The Daily Recruiter

The Ezine for Executive Managers … brought to you by The SearchLogix Group.

Category: Customer Service

Robots Make Us Angry

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By April Glasser, of  The Slate”

The customer service industry is teeming with robots. From automated phone trees to touchscreens, software and machines answer customer questions, complete orders, send friendly reminders, and even handle money. For an industry that is, at its core, about human interaction, it’s increasingly being driven to a large extent by nonhuman automation.

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Do Manners Still Matter If You’re the Leader?

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Article by Dianna Booher, courtesty of Boohersearch.com

We are at our best with those random acts of kindness to strangers.  Coworkers and family members don’t fare so well. The reasons vary: We take them for granted and think they’ll love us anyway. Or maybe familiarity breeds irritability.

Whatever the cause, rudeness has ruined family relationships. And otherwise competent business leaders are disliked and dissed by their staff and peers because they fail to understand that manners matter.

The revival of respect and kindness could revolutionize employee engagement.

Rude? Who Me?

Leaders communicate a lack of respect and discourtesy by:

  • arriving late to meetings and wasting others’ time by keeping them waiting
  • fidgeting with electronic gadgets while others are trying to carry on a conversation with them
  • texting and emailing during a meeting
  • paying no attention during phone conferences so that things have to be repeated
  • not offering to lower the volume if a loud noise is disturbing others
  • not speaking to others when entering a room
  • failing to return a greeting when someone speaks to them
  • borrowing others’ things without asking
  • returning borrowed items in an altered condition after using them (dirty, broken, empty)
  • sulking and withdrawing when in a bad mood
  • speaking in a harsh tone when upset
  • slamming a door in someone’s face—whether intentional or in haste
  • using sarcasm or put-down humor meant to embarrass others on sensitive issues
  • “dressing someone down” in front of others so as to embarrass and humiliate that person
  •  speaking to some people but not others in a group
  • excluding others from a group during breaks or lunch simply because of the feeling that they are socially or intellectually inferior
  • not writing down messages—and then forgetting to pass the information on
  • dressing inappropriately when others have VIP customers in the office for a visit
  • leaving food and beverages sitting around in common areas
  • not offering to help others carry a heavy load
  • failing to say please and thank you or express appreciation for work done
  • failing to exchange pleasantries such as asking how others are feeling when they’ve been out sick

Great Communicators Master Manners

The opposite of these actions, of course, are the small kindnesses that communicate respect for others, engage their hearts, and ultimately increase your influence when you have an important belief or value to share.  Manners matter a great deal to leaders who last.

5 Tips for Responding Positively to Negative Online Comments

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By Vivian Wagner, American Express Open Forum contributor

The Internet is a free-for-all of consumer commentary and reviews—and some of these comments, inevitably, can be negative. As a business owner, however, it’s sometimes difficult to know how to respond to these comments, and when to just let them go.

 If you’re at a loss for how to go about jumping into the fray of social media commenting, here are five tips to help you respond in a way that reflects favorably on you and your business:

1. Respond Appropriately

Reading a negative comment about your business, your employees, or your products or services can make you want to justify yourself and claim that the commenter is just plain wrong, misinformed or simply off-the-mark. While these are natural reactions, they won’t help your brand or your social media presence.

Whatever you do, don’t say that the problem is a result of something the commenter has done, even if you think that’s true. Also don’t blame the commenter for a false or misleading comment. Never take a comment personally and write something emotional or accusatory in return. Instead, pay attention to what’s been said, then respond in a balanced, appropriate and professional way.

2. Be Brief

You don’t want to reveal too much in your response to a negative comment. Social media is a public space, and airing dirty laundry isn’t going to help your business or your customers. Try a simple “We’re sorry you’ve had this experience. Please call our customer service line if you’d like to talk about the specifics of your situation.” In some cases, revealing too much can have serious consequences, particularly with personal or medical information. Keeping it brief will help avoid problems down the line, and it will also encourage the customer to contact you directly to resolve the problem.

