Sunday, November 30, 2008

Customer Service Speaker Says Quotprovide Rich Feedback Amp Youll Increase Customer Satisfactionquot

Writen by Dr. Gary S. Goodman

What is it that makes one customer service rep consistently fantastic and effective, while the person in the next cubicle is merely average, or worse?

It isn't a matter of a single trait that can be glibly labeled enthusiasm, or sincerity, or caring.

I've identified no less than twenty five things that account for customer service success, and they're all behavioral. For one thing, great reps not only ask, "How may I help you?" but they do this with an ascending tone that conveys the impression that "I really WANT to help you!"

When reps know exactly what to do, when to do it and how to do it, they have one half of the puzzle solved.

But the other half is receiving ongoing feedback from customers, supervisors, and themselves that makes them aware of how they're doing, moment by moment, that is also essential to success.

Like driving a car well, it's not good enough to merely point your vehicle toward your destination. Once you're underway, you have to adjust to the road, to traffic, to your own impulses to jump lanes or pursue detours and short cuts, and even to the time you have allotted to reach your goal.

Yes, you can put your mind on auto-pilot and daydream your way through customer conversations, much like breezing down a highway on cruise control, but you'll be safer and less likely to get lost if you're paying close attention to your progress, second by second.

One of the basic problems associated with monitoring, measuring and managing customer service is the fact that reps, and their trainers and managers, are not classifying properly what's making a significant difference in their conversations.

Moreover, they're clueless about discerning which customers are strongly versus weakly satisfied as those conversations end. Customer reactions need to be scaled for intensity.

For example, do they "recommit" their business at then end, signaling loyalty and an explicit intention to come back again and do more business with your firm? If so, how strongly do they express it?

Likewise, if they thank you, what is the "magnitude of their gratitude?" Is it a one, two, three, four, or a zero?

Without clearly defined indicators, and accurate and quick feedback, customer servers can't really improve. Moreover, they're more likely to perceive their tasks as "thankless" while avoiding responsibility for service outcomes.

Salespeople, surgeons, and sports stars improve their skills and outcomes through feedback. Why shouldn't customer service folks excel through this device, as well?

When you provide rich feedback, you'll be on the right path to improving customer satisfaction.

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

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Carpet Cleaning In Surrey

Writen by Murray Whelehan

Like any business, carpet and upholstery cleaning requires excellent customer service and great value for money. There are a number of ways in which one can obtain these. People have studied the art of customer service for many years, striving to find the right balance between giving hte best service they can, while still making a profit large enough to survive on.

Customer service is defined as how the customer is treated or served. By offering special discounts such as new customer discounts, loyalty discounts and refferal discounts, you can ensure excelllent customer service and great value for money.

Keeping your customers happy is the number one secret to making it in business. Just ask anyone who runs a succesful business. It is vital to make sure that your business has a thriving customer base that call back or use your business time and time again.

By introducing these principles into my business in Surrey and Hampshire in the Uk, I have established a top class carpet and upholstery cleaning businsess. I have a solid customer base who I strive to keep happy with outstanding pricing deals and excellent customer service

You can even visit my website at

So remember to integrate outstanding customer service and value for money into your business.

Murray Whelehan runs Wellclean carpet and upholstery cleaning service based in Surrey and Hampshire. Visit his website at

Friday, November 28, 2008

Customer Service Surveys Start With Simple Strategies

Writen by Lance Winslow

Do you want to give good customer service and do you want to make sure that the message you send out to your target market and potential customers is a simple message and one they can understand. Many people believe and I believe also that customer service surveys can help you in finding out if your customers are satisfied and if you are actually giving good customer service.

But in order to achieve good customer service you first need to make sure that your marketing is sending out the right message. So I suggest that you Survey your marketing first. In other words find out if those who are reading your advertising and your marketing are in fact getting the right message that you are intending to send them.

You should attempt to get feedback of your marketing message from your friends, vendors, contractors, employees and your target market customers. You need to find out how people are receiving your message and who is receiving it; this needs to be your target market and target customers.

If your target customers and target market are not receiving your message you need to adjust the way that your sending it out and adjust what you are saying it. This may mean changing your market mix, firing your advertising agency and completely reviewing your marketing strategy.

Please consider this in 2006. If you do like this article I do not care; I only care about winning in the marketplace and if you are not interested in winning I am not interested in having you read this article. As far as I am concerned there are winners and losers in the marketplace and if you worry loser you will always be a loser and there is nothing I can do for you. Tough talk, indeed, but I just hate losers. If you are a loser, I hate you too; do not contact me.

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

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Being Available To Your Clients Is Truly Appreciated

Writen by Erin Blaskie

My clients have grown to love the fact that I'm available quickly. If they e-mail me, chances are great that I'll be sitting at my PC ready for their e-mail and in most cases; I have an e-mail back to them within five-ten minutes. My clients have always commented on this ability of mine and how much they appreciate my responsiveness and timeliness. So, how can you achieve this for your own business? It's easy!

Be Available.

Okay, I know you are probably thinking "Duh, you just said that" but I wanted to be sure you really got it. If you want your clients to appreciate your responsiveness, be available at your computer at various intervals during the day and have your e-mail open – ready to accept new inbound mail. Set yourself up a schedule if you have other priorities and try to check in with your e-mail once an hour. If time does not allow that, set your own goal – maybe you want to respond within 24 hours or 48 hours. State this turn around time on your website and stick to it!

Use the Technology Your PC Gave You!

We all have some e-mail client installed on our computers. If you don't, get yourself out to the nearest office supplies store and pick yourself up an e-mail software program… Immediately! Once you have it installed, if you didn't already have a software program like this installed, open it up and set up your mail accounts to feed into one inbox. This way, you can keep close tabs on your mail and be able to answer all inbound e-mail rather quickly. I use Outlook and Outlook Express to handle my e-mails and I just love it!

Set Up a Voice Mail System for Your Phone

If you know you aren't going to be available by phone during regular business hours, be sure to have a voice mail system in place and make sure to use it. Return phone calls within the same time limit you gave yourself for e-mail. This way, your clients know that if they leave you a message about something they need you to do or to look into, it will be taken care of in a timely manner. Also, don't be afraid of the phone! Too many of us, now that we are moving into this internet focused era, have quit using our phones and turned to an e-mail only place of business. Pick up that phone and chat with your clients because it makes for a great business-consumer relationship.

Keeping in touch with your clients in a timely manner will mean more repeat business and more word-of-mouth advertising for you and a happy business for your client. It is your responsibility to provide to your client what your service standards state. If you don't have service standards in place, abide by the age old rule: "do unto others as you would do unto yourself."

-- About the Author --

Erin Blaskie is the founder and president of Business Services, ETC ( an administrative support company located within Canada. Erin works one on one with clients to assist them in meeting their goals by taking over the "small stuff."

-- For More Information --

Erin also has a free e-zine called "101 Things That I Discovered as a VA", which will help you with all areas of your business, that you can subscribe to at as well as a blog with the same title where she shares even more tips.

If you want to know more please contact Erin at

-- Copyright Information --

All rights reserved. This publication or any part thereof may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording, storage in an information retrieval system or otherwise, unless this notification of copyright is retained.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Retail Greeters Sales Builders Or Customer Turnoff

Writen by John Di Frances

Do you need greeters or should you avoid them? That is the perplexing question many retail organizations are struggling with today. Often touted in the press as the perennial example of the benefits to employing greeters,Walmart has hung on to its practice faithfully. But does it work and if so, will merely placing any warm body with a forced smile at the door to your store do the trick of converting entering customers into satisfied shoppers?

Not necessarily, there is much more to successfully using retail greeters to affect a significant difference in your bottom line. The basic problem lies with retailers who do not adequately define what it is they hope to accomplish. Retailers and greeters need to fully understand their function.

Establishing goodwill with customers is the sole reason for using greeters. Four fundamental purposes and their corresponding methods for using greeters must be applied in order to accomplish this goal.

These are:

1.Acknowledge the customer.

Purpose – Most of us pass much of our time in a very impersonal world. Unless we live in a small, rural community or have celebrity status, we receive little personal acknowledgment. From the gas station, which in most cases is now pay at the pump self serve, to the grocery, department or discount store, we have become nameless. Even when a store clerk or restaurant server holds our identity, in the form of a credit card, firmly in the palm of their hand, it is a rare occasion when they take the initiative to address us by name. All too often, our credit card and receipt are returned with little more than a blank stare and monotone "Thank you."

