If you can, excuse yourself or subtly try to change the conversation. If they try to engage you in gossip, respond with an “I don’t know anything about that,” or an “I don’t know what to say about that one!” Engaging in conversation with the gossip or even just nodding in response, gives the gossip the go-ahead to continue. Either end the conversation or change the subject.

If you are the gossip, realize that though you may enjoy your role as Public Information Officer #1, you are doing damage, even if you don’t see it. Trust me; just like you are talking about people, they’re probably talking about you. If you absolutely must talk, keep it at a higher level. Refrain from talking about co-workers and even your personal life to an extent. Talk about issues, talk about TV, movies, or celebrities (always a good source for gossip).

The rule for gossip is if someone is so willing to discuss someone else’s business, they’re probably willing to discuss yours too.

Yes, loose lips sink ships but more importantly they destroy teams.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Winning Three Times Over!

This weekend, I attended the Southern Women’s Show for the first time. It was great! There were speakers, fashion shows, cooking demos and a ton of booths and deals to be had.

As my friends and I moved from booth to booth, we came across one that sold a steamer that worked better than an iron. As we watched the demo, it easily removed wrinkles from a variety of fabrics – but that wasn’t all! There was an attachment that allowed the steam iron to be used for a steaming facial. Beautifully wrinkle-free clothes and a beautiful face, who could ask for more?

One of my friends was sold. As she pulled out her credit card, another woman approached the demonstrator. She pulled out her steam iron and announced rather abruptly that it did not work. My friend kept her credit card in hand.

The demonstrator didn’t bat an eyelash. She didn’t get annoyed. She didn’t get flustered. She didn’t show any frustration or aggravation. She began removing the ‘defective’ iron from the box. She said with confidence that she’d been with the company for eight years and a defective iron was rare. However, if it was actually defective, she’d replace it immediately.

As she filled it with water, all of us stood there waiting to see what happened. After it was filled with water, we waited. She continued to talk about the product and why some people encounter problems. She also threw in a few more selling points in the process.

Finally, she brought out another wrinkled shirt and using the ‘defective’ iron, she easily removed the wrinkles.

It worked.

The woman with the problem was pleased. My friend handed over her credit card and made the purchase. At no time were there any elevated emotions, hurt feelings or bruised egos.

Here is what I noticed about the woman doing the demonstration:

1. She had confidence in her product. She was sure, right out of the gate, that the product was not defective.

2. She knew common complaints or issues with the product. As she spoke to us, she asked the dissatisfied customer if she had changed the type of water used or how much water she used. Finally, she asked how long she had waited for the product to warm up. It turns out that she had not waited the requisite period of time for the iron to heat up.

3. She remained upbeat. She did not allow the disgruntled customer to shake her demeanor.

4. She quickly gave two alternatives: either it would work or she would immediately replace it.

In the end, the dissatisfied customer was satisfied and the new customer (my friend) was even more excited about making her purchase.

I call that a win-win and win!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

You Don’t Have to Take It!

Abusive customers are the ones who make a CSR’s job truly difficult. They’ve crossed the line from just angry to inappropriate and abusive. They may even curse, threaten or become crude, but wait a minute. You don’t have to take that.

Because many customers truly believe that they are always right, a few feel entitled to treat the CSR in a way that is demeaning and abusive. This is not the case and this is never acceptable.

If you come across a customer who refuses to calm down and listen and who insists on being rude, crude and disrespectful, you do have rights. Approach them as you would an angry customer, letting them vent, and then providing a solution in a calm and respectful manner. Most will respond favorably but some will continue to escalate their anger and cross the line.

If that happens, still being calm, tell them that you want to help them but only if they calm down and refrain from using abusive and threatening language. Let them know that you cannot continue a conversation with someone who insists on using that kind of language and tone. Many times, they start to calm down a bit … but if they don’t.

If they continue to rant and rage after you have asked them specifically not to, make a warm transfer to a supervisor. Don’t transfer blindly, but let the caller know you are transferring them to a supervisor then put them on hold, contact the supervisor and let them know exactly what is going on and the demeanor of the caller. Often, knowing that their call has been escalated is enough to make them take it down a notch.

If the supervisor is unavailable and the abusive caller shows no sign of stopping, let him know you are happy to help him when he’s calmed down but you cannot work with someone who insists on exhibiting that kind of behavior or using that kind of language. Let them know that you’ll be glad to help him when he’s willing to speak with you in a reasonable manner. Finally don’t just hang up, let him know that you are going to release the call.

Callers will exhibit a range of emotions from emotional and upset to angry to frustrated, and that is fine. As a customer service professional, you are trained to handle those difficult callers. But as a professional and as a human being in general, you do not have to be subjected to abusive and threatening behavior.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Favorite Customer Service Quotes

In order to ease you back into your work week after a long weekend, here are some of my favorite customer service quotes.
  • “To my customer: I may not have the answer, but I'll find it. I may not have the time, but I'll make it. I may not be the biggest, but I'll be the most committed to your success.” ~ Unknown
  • “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
  • "It is not enough to give the customer excellent service. You must subtly make him aware of the great service he is getting.” – Unknown
  • “Never underestimate the power of the irate customer.” – Unknown
  • "The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.” – Peter F. Drucker
  • “When the customer comes first, the customer will last” ~ Robert Half
  • “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” ~ Bill Gates
  • “It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.” ~ Henry Ford
  • “A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.” ~ Micahel Leboeuf
  • “If you work just for money, you'll never make it, but if you love what you're doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours.” ~ Ray Kroc
  • “The golden rule for every business man is this: ''Put yourself in your customer's place.'' ~ Orison Swett Marden
  • “The magic formula that successful businesses have discovered is to treat customers like guests and employees like people.” ~ Thomas J. Peters