3. Consider Comments as Free Research

The comments you receive on social media are a kind of consumer research, and it can help both you and your business to look at them this way. Keep a record of comments as you respond to them, and make a note of any suggestions, tips, questions or problems people mention. After all, your customers might be giving you some valuable information that you’d normally have to dig to receive.

Yes, it’s hard to look at negative comments in this light when you’re in the midst of trying to think up judicious responses to them, but this perspective will help you to see the value in what can otherwise be a maddening part of maintaining a social media presence.

4. Remember That Everyone’s Reading Your Responses

Probably the most important reason to respond to comments—both negative and positive—is that everyone else is reading them. Although many people won’t comment themselves, they’ll read the comments of others, and they’ll pay close attention to how your business responds.

Responding to negative comments is a chance for you to demonstrate how caring, thoughtful and engaged your business is, and how it solves potential problems. If you show that your business listens to and responds to feedback in an appropriate manner, you’re creating a sense of trust that will go far beyond the particular commenter you’re dealing with at any given moment.

5. Hire Someone to Do Your Responding

To really get the most out of social media, you might consider hiring a social media manager to stay on top of interacting with the public. If you do go this route, make sure to set a clear, consistent policy about commenting and responding to comments, so your social media person is on the same page as you.

Having someone to manage your social media presence is perhaps one of the best ways to keep negative comments from ruining your day. Just make sure to check in now and then to see what comments are being made and what helpful information they’re revealing.

If you’re not chiming in, when relevant, to customer feedback online, you could be hurting your business’s image. It’s time to get involved and speak up.

I LOVE It When You Interrupt Me!

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By Dawn Burke, fistful of talent contributor

Actually, I don’t some of the time.  I work in an open office environment, which I must admit is pretty awesome 95 percent of the time.  The other 5 percent can get a little squirrelly, because, let’s face it, the world is made up of two types of people: a) those who don’t have boundaries and b) people who are afraid to tell the boundary-less people to back off.  That chemistry creates fertile breeding ground for “interrupters.”

Here is a list of interrupters I encounter:

  •  The Creeper: This is the dude who slowly sneaks up on you while you are in deep, deep concentration. He is very cunning. He can tell you are in a state of concentration: You have earbuds on, or your face is 5 inches from your laptop reading intently, or you have sweat on your brow from thinking so hard. He knows in his heart if he interrupts your flow it will scare the be-jezzus out of you. He’s prepared for that. But it doesn’t stop him. Before you know it, a clammy finger is tapping you on your shoulder. As you scream, the creeper coyly admits, “I was afraid I was going to scare you… but you gotta minute?” You’ve just been interrupted by The Creeper.
  • The Lingerer: I love this guy. The lingerer walks up to you while you are having a conversation with someone else and consciously decides to just wait around until you are done. Sometimes The Lingerer will literally, yet silently, insert himself in the conversation space. Other times he will just hang out ten feet away. The longer he lingers the weirder it gets. But he’s got all the time in the world. To stave away the awkward, you finally ask if you can help him. Doh! You’ve just been interrupted by The Lingerer.
  • The Bombardier: To this guy’s credit, he is persistent. The Bombardier has a question and will hit you from all sides until you respond. He usually starts with the trifecta: first an email, immediately followed with an instant message, then hits you up with a voicemail. When that doesn’t work, he calls the person sitting next to you to see where you are and, finally, he completes the bombardment personally—he walks over and morphs into the Creeper or Lingerer. You’ve just been interrupted by the Bombardier.
  • The Bathroom Stall Lobber: This one is the worst offender. Just the worst. You’re in the bathroom stall, minding your own, when someone lobs you a work question over the stall wall. This is so weird. How do you respond to that? “Give me a second to wipe and I’ll tell you all about that P & L statement.”  Or, “Can you speak up, I can’t hear you over the flushing?” What makes this particularly difficult is that if you don’tanswer, it gets REALLY weird. 

