Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Challenging Co-workers Part 2

Last week, we talked about how teamwork and good internal relations improves the work environment and the service you give. I want to touch on the last four types of difficult personalities covered in The Colors of Customer Service Training Kit.

The Accidental Boss
This person isn’t the boss but that doesn’t stop them from acting like one! They like to tell you what you should do and how you should do it. If they can give you work or critique your work they will.
  • Let them know you have a full plate. If they continue, refer them to your boss.

The Tattle-Tale
This person is in constant communication with the boss about who is doing what. They feel a responsibility to report on everyone’s actions.
  • Do not share personal information with this person. Let them know that you already have excellent communication with your boss.

The Fighter
This person thrives on conflict. Everything becomes a battle.
  • Do not give them an emotional response. Remain neutral and concentrate on the facts when speaking with them and not giving your opinion.

The Lounger
This person avoids work at all cost. You usually end up picking up their slack.
  • Set clear expectations and deadlines. Stick to your guns when they start to weasel out of their responsibilities.

Always try to confront these people directly and maturely. If that doesn’t work, start keeping a paper trail, emails and other correspondence that show their behavior. Also keep a journal of the dates and times of any events or behaviors along with details of exactly what happened. This way if you have to approach a boss or Human Resources, you’ll have more than just your word to back you up.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Challenging Co-workers Part 1

Part of giving great customer service is working productively with your co-workers. Teamwork, respect and cooperation go a long way to improving the quality of your day as well as the quality of the service you deliver.

If this was a perfect world, everyone would come to work focused, dedicated and ready to get the job done. However, we don’t live in a perfect world!

In The Colors of Customer Service Training Kit, we discuss ten types of difficult co-workers and how to handle them.

The Gossip
This person has something to say about everything and everyone and most of the time it isn’t positive or constructive.
  • Keep your responses neutral. Do not agree or disagree. “Who knows what really happened?” or “I don’t know what to say about that are good options.

The Complainer
This person is never happy. They don’t see the silver lining, they just gripe about the cloud!
  • Respond with a positive. Find the good in the situation and go with that. Don’t join them!

The Credit Snatcher
This person loves to pass your ideas and hard work off as their own.
  • Without any defensiveness, tactfully acknowledge their contribution as well as your own.

Dramatic Royalty
This person always has something going on. They often overreact and act on assumptions they make.
  • This person will often take advantage of your sympathy. Set boundaries, let them know what you can and can’t do. Don’t be afraid to say no.

Next week, we’ll take a look at the final four kinds of difficult co-workers: The Accidental Boss, The Tattle-Tale, The Fighter and The Lounger.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Danger! Slippery Slope Ahead

You know you love the rush! Careening downward on that roller coaster or flying down the mountainside while skiing. It's truly an incredible and exhilarating feeling. But when you are careening down the path of disastrous thoughts and improbable what-ifs it doesn't feel quite so good. In fact, it's pretty nauseating.

You get called into the boss's office. There were some problems with the report you submitted. Thirty minutes later, after a number suggestions, revisions and criticisms, you leave with your tail between your legs.

"I'm skating on thin ice," you think as you gather your stuff and head home for the day.

"What if I get fired?"

As you pull out of the parking lot and start the drive home, you also start the mental free fall down. By the time you get home, you've lost your job, your house, your spouse and have developed a serious alcohol problem. All because you had a discussion with your boss. Visions of food stamps and homeless shelters dance in your head as you pull into the driveway.

But wait a minute! Is it really that bad? Of course not. It wasn't a great meeting; but you didn't get fired. In fact, you got some valuable information and feedback and you know what to do better next time.

When you find yourself perched at the top of that slope, stop yourself before you start by asking yourself how likely all of that terrible stuff is it to happen. How likely is it that you will be fired? If you are fired, what is the likelihood that you will not be able to find any work at all? What are the chances that you would become homeless or that your spouse would leave you? As you start challenging the assumptions, you will find that the likelihood of all that other stuff occurring decreases.

Another techique involves just asking yourself better questions. Instead of "Why Me?" ask, "What can I do differently next time?" Instead of asking "What if I lose my job?" ask "What can I learn from this?" Focus on the positive and proactive things you can do to change the situation for the better.

Save the slopes for skiing.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Excellence as a Habit

One of my favorite quotes is from the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle who said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” There is nothing like the sports, professional and amateur (like the Olympics) to illustrate his point.