Method – Establishing eye contact on a one to one basis is the key. Far too often greeters do not grab the customer's attention by looking them squarely in the eye. Greeters may be preoccupied or self-conscious and thus fail to establish this critical first contact. Pushing a shopping cart into the customer's path or thrusting a sale circular into their hands does not establish real contact, at least not in the positive sense.

2.Give the store a friendly atmosphere.

Purpose – We all want to shop in a friendly place, but what does that mean? When we think friendly we do not picture a store with the staff gushing all over us or where we feel pressured into buying. We usually do not want to be sold on anything. We instead want the opportunity to sell ourselves on whatever needs we came into the store to fill and the benefits we can expect from making a good purchase decision. A friendly atmosphere simply means a place where we feel welcome, comfortable, free to browse around and shop.

Method – We create this friendly, but non-threatening environment by greeting the customer warmly and personably, not mechanically. A feigned, half-hearted or forced smile is a dead giveaway to the entering customer that you rather they would go away and not bother you. Customers entering the store may be in a hurry, themselves preoccupied or even in a bad mood. The greeter's job is to change that customer's mindset, if only for a moment, by eliciting from them a responsive smile to that of the greeter. I will venture that you too have experienced this. You fly through the door of a store, stressed and anxious from being behind schedule and having three more stops to make on your way home, when suddenly you are arrested by the warm smile and genuine "hello" of an unknown individual adding to your life a much needed ray of sunshine at that moment. No, your harried schedule and tardiness haven't magically disappeared, but the ice is broken and you smile back with a momentary sigh of relief because of one friendly, personal greeting. Some stores have opted to take this a giant step further. In the U.K., ASDA supermarkets recently began advertising for 100 talented actors and actresses to serve as greeters. According to Sally Hopson, Director of Customer Services at ASDA: "Greeters give the first impression of ASDA when a customer walks through the door. If we can find someone who can make our customers smile and their shopping trip more fun, then that's what we will do."

3.Inform and offer help as needed.

Purpose – Frequently we do need help from the store's employees. While no one wants to be hounded by overzealous salespeople, it is even more frustrating to want to buy something and be unable to find anyone willing or competent to help. I have walked out of stores vowing never to return for this reason more than any other. Having sold myself, now all I want is some assistance so that the purchase can be completed.

Method – The solution here is simply to first offer information and then if necessary, follow up with direct assistance. A perfect example is my local ACE hardware store. A few years ago Home Depot built a new mega store on the hill directly overshadowing the local ACE store. Now, I also shop the Home Depot store as they have lumber and many construction items the hardware store does not carry, but for items the ACE store sells, I am a loyal customer. Why? Simply because when I walk in the door there is always someone at the cash register and if they are not serving a customer, they will turn and say "Hello." Then as I walk toward the main aisle, invariably someone will greet me and ask if there is anything they can help me find. I am in that store every week and most of time I know exactly what I want and where to find it, but I also know that in the event I need help their employees are always willing and ready to assist me. Greeters should not only welcome and acknowledge entering customers, but they can also help by asking questions, updating customers on the latest offers and sales and telling them what is new and exciting in the store since their last visit.

4.To empower the customer.

Purpose – Today people want to control their own destiny, including when they are shopping in our stores. Give them the ability to do this and they will respond positively.

Method – As I said before, customers today do not want to be sold; they want to be empowered to decide for themselves. We need to do everything possible to enable them to do this. Victoria's Secret understands this perfectly. Their customers are divided into two very distinct groups, women who generally know what they want in the store and typically only requiring help with colors and sizes and men who, in general, have no clue as to what they are there for and are often embarrassed at even being in the store.

Victoria Secret's sales staff is well trained to handle both types of customer and tend to be especially adept at making their male customers feel at ease. A true attitude of being helpful, of having the customer's best interest at heart and of serving their needs ensures this outcome. Nothing encourages me to make a buying decision more than when I sense that the salesperson is looking out for my best interests, rather than just trying to make a sale. This is because good, old fashioned TRUST is the foundation that builds customer relationships over the long term. We have all had negative experiences with greeters including car dealerships where salespeople eyed us up and down like vultures to determine whether we were a bona fide buyer or just a tire kicker before we even walked in the door and computer stores, where for instance, sales personnel seldom take the time or interest to listen to our questions, preferring to simply push the newest hardware and software gadgetry at us.

Whether or not you have appointed greeters at the door of your establishment, it is essential that every employee understand and actively practice these four principles of establishing goodwill with every customer they encounter. In so doing, they will give your store a small town, friendly personality that delivers a caring, positive experience shoppers will want to return for again and again.

Copyright 2005 by John Di Frances

John Di Frances is an internationally recognized organizational legacy expert and keynote speaker.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How To Calm Cranky Customers Without Blowing Your Stack

Writen by Kim Haas

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't hear another small business owners complaining about some of the customers they have to do business with. Some of them REALLY are legitimate complaints, but after listening to 100's of different complaints, I have found the root of most of them is a lack of understanding. Therefore, I hope this article gets you on the road of addressing complaints and customer problems in your home business.

The first step is to get past the irritation. It's only human nature to get a little upset when a customer writes to complain about something totally stupid. Complaints like: It's been two whole weeks and I haven't seen my ad on your website yet. Or, how about those really stupid emails, like: Send me more info. (No name provided. Info on what?) Then, the guy writes you the next week and calls you a crook because you didn't answer his email right away. It's obvious that there is a breakdown of communication.

But let's look at the last complaint explained above and analyze it for better understanding. For some reason, the guy was so excited about your company that he forgot to mention what information he wanted. He knew his name but never thought about the fact that you probably didn't know it. Instead he was excited and wanted to get his request emailed right away so he could find out more. So his complaint to you would actually be a compliment.

It's easy to simply write a quick email that says: Thank you for requesting more information about our company. We apologize that your first request was not filled, however, you neglected to tell us what information you were interested in. It helps us getting your request processed faster.

Now let's try and understand the education you provided to this customer. I know, it's human nature to want to strike back because this idiot hurt your feelings. But the only way you are going to advance in business and present the professional image you should be hoping to achieve, is to educate and help this person. They, in turn will probably never make this mistake again and will probably relate the information to others they come into contact with. However, if you are hateful or never fill the request you will have gained nothing except the self-satisfaction of revenge.

Training and educating people is not really very hard at all. Jesus gave us an example of how to teach in order to obtain POSITIVE results by using parables. Parables are examples of everyday situations so the person can relate and understand what you are trying to tell him or her. Just saying the words may not help. Some words go over a person's head or they don't comprehend what you're saying because their mind is on something else.

Good customer service and marketing go hand in hand. They both depend on each other and work together for your business survival. There should never be a moment when you shout back at a customer. Hanging up the phone is a much better approach and achieves the revenge you may seek in a more POSITIVE manner.

Kim Haas is a WAHM and Founder of, a popular online networking community focusing on working from home and women in business and owner of To learn more about Kim, visit
Copyright 2005 Kim Haas

Monday, November 24, 2008

Retail Store Uscan Machines Selfserve Or Voluntary Part Time Job

Writen by Sean North

Do many of us realize that we are working an unpaid part time job for the grocery stores and some home appliance stores? We are ringing up our own goods, are not getting any price discount for doing so and are saving these retailers money.

Each self-serve lane contains two to three self-serve scanners. Retailers have an average of two to four self-serve lanes. Retailers are saving each store an average of four to eight cashiers' salaries per store. One attendant is assigned to these self-service machines. Hypothetically, if stores are paying full time cashiers $7 per hour, they are now saving $14,000 annually in wage expenses for each cashier that they do not have to hire. Multiplied by four to eight cashiers, each store saves $56,000 to $112,000 per year on wage expenses. This simple calculation does not even count other benefits that companies pay to their cashiers, such as healthcare, vacation pay, sick pay, 401(k), pension benefits and tuition assistance.

Are these savings passed on to the consumer? Nope!

Why should we work an unpaid part time job for the grocery industry?

1. Self-serve scanning machines are not always user-friendly

When grocery bags get filled up and you have nowhere else to put your groceries, the machine will say something like "Please place your item back in bag" and not even let you know what the problem is. The machine treats you like you're an imbecile. The machine is wasting your time while an attendant has to correct the problem.

2. Self-serve scanning machines do not always scan every bar code.

Some of the machines do not scan deposit bottle return slips, which requires an attendant to manually scan the deposit slips. If there is other merchandise that the machine will not scan, an attendant also has to manually override the system, which is consuming more time for the customer.

3. Self-serve scanners cannot correct price variations.

If an item should scan at a certain price, but the store's system scans the item at a different price, an attendant has to manually override the scanner to give the consumer the correct price.

