Friday, October 31, 2008

Tips For Curing Bad Customer Service

Writen by Jill Homer

Bad customer service is everywhere these days — unmanned front desks, surly servers, clueless staff, employees talking on the phone, and managers who refuse to acknowledge a customer. It's no longer an exception ... poor service has become the norm.

In an all-too-typical scene, a customer walks into a retail store with a question about where to find a product. The employee, who is busy and doesn't want to be bothered, gives the customer a curt answer and continues what she is doing without even looking the customer in the eye. The customer persists, so, with obvious annoyance, the employee begrudgingly turns around and points the customer in the general direction of the product's location. Instead of buying the product, the customer leaves the store, frustrated, vowing to never return.

Most business owners and employees recognize this as a classic example of bad customer service. And yet, this scene is repeated endlessly in modern society. Negativity breeds negativity, and eventually, nobody is happy.

"Never, never, never ignore a customer," says Art Waller, Regional Department Head for Utah State University. Waller provides tips on how to improve customer relations, a vital segment of any business.

"It's important to be accessible," Waller said. "Everything is an interruption. A phone rings, someone comes into an office, that's an interruption. But if a customer is right there, do that first. That's why you're there.

One of the single most important aspects of a successful business is good customer service. Waller cited recent findings in customer service. A typical business only hears from 4 percent of its dissatisfied customers. The other 96 percent quietly go away. Of this 96 percent, 68 percent never reveal their dissatisfaction because they perceive an attitude of indifference in the owner, manager or employee.

Waller said this statistic is particularly dangerous for businesses because if a dissatisfied customer can't express their complaints to a business, they'll express them through other outlets such as friends, neighbors and family. A typical dissatisfied customer will tell eight to ten people about their problem. One in five will tell 20.

"It takes 12 positive service incidents to make up for one negative incident," Waller said. "Seven out of ten complaining customers will do business with you again if you resolve the complaint in their favor. If you resolve it on the spot, 95 percent will do business with you again."

Waller said these statistics speak to the importance of taking action. Often an employee perceives dissatisfaction in a customer, but chooses to ignore it and hopes that the problem will go away. However, if the customer then goes away with the problem, the customer will likely never return to the business. This trend is what hurts businesses more than anything.

"We don't have the ability to keep people that are already happy with our product," Waller said. "The average business spends six times more to attract new customers than it does to keep old ones. Yet customer loyalty is in most cases worth 10 times the price of a single purchase."

The first step is recognizing tendencies toward bad customer service. But how do businesses improve their overall customer service? Waller offered some basic tips:

Like what you do

"If you don't love what you do, get the heck out," Waller said. "If you love what you do, it will be evident and people will know it."

People who have a bad attitude about what they do will reflect their attitude onto everyone around them, including customers. Like most everything in life, good customer service always comes back to attitude.

"If you believe your customers are a pain in the butt, guess what — you're right," he said. "What you say, what you do, and what you think are the same thing."

Learn to adjust your perception

Because good customer service depends on a good attitude, a bad attitude will surely diminish any facade of friendliness. Waller recommends that employees analyze what is causing their negative outlook and make a conscious effort to change, rather than cover it up with a false smile.

"How do you change a belief of certainty?" Waller asked. "You take out references and change it. Over time, it changes that belief system."

Establish Rapport

Customers will do business with people they like. Employees gain this approval by establishing rapport, or a positive connection, with a customer. Rapport can be established by simple gestures such as calling a customer by their name, recognizing mutual interests, asking questions, and making eye contact. The customer instantly recognizes the employee as someone who cares about their well-being, and is more likely to do business with the company,

"Won't you spend more money to go to a car dealership where you've been treated well?" Waller asked. "Develop a genuine interest in and admiration for your customers."

So what happens when an employee doesn't establish rapport? The customer automatically meets that employee with more suspicion, which leads to distrust, which leads to potential conflict.

Avoid a standoff

Many times businesses find themselves locked in an argument with a complaining customer that becomes impossible to resolve. Waller said the way to prevent this is to avoid the argument in the first place. His advice is to step back, analyze where the customer is coming from, and form a solution from their standpoint, not yours.

"I never fought with them," Waller said. "In fact, I went into a dance with them. You've got to dance with them. You have the empathize, and get into their world."

Be reliable, be responsive and be credible

Local cable and utility companies are a prime example businesses that do not possess these qualities, Waller said. When a customer calls up in need of service, they give vague ideas of when they'll be there ("sometime between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m."), sometimes don't show up at all, and are generally indifferent to customers' concerns. Because of this behavior, they have lost nearly all credibility in the public eye.

On the other hand, businesses such as Mercedes-Benz, Ritz Carlton Hotels, and Disneyland have all gained reputations for immaculate customer service, where employees are always nearby to cater to customers' every need at any time. These businesses gained this reputation with years of training their employees to put the customer first.

"The customer's perception is everything," Waller said. "People pay for peace of mind. They want security, integrity, and the assurance that if there is a problem, it will be promptly handled."

All of these tips come down to the platinum rule, or to "treat people like they want to be treated." This rule takes the Golden Rule a step higher, forcing the employee to assess exactly what the customer wants and act accordingly, not just act as they would want to act in the same situation.

"You can't reach everyone the same way," he said. "You don't deal with reality. Nobody does. We deal with our perception of reality."

Waller said any attitude in good customer service fits in the "as if" clause. Always act "as if" you are the only personal contact that the customer has with the business, and behave "as if" the entire reputation of the business depends on you.

"The 'as if' clause puts you where you need to be," Waller said. "The bottom line comes down to relationships and how you treat others."

About The Author

Jill Homer is a freelance writer who is happy to provide articles and ad copy for business and financing specialties. For more information, contact her at

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Invalid Excuses For Poor Business Results The Weather

Writen by Rick Weaver

Note to Kmart: It wasn't about the weather

In the 1970s Kmart was the retailer to beat. No matter what happened, they seemed to turn profit. Customers were loyal and prices were hard to beat. The chain was opening more store each year than some of their competitors had in their entire chain and sales were growing at admirable rates. Things were good.

