More Random Thoughts

Just a few random thoughts about providing quality customer service…

– Service is not sexy.

It’s truly hard to measure, although there’s a plethora of various indicators (measured customer satisfaction, timeliness, second requests, accuracy, returns, problem resolution, customer retention, internally-measured quality, industry “experts”, error tracking, etc.) that can give you a PARTIAL view of what’s happening.

Back in ‘79, I created a slogan for the Brooklyn/Staten Island Region of Citibank…

”Service is our product. Sales, the result.”

Yes, it’s the same one that Joe Plumeri (Head of U.S. Citibanking during the late ‘90s) tried to take credit for creating, but I busted his bubble on that one!

What I can say about service reflects a book I once received from Dan Owczar, Sr (I believe we were peers at the time when he was Investigations Director & I was Micrographics Director).

It was a fable about quality called “I Know It When I See It”. In fact, it’s available on Amazon & is actually a pretty quick read.

Look back over your own experiences in dealing with various vendors, stores, restaurants, whatever & you’ll know exactly what this means.

You come away with a Wow! feeling.

Like something special happened.

That you were so surprised how easy & pain-free a certain task was where you expected a lot more difficulty or resistance.

How you can actually feel when someone went out of their way to make you happy (even if it was just something routine for them).

And when it has to do with your team or group or business doing something for a customer, you’d be proud for your CEO or President to hear all about it.

Would love for it to be blasted on the front page of your local newspaper or broadcast on the evening news.

Something that you would have no reservations whatever with sharing with a group of new hires & confidently say, “I’d be proud of you to grow up to become just like this employee!”

– Just because your people “followed the official process”, “carried out the procedures correctly” or “complied with the regs” DOES NOT MEAN that they satisfied the customer!!!

While I’m NOT encouraging you to promote lawlessness in the workplace or a total renegade environment, you must understand that HOW you do stuff is often times more important than what you do!

Telling the customer what they did wrong may leave a sour taste in their mouth, but how you deliver that message – – and the manner in which you offer alternatives or solutions to help them avoid that situation going forward – – will go a long way in determining their ultimate level of satisfaction!

Bottom line, if you’re not shooting to make EVERY customer ECSTATIC with the service (or product or advice or whatever) that your people provide, then I suggest a change in scenery or a re-evaluation of your work priorities.

Even if you’re in a compliance or quality control or fraud prevention role, think strongly about both your immediate customer…and well as the ultimate customer at the end of the line.

– You must be regarded by your people as an expert in your business.

We all know managers & Directors & VPs who are great at “steering the big ship”, but couldn’t paddle a damned row boat.

You want your people to have trust & confidence in you, not for the position you hold or the “power” you wield, but for the incremental value you add to the organization as well as to each of their daily lives.

When necessary, step down off your throne & roll around in the muck with everyone.

Don’t worry, getting your hands dirty never hurt anyone.

Go sit with one of your people out of the blue & provide them with an opportunity to show off for you!

People wanna be recognized for the great job they do & it need not be the formal type.

“Wow, you handled that situation so great!” or “I’m really impressed in how you helped out our fellow department on that issue!” goes a very long way in making your people feel valued & appreciated.

– I’ve never been a big fan of “scripting” when it comes to customer service calls.

Yes, for certain technical or specific instructions, it can be very helpful.

And, of course, we’re all familiar with our friendly outsourced Customer Service people overseas.

But I feel that too much dependency on “scripting” makes the rep focus on certain key words, phrases or questions…and sound plastic.

I prefer my people being active listeners & putting themselves in the customer’s shoes. What a customer actually says may very well not represent his true need.

“I need the address so I can mail in my payment” REALLY MEANS “I wanna make my payment on time without a late fee or penalty”.

I want my people to THINK, not automatically react & answer a question as quickly as possible.

There are many situations where an extra minute or two spent RIGHT NOW could eliminate the need for the customer to make many additional calls in the future…and help create a more satisfied customer.

And while this is probably a mortal sin in the AHT/Average Handle Time Bible or the idiotic Productivity Handbook, lemme tell you something…

An EDUCATED customer is a happy customer, a satisfied customer, and someone who does their business in the most efficient & effective manner possible.

They know how to, and readily, use self-service automated tools. They better understand the process.

They don’t mail you stuff. (EXPENSIVE)

They don’t talk to Customer Service to obtain transactional information. (EXPENSIVE)

They don’t come to you with “problems” (real or perceived) as they understand that the “easiest way to do stuff” is often the quickest & the most problem-free. (EXPENSIVE)

> Ensure that your Quality Assurance people are looking past the minute specificity of a call or transaction & looking to see if the customer’s true needs were addressed and if the customer came away satisfied with the experiences.

Just like with HR, I’d often be at odds, philosophically, with Quality Assurance & Call Monitoring (even when I ran these areas myself).

I would stress with my people that their REAL job was not grading or checking what already happened…but rather, it’s to help mold the future by improving the employee’s overall performance going forward.

It wasn’t necessarily to ensure that every i was dotted & every t was crossed. It’s to make sure that we can get the customer to smile after every service interaction with us.

I once had a VP tell me that her QA unit’s responsibility was to Legal & Compliance.

“Not to the reps nor the customers??? No wonder why you’re always saying that no one likes you guys!”


Just a few things to think about.

Thank you once again for listening!

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