These athletes have made a habit out of excellence. More specifically, they have made habits out of the very things that make excellence possible: a rigorous practice schedule, a coach who holds them to the highest of expectations - expectations that they also have for themselves. Their diets, their sleep schedules and all of the sacrifices they make in pursuit of their goals, makes excellence more than a possibility. For them, it's a reality. It's within their reach. The gold is theirs to grasp.

These athletes, at the top of their game have learned at a young age that there are no shortcuts. You have to do the work. You have to put in the effort. You have to have the focus. When you fall, you have to get back up and go at it again, and again and again.

Not everyone can be an Olympian or a professional athlete, but we all can make excellence a habit. We can set higher goals for ourselves and then do what it takes to reach them. Think of what an Olympian like effort could do for you. Maybe you'd be a better parent, maybe you'd double your sales or get that promotion. You could finish writing that book or eradicate that credit card debt. You could finally lose that weight once and for all, maybe you'd conquer your fear of heights or public speaking.

Think of how much your life could improve if you made excellence, and the activities it takes to create it, a habit.

Now, what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What Matters Most

I’m a big fan of Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. My favorite habit (yes, I have a favorite!) is Habit 3: Putting First Things First. The Habits are designed to be mastered sequentially and this one comes after learning to be proactive and to begin with the ending in mind. By Habit Three, the reader is ready to start living their priorities. This is the time to bring the most important things to the forefront.

In order to put first things first, you have to have the time. What things am I talking about? Exercise, eating healthy, quality time with family, friends and the significant other, prayer and meditation, professional development, hobbies, writing the Great American Novel, these are the things that we say we value but we often put aside. Why? Most often, we simply don’t have the time … or so we say. Take a moment and look up at the banner of this blog. What does it say? LOSE THE EXCUSES! More often than not, not having time is just that, an excuse.

Covey has a simple but dramatic four quadrant square that illustrates where we are currently spending our time and how we can reallocate it to make time for the things that matter most. The quadrant tracks two concepts – urgency and importance.

Quadrant One is the Quadrant of the Procrastinator. Things in this quadrant are both urgent and important. This quadrant is where we are when we are rushing to get that report in by the deadline or stay up all night cramming for the test. It is the quadrant of car trouble, and even heart attacks.

Quadrant Two I’ll talk about last.

Quadrant Three is the Quadrant of the Yes Man. Things in this quadrant are urgent but not important. We are in this quadrant when we let interruptions (chatty co-workers,  non-urgent phone calls, immediately answering non-essential emails) take us away from what is more important. Some meetings fall into this category and things that are important and urgent to others but aren’t important to us appear here too.

Quadrant Four is the Quadrant of the Slacker. Things in this quadrant are neither urgent or important. Some time spent surfing the net, watching TV or napping is a good thing. We all need down time and relaxation. However, if you are spending too much time here, it is a problem.

Quadrant Two is the Quadrant of the Prioritizer. Things in this quadrant are not urgent but they are important. This is where we should spend more of our time. This is the quadrant of planning, relationship building, exercise, planning, and prevention. The lack of urgency sometimes makes these important tasks take a back seat to Quadrant 1.

However, spending more time in Quadrant Two reduces the amount of time we spend in the first quadrant. A little planning and time management and the adrenaline-filled rush to complete the report or the caffeine-fueled cramming session could have been avoided. A little preventive car maintenance could have eliminated the car trouble. It’s possible that making time to exercise, prepare healthy meals and visit the doctor, the heart attack might not have happened.

We can also work on spending less time in Quadrants Three and Four. Begin managing your interruptions. Hold people who drop by to a time limit. Let them know you have five minutes or so to talk and then you have to get back to work. Five minutes later, give them a better time to continue the discussion, if necessary. Use technology to your advantage. Check your Caller ID and voicemail. You don’t have to answer every phone call. Return calls when you have the time. Likewise, set a time to return emails. Use the flag feature to keep them from falling through the cracks.

It is easy to end up spending too much time in Quadrant Four. After all, time flies when you are having fun! Give yourself a set amount of time for your activity and then use a timer to reinforce that.

Make the time for the things that matter most. This is where life is lived and memories are made.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Get Back to Work!

With Labor Day weekend a full week behind us and the new school year in full swing, it's safe to say that summer is over. Unless we work for the banks or the federal government, most of us won’t get a long weekend until Thanksgiving. And that's a few months away! It’s time to get back to work.

Here are some tips I use for getting the job done.

1. Plan Your Days: I have a weekly planner. Throughout the day, I jot down upcoming tasks and place them on the day I plan to work on them. Before I leave for the day, I give my list another once over, focusing on things I need to do the next day. This goes a long way to eliminating that feeling that I’ve forgotten something or that something will fall through the cracks.

