Tag Archives: customer service

Customer Service and CX – Not Just For Front Line Staff

Customer Service and CX - Not Just For Front Line Staff

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

Customer service is not a department. It’s a philosophy that everyone in an organization must embrace. It’s the same with customer experience (CX), which most people view as a strategy. However, both customer service and experience must be rooted in a company’s culture. Everyone plays a part in the customer’s experience, regardless of how deep they are inside of the organization.

My friend Kelechi Okeke, a certified customer experience specialist in Lagos, Nigeria, recently wrote an article about the potential breakdown across different teams and departments when attempting to create a customer-focused culture. The goal is for the entire organization to work in unison, eliminating breakdowns due to disconnects in messaging, not aligning with the culture and just being so “siloed” the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. I contributed a few ideas to his article and thought I would expand on them and share them with the Human-Centered Change and Innovation audience.

When an organization chooses to be more customer-focused, the decision rests with leadership. The mistake is that the attention is fixed on the front line and anyone in direct contact with customers. Many don’t realize the effort must go much deeper than the customer-facing employees. Some, however, will recognize the disconnect and understand that customer service and experience must be an organization-wide effort that is embraced by all employees.

When we work with clients to create a customer-focused culture, the process starts with leadership and department heads meeting to create a customer service/CX vision I refer to as a mantra. This is a simple one-sentence (or less) statement that is short and memorable. For example, Texas Health Huguley created a purpose statement: “People serving people like those we love the most.” That sums up exactly how they want all employees to treat patients, their family members and other employees. That type of statement isn’t a theme for the year. It’s strong enough to be permanently baked into mission, vision and value statements. The mantra is where it starts. It’s the “north star” that everyone focuses on when it comes to customer service and CX.

Once that mantra is defined, it must be communicated. It needs to be reinforced in many ways through ongoing communication over time. This can be through leadership and management presentations, email signature lines, posters, wall art, promotional items, etc. No matter how long ago the mantra was created, all employees must know, understand and live by it.

The next step is training, which is where many companies fall short, specifically in two areas. Some don’t realize that training isn’t something you did. It’s something you do. It must be ongoing and reinforce the original intent of the training. You can’t take people into a room for a day, train them to be customer-focused and hope they will remember it five years later. Once an employee goes through the initial training, there must be (much) shorter training sessions, even just a few minutes in a weekly or monthly meeting, to reinforce and remind everyone what they need to do.

The second area in which many companies fall short with their customer-focus training is that they only train customer-facing employees, typically people in sales and customer support. As already mentioned, an organization must go deep with its training. Everyone must be trained. Of course, customer support agents’ training will be far different than that for employees in the warehouse. The point is everyone must know how they support the customer’s experience. For example, employees in the warehouse may never need front-line customer support skills, but they must understand that if they improperly pack a product that’s shipped to a customer and the product is damaged en route, that falls on them. They become a significant part of the customer’s experience, yet they never have any customer interaction. The point is that everyone must be trained to the initiative, not just people who interact with customers.

If you focus on the first three steps of the process—creating your mantra, diligently communicating it and properly training all employees—you’re on your way to becoming an aligned organization without the breakdowns of some companies and brands that are set in their old ways.

One final thought on this process. When people and departments—or the entire company—are meeting your customer service and experience goals, let them know. Celebrate successes, share stories and let people know they are doing a good job. Good behavior and success that are recognized beget more of the same!

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com

Image Credits: Shep Hyken

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Why Yelling at Customer Service Agents Doesn’t Work

Why Yelling at Customer Service Agents Doesn't Work

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

Someone asked me a question: Sometimes I’m so frustrated when I call a company’s customer service number. I try to be nice, but that doesn’t always work. What do you think if I yell at them?

Here is my answer: A couple of old expressions come to mind. First, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil,” which means if you make enough noise, you might get some action. On the other hand, another expression might be more appropriate for these situations: “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” So, be friendly but stern. At the beginning of the conversation, note the agent’s name and try to build a rapport. This also gives you a name to reference if you aren’t getting your problem resolved. Be direct about the problem, but don’t lose your temper. If you feel you’re getting angry, stop and pause. You can ask for a supervisor. And if you really think you are 100% right and the customer support agent is wrong, consider ending the call and calling back to speak with a different agent who may respond differently. I’m amazed at how often I call a company and talk to two or more people, getting a different answer each time.

So that’s my advice for the customer. Now, let’s switch to the business on the receiving end of the customer’s disappointment and anger and discuss the problem.

I’ve covered how to handle angry customers many times, so let’s not go there again. If you go to www.CustomerServiceArticles.com, you will find many articles covering that topic. Instead, I want to emphasize the last part of my response to the question: sometimes customer service agents – and other employees – have different answers to the same questions. The problem is a training issue.

My comment about not being surprised about getting different answers comes from my experience that companies don’t often focus on answers to common sense questions. The reason is that the answers should be common sense. But that doesn’t guarantee a consistent response from one employee to the next.