Then sales began to slump. By the middle of the 1980s Kmart was beginning to be report poor sales. The main reason they gave: the weather.

With each disappointing sales report, Kmart blamed the weather. "The bitter cold hurt business." "The blizzard moving through the Midwest kept customers away from the stores." "The unseasonably warm fall decreased demand." Whine, whine, and more whine.

At first, investors bought the excuses. They overlooked the fact that in each sales period Wal-Mart would report record or near-record results. Observers noted that Kmart's merchandise mix was more weather driven than Wal-Mart's because Kmart had more lawn and garden and apparel business than Wal-Mart's merchandise assortment which relied on more consistently selling consumables and commodities.

As time went on, the whine became tiring. Analysts began to grow weary, with one eventually noting that Wal-Mart was apparently having different weather than Kmart.

Top management had become so engrossed by the weather as the reason for poor sales that they did not even look at other possibilities. Prices were less competitive. Weekly ads were not bringing people into the stores. Customers were finding empty store shelves. New products were taking longer to get to Kmart's shelves than at Target and Wal-Mart.

To make matters worse, executives at Kmart decided to upgrade the merchandise mix, thinking their customers would appreciate higher quality merchandise and be willing to pay more. Customers didn't agree. Weekly reports showed customer counts were continually dropping, so management decided to drop the report. The chain was out of control, disconnected to their founding principles, and so convinced that if they could just get Mother Nature's favor everything would be okay.

Kmart is not alone in blaming the weather. Resort areas have long used them as an excuse for a poor season. Home and Garden businesses regularly point to the weather when results fall short. Sporting goods stores and athletic venues say weather controls results. Although one might say there is validity in their claims, it is nothing more than whining, whining, and more whining.

During the fall of 2004, Florida was hit with no less than 4 hurricanes. Orlando's Walt Disney World and Sea World certainly could have complained that sales and profits were hurt because of the hurricanes. Neither did. Why? Both businesses understand the nature of weather on their business. They have designed their businesses in such a way as to protect their bottom-line. They have done so by connecting to their customers and understand exactly what their customers wanted yesterday so they can accurately predict what customers will want tomorrow.

It is not about the weather, it is about understanding what your customer wants and delivering it to them in the manner they desire. Wal-Mart understands, Sea World understands, and Walt Disney Theme Parks understand. More importantly, their employees understand. They are so focused on the customer that the customer will reward them time after time, no matter what the environmental conditions. To be successful, your first second, and third business focus must be on what the customer wants.

Rick Weaver is President of Max Impact, a national leadership and organization development company based in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Rick is an accomplished business executive with experience in retail, market analysis, supply chain and project management, team building, and process improvement. He has worked with hundreds of companies to improve sales, processes, and bottom-line results. MaxImpact offers leadership and organizational development services along with employee assessments and background checks. Contact Rick at 248-802-6138 or via email, MaxImpact is on the web at

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Great Customer Service Do You Use This Essential Tool

Writen by Stephen Steckly

Are your customers thrilled by the way your employees interact with them? Learning the answer to this question can literally change the future of your business.

Please understand that your customers do NOT deal with your business because it is just the same as other businesses in your industry. People, who deal with your business repeatedly, do so because your business is different in ways important to them. How your employees treat customers is one of the most important differentiators.

If your cashier, the last person a customer usually sees, is unfriendly, inattentive, slow, or poorly groomed, guess what impression your customers take away when they leave?

If your salespeople are pushy, unhelpful, incompetent or fail to treat prospects to a good experience in any other way, how many of those valuable potential customers will just 'vote with their feet' and go elsewhere to purchase?

If your service, delivery, or installation people are poorly dressed, ill mannered, messy, tardy, or incompetent, will people deal with you again no matter how great your other employees are?

If the employee who answers your telephone is unfriendly, unaccommodating, sounds bored, or gives the impression that the caller is an unwelcome interruption, will that person be likely to call again when they can clearly see your competitors' ads in the Yellow Pages?

Most employees will perform in a satisfactory manner when the boss is observing them but how do they perform when they think no one is watching?

Here is a bit of business wisdom. You have to INSPECT that which you EXPECT!

The best way to apply this wisdom to customer service issues is to hire someone to 'mystery shop' your business. Also, you should let your employees know that mystery-shopping reports impact pay raises, bonuses, and even the continuation of employment.

Although great customer service should be the norm, an excellent mystery shop report could result in an immediate small bonus—a couple of theater tickets along with some recognition at your next staff meeting, for example. Behavior that is rewarded gets repeated.

On the other hand, an unsatisfactory mystery shop report must always result in strong corrective action: training, coaching, a formal reprimand, or if appropriate, even dismissal.

Your mystery shop questions must be tailored to your specific situation but following are some sample questions to get you started.

1. Was this employee appropriately dressed and well groomed?

2. Were you greeted within 30 seconds of your arrival?

3. Did this employee make eye contact and smile?

4. Did this employee ask about your needs and listen attentively when you were speaking?

5. Was this employee knowledgeable about the company's products and services?

6. Was this employee helpful and accommodating?

7. Was this employee polite and respectful?

8. Did this employee thank you for (shopping, buying, etc)?

9. (If work is performed in the customer's home or a delivery made) Did this employee show up on time? Did this employee leave things tidy and clean? Were you comfortable having this person in your home?

10. Overall, was your experience positive enough that you would enjoy coming back again?

11. Overall, was your experience positive enough that you would confidently recommend us to your family and friends?

12. What was it about the interaction with this employee that you liked most?

13. What was it about the interaction with this employee that you liked least?

14. What frustrations did you experience? (On hold for a long time, confusing voice mail, lack of parking, other facility deficiencies, employee chewed gum, too long a wait for an employee to help, etc)

15. Other than identified above, what suggestions do you, the mystery shopper, have to make us a better business with which to deal?