4. Risks of alienating senior citizens

If self-scanners are challenging for younger people, imagine how intimidating the machines must be for seniors. Sometimes, perception and not reality can dictate a retailer's success. If seniors perceive that cashier-scanning is going to be phased out by self-scanning, seniors may take their business where the human touch is still being utilized.

5. Gas stations offer a price break for self-serve

Although full-serve gas stations are becoming more rare, those stations that still offer full-service and self-service combinations offer price breaks to those customers who pump their own gasoline. If gas stations can offer a price break to customers who pump their own gasoline, why can't grocery stores offer a price break to customers who ring up their own goods?

6. Impersonal aspect could dissuade customers

Many customers go to the same store, restaurant or tavern because people who work at the establishment remember them. Remember "Norm" from Cheers? They want to go "where everybody knows their name…" A U-Scan Machine is not going to know you from Adam.

7. Self-scanning is currently not set up to handle large amounts of goods.

Currently, U-Scan machines are set up to handle about fifteen items or less, which is fine with the light shopper. What happens with customers who are purchasing over fifteen items? Are the larger-quantity purchasers being rewarded by not having to scan their own goods? Why do shoppers with fifteen items or less have the opportunity to do voluntary part time work for retailers? Is it a case of if customers purchase enough groceries, they don't have to work for the store today?

Should this concept be called self-scan or self-scam? Fortunately, ringing up one's own goods is still optional. Yes, it is still optional to do part time unpaid work for a retailer in which you are patronizing. Customers are doing the retailers a favor by purchasing goods at their stores. Is this how the customers are being rewarded? What will be next? Will customers go into a restaurant, order their food, be expected to prepare the food and pay the same price as if someone else had prepared the meal?

North Notes is a writing and researching company, which primarily helps writers gain focus, motivation, remove mental blocks that help to unblock the writing process. EVERYONE who writes has been stuck at some point in his or her career. You do not have to accept these mind-boggling roadblocks!

(586) 216-7516

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Deliver More Amp Charge Less

Writen by Bette Daoust, Ph.D.

When you are negotiating a contract, there will be guidelines that determine the work to be completed and the timeline to be followed. These guidelines often do not go into a lot of detail on how the work is to be accomplished. Go beyond the Request for Proposal (RFP) and deliver more than they bargained for to gain a great business relationship and a solid client base. The RFP is generally the first step in obtaining the business and an additional contract will be negotiated for the actual delivery of the product or service. When negotiating, you will need to make sure that you can deliver exactly what is promised and that you are not over extending yourself. On the other hand you need to make sure that you are not under promising so that you can over deliver.

Use your common sense to determine what is feasible and what is not. If you say you can do more for the same money then make sure it is in the contract. This way the competition is not likely to gain ground on you. Remember it is in the execution of the contract where the business relationship is made or broken. If you can do more for the same money, say so. The customer will be extremely pleased with their choice.

Bette Daoust, Ph.D. is a speaker, author (over 170 books, articles, and publications), and consultant. She has provided marketing, sales, business development and training expertise for companies such as Peet's Coffee & Tea, Varian Medical Systems, Accenture, Avaya, Cisco Systems to name a few. Dr. Daoust has also done extensive work with small businesses in developing their marketing, training, and operational plans. You may contact Dr. Daoust at You may also view her latest publications at Dr. Daoust also writes for the National Networker

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Using Buttons And Badges To Increase Customer Service And Business At A Restaurant

Writen by Allison Greg

The food service industry is usually a fast paced and often precarious one. Advertising is critical in a restaurant and there are many ways to use a button maker machine in this industry. When the advertising budget is tight, a button-making machine will expand those precious dollars. Buttons can be used for a myriad of purposes such as advertising specials and for identification of wait staff. Whether you serve a five star cuisine or mom and pop specialties, a buttons can help lower your overhead and raise profits.

Every restaurant has a line of specials that they serve. Servers may suggest the special, or describe it, but a button can really show it. People are stimulated by what they see – hence all the pictures in menus. It would just make sense to have an appetizing photograph of your daily special or weekly special on a button to attract attention. The server might suggest the special while pointing to the button "As you can see, today for our special we have a delicious pot roast with mixed vegetables".

Buttons and badges are a really inexpensive way of advertising your specials and increasing your sales. Buttons can also be used to advertise the next night's special to tantalize your guests to return. Want to increase the dessert sales? Nothing makes the mouth crave cool creamy ice cream more than a photograph of a hot fudge Sunday or a malted milkshake – words just can not describe those types of images well enough. These buttons can be made and handed out to the staff each day or each week of the special and then returned. Buttons are small enough to store easily, reusable, durable, and still large enough to make the mouth water when covered with pictures of your luscious entrées.

Do you have a unique or unusual theme to your restaurant? Sell souvenir buttons with your restaurant logo. If you are in a travel location, such as along an interstate, buttons with the state information and name on it are also great souvenirs. These buttons can be sold for as little as a dollar and still generate a handsome profit. "I always eat at Joe's Bar and Grill" or "World's Greatest Bar-be-Que" over a picture of your restaurant would be a simple button to make and could also be sold as a souvenir. Do you have a signature dish or a super large portion? For that guest who accomplishes the clean plate give them a button. For example, "Survivor" stamped over a picture of a porterhouse steak with your restaurant's name at the bottom would certainly get people's attention.

Making up buttons with your logo and address on them are great for sponsored events as well. Does your restaurant support a local youth sports team? Making up buttons to let people know who you sponsor and to give out to the team players is a great way to get the word out that you are involved in the community. Staff members can wear these buttons in the restaurant to let guests know that your establishment inspires youth activities. These buttons can also be made with the team's final placement or the word "Champions" over your restaurant's logo. This is a keepsake for the team members and a way of getting your logo and name out in the public.

Would you like to reward your frequent repeat customers? A button that reads "Thank You for Your Business" can be a great way to say thanks and will get the word outside the restaurant that you appreciate your guests. These can also have a discount on them. If you have regulars who visit often, give them a button for five or ten percent off their next meal. These buttons can be returned at the time of the purchase, just like a coupon, and saved for the next customer you want to reward. This is an inexpensive way to promote your establishment at openings as well. Pass these buttons out to new customers to draw them back in, and maybe even their friends.

Use buttons as nametags for employees. These can be customized with the restaurants logo and address or if you are a less formal establishment, have the servers and staff design their own buttons – within reason of course. Buttons are also large enough to include years of service. Rewards for staff can also be made out of buttons. The employee of the month or week can wear a button saying "Employee of the Month" or "This week's Star Performer".

Buttons for special meals or special employees are an inexpensive addition to your establishment. These buttons can help increase sales, generate more revenue, advertise inside and outside the restaurant and reward your frequent guests. No restaurant should be without one of these money saving devices.

Greg Allison is the marketing director for Button Biz. Button Biz is an online distributor of button maker machines and button supplies. Each button making system includes a button maker, button parts, and circle cutter. Make round or rectangle buttons and choose from eleven different badge sizes.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Silly Service Has Its Serious Side Test Your Customer Service Knowledge

Writen by Craig Harrison

Who says service is serious? Customer service can be silly too. Take this fun quiz to test your customer service knowledge. You may be a service ace if you both pick the correct answer to each of these ten questions, and understand why these answers are correct.

1. A complaining customer is:
A. Always right
B. Almost right
C. Often lying
D. Always the customer

2. Customers who complain:
A. Had unhappy childhoods
B. Are genetically predisposed to be sourpusses
C. Have trouble in their primary relationships
D. Are doing you a service in identifying what isn't working in your business or organization

3. The best reward for your customer service representatives is:
A. Earplugs and punching bags
B. Valium or other mind-numbing drugs
C. Recognition and appreciation on your part
D. Anger management seminars

4. CRM stands for:
A. Customers Rarely Matter
B. Can't Remember Much
C. Communicating Random Meaning
D. Customers Rudimentarily Managed
E. Customer Relationship Management

5. Customers who complain want . . .
A. Something for nothing
B. To be heard and have their experience validated
C. To vent for the sport of it
D. To be made majority shareholders in the company

6. Customer Service departments:
A. Are the afterthought that cleans up messes other departments cause
B. Build customer loyalty
C. Are leaders in understanding customer behavior patterns and market research

7. For a company to be considered service-oriented:
A. It must mention customer service in its mission statement
B. At least 18.3% of its employees must work in the customer service department
C. Its managers must at one time have been CSRs
D. Customer service must be addressed by all departments

8. A Call Center is defined as:
A. The midpoint in duration of a telephone call
B. A revenue sink hole
C. A place where middle-of-the-road calls coexist with liberal and arch-conservative calls
D. A location where complaints and problems are converted into successful saves for your customers and your company

9. Customer Care is:
A. A managed care medical program for customers
B. A nifty alliterative phrase that looks good in company brochures
C. A new program where customers care for themselves
D. A philosophy wherein the customer is wrapped in service even before a problem arises

10. Customer Service Culture is
A. A new form of yogurt where the lid removes itself for you
B. Behavior being analyzed in a Petrie dish for contagions
C. A mythical civilization in which everyone smiles and welcomes you when they meet
D. An environment where customer service permeates the thinking of the entire company


1. D. Customers are often wrong but they never stop being the customer. Right or wrong they are to be accorded respect and cared for. Focus on the insights their complaint offers.

