Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Yes Sir!: Ask

There are many ways to measure a person's or group customer service, but the number one way is to ask the customer.

Just ask: "Is there anything I can do for you?"

The answer to that question will tell you volumes of information. It's important to watch the attitude in which the answer is given.

Empathic "No!": You probably are not doing so well. They don't want to do any further business with you. Don't be afraid to ask why not. It may be tough, but if they continue to talk to you and you continue to listen and help, you might get them back to your side.

Timid "no"- There may be something but you either have exceeded their expectations so much they are embarrassed to ask for more or you have done so poorly they are afraid to ask for more, but they really need to. Either way- you get a chance to improve your standing. You can go over the top by insisting to help more, or know that you have a chance to still help that person. The important thing is that you need to be the one who insists on doing more.

"Yes" with attitude: You're in trouble, but you will probably be told why they have an attitude. But like before, you do get a chance to fix it. Just know you are on an uphill battle.

"Yes" with enthusiasm or sign of great relief: These people are in the palm of your hand. Serve them up and they are yours. They want to do business with you. If you deliver, they are yours!

Timid "Yes": They are either shy about asking or they are afraid about asking you. Same as a timid no- here's your chance- do it well.

"I don't know" or "maybe later": They might not know what they want and what to ask for because of a couple of reasons. They are wondering if you are the right person to ask or they are afraid to overwhelm you right then. Either way assure them that whatever they need, you'll help. Even if you don't know the answer, commit to find it for them.

Of course the best answer is: "No, not right now. You have been wonderful! But when I need something else, you will be the first one I'll ask!"

You see, in all these scenarios, the objective is to make them want to do business with you because...WHEN THEY WANT TO DO BUSINESS WITH YOU, YOU WIN!!!!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Yes Sir!: It's Like You're Reading My Mind!

Along with preparation and scheduling, anticipation is another way of winning over customers. When you see a problem or need a head of time, and either take care of it or start planning for it- you look like the hero and they will love you.

Everybody is busy nowadays. I don't know why, but we are. When someone else is looking out for you- it's a welcomed relief. We are pounded daily with problems and when someone else eliminates one or provides the solution- we love that person!

Anticipate customer's problems or future needs. Offer solutions, offer alternatives, and/or have ideas. These all help our customers and they make it so we are the first ones they think of when they need help. And if I say it one more time you might scream, but...

When they WANT to do business with you, YOU WIN!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Yes Sir!: It's On The Schedule

Schedule it! If you really want to impress people, give them what they need just as they need it.

A timely delivered service or product is the most appreciated. It shows you have listened, you have cared, and that you have responded. You didn't need to be asked, you delivered.

A well ran schedule of any kind also allows you to make and keep promises. If when requested to deliver something and you are unable, by following your schedule, you can accurately tell the person when you can. It will not take very many times before you are trusted on your word and the customer is satisfied you are looking out for him or her.

But as in all things, a schedule only works when you do.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sunday Scripture Choice

Acts 27:25

Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe in God, that it shall be even as it was told to me.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Yes Sir!: Preparation is Not Over-rated

"One word sums up probably the responsibility of any vice president, and that one word is 'to be prepared'". Dan Quayle

Preparation goes a long way. In customer service, there are several things you can prepare to be a good customer service agent.

"Prepare yourself for the world, as the athletes used to do for their exercise; oil your mind and your manners, to give them the necessary suppleness and flexibility; strength alone will not do." Earl of Chesterfield

Understanding and exercising good manners will go a long way. Having good manners wears people's anger down. It is hard to be mean and nasty to someone who is constantly returning barbs with helpfulness and proper conduct. If the immediate encounter does not turn the person, repeat encounters will be effected. And anybody else who observes your good manners and helpfulness, will be effected as well. You will be the one they want to see if they have a need or problem. And as I've said before, when they want to do business with you, you win.

"It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech." Mark Twain

Good manners don't just spring up overnight, nor do they come with reading a book. They come with a diligent effort to practice them all the time. "Yes sir". "Yes mame". "You're welcome". "How may I help you?" These phrases must roll off your tongue naturally in order to be taken sincerely. The only way they can be natural is to practice and have your mind prepared. When it is natural for you to be polite, you will be! Even in times of great stress and tension.

"If you are prepared, then you are able to feel confident". Robert J. Ringer

Knowing your good manners will eventually turn the customer, knowing that you are in complete control of your words and the manner in which you use them, gives you great confidence in any situation. Confidence is a powerful ally. It will resonate from you, it will install in the customer confidence in you, and it will enable you to always stay in control. You will always know that the way to a resolution to any problem is to remain calm and polite.

Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances. Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Yes Sir: Automation

Automation is a wonderful thing. It takes a lot of the brainwork and effort out of things. Among other things, automation saves time, money and personal injuries in factories, direct deposit (another form of automation) saves trips to the bank, and off course automatic sprinklers in your yard saves a lot of moving hoses and sprinklers around- as well as save water. The list could go on and on. Automation surrounds us everywhere.