After each mystery shop, have a meeting to discuss the results. Get everyone involved creating ideas about how improvements can be made and specific situations handled.

If you have a business where mystery shopping is impossible or impractical, you can still benefit by calling some customers who did purchase (and some who did NOT). By asking some of the questions listed above, you will learn about the performance of your employees as well as what is important to customers—why the customer chose to either purchase from you or go elsewhere.

In business you always get the results you insist on getting. Used properly, mystery shopping is a valuable tool you can use in your relentless pursuit of excellent customer service and financial success.

Stephen has helped many business owners recruit, screen, hire, train, motivate, discipline, and inspire superstar employees. He has developed many tools employers can use to boost the morale and performance of their teams.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

After Sales Service Complaints Process How Do You Get Value From Angry Complaining Clients

Writen by Adrian Pepper

The other day I was standing in the Complaints and Returns queue in a store when I experienced the customer in front being handled in a highly effective and professional manner. I was so impressed that I watched closely as the shop assistant listened, took responsibility and acted:

Listen fully to the complaint

1. Listen without interrupting to show that you understand how the customer feels as well as what they are saying.

2. Analyse the problem by listening for and working out the differences between:

  • Facts (the invoice has three errors in it);
  • Assumptions (it was clearly done in a rush by incompetent staff);
  • Generalities (your junior people are not up to it); and
  • Emotions (I feel let down).

3. Work out the reason behind their rage

  • Do they feel blamed for your failure (at home or at work)?
  • Do they feel your firm is deaf
  • Do they feel you have broken your sales promise?

4. Stay very calm to help your customer to dissipate their high emotions.

Take responsibility and act now

5. Make a quick recovery if possible and focus on this solution rather than the causes of the problem.

6. Take responsibility for achieving a full resolution and for communicating with the client - most people will be soothed by knowing progress is happening.

7. Win back the client by making a great recovery to deepen the customer's loyalty - and they may well tell their friends and contact how well you and your company responded to their complaint.

Then prevent future complaints

8. Carefully note the facts and events that led to the complaint (while avoiding placing blame).

9. Take preventive measures and tell the customer how you will stop the problem recurring. Complainants feel better if they have had a positive impact on life.

If you follow these nine steps in listening, taking responsibility and acting, you will not only handle your customer's complaint effectively but you will also recover the loyalty that satisfied customers give you as your business succeeds and grows.

Adrian Pepper coaches people through business and personal difficulties, helping companies figure out what to do, how to move forward and what to get organised. You can contact him through Help4You Ltd, through his website at or by phone +44-7773-380133. At, you can listen to his podcast for small businesses.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Customer Service Speaker Asks Quotare Seminars Really Effectivequot

Writen by Dr. Gary S. Goodman

You've just received yet another flyer in the mail from a seminar mill touting a class geared to teaching you and your staff: "How To Deal With Difficult People."

It has all of the right topics listed, including listening skills, when to escalate conversations, how to be poised under pressure, and how to leave work without a knot in your tummy.

And you sign-up, you attend, and everybody leaves feeling happy and fulfilled, and the seminar firm is a wee bit richer.

Then, the next day, you and your team hit the phones, the real world of customer exchanges.

How many, if any, of those tips that you heard the day before are put into practice, and with what results?

If your experience is like most, that pail full of information that you carried back to your site is empty by the next day because there are holes in the bottom of it. Very little of the wisdom you heard is translated into ACTION.

How come?

There are several reasons:

(1) Most seminars are attended with a "cafeteria consciousness." There are numerous ideas displayed, and the tacit idea is to pick and choose the ones that appeal to you.

(2) There is no specific plan going into the programs to leave with a blueprint, a new protocol for managing conversations.

(3) You've probably heard 90% of the tips already, so the tendency is to think it's 100% redundant. "I knew that!" is what we believe, and we tune out what is truly novel, and especially worthwhile.

(4) There is no commitment to refining or changing work practices.

(5) There are no rewards in place, and no management procedures in place for assuring that mere ideas and tips will translate into BEHAVIORS.

(6) Seminars need to be accompanied by one-on-one coaching to become effective.

(7) Attending a seminar is perceived, at least unconsciously, as tantamount to sitting in a college class, for general self-improvement and for personal growth. It isn't perceived as JOB TRAINING.

(8) Most public seminars aren't designed as job training, either. They're designed for "EDU-TAINMENT."

If you want to give your folks a reward, a paid day off, and a chance to escape the grind of the office, a seminar is a nice perk, and it may do the trick.

If you want a chance to network with people from other companies to compare practices with them, that's also a rationale for attending.

But if you want results that can be monitored, measured and managed, you'll need a better training model for that.

Dr. Gary S. Goodman, President of, is a popular keynote speaker, management consultant, and seminar leader and the best-selling author of 12 books, including Reach Out & Sell Someone and Monitoring, Measuring & Managing Customer Service, and the audio program, "The Law of Large Numbers: How To Make Success Inevitable," published by Nightingale-Conant. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, worldwide. A Ph.D. from USC's Annenberg School, a Loyola lawyer, and an MBA from the Peter F. Drucker School at Claremont Graduate University, Gary offers programs through UCLA Extension and numerous universities, trade associations, and other organizations from Santa Monica to South Africa. He holds the rank of Shodan, 1st Degree Black Belt in Kenpo Karate. He is headquartered in Glendale, California, and he can be reached at (818) 243-7338 or at:

For information about coaching, consulting, training, books, videos and audios, please go to

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Six Sigma And The Customer

Writen by Tony Jacowski

The customer centric focus of Six Sigma methodologies cannot be sidelined for any reason whatsoever. Although the end results of Six Sigma implementation (such as improvement of bottom line profitability and lean management) are quite significant, the ultimate value addition comes in the form of the return of satisfied customers. In the business world, constant pressure for innovation stems from increasing changes in customer demands and global technological challenges. Companies that get to the top and stay there are there in the first place because of their commitment to change through Six Sigma initiatives.

