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There’s no lying in customer service!

Here is a short version of the story. On a recent trip I met a number of my fellow professional speakers for dinner at the hotel we were staying at. Sometime during the dinner someone asked if all of us brought down the five dollar discount coupons that were in our registration packet. Two of us, myself included, had not. When it came time to pay our bill we asked the server if we could pay the bill, get the discount, and we promised to bring the coupons back once we all got up from the table. I jokingly said I would provide collateral, if necessary. She laughed and said it wasn’t necessary. Continue reading

customer-service-trainingDelivering Great Customer Service

Just because an employee understands what it means to deliver great customer service, doesn’t mean that he or she is able to deliver it.

As I talk to many different companies about how they build an organization that is customer-focused, many of them start with the hiring process.  You have to hire people that already understand customer service and that are capable of delivering it.  That’s the human side of customer service. Continue reading

This may not actually be a customer service issue, but what happened with JetBlue does fall under customer perception and it will be interesting to watch how they handle this incident.  And, it ties to training – the way JetBlue trains their people in crises situations and also a concept I’ve written about in the past, customer training.  This is where customers are trained by the company to best use their products and services.

Yesterday a JetBlue flight going to Las Vegas met with potential disaster.  However, because of some excellent training and common sense, by both the crew and the passengers, disaster was avoided. Continue reading

“This call may be recorded for quality assurance.”

We’ve all heard this phrase as we call various companies and need to talk to sales or customer service reps.  This is a great training strategy.  After the call, let the rep hear the conversation he or she had and find ways to improve.

Recently, the tables were turned.  An AOL customer decided to record his call.  He put it on the Internet for everyone to hear, sharing the experience he had trying to cancel his AOL service.  Unfortunately, the call did not go well for AOL.

After fifteen minutes of hold time, Vincent Ferrari finally got through to an AOL customer service representative (CSR).  The CSR did not make canceling the service easy, to say the least.  He continued to ask questions and debate with Vincent.  Finally out of frustration, Vincent repeated over and over, “Cancel the account.”

This seemed so outrageous that I had to confirm that this was not just another Internet “legendary story.”  Matt Lauer from NBC’s Today show interviewed Vincent and played the entire conversation.

AOL has made the statement that they listened to Vincent’s recording and read the postings on Vincent’s blog, because they wanted to learn from it and do a much better job next time. They have since let the customer service rep go.

The lesson is simple.  We need to know how we come across to our customers over the phone.  The CSR claimed he was trying to help Vincent.  Was it poor training or poor judgment?  It doesn’t matter.  It is all about the customer’s perception of the situation.

Consider recording calls for training purposes.  Another option is to just make a call yourself and find out how your employees handle problem situations.  Become your own mystery shopper.  How does your receptionist sound?  (Do you even have a receptionist?)  How did your CSR handle your “problem?”  Bottom line is that I hope you had a good experience.  If not, then it is time to go to work!

This may seem like a rant, because it is.  The other night I was out with my wife and some friends for dinner.  It was taking a very long time to get our food.  At one point we wanted to talk to our server, but she was nowhere in sight.  After ten minutes I finally saw a server from another table.  I motioned him over and he said he would be just a moment.  Several minutes later he came back.  I nicely asked him if there was something wrong in the kitchen, as it had been a long time since we had ordered.  His response…

“You’re not in my station,” and he walked away.

I went from Mr. Nice to Mr. Unhappy in one short moment.  I asked him to come back, which he did reluctantly, and requested to speak with the manager who eventually came to our table and apologized.  This reminded me of a training video I did for the restaurant industry and our extreme example of this was a guest asking the waiter what time it was and the waiter saying, “I’m sorry, you’re not in my station.”  I guess I wasn’t too far from the truth.

Was it appropriate for the server to be friendly to just the guests in his station?  No!  The server is working for the restaurant and all of their guests.

Imagine a company that gets a call from a customer and the receptionist inadvertently connects the caller to the wrong department.  Does that person hang up on the customer because “it is not my department?”  I hope not.

Dr. Ted Levett of Harvard Business School said, “The function of every business is to get and keep customers.”  My take on that is that it is also the function of every employee, no matter what their department or responsibility, to do the same.

Disney says that every employee (cast member) is to do the job they were hired to do – and always take care of the guest.

This is a lesson for everyone in any business.  In addition to any responsibility you have, you are always your company’s ambassador.  Always!