2. Set New Goals. Look at what’s on your plate and decide what you want to accomplish in the next month, three months and six months.

3. Clean It Out: There is a fascinating statistic that says 80% of the things we file, we never look at again. If you find you have some down time, spend a few minutes going through your files. If you have it electronically, you probably don’t need the paper copy. If the project ended years ago, keep a few pertinent summaries and maybe the finished product and get rid of the rest. If you are feeling really bold, tackle your electronic files. Delete what you don't need. Move old versions of reports and documents to an Archive folder and organize the rest.

4. Reestablish Your Routine: It’s not just for kids you know. Make a point to get back on track – have a consistent bed time and wake up time. Holiday splurges are over so get back into the habit of making healthier food choices.

5. Remember What You Like About Work: It might not be the job of your dreams but there must be a few good things about it. Coming back to work shouldn’t be a complete downer! Think out what you enjoy about your work: favorite co-workers, the work you do, a favorite lunch spot. Focus on what you enjoy about work and you’ll experience a lot less dread and negativity!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Buzzing like a Bee!

While sitting at your desk, you decide to ‘straighten it up.’ Afterwards, you decide to clean out your inbox and color-code your mail. Then you go to lunch. When you get back from lunch, you realize that you have a stack of documents that need to be filed, so you tackle that. Afterwards, you call your doctor’s office to make an appointment, which reminds you of a question you had about your insurance. You spend a half-hour online trying to get the answer. Now, it’s time for your staff meeting. Returning to your office, you now have a half-hour left as you prepare to work on the presentation that’s due the day after tomorrow. You throw your hands up in frustration as you wonder, where did the time go? Granted, you were ‘busy’ all day. But what did you accomplish?

Busy looks good. Had your boss walked by and seen you filing or researching on your computer, you would have appeared to be working hard. Busy feels good. You are active and you are doing something. And although it’s nice to have a clean inbox and to have your papers filed, when you look at the tasks on your plate, did any of it help?

The answer is to focus. You need to start your day with a purpose and a focus. Today, I plan to _______. By the end of the day, I will have _______. If to-do list or scribbling it on a post-it note helps, do it. Regardless, whether you write it out or just think about it, know what you will focus on and then follow-though. After you’ve accomplished your tasks, then look around for the ‘busy work’. Then and only then, after the important tasks have been accomplished, do you clean your inbox or tackle the filing.

Also, realize the role that procrastination plays in busy work. Often, we chose the easy busywork because we don’t want to do the important work. Breaking down those big important tasks into smaller more manageable ones can help you get started. In fact, you can use some busy work to reward you when you accomplish one of the smaller steps of your project.

If you are procrastinating on your project because you need information or instruction, ask. It's better if you write out or think through the questions you want to ask and then make an effort to ask them early into the project. Don't wait until a day or week before the project is due to ask the basic questions.

Don't be busy - be productive.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Striking Out at Stress!

The 'recession' is over but the effects of it still linger. Those among us lucky enough to have jobs, and especially those who have survived a lay-off, are often stuck in stressful situation. Taking on extra work due to lay-offs or hiring freezes inevitably leads to more demanding schedules and increased stress levels. Because jobs appear to be scarce and employees often have a difficult time finding other work, management, unfortunately takes advantage of employees that feel they have nowhere else to go.

As workloads increase and morale takes a nosedive dealing with workplace stress is no longer an optional task, it’s a critical requirement.Successfully managing your stress on the job involves tackling the issue on a number of fronts. Unfortunately, I’ve had some experience with this topic. So here are some suggestions that I used to make life a little easier, when the job becomes increasingly more difficult.

  1. Make a List and Check It Twice (a day): Think of the things you honestly like or enjoy about your job. When I made my list it included my co-workers (well most of them), sandwiches at the café near the job, the fact that I had my own office, and my favorite topics to train on. While there were a number of things that stressed me out, focusing on the people and things that I did enjoyed helped a bit.
  1. Walk It Out: Using my break times to take short walks helped immensely. The act of walking as well as getting outside and out of the office helped to immediately alleviate some stress.
  1. Talk About It: Find a sympathetic ear … who will let you vent. It could be a friend or a spouse but it helps if it is not a co-worker. When you confine in a co-worker, you run the risks of your venting becoming office gossip which could quickly make a bad situation worse.
  1. Drive Your Troubles Away: When leaving work, I made sure that I did not pull out of the parking lot until I had put on one of my favorite CDs. As I sang along (and okay, yes, did a little dancing), it helped me put work in perspective and keep it where it belonged … in my rearview mirror.
  1. Be a Lady (or Lad) Who Lunches: Like with the walks, having a lunch I enjoyed eating gave me a nice break. It’s even better if it can be enjoyed with friendly co-workers or at a place or in an environment you like. It is a great way to break up the day.
  1. Look Elsewhere: Yes, the economy is bad. Yes, jobs are hard to find … but that doesn’t mean they are impossible to find. Update your resume and start looking. Looking for other work helped me to feel that I had some control of my circumstances.