Create a database of customer questions and answers, and train employees to use it. The goal is to respond with the same answer every time. When a customer doubts the answer and calls back only to get a different answer from a different employee, it erodes the customer’s confidence, not to mention the frustration the customer experiences by not getting the right answer the first time. In short, consistency creates confidence.

By the way, if you have any questions about customer service or customer experience, reach out to me on any social media channel – I’m pretty much everywhere. I’ll answer your question on social media, in my weekly customer service newsletter, on my Amazing Business Radio podcast or on my Be Amazing or Go Home TV show. And be sure to use the hashtag #AskShep.

Image Credit: Pexels

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Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of October 2023

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of October 2023Drum roll please…

At the beginning of each month, we will profile the ten articles from the previous month that generated the most traffic to Human-Centered Change & Innovation. Did your favorite make the cut?

But enough delay, here are October’s ten most popular innovation posts:

  1. A New Innovation Sphere — by Pete Foley
  2. Thinking Like a Futurist — by Ayelet Baron
  3. Crossing the Possibility Space — by Dennis Stauffer
  4. Twelve Digital Disruptions of Your Sales Cycle — by Geoffrey A. Moore
  5. How to Fix Corporate Transformation Failure — by Greg Satell
  6. The Biggest Customer Service Opportunity — by Shep Hyken
  7. Do You Prize Novelty or Certainty? — by Mike Shipulski
  8. What Pundits Always Get Wrong About the Future — by Greg Satell
  9. The Biggest Challenge for Innovation is Organizational Inertia — by Stefan Lindegaard
  10. What Company Do You See in the Mirror? — by Mike Shipulski

BONUS – Here are five more strong articles published in September that continue to resonate with people:

If you’re not familiar with Human-Centered Change & Innovation, we publish 4-7 new articles every week built around innovation and transformation insights from our roster of contributing authors and ad hoc submissions from community members. Get the articles right in your Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin feeds too!

Have something to contribute?

Human-Centered Change & Innovation is open to contributions from any and all innovation and transformation professionals out there (practitioners, professors, researchers, consultants, authors, etc.) who have valuable human-centered change and innovation insights to share with everyone for the greater good. If you’d like to contribute, please contact me.

P.S. Here are our Top 40 Innovation Bloggers lists from the last three years:

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The Biggest Customer Service Opportunity

The Biggest Customer Service Opportunity

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

I was asked the same question three times in the last week: “What is the biggest opportunity in customer service?” If you had asked me this question a month ago – or asked it a month from now – there could be a different answer. But today’s answer is not just timely, but also timeless. And the answer is:

The Speed to Happiness

The meaning of this short answer is simple. If a customer has a problem, issue or question, the speed in which you move them from concerned or upset to happy could be the difference between the customer coming back or not. And when I refer to happiness, I’m not talking about utter delight or elation. I’m talking about a result that does three things:

  1. The customer’s problem, issue or question is resolved or answered.
  2. The interaction is managed quickly, efficiently and with as little friction as possible – ideally, without friction.
  3. The interaction is handled so well that the customer wouldn’t mind going through the process again if they had to.

It’s the second point of this answer that is most important, and it is where some companies fail. How the interaction is managed ideally leads to the third result, which is the ultimate level of happiness in problem-solving. A better word for happiness could be confidence.

Speed to Happiness Shep Hyken Cartoon

My definition of confidence in this situation is important. It’s more than just the confidence to continue doing business with the company after the interaction. It’s the confidence to enjoy doing business with the company.

There are certain companies that I dread calling for customer support. I know there will be long hold times and that after sharing my issue, I will probably be transferred at least once (probably more) to other people who are supposed to be better equipped to answer my question or resolve my problem. Then, there are companies that make it so easy to resolve an issue that I consider a support call part of the positive experience I have with them.

I’ve preached most of my career that resolving issues and managing complaints isn’t just about fixing problems. It’s about fixing the customer, which means restoring confidence. We want our customers to say, “I enjoy doing business with them. Even when there is a problem, I know they always take care of me, which is why … I’ll be back!”

Image Credits: Shep Hyken, Pexels

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How to Create Energy with Customers (And Everyone Else)

How to Create Energy with Customers (And Everyone Else)

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

The heliotropic effect is the tendency for any living thing to be drawn toward energy. For example, if you put a plant on a windowsill, it will eventually lean toward the window where the sun comes in, soaking up those rays as the nourishment it needs to sustain its life.

Dr. Harry Cohen took this scientific concept and applied it to humans. In his book Be the Sun, Not the Salt, he defines the human version of the heliotropic effect as “being kind, authentic, compassionate, grateful and positive. … When you are being heliotropic, you are a positive energizer that uplifts others.”

In this short book that most people could read in less than an hour, Dr. Cohen shares 30 simple yet powerful principles and tactics that will create the energy that draws people to you. For leaders, you will build a stronger following. For managers, you will create a better work environment. And if you deal with customers, which is the focus of my work, you will get them to like you, trust you and want to do more business with you. And the best part about these thirty (30) ideas is that they don’t cost money, and you can put them into practice immediately.