Six Sigma And The Customer

Six Sigma, a quality management tool founded on statistical approaches and devised by Motorola, helps improve customer satisfaction through significant changes to cost and product utility. The entire approach is innovative; with the implementation of Six Sigma, instead of attempting to fight with mechanics, the focus shifts automatically to strategies and integration of efforts.

Some companies are taking initiatives to take the Six Sigma methodology to customers, outside company walls and actively involving them in an effort to integrate them into the process. This approach is proving to be a resounding success by placing these corporations ahead of competition.

Engaging The Customer

Today's customers are wary that they get nudged into buying products by customer savvy marketers in the clutter that we call "the market". Six Sigma works to make things clear to the customers by sharpening the cutting edge (value) that customers are looking for in a product.

The customer is engaged strategically at a stage when plans are being drawn up. By listening to customers and involving them in the process, the company can gain an in –depth understanding of why they are moving in the direction that they are moving, locally as well as globally. This approach also helps in building trust and loyalty.

Companies like Motorola, who implement Six Sigma, go beyond product development and profits in their commitment to customers. In addition to their regular help line, they have established another line dedicated to this purpose. Customers can use this line of communication for more detailed questions relating to either product or service, and track the status of their original question. This is a classic example of individual level quality demands being met through Six Sigma implementation.

Looking Ahead

Another strategic approach has been taken by GE Commercial Finance, and is a true revolutionary step in the commercial lending business. The ACFC initiative (At the Customer, For the Customer,) clearly showed what the customers needed and why, with over 30% of them answering, they needed Six Sigma. Effective communication with customers has made GE a favorite among consumers. GE has successfully implemented the initiative and in addition, is now sharing its Six Sigma experiences with smaller customers who can't afford to implement Six Sigma in their own companies.

With the "belts" working from the front, companies can get into a win-win situation with their customers because of the feedback they receive. If this approach directly benefits the customers, it benefits the companies too. However old or large the company is, it gets to interact with its customers one-on-one. The positive result of this is seen in further building of a company's customer base and increased profitability. The goal of matching people with projects, made possible with Six Sigma, brings about a win-win situation for all.

Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solutions – Six Sigma Online ( ) offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Delivering Great Customer Service

Writen by Jennifer Selland

The goals for delivering great customer service starts with delivering a service-oriented attitude that is genuine. You want to exceed the client's expectations and apply the service standards. It is also important to measure your effectiveness in delivering great customer service.

There are three service standards to keep in mind when dealing with a client or customer. These include using and giving personal attention to the customer, teamwork, and taking personal responsibility. There are a couple of ways you can give personal attention to your customers. First, you can anticipate their needs by recommending services or ideas that would benefit them, as well as noticing the clients' wants and needs before they have to ask. Another way is to treat every client as a "Very Important Person". This can be accomplished by treating each client as a unique individual, using their name whenever possible, and by making the clients feel as if they are your top priority.

There are a number of ways to take responsibility. Be sure to follow through (be timely and responsive, keep promises, see a project through until the end) with a client. You should check customer satisfaction, offer alternatives, and show appreciation as well. These service standards will help you to exceed your client's expectations, show your positive attitude, and measure the level of service you are delivering to your client.

Clients are worth more than a one-time interaction. You should take several things into consideration when dealing with a customer, such as revenue from a single sale, the average number of sales per year, and the average number of sales with a client over his/her lifetime. And by providing genuine service, you are giving your clients what they expect, as well as setting yourself apart from all other organizations. If you can go beyond what the client expects and do more for the client than other competing companies, this will lead to 100% client satisfaction. Donald A. Adams said, "To give real service, you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity."

Another important aspect to delivering great customer service is to develop a consulting partnership with your clients. It is important to be the one to make the opening move and take the initiative. If you approach each interaction with a positive, caring attitude and view it as an opportunity to exceed their expectations, you will be well on your way to developing a valuable and lasting partnership. Three guidelines for creating a truly memorable impression include smiling and warmth with every interaction; presenting an "I'm here for you" attitude (by seeming ready, eager, attentive and caring); and finally by personalizing every interaction.

Satisfying the client can be a tricky endeavor when you are faced with multiple complaints and angry clients. When faced with complaints, it is necessary to listen to the client, apologize, sympathize, and most importantly, to take action. Angry clients are probably the biggest challenge opportunity you can face. Make sure to remain calm and not to take it personally. Kill 'em with kindness, and they won't be able to resist you! It is a good idea to remember the client's names (and use them) as well as referring to details about the clients. This little bit of personal attention may be all that is needed to win them over. Goethe once said, "When we treat a man as he is, we make him worse than he is. When we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be."

There are many reasons customers quit returning to a place of business. 4% of them move away (you can't do anything about them). 5% change their habits (meaning they want to try something new for a while, the novelty factor). 9% of them quit because they're attracted to your competition. 14% of your customers leave because they're unhappy with your service. And an overwhelming 68% of your customers will leave you because they encounter an attitude of indifference. Certainly there are precautionary measures you can take to prevent some of your customers from leaving if you are aware of factors like these.

Delivering great customer service will not happen over night, but with a few well thought-out strategies, you can achieve 100% client satisfaction. If you are looking for a quick reference to great customer service, here are the "Six Secrets of Service".

1. If you don't like people, you have no business being in the people business.
2. Serve them well, you keep them. Service them poorly, you loose them.
3. Give the client, not what he wants, but what he really needs.
4. Make your clients feel good about spending their money.
5. If you can't get out of it, get into it!
6. When you give great service, EVERYBODY WINS!!!