2. D. Complaining customers alert you to systemic problems before they drive off more customers. Their complaints represent many more customers who may not spend the time to tell you about problems, instead just leaving you for your competitors.

3. C. Your staff deserves and thrive on recognition and appreciation. Take the time to celebrate them collectively and individually. Whether through cards, gifts, surprises, outings and acknowledgements at company functions, let them know how important, valued and appreciated they are to you and the company.

4. E. CRM refers to systems designed to track and cater to each customer's whims and preferences over a lifetime. CRM is about managing customer relationships over the long haul by attending to their individual needs.

5. B. Complaining customers have several needs. Implicit in their actual complaint is also a need to be heard and their unhappiness acknowledged. Fixing the problem is important. So is letting them know you understand their displeasure and feel for them. One without the other is an incomplete remedy for customer complaints. Don't forget the emotional component in complaints.

6. B and C. When you solve a problem for a customer you actually build confidence and allegiance. You've proven you stand behind your products or service, giving customers a warm and fuzzy feeling of safety and protection. As well, you tap the pulse of the customers. Their complaints and feedback give valuable insight into how well your products are assembled, documented, sold and hold up. Listening to customers tells you a great deal about your company's products and services (and your competitors' too) from real life customers. That's invaluable!

7. D. A Customer Service orientation must transcend the service department. All departments must understand and model good customer service for the company to be considered strong in service. Many problems can be avoided outright by attending to customer service. Why should the customer service department carry the weight of service for the entire company. Don't operate under the adage "never enough time to do it right but always enough time to do it over." Get it right at the source, in all departments.

8. D. Make your call center is a shining example of your company's commitment to its customers. Your center is a visible symbol of your company's commitment to customer success.

9. D. Customer Care is a philosophy wherein customers are cared for by a company – the entire time they're customers. Care isn't just to be administered as a salve for problems. Demonstrate care from the start and your customers will flock to your products and services.

10. D. Customer Service Culture is the infusion of service ideals into every department, from sales, shipping and receiving to legal, human resources and beyond.

CRAIG HARRISON is a speaker, trainer and consultant who makes communication and customer service fun and easy for his clients. To hear his voice, call (888) 450-0664. Otherwise you can visit his website or send e-mail to

Thursday, November 20, 2008

No Vacancy For Customer Service

Writen by Justin Tyme

When I first started staying at the Neptune Motel, they had a decent continental breakfast with a good selection of donuts, bread for toast, muffins, fresh fruit and more. My favorite items where the orange juice and the little packets of Carnation Hot Chocolate that I would mix with my coffee.

The motel rooms were nice and new, the towels fluffy. I even liked the hand lotion. It didn't dry my hands like some alcohol based lotions and it didn't make them feel greasy . . . they felt just right after rubbing on the lotion.

In the three years or so that I've been staying there, a couple times a month or so, things have changed. The carpets are showing stains, the towels seem thinner and so is the hand lotion. The selection for breakfast has dwindled. There are no more donuts. The hot chocolate is gone, and the orange juice has changed to a cheaper brand and now tastes watered down. I never eat the complimentary breakfast anymore.

About a hundred yards down the street is another motel where I can stay for about 20% less and yet, I choose to stay at the Neptune.

What keeps me coming back is Betty, the morning desk clerk. I like her. She's friendly and always has a smile. When the Neptune decided to raise their rates, Betty fought for my standing commercial rate. She won. I stay. When Betty goes, I will, too. And I'm sure she will be going.

Just as the Neptune has continually shown a lack of understanding of service to me as a client, I'm willing to bet they show the same disregard also for their internal customer service as well. I have seen turnover at the desk many times in the last three years. I've not heard Betty complain, but one day she will move on like others before her, and the Neptune will lose a great employee and at least one steady customer.

To stay competitive, businesses have to recognize what our customers and our employees need. If we don't take the time to assess those needs . . . and fill them, we run the risk of losing both.

Justin Tyme is an internet reporter and published author. He writes for print media and industrial video productions and is a contributor to Ideas and Training ( and Human Resources Radio (

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How To Kick Your Customer Service Up A Notch

Writen by Rosanne Dausilio

Welcome to the inaugural issue of Human Tech Tips -- Tip #1. How do we take your customer service and kick it up a notch?

This is a big question so where do we begin?

As an overview, it's a given that the answer is three-fold: People, Process, and Technology. Let me say right from the start, my bias is on the people side.

My questions for you to ponder are:

1) Do you collect and measure any data? After all, what gets measured gets managed, and what gets managed gets better.

2) Do you have customer satisfaction statistics? And if yes, how and where are you getting them?

3) Do you have ongoing training in place - not sales training - not product training - not protocol or rules and regulations training but true relationship building skills training?

Let's address the first question. Just because your system has metrics available to you doesn't mean you need to use all of them.

My advice is to start at the end. What are you trying to achieve and what measurement would absolutely reflect that achievement? Then that's what you want to measure. The first time you measure gives you a baseline, a benchmark, to use for charting your progress 1 month, 3 months, 6 months down the line. You're not comparing yourself to any one but yourself so it's fairly accurate. Yes, there are environmental or economic or seasonal issues, but you're getting a pretty truthful snapshot.

As an example, lots of companies measure length of call. Yes, this is a useful statistic. But if you are committed to customer service, then I would suggest first call resolution is more important than length of call. Southwest Airlines is committed to quality customer service and they don't even calculate length of call.

We'll cover question #2 in the next Tip and so on.

If you have questions or tips you'd like covered, please feel free to email me at To receive your own copy, email

ROSANNE D'AUSILIO, Ph.D., industrial psychologist, President of Human Technologies Global, Inc., specializes in human performance management for contact centers, providing needs analyses, instructional design, and customized, live, world class customer service skills trainings. Also offered: agent/facilitator certification through Purdue University's Center for Customer Driven Quality.

Known as 'the practical champion of the human, she authors the best-sellers, Wake Up Your Call Center: Humanize Your Interaction Hub, 4th edition (hot off the press), and Customer Service and The Human Experience and soon to be released, Lay Your Cards on the Table: 52 Ways to Stack You Personal Deck.. Reach her at, sign up for her complimentary monthly e-newsletter in its 7th year, and check out her new virtual store. Sign up for her newest endeavor Tips at This is not the same newsletter as at

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tools For Professionalism In Customer Service

Writen by Irene Watson

Interview with Steve Coscia discussing professionalism in the HVAC and other service industries:

Today we have Steve Coscia, author of "HVAC Customer Service Handbook", speaking with us. Steve's book gives service professional the strategies and techniques required to deliver world-class customer service. Hello Steve.

Irene: What inspired you to write "HVAC Customer Service Handbook"?

Steve: After performing a few HVAC customer service speeches and writing several customer service articles for HVAC trade magazines I observed how little information there was for the front-line HVAC Rep so I wrote the book. Thus far the book has been very well received by the HVAC trade press.

Irene: Tell us about your personal experiences you have had that led you to share your knowledge with others.

Steve: I simply taught my HVAC clients to implement the same customer service strategies that I used successfully for twenty years. My background was in customer service management. Regardless of the industry, when the service infrastructure is stable then world-class service delivery is attainable. I selected HVAC because I kept attracting more HVAC contractors and distributors as clients.

Irene: Although this book is written primarily for the HVAC industry, I would assume it could apply to all industries. What other industries do you believe would benefit from using this book as a teaching tool?

Steve: Due to the trade anecdotes in the book, I believe that electricians, plumbers, general contractors, roofers, landscapers, etc. would benefit from the book. The anecdotes depict scenarios in which most customers are homeowners and the service provider is usually a tradesperson.

Irene: Why do you believe that customer service representatives, in this case in the HVAC industry, are stressed out?