My wife and I like to go to sleep with the TV on. The sleep mode on the TV is great. Before having a TV with a sleep function, one of us would eventually have to actually turn the TV off and I would then have go back to sleep without the TV on. It was very disruptive to "our" sleep habits.

Automation is a wonderful thing. I t allows us to accomplish the things that have to get done with minimal effort. In serving customers, automation can be equally wonderful. I don't mean everyone should use a robot (I've already covered the evils of non-human interaction) but we can use automation in customer service in three different ways:
1) Being prepared ahead of time.

2) Doing things on a schedule.

3) Anticipating problems.

Automation should make things easier for us and give the customer maximum results with minimum effort. I'll cover the three above mentioned areas over the next three days.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Yes Sir!: Personal Touch

In an age of email, PDA's, cell phones, text messaging, there is still one thing that cannot be replaced- a person. One company right now is advertising that with one touch of the dial, you can talk to a real person- that's their marketing advantage! A company that allows you to talk to a real person!!

They understand that it is not how few nanoseconds it takes to conduct business transactions that matters, it's the number of customers you have with which to conduct business that matter. And that those customers have to feel like you really want and respect them as customers.

Personal customer service is not just a luxury, it is mandatory to a thriving business in a competitive world.

"One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man." Elbert Hubbard

And as my wife would add, "And just think what one extraordinary woman could do!"

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Yes Sir!: How Much Are You Worth?

"Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for. A product is not quality because it is hard to make and costs a lot of money, as manufacturers typically believe. This is incompetence. Customers pay only for what is of use to them and gives them value. Nothing else constitutes quality." Peter Drucker

How much do you add to the value of your company or product? Is it worth something to your customers?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Yes Sir!: Spring is Sprung

Today is the first day of spring, or so we are told. Here at the house we had snow yesterday, snow tomorrow, and again next week. We are expecting a 60 degree day over the weekend, but we'll believe it when we see it.

Even with the snow, the calendar doesn't lie. It is late March and although there is a number of snow storms headed our way ( Some as late as early May), we will be heating up towards summer. It is Spring.

If one wants a healthy lawn and plants over the summer, now is the time to prepare for it. Plant feeding, aeration, overseeding: it all has to be done in the spring, regardless of the snow, and temperature. If you wait until it's hot, it's too late and you'll fight to keep you plants alive during the dog days of summer. Besides, at that point you should be lounging in the pool, not fertilizing the lawn!

A little preparation can go a long way. So it goes in most things and especially customer service. If you do not prepare yourself, you will get rattled. You have to have your goal in mind in order to achieve it. (Where have I heard that before?? Steering??) If you have it set in your mind that your goal is to serve, an angry customer is more easily handled. If you have decided not to take anything personal, you won't. The problem can be more easily dealt with and handled properly.

So plant now the seeds of service. Commit to yourself that you are ready to handle any problem, deflect any insult, and smile all the way through it, before the dog days of customer service hit! So when they hit, it's like a swim in the pool!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sunday Scripture Choice

Romans 10:14

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Yes Sir!: Prevent Defense

Have you ever been watching a football game and find your team with a lead going into the fourth and final quarter? As a Raider fan, I have seen my fair share of these situations. Unfortunately, I have seen far too many of these situations where we no longer had the lead at the end of the fourth quarter. The main reason- prevent defense.

Prevent Defense is the defense that is set up to allow the opposing team to gain a lot of yards, but not allow them to score. It's a nice theory and it is 50% effective. The opposing team usually does gain a lot of yards but in most cases than not, they also score in the process. Most people will agree, the only thing Prevent Defense prevents is the leading team from winning. The cause- situational attitude.

Normally, the defensive mind in football is appalled by first downs, big yardage or allowing the opposing offense to have any success whatsoever. There is pride in controlling the physical part of the game and denying the offense anything easy. If a team is in the lead, that usually means the defense has done their job.

Along comes "Prevent Defense". The whole attitude changes, the intensity declines, and the surrender begins. It's becomes a game of passive defense. The pride is not there. The feeling of being in control is not there. Confidense and motivation returns to the once submissive offensive unit.

One might say the offense is, at this point, poised to snatch victory form the jaws of defeat. I would argue it is the prevent defense that snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. In a game where the number of "W's" is what matters. A loss is a loss no matter what the situation was during the game. It is the point total at the end that counts. 58 minutes of brilliance is evaporated by two minutes of situational attitude.

Situational attitude is not just contained on the football field of play. Situational attitude plays itself out everywhere. Your attitude is the overwhelming drive in any endeavor. Especially in customer service.