For further information on delivering exceptional customer service, please feel free to contact us. Best of luck in WOW Service!

Jennifer Selland is the Founder and President of Well-Run Concepts, a Human Resource Consulting Firm based in Ocala Florida, founded in 1997, whose mission is to Help Organizations Define and Develop Top Talent. Jennifer has over 15 years of Human Resource Management and Executive Operational hotel experience.

Well-Run Concepts "Helping Organizations Define and Develop Top Talent." 303 S.E. 17th St., Suite 309-170 Ocala, FL 34471 Toll Free: 877-566-2900 Tel: 352-624-2684 Fax: 352-624-2689 Website: Email:

Friday, October 24, 2008

In The Spirit Of Service

Writen by Ron Kaufman

The 'Spirit of Service' Award is given to uniquely deserving teams and individuals who go way beyond the call of duty to serve, aid or comfort the heart of another human being.

One worthy winner is an unnamed night nurse in the maternity ward of a nearby hospital.

A new father wrote to me with this report:

'My experience at the hospital was very positive. I was staying over with my wife after the delivery. One night I had a headache (maybe from the lack of sleep and being a first-time parent). I asked one of the staff for a pain reliever. She gave me a neck rubdown for a few minutes instead! That really made me feel better, and no need for medication. I was impressed that the staff went out of her way to satisfy a "customer", even when I wasn't the baby or the mother. Is that good customer service or what?'

You bet it is! Three key characteristics of an 'UP Your Service Mindset' are: abundant generosity, genuine compassion and seeing the world from your customer's point of view. Whoever she is, this night nurse at the hospital clearly demonstrated all three.

Key Learning Point

To offer the spirit of service, look beyond your customer's request to identify their true concerns. What you can offer may be different, and more effective, than what they have requested. Listen for unspoken needs, not just spoken words.

Action Steps

Extend your care beyond the normal course of action. Serve your customers, and those they love, the way you would love to be served.

Ron Kaufman is an internationally acclaimed educator and motivator for partnerships and quality customer service. He is author of the bestselling "UP Your Service!" and founder of "UP Your Service College". Visit for more such Customer Service articles, subscribe to his Newsletter, or to buy his bestselling Books, Videos, Audio CDs on Customer Service from his secure Online Store. You can also watch Ron live or listen to him at

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Top 6 Ways To Get An Angry Customer To Back Down

Writen by Myra Golden

1. Apologize. An apology makes the angry customer feel heard and understood. It diffuses and anger and allows you to begin to re-establish trust. Not only that, but pilot studies have found that the mere act of apologizing has reduced lawsuits, settlement, and defense costs. You need to apologize to customers regardless of fault. Certainly, the apology needs to be carefully worded. Here's an example of a sincere, yet careful apology:

"Please accept my sincere and unreserved apology for any inconvenience this may have caused you."

2. Kill Them Softly With Diplomacy. This simple phrase has never failed me: "Clearly, we've upset you and I want you to know that getting to the bottom of this is just as important to me as it is to you." When you say this, anger begins to dissipate. You've addressed the anger directly and non defensively and you haven't been pulled into the drama of the attack.

3. Go into Computer Mode. To use Computer Mode you take on the formalities of a computer. You speak generally, without emotion, and you don't take the bait your angry or difficult customer is throwing you. Your words, tone, and attitude are completely impersonal and neutral - (Think of the automated response system you speak to when you call your wireless phone company or bank.)

This "computer mode" response deflects, diffuses, and disarms angry customers because you don't add fuel to the fire by giving your difficult customer what they want -an emotional reaction. When you don't take the bait, the difficult customer is forced to stop dead in their tracks. And that means you regain control (and confidence).

The Computer Mode Approach In Action

Let's say your customer says:

"You don't give a d*** about customers. Once you get a customer locked into a contract, the service aspect is over." While it may be tempting to fuel the fire with an equally hostile response such as "What's your problem, creep?"

Don't take the bait. If you do take the bait, the situation will only escalate and nothing productive or positive will result. A computer mode response might look like this:

"I'm sure there are some people who think we don't care about servicing customers."

"People get irritated when they don't immediately get the help they need."

"It's very annoying to experience a delay in service response."

"Nothing is more distressing than feeling like you're being passed around when all you want is help."

And then you stop -like a locked up computer.

No matter how uncomfortable the verbal abuse is or how ridiculous it becomes, continue to respond without emotion. This tactic works because it is neutral, doesn't take the bait, and because it is unexpected. The difficult customer wants to throw you off, make you lose control, and to get you to respond emotionally. When you fail to do each of these things, you actually regain control.

Go into "computer mode" the next time you're faced with verbal abuse from an irate or unreasonable customer, and I promise you, you'll quickly regain control ---and you'll have fun with the process.

4. Give this question a shot: "Have I done something personally to upset you?... I'd like to be a part of the solution." Of course, you know you haven't done anything to upset the customer. You ask this question to force the angry customer to think about his behavior. Often, the mere asking of this question is enough to get the ballistic customer to begin to shift from the right brain to the left brain, where he can begin to listen and rationalize.

5. Show empathy - Empathy can be a powerful tool used to disarm an angry customer and show that you genuinely care about the inconvenience the customer has experienced. Expressing empathy is also good for YOU, as it helps you truly begin to see the problem from the customer's perspective/and this perspective will help keep you from losing your cool when your customer gets hot. By letting customers know that you understand why they are upset, you build a bridge of rapport between you and them.

Here are some phrases that express empathy:

• "That must have been very frustrating for you."
• "I realize the wait you encountered was an inconvenience."
• "If I were in your shoes, I'm sure I'd feel just as you do."
• "It must have been very frustrating for you have waited five days for your order and for that I am sorry."