Not only did I look for other employment, I found it - leaving a very toxic situation for one that is much healthier. So while good jobs are hard to find right now, it's still possible to find one.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ladies (and Gents!) Who Lunch

Ladies Who Lunch is a term that originated in a Broadway musical to describe well-off women who have time for long, leisurely lunches. As a professional with a busy schedule, you probably wouldn't consider yourself a lady who lunches, but you should, sort of. I'm not advocating taking a two-hour, three martini lunch in the middle of the workday but I am advocating using your lunch time and taking your breaks.

Did you know, according to a 2010 survey by Right Management and Linked In, only 47% of American workers take a lunch away from their desks? Twenty percent eat at their desk, and 13% seldom or never take a lunch break at all.

Many employers even frown on taking a lunch. It looks like you are being more productive if you are tethered to your desk all day long. But guess what? Taking a lunch and maybe even a mid-morning or afternoon break actually makes you more productive. Your body and your mind need that breather. It needs the time away for physical nourishment and mental regeneration.

I too have been victim to task master bosses who equate lunch with slacking off but I also know that I feel better and my work is better if I take a breather. On nice days, I might eat at my desk while working, but I do it so I can take a short brisk walk afterwards.My methods may be unconventional but my results can't be denied.

Even if it's just 15 minutes, make a effort to get up and have a real lunch away from your desk. For those precious few moments: enjoy your food, chat with a co-worker, read a book, thumb through a magazine, play a game on your phone or take a short walk. Do something but do it away from your desk and make sure it's not work.

Be a lady (or gentleman) who lunches!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Customer Service Training Comes Full Circle

As a trainer who's used off-the-shelf customer training curriculums, it always amazed me that the focus of customer service training dealt solely with the customer. The customer is right. The customer needs to have a good experience. The customer, customer, customer! Yet, how can a customer service professional (CSP) create a good experience for the customer if they aren't having a good experience themselves?

This is the question that led me to write The Colors of Customer Service - bringing customer service full circle by addressing the apathy, discontentment and frustration that many CSPs feel and then telling them how to address the customers concerns.

Now, I've taken the book a step further by designing a training kit to deliver The Colors of Customer Service training. The kit can be used and modified by seasoned training professionals or used by managers and others who have little to no training experience.

The kit includes:

Participant's Guide: This can be copies and binded and given to participants. It contains a Customer Service Quiz that gauges their levels of apathy, discontentment and frustration. It leads them through a series of exercised designed to increase their levels of engagement and job satisfaction.

Facilitator's Guide: This mirrors the participant guid but includes suggestions for training delivery as well as a to-do list for the training and a breakdown of topics by time so they can keep on schedule

PowerPoint Presentation: Following the order of the guides, the presentation contains slide notes that give suggestions on what to add with each slide. Electronically, there are two presentations, one with animation and another without.

Exercises: There are two exercises designed for small groups. These exercises deal with difficult personality types as well as managing change.

I am excited about the book and the training kit. The training is designed for a full traiing day (6 hours) but the beauty of the kit is that it can be broken down and customized to fit whatever scheduling challenges you might be facing.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Leaving Work at Work

If you can't successfully manage stress at work, you run the risk of taking it home with you. Not leaving work at work creates all sorts of problems: fighting with the spouse, snapping at the kids, emotional eating, withdrawing from social activities, and losing sleep are just some of the effects of not being able to leave work at work.

I had a co-worker who had recently been promoted to a supervisory position. He would spend 12 hours or more at work tying up loose ends. He told me he was afraid he’d forget something if he didn’t take care of everything right then. I gave him two suggestions. I told him at 5:00 p.m., to make a list of all the things he needed to take care of the next day. Writing out a to-do list would help keep things from falling through the cracks and give him some much needed piece of mind.