Recently I was asked to rate and compare a number of companies on their level of service. As I started the comparison, I thought a scale of 1-5 would be a good way of doing it. (One is bad and five is excellent.) Then creativity kicked in. Why rate them by numbers when you can assign a descriptive name. So, I came up with the “Five Levels of Service.”
Continue reading

I’m about to tell you a story that may sound like I’m criticizing or complaining about a hotel I stayed at. Actually, I really like the hotel and will go back. The incident was kind of funny, even though a bit of a hassle. I title this one, “I Thought Cash Was King.”
Continue reading

Recently I was in Chicago speaking for Salomon Smith Barney where I met Kevin Green, one of their top financial consultants.  He shared a story that makes the point that great service can be one of your best sales tools.

Not long ago Kevin was at a black-tie wedding at the beautiful Ritz-Carlton hotel in Chicago. A server came by with a special sauce for the entrée and accidentally spilled it on one of the guests at the table.

The sauce was hot, so the first thing the server did was ask the guest, “Are you okay?” Fortunately he was.  The server then asked the guest to remove his jacket and promised him that he could have it cleaned in less than 30 minutes.  The gentleman removed his coat and made a joke with the server that it better not take 31 minutes.  About twenty minutes later the server returned the coat without a trace of sauce.  Everyone at the table was impressed.

The server was well trained, not only in delivering great service, but also in the “Art of Recovery.”  There was a problem, and he knew how to fix it.  First he made sure the guest was okay.  Then he took care of the jacket.  The Ritz had dry cleaning equipment on the premises, so it was a simple matter of taking the soiled jacket downstairs to be cleaned.

“No big deal,” you might say.  As Paul Harvey says, “Here is the rest of the story.”

Our guest with the soiled tuxedo has three daughters.  Two of them are getting married in the next couple of years.  The server didn’t know this, and it really didn’t matter.  He was just doing his job.  And, I’m sure you can guess where they are getting married.  The Ritz!

Why?  The answer is easy: unbelievable service.  The Ritz is known for being first class.  But not only do they have great banquets, great food, great rooms – and more – they also can be counted on to do the right thing when there is a problem.  A salesman didn’t close the deal.  A server did – just by doing what he was supposed to do.  As they say in their mission statement, “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentleman.”  Yes, the Ritz is a classy place, and they know how to take care of their guests.

The message is clear.  You don’t have to be in sales to make a sale.  No matter what you do, provide great service.  It not only keeps customers, it helps makes sales!

You may remember it was about this time last year that “The Cult of the Customer” came out.  I’m proud that it hit the “Wall Street Journal” best-seller list, and in celebration of the book’s first birthday, here are five great customer service tips that will give any company an advantage over competition and more value for their customers.

1. Do not settle for satisfied customers – Satisfactory is an average rating.  The best companies recognize that satisfied customers are not loyal customers.  Every employee should ask themselves a question: What am I doing right now to ensure that the next time the customer needs what it is that we do or sell, they will choose us?  Most people think of loyalty as a lifetime, but it is really about the next time – all of the time!

2. Get into alignment – Every employee must know what the company expects from them, as well as the brand promise the company makes to the customers.  Create a mantra, which is a one sentence or less statement that combines the vision and mission of the company, as well as the promise to the customer.  The Ritz Carlton hotel chain has a great one that is just nine words long: “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”  Everyone gets it, the employees and the guests (customers).  The employees have it memorized.  They live and breathe the mantra – all of the time!

3. Constantly train – The best companies budget time and expense for on-going training of both hard or technical skills (the skills needed to do their job) and soft skills (customer service, relationship and personal improvement).  They don’t do this once in a while – they do it all of the time!

4. Create confidence – Confidence comes from a predictable experience.  You want customers to own their experience with you, which means that they know what to expect – all of the time!

5. Be amazing – The best/amazing companies do not deliver over-the-top customer service
experiences all of the time.  While once in a while they do, their secret is consistency.  They are simply predictably better than average – all of the time!

Bonus: Never forget to show appreciation. Say thank you – over and over.  Customers need to be told how much you appreciate their business – all of the time!

When discussing customer service, I don’t like to pick on the airlines. Their shortcomings are obvious. Yet while I may encounter that curmudgeon at the ticket counter or that crusty flight attendant, when it comes to the people side, the airlines usually deliver acceptable levels of service. It is usually the operational side that has created problems for the airlines; flight delays, cancellations, lost luggage, etc.

To support the airlines, many times these delays or cancellations are necessary due to weather or mechanical issues. Still, they are not always handled very well. Sometimes the bad service comes down to what appears to be complete ineptness. The service in the airline industry has become so inconsistent that many of their customers have adapted to the model that says, “Treat me like crap. I don’t care. Just get me there on time and I’ll fly with you again.”

That said, we can learn a lot from the airlines. Here are four simple lessons that the airlines teach us.

Manage my expectations. I hate delayed flights – or delayed anything! If we have to wait for our reservation at a restaurant or in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, let us know how long it will be. And don’t tell us 20 minutes, when it is really 45 minutes. In other words, don’t let me down – again.