6. And finally, here's a tip that works like magic. …. Show appreciation for the difficult person's feedback. After your difficult customer has ranted and raved, you can regain control of the conversation by interjecting---not interrupting, but interjecting to thank them for taking the time to give you feedback. You can say something like:

Thanks for being so honest.

Thanks for taking the time to let us know how you feel.

We appreciate customers who let us know when things aren't right.

Thanks for caring so much.

The reason this tip works so effectively is because the last thing your irate or unreasonable customer expects is for you to respond with kindness and gratitude. It's a shock factor and many times you'll find that your customer is stunned silent and this is exactly what you want. When the customer is stunned into silence, you get in the driver's seat and steer the conversation in the direction you want it to go.

When you do these things you'll find that being on the receiving end of verbal abuse doesn't have to be threatening or intimidating. You can come across as confident, composed and strong…and most importantly, you'll regain control of the conversation.

Myra Golden is an award-winning professional speaker and principal of Myra Golden Seminars, LLC, a customer service training firm serving clients in food and beverage, banking, healthcare, hospitality, and other industries. Her client list includes McDonald's, Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay, Michelin Tires, Pirelli, and Procter & Gamble, among many others.

For hundreds of ideas for customer service improvement for use in customer service training, visit the customer service training resource portal by going to

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Donate Your Question If You Really Want Customer Feedback

Writen by Lance Winslow

All businesses need feedback from their customers, potential future clients, employees and vendors. But how do you go about getting this feedback or soliciting these questions to insure you get the input you need to run an on-going successful business? Recently I noticed a non-profit group soliciting ideas and questions. And their headline was; Donate Your Question.

Well in considering this I remembered a few years back the company I built and how many times people would not comment; good, bad or otherwise. Well some would say that; No News is Good News right?

Yet as an entrepreneur I knew I had to get into the minds of the customer to better my products and services. I also knew that I needed to be one with my vendors and their knowledge was paramount to streamlining my operation and being able to deliver what the customers desired once I had that information.

Employees too as any good business executive knows hold the keys to your business. Often they put a face on your business and the front line can make or break your company, image and brand. They can create goodwill extremely fast or lose it for you even faster. So ask your customers to donate their question.

Everyone likes to give or donate, it is human nature, so instead of asking of their time to fill out a form online or fill out a customer survey you should be asking them to Donate a Question. Then when they fill out the form or survey they are donating to your company and this also has a Buy-In Affect as well.

This bonds your customer to your business and helps you get into their minds and understand their desires, wants and needs, as well as why they buy from your company and what you can do to sell them more. You need the comments, questions and information and you need it in real-time, so ask them to Donate a Question and you will be glad you did. Consider this in 2006.

Lance Winslow - Online Think Tank forum board. If you have innovative thoughts and unique perspectives, come think with Lance;

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How Can Customer Relationship Management Crm Programs Help A Small Business

Writen by Grady Hawley

In this highly competitive world, medium and small business groups struggle for survival. As they established with small capital investments, these organizations usually will not have enough money to overcome the massive promotional campaigns by their large counterparts. Thus the most effective solution they got to keep their customers and to attract new clients is to enhance customer satisfaction through better customer service methods. The mouth publicity by the satisfied customers is the most useful advertising tool for these companies. Offering some great benefits to good customers and creating new plans for infrequent customers can boost the company turnover.

Today, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs have become the most effective tools for all marketing and service providing companies to enhance their customer satisfaction. Now, there are so many CRM vendors who offer different customized customer relationship management solutions according to business needs. You can purchase a standard pre-customized CRM solution or an open source CRM solution, or can hire a hosted/on demand CRM solution. The choice mainly depends on your business structure and volume.

Customer relationship management programs enhance the customer-friendly services by automating all proceedings and procedures in a company. All CRM systems are primarily large customer databases capable of storing all customer information such as customer's name, address, customer contacting method, ability to spend money on products, money spending per visit etc. The specific programs built in these systems integrate the stored data on demand to identify good customers and help to create better service plans for them.

CRM software systems are capable of automating every thing involved in a small business. The main features of a CRM solution include sales force automation, data tracking, data migration, data integration, contact management, account management, opportunity management, customer service training, custom reporting, product management, lead routing, lead assignment, task management, calendaring, quota management, territory management, partner tracing, sales forecasting, customization analytics, sales analytics, trouble shooting, etc.

For small sized companies, there are two popular CRM options as open source CRM and hosted or on-demand CRM. Open source CRM software programs are customizable CRM programs. These programs are available in standard formats, which can be customized according to the company needs. But the requirement with these CRM solutions is your company must have enough technical knowledge to customize the program. Also there are some pre-customized CRM versions available today.

Hosted CRM or on demand CRM is a web-based application provided by an ASP (Application Service Provider), is an example of SaaS (Software-as-a-Service). In this type of CRM solution, all your CRM needs are satisfied by a distant CRM provider. The CRM provider or host will automate all proceedings including data tracking, data integration and data migration. The provider will offer the CRM solutions on your demand and will charge a monthly fee for that. Benefits of on demand CRM include reduction in the initial cost essential for installing a CRM system and accessibility from any part of the world at any time. But before signing a contract with any on demand CRM provider, make sure that he uses special data encryption techniques for securing your data. Also check the data integration capacity of the provider.

Today an another alternative, namely open source hosted CRM, which combines the merits of both open source and hosted CRM is becoming rapidly popular. This CRM solution is proven effective in tackling specific situations. For all CRM types, most providers now offer 30 days free trail, making use of these offers can help you to find a good CRM solution for your company.