Steve: Customer service reps in almost every industry are stressed out – it's the nature of the work. HVAC reps handle volatile situations such as when a customer's heating system breaks down on a zero degree day at 1:00 in the morning. That situation is stressful for the HVAC rep and these events arise every day. Due to the volatile nature of these events, a stable problem solving infrastructure must prevail - if not the event will exacerbate.

Irene: Do you believe that problem solving must start at top management before it filters down to the service reps? If so, how is this possible?

Steve: Yes because management must lead by example. Management's role is also to invest enough time and resources in building a stable information sharing infrastructure which is the best way to avert problems.

Irene: There are stereotype images of customer service representatives in many of the service industries, for example, plumbing and electrical. Why do you believe this occurs?

Steve: Some of this may be due to bias. I suppose that blue-collar workers may not always convey a very polished image - but when HVAC reps are needed to fix a broken pipe or to warm up a home then blue collar skills become vital and appreciated.

Irene: How do you believe the bias of the customer could change before they are needed?

Steve: New experiences change the way a person thinks. If a customer encounters numerous HVAC reps who behave with courtesy and professionalism then that customer's beliefs will eventually change. It takes time – but it's never too late to start.

Irene: Your book details tools for HVAC customer service representatives. Would you share with the readers several of the key changes that the representatives need to make as a whole.

Steve: The key change that I advise readers to make includes using a stable, problem solving system I entitle CONTAIN, QUALIFY and CORRECT. The book includes a sequential flowchart of how this process works. This approach includes the assumption that customers usually call because something is wrong, therefore containment is necessary so things do not get worse. The problem must then be qualified using active listening skills and then corrected using a stable in-house system.

Irene: You mentioned earlier that the blue-collar workers may not have a polished image. With that could come a bias on their part of not accepting your problem solving system because they don't believe there is a problem. How do you propose they take your book seriously?

Steve: There's always room for improvement. Any open minded person will easily perceive the value in my book after reading the first anecdote. I wrote the book, based on actual case studies so that readers will easily see themselves in the anecdotes.

Irene: Do you believe the masses are ready to accept the changes you propose in your book?

Steve: Yes. I have been sharing my methodology for years. It's proven and it works.

Irene: Is there anything else you would like the readers to know about you or your book?

Steve: Based on the testimonials I have received thus far, HVAC contractors who have read my book are making more money, retaining more customers and experiencing less stress. Interested HVAC professionals should go to and buy the book today. My book urges HVAC reps to be courageous and go beyond the status quo and differentiate themselves for the competition.

Irene Watson is the managing editor of Reader Views, a book review service.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Whats The Impression You Leave

Writen by Kathleen Gage

Will your customer's first experience be their last or the beginning of something great?

Since moving to Oregon we have had numerous out-of-town visitors. Invariably, we take them out to eat. One of my favorite places to eat is a tiny café in Pleasant Hill. The Sunrise Café is a "blink and you miss it" kind of place. Tucked away between the local feed store and next to the one gas station in town, the Sunrise Café is a local favorite.

From the first time I stepped foot in this nostalgic eatery, I had such an incredible experience that I return often. Each time I have out-of-town guests, I make sure to take them to the Sunrise Café for an experience they are sure to remember for years to come.

What makes the Sunrise Café so special? The food is better than mom's home cooking; full of great taste, very filling and served up hot. The décor is funky and entertaining. Everyone who works at the Sunrise is genuinely happy when people stop in.

My first time at the Sunrise was when we were house hunting in the area. We stopped in with our realtor and were immediately welcomed by Marianne. Because she knows her customers, she knew this was our first visit and inquired about what brought us to the area. After sharing our house hunting stories, she wished us well, said she hoped we would find the perfect home and invited us back again.

Well over a month passed before we got settled in and decided to return to the Sunrise for a hearty Sunday breakfast. Marianne immediately recognized us as the house hunters, gave us a huge welcome and a hug when we told her we were the newest residents of the area.

Like most people, I enjoy feeling welcome where I do business. Each and every time we bring guests to enjoy our favorite spot, Marianne greets us as if we are the most important people in the place, welcomes our guests and makes their experience one to be remembered. Every patron gets as warm a welcome. Our guests always comment what an incredible experience they had and what a delight Marianne is.

The Sunrise clientele is such that if there is a crowd, patrons will share their tables with each other, get up to help serve coffee and pitch in to do whatever needs to be done. The entire staff is genuinely happy everyone is there. No wonder locals return often. They like being there.

On the flip side is my experience at a place in Dexter, Oregon. There is a Mexican restaurant in that area with a huge sign that reads, "Best Mexican Food in Oregon!" As one who enjoys Mexican food, I thought it would be worth trying.

Unlike the Sunrise Café, at the Mexican restaurant it took a few minutes before we were rushed to our table without as much as a "Welcome." After being seated we were made to wait several more minutes before getting a menu.

Finally, a rather large man (who turns out to be the owner) shows up. He appeared to be very frazzled and in a hurry. Without a welcome, he quickly takes the order, grabs the menu, and moves on to the next table to repeat the process. When the food arrives it is cool rather than hot, the plate is hastily placed in front of us and the owner rushes to the next table with their food.

Near the end of our meal a party of six shows up. Without missing a beat, the owner says, "Table one is done. We can seat the people there."

We were table one. I was shocked. After having one of the most unpleasant experiences up to this point, now I was made to feel extremely rushed. What I found interesting is the party of six didn't even stay. With this restaurant my first experience was definitely my last.

Regardless of your industry, do you know if your customers first experience is their last or the beginning of something great? By the way, when in Pleasant Hill stop in and say hello to Marianne and the rest of the gang at the Sunrise Café! You'll be glad you did.

Kathleen Gage is a bestselling author, keynote speaker and corporate trainer who works with organizations who want to increase their market position, sales and level of achievement. Visit to sign up for her free monthly newsletter filled with sales and marketing strategies.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Increase Productivity By Introducing Competition Into Customer Service

Writen by Dr. Gary S. Goodman

Countless times when I've consulted to companies, I've heard customer service people take swipes at the sales team, because they believe they're pampered, overpaid, and under-worked.

CSR's say their jobs are just as important. While salespeople bring in new business, CSR's keep these clients happy and on the books. Salespeople sell, and service folks re-sell, so to speak.

I couldn't agree more!

Each function contributes significantly to the bottom line, but there are certain reasons service contributions are invisible to senior management and undervalued:

(1) Service is not designed, in most companies to be results-oriented, but rather, process oriented. The question that is more likely to be asked is this: "Did the CSR sound polite?" and not "Did the customer recommit to doing business with us, because Jennifer induced him to do so?"

(2) There are no objective and meaningful measures of performance in place. A salesperson can say, I outsold everyone else this quarter, so I deserve a big bonus! What can the typical CSR point to, as rock solid evidence of her relative effectiveness?

(3) A sale is defined, but customer satisfaction is not. It would be unacceptable to say Megan is a great salesperson without looking to her buyers to support that claim through purchases. But we call someone good at performing service without measuring her impacts on customer retention.

You get the point.

There is one thing we can do that will change this situation.

Compel managers to rate and to compensate their CSR's, accordingly. If there are ten reps, then there will be numbers 1-10, in the ratings.

This will compel service providers to objectively define results, and it will spawn competition, where currently, there is none.

Healthy competition will help everyone, in the long run, but especially customers who will get the treatment they're looking for, and receive it from folks who are committed to continuously improve!

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 in the United States and abroad. 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:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Customer Service For Dumb Dumbs

Writen by Lance Winslow

Customer Service is not as simple as students may surmise. But that does not mean that any business cannot at least improve upon their customer service. I suppose there is a book called; Customer Service for Dummies. And if you want to improve your customer service skills and you think you are a dumb dumb then let me offer a few tips on things you can do to make your current customer service even better.

1.) Talk to your customers ask them what they like or do not like. Ask them how you can improve. After all your customers know what they want in good customer service so why not ask them?

2.) Implement a Secret Shopper program and have a friend or acquaintance be a pretend shopper and then have them assess your business when you are not there and fill out a questionnaire.

3.) Put yourself in your customers shoes and consider what they are seeing when they do business with you. Imagine their frustrations and then work to mitigate such aggravation.

4.) Tell all employees to smile at customers and be polite and answer their questions without making excuses. Then tell them to say thank you, like the mean it to every customer and tell your employees without that customer, you will no longer have a job, because we will be out of business and we will not need you.

Perhaps if you start looking at things a little different then you will in fact improve your customer service. The sooner you start the better. After you do all this then consider hiring some outside consultants to take your company to the next level when you are ready for the big time. Consider all this in 2006.