 What to do:

  • Don’t be a jerk. Most aren’t trying to make your life miserable or annoy you. They are just trying to do their job.
  • Set boundaries. You can tell people nicely that you can’t talk right now. Some find this about as hard as finding a cure for cancer. Don’t make it hard. Most will appreciate it.
  • Give people your preferred method of communication. Some just need a redirect.
  • Don’t feel that bad. Sometimes we feel bad because someone walked all the way over from across the office to ask you something. That was their gamble to make.
  • Don’t accept meetings. Or be very selective with your meeting attendance. If you don’t have to be there, don’t accept.
  • Use do-not-disturb features on your technology. Most phone, instant messages and emails have some sort of “I’m not available” feature.

And remember this. If you get interrupted a lot, in many ways you should take it as a compliment. I read this quote from Colin Powell years ago and it has always stuck with me:

“The day the soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you stopped leading them.”

Remember, for most of you in HR, it is part of your job to be a problem solver and a question answerer. Be sure you are open for business most of the time, and set boundaries for the times you simply can’t be interrupted.

Become a great listener

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By Naphtali Hoff, Smartblog contributor

At the beginning of my principal tenure, I was heavily criticized for rushing into decisions without getting sufficient input and feedback. I had been under the clear impression that certain changes needed to be made quickly in order to gain the trust of the board that had hired me. I had also heard from many teachers and parents who were eager to see improvements in various areas of school function.

However, in my haste to be a change agent, I acted too quickly too often and soon developed a reputation for being a unilateral decision maker. It was a moniker that I would continue to deal with, even as I took great pains to become more open and collaborative.

To succeed in today’s business world, leaders must be proactive, skilled listeners. Leaders who make themselves accessible for conversation and listen regularly are well-informed of the goings on in their workplaces. They better understand others’ opinions and attitudes and are able to take this information into consideration when making decisions.

There are other benefits to listening well. One is building trust. Effective listening conveys a sense that the leader cares about her people, their thoughts, opinions and concerns. A leader also builds stronger commitment within others when people feel that she cares about them personally as well as in how they fit within the organization.

What can leaders do to become better listeners and gain the feedback, confidence, support and buy-in that they seek?

  1. See eye to eye. One crucial element of good listening is making strong eye contact. We discussed the importance of this when we detailed how to make a positive first impression. By fixing your eyes on the speaker you will avoid becoming distracted while also showing genuine attention. Eye contact is an important element of all face-to-face communication, even if you know the speaker well.
  2. Use receptive body language. Without saying a word, we communicate much about attitudes and feelings. We need to be aware of this in any conversation that we have. If seated, lean slightly forward to communicate attention. Nod or use other gestures or words to signal attention and to encourage the speaker to continue. Visibly put away possible distractions such as your phone. This communicates that there is nothing more important to you right now than this conversation.

Always be careful to maintain an appropriate distance between you and the speaker. Being too close may communicate pushiness or lack of respect. If you remain distant, you may be seen as cold or disinterested. Body postures matter too in most cultures. The crossing of one’s arms or legs often conveys close-mindedness.

  1. Stop talking and start listening. This is the most basic listening principle and, oftentimes, the hardest to abide by. When somebody else is talking, it can be very tempting to jump in with a question or comment. This is particularly true when we seek to sound informed or insightful, or if we start to feel defensive due to the speaker’s criticisms. Be mindful that a pause, even a long one, does not necessarily mean that the speaker has finished. Let the speaker continue in their own time; sometimes it takes time to formulate what to say and how to say it. Never interrupt or finish a sentence for someone. Patient listening demonstrates that you respect others, which is the first step in building trust and rapport. Remember, if you desire to be listened to, then give others the courtesy of listening to them first.

I remember once listening to a talk on communication. The speaker, who we’ll call Mr. S., was a well-known life coach and communication expert. Mr. S. recalled his early days on the job as a program coordinator for a large educational organization that required that he meet often with principals.