If you pick and choose the times you will be a good customer service agent and the times you will not, you will choose wrong at a wrong time. It will be you that snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. It will be you that was in position to help someone, to win them over, to be the person who could make a difference, but you had decided that this customer wasn't important enough, wasn't a threat to your well being, or was not worth your best. You will have lost the chance to win them over and want to do continued business with you. You see, like football, all the good you have done can be for naught, if the final score is tallied when you decided to just not to let them score, and they did.

Treat every customer, every personal encounter with the same attitude of helpfulness, kindness, and understanding. Smile. If not, that customer might just be your last.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Yes Sir!: Personality goes a long way

The other day, I was visited by a new branch manager of a company I have had some business with. He was new to his position and was taking the time to visit existing clients to introduce himself and meet his customers.

A phone call could have easily satisfied the requirements of our conversation, but actually seeing his face, shaking his hand, and watching the person really went a long way for me.

But just showing up wasn't enough either. He was taking the challenge of attaching a face and personality to the voice and name. His job was to make me want to continue to do business with him in the future. He smiled, he got business done, complimented his associate that he had brought along with him, and assured me of good business relations in the future. He wasn't new, he was additional- an extra bonus if I needed more assistance than what had been previously offered. That's cool!

Like wise when we do business with someone else, when we help a customer or co-worker, are we trying to win them over? Do we see personal interaction as a way to sell your goods or services? Will this person walk away thinking how nice it was to do business with you and want to do it again?

Personality goes a long way. When people like you because you are pleasant in person, they will continue to want to do business with you. And when they WANT to do business with you- you win!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Yes Sir!: $ $3...OK , $3.50, maybe.

"Price may not be valid in case of price increase"

I actually hard this on a radio advertisement. I don't recall exactly what they were advertising, but that thought stuck with me.

Why would I want to do business with someone who cannot even stick to the price they are announcing to the world? Exactly what can happen between the time I hear that ad and the time I act on it? Can you not even honor the price in that short period of time?

And if you can't, don't say the price! You don't see Chevron advertise their gas prices. You don't see Manufacturers advertise prices. Did you see a price on any of the Superbowl spots? They let the individual stores do that. And they do. Sales on many things advertise their sale prices and they stick to it. AND, we don't expect the item to be forever that price. We understand that things change, but there is a reasonable amount of time we all understand and expect a business person to honor their advertised prices.

An exception: car prices. I have never seen an advertised price actually be the real price. But then again I am talking about customer service which, incidentally, has not nothing to do with selling cars.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sunday Scripture Choice

Ezekiel 33: 12,13

Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth.

When I say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousness shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Yes Sir!: Rudy Part 2

In the final scenes of the movie Rudy, there is a point when Rudy finds out that he will not be able to dress for his final chance to play. No dream of running out onto the field. No reward for the hours of practice, the multitudes of sacrifice, and the thousands of bruises. His success, or his idea of what success was, was completely out of his hands. He had done all that he could and apparently failed.

It was by the example that he lived, the dedication that he showed, and by the service to others that he performed that his dream is realized when the other players petition to the coach and are willing to sacrifice their spot on the team for Rudy. His dream was fulfilled and his life forever changed because he was willing to serve others.

When you help others achieve their goals, your goals become more attainable. Sometimes it is the ones you help who become the ones who help you.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Yes Sir!: Rudy Part 1

"Rudy" is considered a movie that shows he spirit of an undersized, under talented, underclassed guy from the Midwest whose dream is to play football for Notre Dame. He comes from a college uneducated background; steelworkers who believe in hard work, but lack the dreams of applying that hardwork elsewhere. Success to this group is getting on fulltime at the Mill and retiring after 40 years of 40 hours. Rudy fights against all odds to not only attend Notre Dame, but to play with the football team. His dream is to one day run out onto the field for everybody, especially his father, to see. However, like the character Rudy, there's more to this movie and story than meets to eye.

There is a scene that sets up the final scenes of the movie. Rudy is assigned to the practice squad- basically live meat for the first team. He's half the size of the guys he's playing against and gets mad when he feels they are holding back because of it. When told he needs to lighten up so he doesn't get hurt, he states he is there, not to play one game, but to make the team better. He was willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the team.

Lesson- He had his personal reasons why he was doing what he was doing- to run out of the tunnel a player for Notre Dame, but they were his and his alone. His stated goal was to help eveyone else achieve what they needed and wanted- a better team.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Yes Sir!- What's In it for Me?

What's in it for me? That's a legitimate question? Why would anyone want to sacrifice for others in the name of customer service? It is because there is a lot at stake if you are willing.

If as child wants something, they become the sweet little child you always wanted. They put on the charm, the big puppy dog eyes, and they say Please, "I love you", or whatever else they think you want to hear. They try to give you what you want so they can get what they want.

In customer service, you have to be a bit more sincere than a four year old. But the principle is still there. You want to help your customers get what they want, service, so that you can get what you want, recognition, promotion, more business, etc.

Your success is undeniably tied to the ones you serve.

"You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want" Zig Ziglar