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

Friday, November 14, 2008

How To Find An Answering Service

Writen by Miranda Keene

There are three main ways to find an answering service, namely searching online, going through the telephone directory and word-of-mouth.

Searching online / Internet

An online search will reveal hundreds of answering services offering a number of options, but when searching, remember to check the online Yellow Pages as well. Many services will have their own websites listing their services, rates and areas covered. Finding offshore companies offering the services you are looking for will also be easier online.

Telephone Directory

The telephone remains a reliable source for finding providers of any service, answering services being no different. The printed Yellow Pages carry a lot of advertisements from these companies.


If you know a company or freelancers who use a service that you like, by all means ask them about it. Ask around at your professional organizations for recommendations.

Also, read printed and electronic advertisements, you may find the perfect answering service that way. Some high-end services advertise in professional and trade publications.

Regardless of the method used in sourcing an answering service for your business, it is important to know the following:

· Is the answering service staffed by trained personnel?

· How long the service has been operating, this doesn't mean a new company cannot provide good service, but depending on your business, experience may be important. Also, knowing how long they have been in business can be a useful marketing tool

· What other services are offered, for example, sales support

Ultimately, finding a good answering service will depend on the exact services you want, and the price you are willing to pay. Be prepared to go through a number of services to find the perfect fit for your purposes.

Click here now to find more observations from Miranda.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Customer Service Italian Style

Writen by William Von Achen

Nowadays, we complain nearly all of the time about how few businesses remember how to provide quality service to their customers. But a recent trip to Italy not only reminded me that the art of service is not dead, but that providing outstanding service is the key to almost any successful business. Here are a few well-worn but important principles that I was reminded of during that trip:

The Customer Always Comes First: When you patronize a retail store or restaurant in Italy, it is almost always the owner of the business that takes care of you. It's not that there aren't other employees; other staff members are usually busy straightening inventory or dealing with deliveries. But dealing with customers is simply too important a task to be delegated.

Product Knowledge Is King: Remember your last retail shopping experience, where you had to ask three different sales people to get an answer to a simple question about a product? Not in Italy. Every salesperson we dealt with was a product expert, whether it was about the kind of material used in a garment, the amount of warmth that various types of glove leather would provide, or how a piece of gold jewelry was crafted.

Be Proud Of What You Offer: Retail specialty stores in Italy typically offer goods in a wide range of prices to suit every budget. But you'll never catch a shop owner steering you toward their expensive wares by denigrating the quality of their less expensive merchandise. If it's good enough for them to sell, it's good enough for you to buy.

No Job Is Too Small Or Unimportant: Every morning, the streets of Florence were filled with shopkeepers sweeping their sidewalks, or polishing their doorways or cleaning their display windows. And, when there aren't customers to serve, there are shelves to be organized, merchandise to be tidied and stock to be added. These are important tasks that, no matter how menial they appear, help to create a positive business image with the customer.

Competitors Are Not Your Enemies: More than once, we were referred to another shop when the one that we were visiting did not have what we were looking for. More interested in building a long-term relationship than in making a quick sale, shopkeepers in Italy readily refer customers to competitors who can better meet an immediate need, knowing that the best customers will remember who referred them.

Running A Business Should Be A Joy, Not A Job: Retailers in Italy work hours comparable to their U.S. counterparts. However, we never once met a tired or grumpy shopkeeper who didn't have the time to give us as much attention as the first customer of the day, and who didn't go out of their way to make us feel welcome in their shop and in their city.

William von Achen is president of Strategic Management Resources, an executive coaching and management consulting firm offering advice and counsel to business owners and senior executives. For more information visit our web site at

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Beta Means Never Having To Say Youre Sorry

Writen by Ron Kaufman

I recently heard a technology presentation from a young but experienced CEO of a big 'clicks and mortar' organization. He told the large audience confidently, 'Beta means never having to say you're sorry.'

'That's right,' I thought to myself. 'When launching the beta test of a new web-enabled process, customers must understand it's only a pilot run and should be forgiving if things mess up or don't work out as planned.'

I was totally wrong about his point of view.

In direct contrast to my thinking, this e-commerce veteran explained that new web-based interactions often do not work properly during a beta test.

However, from the customer's point of view, he insisted, your pilot run must be successful enough to avoid creating negative customer perceptions or the need to apologize after the fact.

The cost and consequences of doing it badly are customer skepticism, hesitation and negative word-of-mouth. That's a cost too high to pay in today's fast-moving world of instant communications.

Key Learning Point

If you are planning the design and launch of a new customer interface or web-enabled process, be sure to have enough staff and resources on hand to execute brilliantly from the customer's point of view, even if the technology itself proves problematic.

Action Steps

Plan ahead, staff up and allocate more resources than you will require. When you do launch, do whatever it takes to create a positive customer experience. Keep your breakdowns and learning behind the scenes. Make sure your customer is well satisfied and well served out in front.

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

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Keeping Your Offerings Easy To Use Part 1

Writen by Adele Sommers

What's the real formula for customer happiness? First, let's review what we know about customer unhappiness. We know that consumers expect our offerings to work exactly as advertised. Yet our products and services can introduce complex requirements -- even burdens -- of their own.

Those extra requirements can quickly morph into "customer hassles" -- the kinds of aggravations that make consumers feel mildly annoyed all the way to really angry or stupid. And unless they're very unhappy, customers often leave quietly, without telling us why. They simply vote with their wallets, taking their business elsewhere.

In contrast, to compete successfully today, we need to do just the opposite. We need to create "raving fans" -- people who can't stop telling their friends, family, and colleagues just how wonderful our products and services are. How should we go about doing this?

Without easy-to-use products and services, it's hard to attract raving fans. This article, the first in a series, takes a look at two of the factors -- simplicity and built-in guidance -- that contribute greatly to customer satisfaction.

Can We Go Down the Up Escalator?

You may have heard results from marketing surveys in which consumers are asking for simpler products with fewer features and shorter learning curves. Even if you haven't been aware this particular trend, ask yourself -- do I need more complicated appliances? Or even one more feature on my telephone?

A recent article in US News and World Report on taming technology bemoaned the fact that the same electronic gizmos we depend on daily are often the source of our frustrations. Gadgets are smaller and cost less, but they don't necessarily work the way we want them to. Why? They're much too complicated! Ironically, the more manufacturers feel compelled to add frilly, complex features, the more consumers feel compelled to buy them. The antidote, the article goes on to say, is returning to basics by striving for ease of use and dependability. Similarly, if we all avoid the temptation to heap on fancy features and functions in our offerings, we'll have a much better chance of keeping customers loyal, happy, and returning for more.

Example 1: Simplicity Lost

Enter a telling story about a hypothetical company called Word Style Leader (or WSL for short). WSL's troubles followed an all-too-familiar pattern. For nine years, it successfully made software that customers bought in droves. During that blissful time, WSL's products reflected simple, clean features and interfaces. WSL did not push frilly functionality, but instead offered steady, incremental improvements that were consistent in appearance and easy for customers to master.

But because of that success, WSL accelerated the pace of adding enhancements and options to its star product to stay ahead of the competition. One day, though, this strategy began to backfire. After a certain point, WSL's software had become too tricky -- too complex for the average consumer to use. Its latest Internet-savvy upgrade was whizzy; however, the interface was now jumbled with far too many confusing choices. Even existing customers couldn't recognize familiar tasks.

Business declined. Yet WSL stayed oblivious to the symptoms and their causes. Why was that? It didn't probe its own customer satisfaction, conduct marketing surveys, or study consumer trends.

Unfortunately, like many companies, WSL remained committed to a mistaken belief that perpetually adding deluxe features would increase customer happiness as well as revenue. Consequently, no one at WSL ever figured out the bottom-line truth: Its own customer preferences echoed the simpler tastes revealed by recent consumer studies. In its customers' eyes, less was unquestionably more.

Example 2: Popularity Gained

Wherever simplification leaves off, built-in guidance can help make the remaining tasks a breeze. In a software product, for example, such guidance can come in the form of tightly interwoven tips and hints, overviews, demonstrations, wizards, and other systematic interactions that intelligently aid people in achieving their goals.

An excellent example of customer guidance lives in a certain popular U.S. income tax preparation software package. Its step-by-step process leads users through a series of queries that helps them perform each task correctly, even if they don't know the first thing about the U.S. tax code. Systems like this can greatly reduce or eliminate customer training and often avoid the need for professional tax assistance. It's no wonder that consumers rave about this product!

So, What Should We Aim For?