This article has been published by, US based provider of on-demand CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and other application software such as Sales Force Automation. To learn more about CRM visit CRM Articles.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Importance Of Developing A Formal System For Handling Customer Complaints

Writen by Jonathan Farrington

Most medium to large businesses have a policy for handling complaints but perhaps need to review it from time to time. Businesses that take a mainly ad hoc line would benefit from developing a consistent approach. Whatever policy is in place it should be:

• Easy to understand

• Simple to implement

• Effectively communicated to all staff

What To Include:

Some of the key features of a good policy include:

• Mechanisms for people to complain

• A system for logging and analysing complaints

• Identification of those who will be responsible

• Procedures for handling different levels of complaint

• Ways of keeping customers informed

• A structure of compensations

• Follow-up action plan

Information From Customers:

There is no point having a policy to handle unhappy customers if they are not encouraged to come forward in the first place. Such an invitation to comment or complain can take the form of something impersonal written on the packaging:

"Customers who are not entirely satisfied with this product should … (action)"

Or something very personal, following the example of the Chairman of a major food chain, who prints his own phone number of the packaging of products!

Questionnaires, comment cards, suggestion boxes, exit surveys, market research are all positive ways of encouraging customer feedback.

Informal verbal feedback from talking to customers is often the most valuable of all. However, in the industries within which I have most experience, i.e. I.T, Telecommunications and Finance, I have always insisted on regular formal account reviews.

Logging & Analysing Complaints:

It is essential to have a system in place that collates and considers the nature of a complaint if corrective action is to be taken, to prevent a re-occurrence.

To do this it is important to define what your company means by a complaint.

• Is it solely when someone gets angry?

• Is it when they mildly point out an error?

• Is it when they are deliberately trying to be awkward?

Not everything that goes wrong warrants a complaint, e.g.: a certain number of faults with machinery is to be expected


Consider what kind of information you need:

• Names, address, contact numbers

• Date, nature of complaint

• Action – solution suggested

• Customer response to suggestion

• Time-frame to put matters right

• Person responsible for action

• Corrective action to be taken to prevent problem from recurring

A computerised database is the most obvious way of recording and storing information, but paper back-up systems can prove to be a godsend


Analysing will throw up recurring problems and weak areas, and identify particular periods or departments involved. All information needs to be presented in a simple, non-critical fashion and passed to the relevant managers. They in turn will need to consult staff and formulate corrective action.

Switched-on managers and directors will want periodic information about customer complaints. Some companies attach bonuses and other rewards to the fall in numbers of complaints received.

Who Deals With The Complaint?

Customer Service Desks

Identifying key people in the organisation to deal specifically with customer complaints, comments and even compliments has become a preferred approach for major retailers and transport companies. Staff need to be highly trained to handle all kinds of difficult people and situations and need full support from the rest of the team and the management.

• Customer service desks become central points easily identified and accessible by consumers

• Smaller businesses may identify individuals in each department to do a similar job

• Some management prefer all staff to be able to deal effectively with complaints whether or not it is anything to do with them

Whatever the approach adopted, the system must be clearly identified and communicated to everyone.

The bottom line is that the customer doesn't care who deals with the problem as long as someone does!

Finally - Establishing Procedures:

Complaints will fit (not always neatly) into different categories and levels, all requiring specific handling. However, some basic ground rules need to be established:

• Acknowledge the customer's grievance

• Never appear overly defensive

• Listen carefully, make notes, give feedback

• Empathise with their feelings

• Don't patronise when you apologise

• Discuss solutions and corrective action

• Agree action depending on your level of empowerment

• Follow-up: 'Did you sort it out

Copyright © 2006 Jonathan Farrington. All rights reserved

Jonathan Farrington is the Managing Partner of The jfa Group To find out more about the author or to subscribe to his newsletter for dedicated sales professionals, visit

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Customer Service Customer Loyalty Wins Sales

Writen by Gary Wollin

Batteries not included. Three of the dumbest words.

Your Company spent millions of dollars to develop this wonderful product. Engineers spent countless hours creating and refining it. You spent additional millions of dollars in advertising to get me to buy it.

I bought it. I took it home and now it won't work because YOU neglected to include the only part that WILL make it work. For a couple of extra bucks, your cost and mine, I'm frustrated and angry with you and your Company.

It's the same with customer service.

No matter what you sell; whether it's goods or services, big ticket or small, sales and customer service are not two separate pieces. Every sale must come with the customer service built in.

Exceptional customer service is NOT an extra cost of doing business. It is an investment in your own future success.

In the early 1950s, my uncle had a very small clothing store in Miami, Florida. In those days, Miami was a major entertainment center, with the biggest names in show business appearing at the major hotels, very similar to Las Vegas today.

One evening, as he was leaving the stage at the end of the early show, a young singer ripped his tuxedo jacket on a nail sticking out of the wall. It was after 8 P.M., all the clothing stores were closed.

The hotel management called the major stores and owners because the singer didn't want to go on stage with a torn jacket or worse, no jacket.

None of the fancy clothing shop owners would leave their homes to accommodate the young man. Finally, in desperation, my uncle got the call. Would he come downtown with a couple of tuxedos?

Within an hour my uncle was at the hotel with 4 tuxedos. He did the fitting and tailoring right on the spot.

The young singer and the big hotel management were ecstatic. The singer tried to shove a few extra hundred dollar bills into my uncle's hand, but he wouldn't take the money, explaining that he was honored to have the opportunity to earn the business.

The singer promised that he would never forget my uncle's kindness and would tell his show biz friends about my uncle. True to his word, the singer continued to tell his friends about my uncle, even as his singing career skyrocketed.

The young singer - Frank Sinatra.

My uncle - went from a tiny clothing store on the edges of oblivion to "Mickey Hayes - Clothier to the Stars"; his walls covered with hundreds of photographs of the biggest names in show business.

On the other side of the coin is INTEL, the major manufacturer of computer chips, and, a great company.

Some years ago, Intel's newest chip had a design flaw that caused a problem in only the tiniest number of calculations, and only in highly complex situations. As this problem began to get reported in the press, owners of computers built with these new chips wanted replacements.