Give me information. Is there bad weather? Is it a mechanical problem? Tell me and maybe I’ll understand. In any business, if something goes wrong, be honest about it. Let us know quickly and what you plan to do about it. The more we know, the better we feel.

Have a backup plan. So the flight is canceled, what are you going to do about it? I’ve gone to stores that advertise sale items that are out of stock. Do I walk away disappointed? No. The good stores give me options that will make me happy.

Create confidence. As mentioned above, just get me there on time and I’ll fly with you again. In any business, customers expect what they buy (products or services) to do what they are supposed to do. Throw in consistently great service and you have a winning combination.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional  speaker and New York Times   bestselling business author. For information contact (314) 692-2200 or http://www.hyken.com. For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to http://www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXII, Shep Hyken)

I love lists, especially when it comes to learning. The list below was the result of a quick brainstorming session about the advantages of delivering a great customer service experience. I came up with many more, but wanted to create the “Top Ten List” for you.

As you look at the list below, what other ideas and strategies do you think about? I would love for you to send me what you would add to the list. And now, here are ten compelling reasons to deliver an amazing customer service experience:

1. Amazing customer service builds credibility, trust and confidence, which can lead to customer loyalty.
2. It can help the marketing and sales budget. It costs less to keep existing customers than it does to create new ones.
3. Delivering amazing service creates a buzz, word-of-mouth marketing and referrals, again helping the marketing budget.
4. Delivering amazing customer service can lead to existing customers buying more.
5. Customer service saves money. When you do it right the first time, you don’t have to fix it the next time.
6. Customer service can give your company an advantage over competitors.
7. Amazing customer service can make price less relevant.
8. Customer service focused companies are usually employee focused companies, thereby creating a better place to work. That means lower turnover, which could mean savings in hiring, training and more.
9. Customer service superstar companies are usually more profitable than the ones that aren’t.
10. Customer service helps get and keep customers… because without customers, you don’t have a business.

Thanks for reading and I can’t wait to get your feedback and ideas!

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional  speaker and New York Times   bestselling business author. For information contact (314) 692-2200 or http://www.hyken.com. For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to http://www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXII, Shep Hyken)

This is the ninth in a series of ten frequently asked questions and answers about customer service. Please feel free to share your answer or comments to these questions.

What suggestions do you have to start a customer service program?

Again, I could write a book on this one question. Actually I have – a few of them! Seriously, I want to give you a simple answer. Go to the website www.CultOfTheCustomer.com. Download the forms and exercises. You will see the links on the left side of the page. These downloads are free. Take a look at the Touch Points Chain exercise. This exercise will help you identify the interactions you have with your customers.

A “Touch Point” is any point of interaction you have with a customer. There are several follow-up exercises that will help you develop strategies to enhance these “touch points.” This is a simple, effective and inexpensive way to get you thinking about how the customer perceives you and your company. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity. You could spend a day or more strategizing over the answers to these exercises.

Please share with us your answer or comments to the above question. Thank you!

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert,  professional  speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314) 692-2200 or http://www.hyken.com. For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to http://www.thecustomerfocus.com/. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXII, Shep Hyken)

This is the seventh in a series of ten frequently asked questions and answers about customer service. Please feel free to share your answer or comments to these questions.

What happens if a customer just isn’t being reasonable?

That happens. Sometimes customers aren’t reasonable. Sometimes it seems that no matter what you offer to do, the customer isn’t going to be happy. One technique we teach is to reverse the situation. This has to be set up properly. Ask the customer, “If you were me, working for this company, and I came to you with this situation, what would you do for me?” Ask the customer to be realistic. Remind him/her that you’re reversing roles. If it has gotten to this point you have probably already shared ideas or alternative solutions.

In the end, the customer may not be reasonable. Ask yourself, “Is this a customer worth keeping.” If so, do what you have to do. If not, this may be a good time to nicely help them learn about other options for getting what they want – such as the competition.

Please share with us your answer or comments to the above question. Thank you!

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert,  professional  speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314) 692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXII, Shep Hyken)

This is the sixth in a series of ten frequently asked questions and answers about customer service. Please feel free to share your answer or comments to these questions.

What is the best way to handle a customer complaint?

There are entire books written with numerous techniques on how to handle complaints. Still, I have a quick answer. What you do to fix a customer’s problem or complaint is not as important as the ultimate goal, which is to re-establish the customer’s confidence.

My simple formula has three parts:

1. Fix what needs fixing. It really doesn’t even matter how, as long as it is fixed.

2. Do it with the right attitude: one with ownership and accountability.

3. Do it fast. Urgency is of the utmost importance.

As long as you are not a company or organization that is constantly having problems, the above formula will help re-establish customer confidence most of the time. Their trust in you will get them to come back, and their trust will grow when you can take a bad situation and turn it around for them (and for you)!