Mr. S. met with two men in short succession. One gentleman was gracious and well-meaning. He allowed for a lengthy conversation but was continually interrupted by phone calls and other matters. Though they spent an hour together, the meeting felt short and unproductive. In the next school, he had to wait for a while and was given but a few minutes with the principal. The man apologized for his lateness and brevity, but made sure that during their time together Mr. S’s agenda was fully heard and responded to. It goes without saying that Mr. S. felt significantly more validated by the second man, despite the wait and their short time together.

  1. Take on their point of view. Approach each conversation from the vantage point of the speaker (his role, past perspectives, etc.) Be empathetic and seek to objectively consider their position. Don’t be dismissive, regardless of their rank. Be humble enough to listen carefully, even if you disagree with what is being said. Remember that those that confront and challenge you are ultimately the ones who help you stretch and develop most. True wisdom doesn’t see opposition, only opportunity.
  2. Summarize and clarify. When the other person has finished talking take a moment to restate and clarify what you have heard. Use language like, “so, to summarize …” End by asking whether you heard correctly, which will encourage immediate feedback. Not only will this ensure the clearest takeaway on your end, but it will help the speaker feel genuinely heard and valued. A strategically placed pause at some point in the feedback can be used to signal that you are carefully considering the message that was just shared.
  3. Leave the door open. Keep open the possibility of additional communication after this conversation has ended. You never know when new insights or concerns may emerge.
  4. Thank them for approaching you. Do not take any conversation for granted. For many employees, requesting a meeting requires that they must summon much courage and rehearse their message time and again. Moreover, you probably learned something useful and meaningful during your talk, information or ideas that may help you as the leader. Few things go as far in building good will as expressing appreciation.
  5. Create a listening culture. While all of the above strategies can help leaders make the most of listening opportunities, leaders also need to take steps to create a broader culture in which listening (and therefore communicating) is valued and desired. Cultures typically do not evolve. They are the product of conscious decisions and behaviors that, over time, become part of the fabric of communal and organizational life. Leaders who actively encourage others to speak, at meetings, by setting up one-to-one meetings, etc. will not only be more likely to really know what people are thinking but will improve morale and increase worker motivation.

Are You Committing Customer Service Sins?

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Virtually every day, I’m on the receiving end of a blatant abuse from a business, a store policy, or a company employee.  Bet you are, too.  

Each time, it is further evidence that most businesses today place little importance on customer relationships, and no emphasis on training.  

3 quick examples…  

We bought furniture at Rooms-To-Go.  Loved their next-day delivery policy.  And as advertised, yes, it showed up the very next day.  

But uh-oh, a chair was broken.  So we called Customer Service to order a replacement.  

Guess what we were told?  Delivery would be 10 days.  No, not because they were out of stock, but because that’s their policy.  (Sound stupid to you too?)  

So I asked to speak to the store manager.  After explaining, I asked, “If you were a customer of this store who got next-day delivery, but got a broken item, would it make sense to you to accept 10 days for the re-delivery, especially since the store is already set up for next-day… AND if it were not broken, you’d have it right now?”  

Hope you’re sitting down for his maddening, but comical answer.  “Well, no, when you put it that way, it makes no sense whatsoever from a customer’s perspective… but that’s our policy.”  

WHAT?!?!  Oh, and he never apologized for the chair being broken in the first place.  
Next, had a tree and shrub care company that did a spray application on our bushes.  Couple days later, I noticed 5 bushes were scorched and dying.  

Called them up and a supervisor said, “Oh, yes, we had a bad chemical mixture that day and injured shrubs all over town.  We’ll pay for repair or replacement.”  

Okay, they stepped up, I’m happy so far.  (Although if they knew, why’d they make me call them?)  But when it came time to send me reimbursement for shrub replacement (over $1100), their cordiality changed to hard-ball tactics.  They would not release the check unless I signed a document acknowledging it was not their fault, and requiring me to never reveal their name.  

WHAT?!?!  Integrity?   I don’t think so.  I cashed the check and terminated their service.  