Below are four things to consider with regard to ease of use in your offerings:

1. Are your products or services designed as simply as possible?

Have you researched what customers truly want and need, resisting the pressure or temptation to overload your offerings with "too much stuff"? Have the interfaces been developed and tested with ease of use in mind?

2. Do your offerings support your customers' main objectives?

Assuming that you've removed hassles and annoying busywork from your offerings, does what remains help support your customers' real-life needs -- the things people were trying to accomplish before they ever turned to your wares for help? Do customers receive just-in-time assistance on completing each step?

3. Can customers explore deeper features when they're ready?

Can they expose additional layers of information, such as tutorials, at their discretion? Are the tutorials directly linked to the tasks at hand?

4. Is every element of the system compatible and complete?

Will customers see the same terminology, consistent features and naming conventions, and predictable behavior throughout the system?

In conclusion, keeping your offerings simple and consistent, while simultaneously supporting whatever people are really trying to accomplish, should lead to years of customer gratitude and loyalty.

Copyright 2006 Adele Sommers

Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the creator of the "Straight Talk on Boosting Business Performance" success formula. To learn more about her tools and resources and sign up for other free tips like these, visit her site at

Monday, November 10, 2008

Get Yourself Springloaded

Writen by Ron Kaufman

An e-mail arrived with a fragmentary phrase that absolutely caught my attention. The writer referred to many upset customers being 'spring-loaded in the pissed-off position'.

What a phrase! And what an observation.

Ever noticed how quickly you get triggered when the service you receive goes bad? Ever noticed how short the fuse can be on the customers around you?

I decided to try the opposite approach and see what happens. I've been traveling a lot lately, and whenever I've needed personal service, I put myself in an intentionally good mood: 'spring-loaded in the appreciative position'.

Guess what happened?

I met friendly waiters, chatty taxi drivers and airline check-in agents who went out of their way to help me. I got telephone assistance way beyond expectations and found sales staff who were polite and eager to please. Everywhere I turned, service providers gladly went above and beyond the normal call of duty.

I wonder why? Was it something in the water? Something in the air? Or something more fundamental - about me?

Key Learning Point

Service is a two-way street. Life is, too. Want good service? What you send out comes right back to you.

Action Steps

Make the decision to get great service from today. It's easy! Just get yourself `spring-loaded in the appreciative position'.

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

Sunday, November 9, 2008

800 Number Directory Helps Take Care Of A Baby

Writen by Anna Woodward

As a new mother, you are not told how difficult it is going to be for the first six weeks. Everyone tells you how wonderful it will be, that you won't get much sleep in the beginning, and that it will be very difficult, but no one says to you that the first six weeks will be horrible, and then all of a sudden it will get easier.

You need items that you have never even used before, and if you know anybody who has ever raised, carried, or even seen a child before, they have an opinion for you about how you should raise yours. You read an insane amount of articles before the birth about other people's birth experiences, your own fears multiply incrementally, and you start to wonder what in the world you were thinking, wanting to have a baby.

When you start focusing on what you need for the baby, you go to a number of stores, read more articles, and test out merchandise. It's interesting that people tell you to test out merchandise before you have the baby. You do not know what it's going to be like to have a baby, you are relying on salespeople and other articles to find out what you might "need" and yet, you are testing items.

The people who help you in the stores are often individuals who have never had children, either, so that is not especially helpful. They may carry the merchandise in these stores, but they are not always the best price, and they are not always the only items that are out there, just the ones that this particular well-known chain store chooses to carry.

So where else can you go? You are always sure to find an endless amount of stores on the internet, but calling them to find out information is not always feasible. Many of them do not have 800 numbers, or a toll-free solution to reach them.

Out of all the items you need for a baby, probably the most tested and yet most controversial item is a stroller. There are several manufacturers, every manufacturer produces at least five or so strollers, and you need to select at least one for your baby and family needs. Do you need a travel system, which holds both a car seat and a stroller, what are the weight limits, do you have more than one child who will need to sit or stand on the stroller, how long has this stroller been produced, has it been recalled, and so on.

One of the best answers is to consult a toll free directory. You can call different locations again and again, not only to ask them the questions you want to, questions that will come up after testing the strollers, and after hearing other questions pop into your head talking with other parents about their stroller, but also to compare prices. You would be surprised to find that the stroller price itself may not vary substantially from retailer to retailer, but for the effort, and using an 800 number, you could easily save yourself a significant amount of money in shipping costs.

Even your local well-known chain store charges significant costs to ship items to you, and if you compare prices, you are sure to find that the shipping costs are worked into the in-store cost. Using an on-line retailer, even with photos, does not tell you much of the information you will find relevant for your purposes, including what do others say about this product, have there been many returns, and if so, what do they purchase instead?

Make sure you get all your questions answered by the retailer you find on your 800 number directory. You can call as many times as you want, and you may also save a significant amount of money. At least enough to buy one more month's worth of diapers.

Published by the editorial staff of National Tollfree Directory. For more information about the 800 Directory, Toll Free Directory and 800 Numbers, visit The National Tollfree Directory: Please direct any feedback on this article to

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Customer Service Internet Style 10 Tips To Improve Your Service

Writen by Elizabeth McGee

Quality customer service is the lifeblood of any business.

If you understand that it costs more to find a customer than it does to keep one then you will appreciate the importance of good, quality customer service.

Unfortunately, with the rapid rise of online businesses it has become apparent that the focus has turned to pleasing the search engines as opposed to pleasing the customer.

I'm not disregarding the importance of good search engine optimization but what good is it if you can't provide good customer service? You may gave gained a visitor but did you find a customer?

Your online business goals should be about out offering quality information, speed, convenience and customer service. Lose any one of those elements and you will lose potential business. Your visitors want to find up-to-date information fast, they want to immediately understand what your site is offering them, they want fast solutions, easy navigation and they want good service. You must be able to respond quickly to questions, emails and put products in their hands fast.

Here are ten customer service tips that will impress any customer and keep them coming back for more.

1. Build your site and services with your customer in mind. Develop an "attitude" of good customer service by creating a site that that has your visitor in mind.

To do this, be clear about what you're offering and what your site is about. Great content doesn't mean much if your visitors can't find it, so strive to organize your site with titles and headings that are clear and descriptive with information that is logically organized and structured. If you have a call to action such as a newsletter sign-up or special contest, don't be afraid to instruct your visitor to participate.

2. Keep the ordering process simple and straight forward. Consider all possibilities of questions, problems and issues that a customer might encounter. Eliminate all possibilities of confusion.

3. Immediately following order placement, your customer should receive a confirmation email thanking them for their order. When the order has shipped, your customer should receive a second e-mail stating that the product has shipped.

4. Exceed customer expectations. If your policy states that orders are received with in 5-7 business days, try to achieve deliveries in 3-4 business days. It's always pleasurable to receive something sooner than you had anticipated, not to mention your reputation will have just jumped ten-fold.

5. State your guarantees, shipping and refund policies clearly. If you work in a retail business make it easy for your customers to return items. Simple things like including return labels within the packaging helps tremendously. Provide shipping costs prior to checkout instead of surprising them with shipping costs upon payment.

Always provide addresses and working phone numbers of your business on every page of your site. The worst thing a customer can experience is to place an online order, have a problem, then call a phone number and get no response or call back. A sure way to create frustration and develop a bad reputation.

6. Utilize live-help capabilities. Not everyone will utilize the services of live help, however just the ability to have a conversation with a live representative goes a long way to make the shopping experience more satisfying and help the customer feel more secure.

Even though credit card security has come a long way over the past few years, many people still feel more comfortable providing credit card information to a live person instead of an online form. Also, human interaction can increase profits as well because a live person can effectively cross-sell and up-sell to your customer.

7. Check on your customers after placing an order. Thank them a second time for ordering. Solicit your services should they have questions or problems. Also keep your customers aware of new offerings via e-mail (but only with their permission). You'll give them additional value without their having to return to your site.

8. Provide a FAQ's section on your website. Did you know that more than 80% of all customer questions are usually answered by just 20% of a support knowledge base. A frequently asked questions page on your website will answer their questions before they ask them by allowing your customers to be self-serving while saving you time and money.

9. Provide a simple search engine on your site. Most internet users prefer using a site search engine as opposed to browsing through pages and links to find what they need. A convenience web surfers always appreciate.

10. Let your customers rate you and your site. Ask your customers to complete a simple customer service survey. Keep the survey quick and simple and allow for comments. Take careful note of what your customers say and work to make improvements accordingly.

In case you haven't heard it before, "Customers Make Paydays Possible". Provide what they're looking for, keep them happy and most importantly, learn from them.