Then I told him to use his commuting time to separate from work. Have a favorite music or books on tape cued up to start when he turned on the ignition  Then, as he pulled out of the parking lot and started his drive, glance a few times in the rear-view mirror and watch the building get smaller and smaller until it was gone. At that point, I told him to start focusing on his evening. What would he have for dinner? Was anything good coming on TV? What things could he take care of around the house? The point was to stop focusing on work and start focusing on all of the other things he had to do. Work worries need to stay at work.

I ran into him a few days later and I could actually see the relief on his face! He had been using the list and as a result he’d been getting more done and leaving on time. He said using his commute to refocus also helped. By the time he got home, work was a distant memory.

I read about a man who, as he would come home in the evening, imagined putting his work worries on the potted tree outside his door. They would stay there until he picked them up the next morning, on his way to work. He made sure that he didn’t take them into the house with him. I do something similar with the shower. After a particularly bad day, I like to imagine all my worries and troubles washing down the drain with the soap suds. It can be a particularly powerful visualization.

Communication is also key. If you need a moment to refocus when you get home, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Sit in your car for a minute if you need to, or park for a moment around the corner. Work something out with your spouse so that you can have a moment or two to yourself when you get home. It doesn’t have to be an hour, sometimes five minutes can be enough.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Self-Care on the Job

We spend the majority of our waking hours consumed with work. We are there five out of seven days. On those five days – we get up and spend our mornings preparing for and getting to work. We stay at work at least eight hours. Then we spend time commuting home from work, trying to leave work at work and then preparing for our next day at work. We spend more time with co-workers than we do with families. So finding out how to care for ourselves at work is critical.

On the Commute: Listen to your favorite CD or radio shows on the way to and from work. Maybe just enjoy the silence before you get home to a loud house full of kids! You might even want to use that time for a little prayer and meditation (of course, you don’t want to close your eyes while driving!).

During Lunch: Of course, you should have something health. But I say you should also have something yummy that you look forward to eating. Make the most of your lunch by eating it away from your desk and with co-workers you enjoy. When I worked in DC, I found a nice little park to steal away to and eat my lunch. It was great to have a peaceful and beautiful outside experience in the middle of my day. I also have had a favorite restaurant close by I can go to and enjoy.

During Breaks: I am a big proponent of getting away from the desk, or the cube whenever possible. I get a big boost when I take a short walk during my breaks. You can also use breaks to talk and reconnect with work friends.

During my Coach University training, one of my instructors gave me a great way to remember to take care of yourself. Use the ESC key on your keyboard as a reminder to engage in Extreme Self-Care!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Work-Life Balance? Maybe ...

Lately, I’ve had to work a ridiculous number of hours at my day job to complete a major project. It’s really got me thinking about this concept called work-life balance. Since the past six weeks have been decidedly unbalanced, I think this is a great time to cover this concept and the three things I have realized.

1.      Being out of balance sometimes is part of being in balance. In other words, balance isn't perfection. It isn’t a perfectly divided pie. It’s part of life and life is messy and never symmetrical. For six weeks, my work took precedence and that was fine for me because there was an end date. At other times, my family and my health have taken precedence. That’s fine too as long as I’m dealing with a temporary situation and not a permanent life change.

2.      As soon as possible, reestablish old routines. I routinely get up at 5:00 AM, go upstairs and work out. I follow that up with prayer and meditation and then head back downstairs to get ready for work. I love this routine. It keeps me focused, sane and on track. However, being at work by 6:00 AM made this impossible. However, as soon as possible, I got back to it. My body and mind thank me for it.

3.      Do what you can, nothing more, maybe a bit less. While I was burning the morning and midnight oils, my blogging took a back seat. I spend weekends on the sofa instead of running a long list of errands and tasks. I realized that I could only do so much, so I accepted that. I was too tired and frazzled to do everything I had been doing. Working out in the evening would have been nice, but frankly, I didn't have the energy. Instead, I tried to focus on not eating too much junk. That much I could do.

The moral of the story is life happens. Part of being balanced is being flexible and realizing that what balance looks like will change from day-to-day. And that is okay. There will be times when one area takes a lion’s share of your time. Do what you can with the rest. But start by being gracious and realistic enough to recognize your limits and your limitations.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Respect and Loyalty

Last week, I shared with you an awesome customer service experience I had with 360 Computer Maid. As I wrote that post, I realized I had another post that would illustrate the good and the not-so-great about customer service.