Too bad I can’t tell you precisely who it is, you’d know them in a minute.  (Umm, rhymes with ‘slots’.)  

One more.  Last week, my unlovable mortgage company, Ocwen, sent me an email saying I’ve been locked out of their web site because I haven’t logged on for 365 days.  No other reason given.  

When I sent them a nasty-gram in return — asking why there was no 30-day courtesy warning, just an irrevocable cut-off — I got a terse response saying they’re changing the way they want customers to contact them.  

Uh-huh, and why exactly couldn’t they have sent THAT explanation out in advance, along with warning of the impending lockout?  

Get the picture here in these 3 examples? 

Actions For You: 

 

5 simple ideas here…  

First, put your own policies and procedures through the ‘customer smell test’.  Before implementing a policy, ask 5 to 10 customers if it makes sense to them… if it makes them feel valued or abused.  You may be surprised.  

Better yet (second), maybe you should have an ongoing Customer Review Board to help you with questions like these.  

Third, always give customers the courtesy of advance notice of things like policy changes, price increases… anything that might come as a shock or disappointment.    

Fourth, train, train, train your managers and employees — in fact, all staff — how to respond to every imaginable question or dilemma a customer might surface.  

Fifth, consider operating under this simple premise:  If you have no customers — delighted ones at that — you’ll soon have no business, no referrals, no revenue.  But you’ll still have bills to pay.        
  
Power Thought  “Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, “Make me feel important.”  Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.”   Mary Kay Ash, entrepreneur, founder/owner of Mary Kay Cosmetics. 

Want More? To learn about Rick Houcek’s full range of strategic planning retreats, goal setting workshops, keynote speaking, leadership training, and books/CDs on peak performance — specifically for entrepreneurs, CEOs, presidents, senior executives, managers, team leaders, and other high achievers — visit www.SoarWithEagles.com — or contact Rick Houcek at 770-391-9122 or Rick@SoarWithEagles.com.

You Don’t Have to Be a High-End Firm to Offer High-End Customer Service

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By Paul Spiegelman, founder and CEO of BerylHealth and Inc.com contributor

A recent trip using Enterprise Rent-A-Car reminds me luxury customer service isn’t expensive, but hugely desirable:

Whenever I rent a car, I call what I believe to be the high-end rental car agency.

Recently, I traveled with a few co-workers to Chicago; Andrew, Beryl’s vice president of HR, had order a car from Enterprise Rent-A-Car. My first thought was that we would have a long ride to an off-airport location, stand in a line, and then squeeze four people into some tiny car—just to save a few bucks. (Enterprise is not my high-end rental agency.)

Boy was I wrong.

We took the airport shuttle to the Enterprise building. I was disappointed I didn’t see a display sign, with information on exactly where to find a rented car, like my usual rental company. We had to go inside and wait in line.

But as soon as we got inside, we were greeted by a nice man who showed us where the line started (and only two other people were waiting). Then, he grabbed a bunch of bottled waters from a cooler at the other side of the room, and brought them to us.

All the agents at the rental desk wore parkas, even though the inside temperature was quite comfortable (it was 15 degrees outside). Our greeter went outside, and brought in a couple more parka-clad workers. They successively walked over to the customer in front of the line, introduced themselves, and escorted him to the registration area. Impressive.

Andrew got the same service. Once Andrew wrapped up paperwork, the agent asked us to wait inside; he went out to get the car, and drove over to a spot nearby. Now I knew why they all wore parkas. All we had to do was step out to the curbside. Then, he helped us program the navigation system.

Finally, we stopped the car at the exit kiosk, where we were met by another smiling face. She checked our paperwork, asked how we felt about the customer service experience (I said, “great”), and said goodbye.

Enterprise intentionally focused on the little things to create a positive customer experience. And now, it has started a relationship with a new customer who will seriously consider coming back: me.

What did it cost? A few bottles of water, a little personal attention, and a staff empowered and encouraged to be dedicated to the customer.

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