About the Author:

Elizabeth McGee has spent 20 years in the service and support industry with companies such as Hitachi and National Semiconductor. Elizabeth has moved her expertise to internet marketing helping businesses find trusted Marketing Tools, enhance customer service, build a home business online. Sign up for Elizabeth's free newsletter at:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Dont Work With Jerks How To Recognize A Difficult Client Early

Writen by Milana Leshinsky

Five minutes into the call I knew this client was going to make my life miserable. The problem was, I already said "Yes."

Into every professional practice falls a little rain, or better said...walks in a nightmare client. You start losing sleep by a couple of hours every night, you keep thinking about her project during your lunch time, and you feel like your life has been taken over by this client.

What a nightmare! Didn't we go into the business for ourselves to enjoy it? Do we not have the choice of who to work with? Of course, we do! The challenge is in recognizing a difficult client early enough to say "No."

So how do you do that? First, determine what "difficult" means to you. It may mean different things to different people. For example, while some professionals will be happy to take a phone call from a client between 9 and 5, others may have a special time set aside for phone calls. While some business owners love getting detailed specifications for a project, others may feel trapped and limited in their creativity.

1. What is a difficult client

To help you decide what things may be important to you, here are some of the most common traits of difficult clients:

- They do not respect your time

- They tell you how to do your work

- They always check up on you

- They constantly change their mind about a project

- They knit pick over every detail

- They try to intimidate you into doing things you haven't agreed to

- They treat you as if they're the boss and you are the employee

- They have little respect for your expertise

- They call you at a non-scheduled time

- They frequently e-mail you with questions, requiring long replies

- They ask you to throw in a few extras without offering to pay extra

- They keep reminding you how high your fees are

- They are frequently disappointed with your work

- They won't pay on time, but ask you to continue working with them

- They frequently cancel or reschedule your meetings

- They believe they're your only client, & demand your full attention

You can complete this list by adding a few other traits that you find annoying or unacceptable in your business, or to your life style.

2. Red flags: Early warnings of a difficult client

Once you know what's important to you, how do you look for signs that this may be a difficult client? First of all, listen to your intuition. It's easy to ignore the red flags, especially if you're hungry for business.

"Your gut is never wrong," one IT consultant said. "Whenever I've ended up with a nightmare client, it's because I didn't listen to my instinct and I went for the zeroes."

Listen to your instinct. Additionally, do your best to avoid clients that:

- Don't want to sign a contract

- Are in a rush

- Are looking for the cheapest provider

- Are your friends and relatives

Create a profile of your ideal client, and check every prospect against it before taking them on. "This is crazy!" you may be thinking. "Won't choosing clients so carefully cost me business?" Not really.

Usually, you will spend more time on a difficult client (time that you could spend prospecting, working with other clients, or simply taking a break), your mood and personal life may become affected by this project, and you may even end up not being paid at all!

Screen your prospects carefully, and instantly improve the quality of your business life.

3. Assessments - your best friend in screening clients

After reading this, you may be thinking that screening takes too much work and time. Bear with me, because this task has just become as easy as 1-2-3.

You can completely automate the screening process, by asking your prospects to complete an assessment before you take them on.

The questions you ask should include the things that are important to you as a business owner, and as a person. You may ask them about how they worked with professionals in the past, what their style of communication is, how much time they plan to devote to this project, what their deadline is, how committed they are to completing it, and so on. Refer to your ideal client profile when putting together a list of questions.

The fact that they're willing to spend time answering an extensive list of questions already shows that this is a serious prospect, and helps you weed out as many "time-wasters" as possible.

4. Automating your screening process

So how do you actually automate the screening process? Very simple. You can use, a tool that allows you to create your own forms and assessments, and have them on your web site within minutes. Whenever you get a new prospect, send them a link to your online assessment and ask them to complete it before your first call.

AssessmentGenerator does not require you to know any HTML or install any scripts. Simply enter your questions and the e-mail address, where you want to receive completed assessments, and it's ready to be added to your site.

You can also create self-scoring assessments, where you and your prospect can see a score based on how they answered questions. Self-scoring assessments are great when you want to work only with clients who reached a certain level of readiness in something. For example, you may only want to work with business owners who understand the importance of marketing. Their assessment score will show you how ready they are to work with you.


Many professionals already conduct assessments when they first meet their clients. The problem is, they do it over the telephone, which means they have to set aside a half-hour or more to determine if this prospect is their ideal client. If he or she is not, then they have just wasted their precious time, which could've been spent on a more productive activity.

Automating the screening process with will make your life easier and business more enjoyable. Here's to ideal clients and a stress-free business!

You may reproduce this article in your electronic or print newsletter (opt-in publications only), or on your web site, as long as the byline and full credit are included with the article and all hyperlinks remain intact. A courtesy copy of your publication is appreciated.

About The Author

Milana Leshinsky is the founder of ACCPOW, Association of Coaching & Consulting Professionals on the Web.

Stop giving away your time! Give away FRE/E assessments instead! Create custom online assessments in 5 minutes

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Leverage Customer Capital First

Writen by Wil Schroter

If you're still dreaming about raising outside capital for your business before you have any paying customers, I've got a nice big bucket of ice water to throw on you. Wake up! The cold reality is that investors aren't interested in your business idea unless you can demonstrate that you've got customers who are actually willing to buy. Before you try raising outside capital, you should focus on building your Customer Capital.

Customer capital is the value you create for your company and your idea by getting real customers to buy your product or service. Let's take a look at why customer capital is so important in the early stages of a business.

Paying customers validate business models

Even the most cynical investor will agree that a paying customer is the most powerful way to validate a business model. Anyone can debate whether or not your business will make money when it's still a bunch of wild ideas on a piece of paper, but few people can contest a steady stream of paying customers. Finding a handful of paying customers early on will provide a firm foundation for the future value of your company.

In some cases it may be difficult to find a paying customer before a product or service is fully mature. In this case getting a formal commitment (a Letter of Intent) or a contingent purchase order based upon meeting a customer's conditions is a powerful first step. Either way, demonstrating that a customer is willing to say "yes" and write a check goes a long way toward validating your business idea.

The value of a dollar earned

A dollar earned from a customer is worth twenty raised from an investor. When raising capital you are really putting all that money to work so that in the end, the customer will pay for your product. A paying customer alleviates that risk and capital and gets straight to the foundation for why you are running a business to begin with – to make money. Not only does this offer a more direct impact on the value of your business, it also keeps you from diluting your equity position in your company.

Netscape's $4 billion "blunder"

Netscape Communications found an effective way to use customer capital in their heyday. In a time when software companies were judged on the strength of their sales, Netscape did the unthinkable – they actually gave away their software for free. While industry pundits laughed at their strategy Netscape ultimately had the last laugh. They quickly developed a market share in the Web browser market of over 90%, launched one of the most successful IPO's in history, and sold to AOL for nearly $4 billion, all based on the massive amounts of customer capital they raised.

While I'm not advocating giving your product away for free, it's important to understand how Netscape leveraged their customer capital in a most ingenious way. Consider how much it would have cost them to bring a paid version of their product to market and drive customer acquisition that way. Now consider the cost to Netscape if another company had offered it for less (or for free!) or if they had not achieved market dominance at all. In the end Netscape's customer capital was so valuable that even after losing the browser wars to Microsoft's Internet Explorer they were still able to sell the company to AOL for $4 billion.

Flip the script

As you're building your business, consider every alternative to raising investment capital. If you're worried that a customer won't buy your product for reasons that more money or a larger customer base would cure, consider offering them a discount or other incentive to do business with you. The relative cost to acquire early customers might be nothing compared to the amount of time and equity it could cost you to raise outside capital. Remember that, unlike customers, your outside investors will demand equity for their investment, and they don't plan on giving it back!

Send in the Investors

If you've truly exhausted all possibilities to leverage your customer capital, then maybe it's time to call in the outside capital. Be certain, though, that if there's any angle you've overlooked to drive the company without needing capital, your investors will be quick to point it out and question your resourcefulness in the process.

Forcing your attention toward acquiring customers will not only uncover ways to increase the value of your business in the short term, it can also generate the cash flow you need to alleviate your investment capital needs. Learn to leverage your customer capital and you can leave conversations with bankers and investors for your IPO!

- Wil

Wil Schroter is a serial entrepreneur, author, and public speaker. Wil has been recognized as U.S. Small Business Person of the Year, twice as the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year (1999 & 2004), and is a member of the Business First Top 40 under forty. Connect directly with Wil at Visit