I’ve been in my house for just about five years. It is my first house. As a renter, one thing I never had to worry about was landscaping. When I purchased my home taking care of a lawn was a completely new experience. Luckily, I had an acquaintance who had just started a lawn care company. I went with them. For the first two years, I had no complaints. Then a drought decimated everyone’s yard in in my neighborhood.

After the drought, my lawn had large gaping bald spots. They aerated and seeded but no luck. I took a lot of the blame because I wasn’t good at watering … especially when I was told the best time to water is in the morning. I already get up at 5:00 to work out. I’m at work by 7:30. My mornings are packed.

I did some research and found out that Bermuda grass would be better than the fescue that we’d been trying to grow. When I said I wanted to switch to that grass, I was told we’d have to seed in the spring and not the summer.

So this spring we seeded and I watered. I watered daily. My water bill doubled! Still no luck. I googled and found out that Bermuda shouldn’t be seeded until the ground temperature was 65 degrees. We were still going down into the 40’s at night. But I gave them the benefit of the doubt. They are the experts; I’m just someone that has a Google app on my smart phone.

I did email and ask about the seeding. The reply I received was shocking. In fact, I didn’t want to jump to conclusions so I forwarded the response to a few friends. They came to the same conclusion. Basically, I was told that I hadn’t actually watered my grass at all and that my claim of watering was not truthful. I was lying.

At this same time, my neighbors grass was beautiful, and they had been exactly where I was, with an ugly lawn, a few months before. I got the number to their lawn care company. Our discussion was eye-opening.

First of all, he looked at my grass and was stunned that it had not been aerated and the seed was just thrown on top of the soil. Of course, it wasn’t growing and the amount of watering I was doing wasn’t going to make it better.

The representative agreed that the best time to water is in the morning. However, he told me I could get an inexpensive timer for my hose. My original lawn care people never mentioned this to me. Basically, they felt I should just get up and water the lawn.

Finally, we talked price. The new company’s rate was half of what I had been paying. Needless to say, armed with all of this information,  I switched lawn care companies.

So what did I learn?

As a customer, …

  • Loyalty is important to me. However, being loyal to a company that isn’t meeting my needs is just ridiculous.
  • More important than loyalty is respect. Accusing me of lying was the height of disrespect. That, even more than the sorry state of my grass, was what made me pick up the phone and call another company.
  • Price is king. However, price alone didn’t fuel my decision. It was going to a company that made me feel like they had the knowledge and ability to meet my needs. Telling me about the seed and echoing what I had read for myself on Google made sense to me. And the nugget about a timer for the hose was invaluable. Compared to the information I’d been getting before, it was critical in the decision I made.

For the Company/CSR…

  • Make it easy for the customer to be loyal by offering a strong product and wonderful service. Had they grown my grass and treated me better, I would have continued to pay a premium for their service. Price alone would not have driven me to a competitor.
  • The customer and client should be on the same team. The customer wants a good product or service and the company wants them to have a good experience. Informing me of what I could do to make my lawn better would have helped both of us. Why did it take 4½ years for me to even hear about the timer solution (remember this is my first house and my first lawn).
  • There are customers out there who would lie, but a customer with no history of lying, misrepresentation or other negative behaviors should not be assumed to be a liar, or anything else. 
  • Your price should be competitive but if your price is going to be higher than average be able to justify that cost
  • Don’t assume that your customer isn’t going anywhere. The way my lawn was seeded was simply not acceptable, nor was the strong implication of lying.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A-M-A-Z-I-N-G Experience: 360 Computer Maid

A few weeks ago, I decided to take the time to do some overdue maintenance on my PC. One of the applications I chose to run was my registry cleaner, 360 Computer Maid. It’s the best registry cleaner I have come across. I decided it would be great if I could schedule automatic registry cleanings. I found that I couldn’t. When I went to the web site to try and find a solution, I realized that I was using an out-dated version of the software. They were on version 4. 0. I had version!

I knew that once I had purchased the software I shouldn’t have ever had to repurchase it. However, when I bought it, it was $9.99. It was now $24.00. I contacted support expecting them to tell me I’d have to pay again. However, they responded promptly, even though I contacted them on a Saturday, and honored their promise. The representative sent me a link to download and an updated product key. I was pleased.

Well, I was pleased until I installed the software. It wouldn’t work. I was crestfallen. I loved this software and even the outdated version I was using gave me great results. I really wanted this to work.

Over the next few days, we went back and forth. They gave me suggestions and steps to follow. I responded with screen shots and details of what happened when I tried what they had suggested. After my last email, I hadn’t heard from then for over 24 hours. I thought they had given up on me in frustration.