Please share with us your answer or comments to the above question. Thank you!

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert,  professional  speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314) 692-2200 or http://www.hyken.com. For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to http://www.thecustomerfocus.com/. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXII, Shep Hyken)

This is the fifth in a series of ten frequently asked questions and answers about customer service. Please feel free to share your answer or comments to these questions.

How much does it cost to deliver good customer service?

The question should actually be how much does it cost to deliver bad customer service? Bad customer service leads to low or no repeat business, no or poor word of mouth, morale issues inside the company, and more.

There is a cost to delivering good service. Sometimes it does cost more to deliver value. It also costs to train employees. Yet, usually the cost is far less than the cost of not providing a good and value-added experience for the reasons listed above.

Again, please share with us your answer or comments to the
above question. Thank you!

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert,  professional  speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314) 692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXII, Shep Hyken)

This is the fourth in a series of ten frequently asked questions and answers about customer service. Please feel free to share your answer or comments to these questions.

How do you suggest we get feedback from customers (or clients, guests, patients, etc.)?

I’m not a big fan of customer satisfaction surveys – the ones that are mailed or emailed to customers. My clients who use these tend to get a small percentage of responses. My favorite way is to just ask. Sometimes you can do it on the spot. Or even on the phone.

One of my favorite clients is Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Their follow-up surveys are an example of the right way to do it. After renting one of their cars, the customer will usually receive a phone call within 24-48 hours. The survey is promised to last less than a minute and consist of three questions. Customers are usually happy to respond to this very short survey. Enterprise gets excellent feedback and from a high percentage of their surveyed customers.

Again, please share with us your answer or comments to the above question. Thank you!

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert,  professional  speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314) 692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXII, Shep Hyken)

Here is the second of ten frequently asked questions about customer service. I’m posting them one at a time and hope that readers of this blog will comment or share their answer to these questions. Here’s question number two…

What’s the difference between customer service and customer loyalty?

Customer service is what you and your organization provide. Customer loyalty is the result of the service. I have a simple customer loyalty formula:

Great customer service (what you provide) + Confidence (which comes from the customer’s predictable experience) = Customer Loyalty (potentially)

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert,  professional  speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314) 692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXII, Shep Hyken)
April 21, 2010

This blog post has the first of ten frequently asked questions about customer service. I’m going to post them one at a time and hope that readers of this blog will comment or share their answer to these questions. Here’s the first one…

What is customer service?

The simple answer is that customer service is how an organization or individual delivers what they sell to the customer. That said there is much that goes into delivering good customer service. More than just the way a person or organization delivers what they sell, it is really customers that define service, which is the experience and value they receive as a result of doing business with a company. Any definition of the term customer service is almost irrelevant, as it is the customer’s perception that really defines your customer service.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert,  professional  speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314) 692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXII, Shep Hyken)

A tale of two teenage employees… I walked into a restaurant and was served by a teenage employee who had an indifferent attitude. She didn’t even say “Thank you.” Later that week I was at a different restaurant and was welcomed by a young employee with a smile and warm greeting. And as I was leaving she smiled and thanked me for coming in.

When a teenager is hired, I’ll argue that any positive attitude they have at work didn’t come from an employee training session. No, they had that positive attitude before they ever applied for the job. Bruce Nordstrom claims that at Nordstrom’s Department Stores, the employees’ original training came from their parents, not the Nordstrom’s sales training program.

I’ve been fortunate to have several fabulous high school and college students work their summer internships with me. In the interviewing process it is so easy to spot the positive attitudes. Their enthusiasm is contagious and the pride in their work is to be admired.

This leads me to introduce Eric Chester, the recognized expert in hiring and motivating the young workforce. He has just announced a program called Bring Your “A” Game to work. If you hire teens or are a parent of teens, you must study this website: www.TheAGame.com.

An individual’s work ethic develops when they are young. They are influenced by their parents, friends and their first employers. This program helps kids develop a great work ethic and mindset. It sets them up for their future. As Eric says, “We would never allow a 16-year-old to get behind the wheel of a car before they learn how to drive. We must also stop allowing teens into the workplace until after they have learned what is expected of them and how they can succeed. The “A” Game is going to become the driver’s ed for the work place.”

I’m plugging his website because I believe in his program. In most cases, the root of any employee delivering great customer service starts with the jobs they had as a teenager. Check out Eric’s program. Even if you don’t hire teens, the information is relevant to a workforce of any age. Again, the website is www.TheAGame.com.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert,  professional  speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314) 692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXII, Shep Hyken)