Intel's management stated that these customers were somewhat stupid since only highly complex calculations in specialized situations would experience that problem and then, only on the rarest occasions. They said that they would replace the chip if the customer could substantiate the claim that their chip was flawed.

How stupid. If it only goes bad once in a zillion times, why not give a lifetime guarantee? Most of the customers would never run into that problem. If they had immediately offered the lifetime replacement guarantee, ALL of the customers would have had a very high degree of confidence that they would never need to take Intel up on their offer.

Intel finally did offer lifetime replacement - after worrying, offending and insulting millions of their customers.

We can all learn a valuable lesson from Nordstroms; the department store famous for customer service. Their service to customers is so incredible, that people go out of their way to shop there.

Mr. Nordstrom calls it 'customer heroics'. "We do it because we want more business - NOT simply because we're nice guys."

I've always told my employees - "don't save me 'MY' money. If it helps the customer, SPEND my money. Even if they make a mistake, they won't be criticized if it helped the customer".

Nordstrom, over a period of many years, has developed a corporate culture of service to the customer. Any corporate culture, if it is going to endure successfully, MUST take on a life of its own, apart from the wishes of management. It has to be adopted by every employee, because THEY each think that it's a good idea.

Whether you are a 1 person operation or the largest company, you know what good customer service is. It's the Golden Rule applied to business - "Do unto others".

Listen to your customers' spoken requests - and unspoken. They'll tell you what they want. Add a large portion of your own good common sense. Make a commitment to yourself that you will give your customers, service beyond their highest expectations

If you will do these few simple things, I can guarantee you success beyond YOUR expectations.

Gary Wollin, a registered investment advisor, has worked on Wall Street since 1961. He has been regularly featured in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and many other publications around the world. He writes and speaks about selling, customer loyalty and sales, and stock market outlook, donating 100% of his fees to charity. For more information, please visit

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

How To Handle Irate Customers

Writen by Paul Smith

Customer service would be one of the most difficult positions in a company mainly because the majority of people miss the point of it. You see the definition of customer service is servicing customers. Normally, when a client calls your hotline or helpdesk, they want clarification on a matter that wasn't clearly explained before purchase, or let you know that the product they bought is faulty, or find a way to solve their problem.

The majority of people call a helpdesk in the hopes of getting their problem resolved quickly. Having competent people at your helpdesk to solve these problems makes a huge difference in how well your customers are handled. Most people don't like to complain and hope their issue will get solved promptly.

When you get aggressive customers, it is easy to become defensive. A great customer service officer will react with empathy to this situation and will investigate further with the customer of how things have escalated this far. While some people are aggressive thinking that their matter will be solve faster that way, others become aggressive as a result of a bad experience either from your company or another company's hotline.

When dealing with a 'difficult' customer make sure you:

1. Stay calm and polite;

2. Take notes of what the complaint is about;

3. Actively listen to the customer by saying "yes", "I see", and "I understand".

4. When the customer has finished explaining his/herself, go through your notes with him/her to verify if you understood him/her correctly.

5. When both your customer and yourself have been through the notes, explain to him/her what is going to happen next and how your company goes about dealing with complaints. For example, you can tell him that this matter will be taken to the manager and issues are usually resolved in 24 hours.

6. Take responsibility. Follow up on the issue with whom ever you passed it on before the 24-hour deadline expires and make sure it has been resolved. If it hasn't make a point to call your customer and let him/her know that it is taking a bit longer then expected but that you haven't forgotten about his/her issue. That will keep the customer happy because he/she realises that his/her issue matters and that someone cares about getting it resolved. This customer will not only come back but will most likely refer other people to your business.

7. Alternately, if your business were lucky enough to have a good helpdesk software, these cases would be easier to follow up with. For example, the first level of response would take the call and type in the complaint. If the issue isn't resolved within the normal deadline, it is escalated to the next level - a manager. This second level should be able to solve the complaint and get back to the customer is due time.

Basically, customer service should be perceived as an opportunity to go beyond your clients' expectations and make sure that they are completely satisfied with your products and/or services. Make it a positive experience for everyone – your customers and your staff, by implementing processes that insure issues are resolved in a timely matter and that the details of each issues are readily available in a database that all your staff have access to.

Paul Smith is the manager of Auratech Software, a company that specialises in Help Desk Software to help businesses with their customer support. If you would like to read more articles on improving your support or would like to check out Auratech's range of Help Desk Software, please visit:

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Telephone Etiquette

Writen by Dermot Fitzpatrick

The telephone is still a key method of communication & thus proper telephone techniques an important part of a top-notch business. On a phone call the only impression a customer gets is that of your voice and the manner in which you speak. In order to project the most positive & friendly image one should follow the simple tips below.

Make sure to be prepared for all calls and have a positive attitude. Smile, the customer can't see you but they will hear it in your voice & if it's appropriate use your name.

When receiving a call make sure to respond within 2 to 3 rings and answer with an established greeting. Be polite, professional & write down the callers name immediately. Always know your boundaries – you do not want to offend your customer.

When placing a customer on hold, be sure to ask for permission to do so and wait for a response. If in doubt about a response to any question or concern a customer has, place them on hold and take action to find the response. Be sure to thank your customer for holding and if they are on hold for over 30 seconds, keep checking back with them.

When transferring a call inform the customer that you are doing so. Before transferring a call, provide the customer with the direct number and name of the person you are transferring them to. Finally, be sure to stay on the line and introduce the caller.

Take meaningful messages that include the date, time and callers full name. Include the name of the person who took down the initial call. Write down the message clearly & concisely and explain to the caller the action you plan to take.

By following these simple tips, you can rest assured that your customers will be satisfied and confident in your businesses capabilities.

Dermot Fitzpatrick is the owner of Fitz Solutions Inc. a software development company that creates powerful easy to use software tools for the construction industry. These include estimating, project management and job costing. Custom software design services are also offered. -

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