Finally, they got back to me. They uncovered the problem. I tried this final upload and it worked perfectly! In fact, I had helped them uncover a bug they hadn’t known was there. They immediately uploaded this new version and contacted previous customers to let them know about it.

This was an incredible experience. Email customer service is usually the worst. I hadn’t expected the prompt replies. But each time, they got back to me. It would have been easy for them to ‘lose’ my email and stop responding at all, especially when the solution wasn’t easy to come up with.

Each email was friendly and professional. At no point did they pass the buck and say it wasn’t their problem. They stuck with me until the problem was resolved. I loved 360 Computer Maid before. I really love them now.

Great product + Outstanding Customer Service = Customer for Life.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Be Our Guest!

Thomas Peterson is quoted as saying ““The magic formula that successful businesses have discovered is to treat customers like guests and employees like people.”

Think about how we treat our guest. We make sure the house is clean. We stock the bathroom with amenities and make sure we have good food on hand. We plan activities for them. And we do all of that before they arrive. When we finally get that knock on the door, we welcome them with open arms and a smile. If they have a request we didn’t anticipate, we do what we can to accommodate it. We do these things even when we aren’t crazy about the person visiting!

So what does this look like one the job. Well, the anticipation phase would require us anticipating the questions and requests that come in most often and preparing ourselves to answer them. This could mean everything from having the right software open and/or directions for how to complete a task to rehearsing what you’ll say when the system is down or running poorly. It may even involve finding other ways to complete a task.

We also want to be prepared to answer that ringing phone with the same enthusiasm we would answer the door for a guest. Okay, we are humans not robots so maybe we aren’t quite THAT enthusiastic. However, we always want to be professional and courteous. And for goodness sake, we never want to answer the phone as if we are dreading that visit!

The second half of his statement involves treating employees like people. People are people and not machines. This means, from a management perspective, expecting bad days … they happen. People get sick, the have emergencies and sometimes they just get up on the wrong side of the bed. This doesn’t excuse poor treatment of customers, but in these cases a little bit of understanding can go a long way.

Also when it comes to improving production remember the horse. There is a carrot as well as a stick. Constantly cracking the whip and making all sorts of demands will only go so far. Use the carrot sometimes. This doesn’t always mean a monetary reward. It could mean stopping by and asking someone how things are going or sending an email to let people know how well someone is doing or of a particularly great customer service experience they created.

For co-workers, it means that you don’t have to love or even like all of your co-workers but that you treat them with the respect you would like to be treated with. Keep gossip about co-workers to a minimum as well as complaints. Likewise, give the kind of help to your teammates that you’d like to receive.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Retail Chains with the Best Customer Service

This article is a reprint of from Barbara Farfan of Click here for the entire article.

What make a good customer experience? According to the Temkin Group research and consulting firm, it's a combination of three aspects of a customer's interaction with a company - functional, accessible, and emotional. The annual Best Customer Experience ranking list is based on these three aspects of the customer experience. In 2013 customer rating and rankings reveal that in 2013 they viewed their experiences with retail grocery store chains Publix, Trader Joe's, Aldi, and fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A to be better than their experiences with This is significant since and its leader Jeff Bezos are well known for an almost fanaticalcustomer satisfaction commitment. 

When consumers are asked just three questions about their latest interaction with a company, it can be determined how they rate their experience with that company for functional (completely failed to completely successful), accessibility (very difficult to very easy), and emotional impact (upset to delighted). Individual opinions are averaged and a customer experience ranking is obtained based on the average customer scores. 

Even though the 2013 Temkin Customer Experience rankings included ratings of companies from 19 different industries, it is clear that the masters of customer experience in U.S. business is the retail industry (which includes restaurants, automobiles dealers, and companies with significant retail operations). Of the top 20 companies that consumers rated as having the best customer experience, 19 of them are retail companies. Banks, insurance companies, financial services, wireless providers, TV services, computer manufacturers, and car rental companies crowd the bottom end of the customer experience rankings. As in 2012, of the companies that are strictly retailing companies, RadioShack received the lowest customer experience ratings from retail customers. 

What follows is a list of the retail companies that were rated by consumers for customer experience in the 2013 ranking report. The list is arranged according to the customer experience ranking each company received, when compared to all companies rated. The number in the left column is the ranking number, out of a total of 246 companies. (The companies sharing ranking numbers received the same average ratings from the customers surveyed.) 

Which retail chains provide the best experience to their customers? The ones that can best answer that question are the customers themselves, which they do each year in a customer experience survey conducted by Temkin Group research and consulting firm. Customers have rated and ranked Aldi, Amazon, Publix, San’s and HEB as multi-year customer experience bests and Dell, AT&T, Ford, and RadioShack as multi-year customer experience worsts. 

By comparing customer experience rankings from 2011, 2012, and 2013, it’s possible to see the trends of individual retailers as viewed by the customers they serve. What follows is a multi-year customer experience comparison of all retail chains that were included in the annual Temkin research from 2011 to 2013. The numbers to the right of the dates are the ranking numbers that each retail company was given based on the ratings of emotion, function and accessibility provided by their customers compared to all other retail companies, as well as companies from other industries. 

1       Publix 
2      Trader Joe's 
3      Aldi 
3      Chick-fil-A 
5      Sam's Club 
7      H.E.B. 
7      Dunkin' Donuts 
5      Save-a-Lot 
7      Sonic Drive-In 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Internal Customers Need Love Too!

I used to have a boss and whenever she walked over to my desk, I’d cringe. Her desk-side visits meant one thing, I’d done something wrong. Her philosophy was when you got it right, you were just doing what you were supposed to do. She felt commendations and praise were too ‘touchy-feely’. Those efforts didn’t require desk-side visitation.

The morale of our team suffered because we never heard anything good from our manager and the overwhelming majority of the work we did was good. A little acknowledgement would have gone a long way.

Too many times, we fail to give credit where credit is due or even show a little appreciation to those closest around us. It doesn’t feel important. In my old boss’s view, criticism was a better motivator than praise. She was wrong. But she isn’t alone in her preference for criticism. People who receive excellent customer service tell, on average, three other people. If they receive poor service, however, they recount that experience to at least 11 people.

Think about how good you feel when you get an honest compliment or when someone values your hard work. Now, take that feeling and pay it forward.

Here are some ways to acknowledge and appreciate those around you.

  • Don’t keep quiet! Let people know about a job well done.
  • Remember birthdays. It’s a little thing but it shows that you cared enough to remember.
  • Smile.
  • Celebrate successes. Good grades, a promotion at work, losing a few pounds, all of these things take a lot of effort. Acknowledge the hard work.
  • Compliment honestly.
Acknowledgement and appreciation help us focus on the positive and the good that is always going on around us!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A for Attitude

Recently, I started volunteering for a job readiness program. I’ve been dealing with a lot of my own struggles and I felt it was time that I got out of my own box and out of my own head and did something for someone else.

On my first day, I observed the first session for a new class full of job seekers. One of the first things the instructor said was that if they were going to be successful, they’d have to have the right attitude. And that attitude was one of professionalism and a willingness to do the work.

A man sitting next to me balked. “Attitude?” he said. “What does attitude have to do with anything?”

The instructor responded, “Attitude is everything. Your attitude determines your behavior. And your behaviors determine what you do.”

A positive attitude is critical to any real or lasting success. Your attitude is the canvas that your life is painted on.

So exactly what is attitude? Well, it’s more than emotion or a feeling. It’s more than positive thinking.

Your attitude is your overall outlook. It’s how you view a situation. It deals with how you see yourself and how you perceive others. Having a positive attitude doesn’t mean that you are always happy but a positive attitude does mean that you will get back up sooner than later after falling down. A positive attitude is one where you accept that you — and not a partner, job, economic downturn, political party or society — has the ultimate control over your life.

A positive attitude doesn’t come from a place of helplessness. When it encounters obstacles it doesn’t throw up its hands and declare defeat. Instead it puts its head down and gets to work, finding another way, looking for other options and sometimes even creating opportunities.

Attitude fuels belief. Consider this. You can’t have a positive attitude and negative beliefs. It just doesn’t work. You can’t have a positive attitude that says ‘anything is possible and then believe that ‘nothing good will ever happen’ for you. If yours is a negative attitude then it will be difficult to have positive beliefs come from it.

Beliefs fuel action. If you believe in persistence, then if one door closes, you will continue to push forward because you believe that you will eventually get that open door. If you believe that nothing good can happen for you, then as soon as that door closes, you will take that as proof of your negative belief. And chances are you will not find that open door.

It all starts with attitude. And you, … not anyone else has the power to create your attitude and the power to control it.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

I'm Baaccckkk!

The Colors of Customer Service blog is being revived. Look for new blog posts every Wednesday and join us on Twitter at @Colorfulservice.

We'll blog on the best in worst in customer service, tips and tricks for Customer Service Reps and reprints of informative customer service articles.

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