Here are a few of my favorites that will make you think and, if you practice them, will have a heliotropic effect of attracting others toward you.

    1. Do All the Good You Can — Let’s start with the first one in the book. Just do good. People will be drawn to you, you’ll be more effective in what you do, and you’ll feel good yourself. It’s a fulfilling idea. When you do good, you feel good.
    2. Be Helpful — This seems so simple and obvious, but consider this. In our annual customer experience research, we asked more than 1,000 U.S. consumers, “What customer service experiences are most likely to cause you to come back?” The No. 1 answer was helpful. Such a simple concept!
    3. Show You Care — Insincerity is easy to spot, and nobody likes to do business or be around insincere people. You can’t fake caring—so don’t try. Be authentic about it. Maya Angelou said, “If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.” I also like the Theodore Roosevelt quote Dr. Cohen included in this chapter, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
    4. Apologize Well — When you find yourself faced with a confrontation, mistake or problem, the first words that come out of your mouth should be an acknowledgment and apology. Saying something as simple as “I’m sorry” can start to turn a negative situation around. A clear, sincere apology at the beginning of a conversation does two things. First, it positively kicks off the process of fixing a problem. Second, it helps restore the customer’s confidence.
    5. Hold the Salt — The opposite of the heliotropic sun, as the book title implies, is salt. To “hold the salt” is about not always saying everything on your mind. It’s sometimes better to bite your tongue and say nothing rather than try to get the last word or emphasize a point that doesn’t really need to be emphasized.
    6. Don’t Be a Complexifier — I’ve always believed that part of my success is simplifying the complicated. I recently wrote an article about how to make your business simple. Simplicity usually makes things better. Complex processes make it hard for customers and employees. Be easy, convenient and simple to do business with!
    7. Speak Fluent Gratitude — This is the perfect one to end on. Expressing appreciation to others is powerful. Dr. Cohen shared research that shows “cultivating gratitude makes you and the people around you feel better.” I love people who have an attitude of gratitude. And this is also an opportunity to express my gratitude to you for taking the time to read and share this article! Thank you!

    .

    This article originally appeared on Forbes.com

    Image Credits: Shep Hyken

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Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of September 2023

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of September 2023Drum roll please…

At the beginning of each month, we will profile the ten articles from the previous month that generated the most traffic to Human-Centered Change & Innovation. Did your favorite make the cut?

But enough delay, here are September’s ten most popular innovation posts:

  1. The Malcolm Gladwell Trap — by Greg Satell
  2. Where People Go Wrong with Minimum Viable Products — by Greg Satell
  3. Our People Metrics Are Broken — by Mike Shipulski
  4. Why You Don’t Need An Innovation Portfolio — by Robyn Bolton
  5. Do you have a fixed or growth mindset? — by Stefan Lindegaard
  6. Building a Psychologically Safe Team — by David Burkus
  7. Customer Wants and Needs Not the Same — by Shep Hyken
  8. The Hard Problem of Consciousness is Not That Hard — by Geoffrey A. Moore
  9. Great Coaches Do These Things — by Mike Shipulski
  10. How Not to Get in Your Own Way — by Mike Shipulski

BONUS – Here are five more strong articles published in August that continue to resonate with people:

If you’re not familiar with Human-Centered Change & Innovation, we publish 4-7 new articles every week built around innovation and transformation insights from our roster of contributing authors and ad hoc submissions from community members. Get the articles right in your Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin feeds too!

Have something to contribute?

Human-Centered Change & Innovation is open to contributions from any and all innovation and transformation professionals out there (practitioners, professors, researchers, consultants, authors, etc.) who have valuable human-centered change and innovation insights to share with everyone for the greater good. If you’d like to contribute, please contact me.

P.S. Here are our Top 40 Innovation Bloggers lists from the last three years:

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Allow Your Customers to Die with Dignity

Allow Your Customers to Die with Dignity

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

I’m sorry for the somewhat morbid title, but I wanted to catch your attention. Here is a short version of the story that sets up this week’s Shepard Letter.

A friend shared that one of his in-laws passed away a few months ago. Afterward, the family tried several times to cancel a newspaper subscription, but the publisher’s customer service agent kept saying, “No.” The newspaper continued to be delivered every day. Even after the subscription expired at the end of the month, the paper continues to be delivered.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard stories like this. Companies that charge their customers monthly or annually using a subscription model – this could include newspapers, magazines, software, utilities, and almost any type of product – should have processes in place to deal with a customer passing away or any other tragic or unusual scenario. They should make it easy for the family or whoever is managing the affairs. And, help them easily and empathetically close an account. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. All you have to do is a Google search, and you’ll find plenty of horror stories similar to my friend’s – and even far worse.

Shep Hyken Death Cartoon

Chewy.com is an online pet supply that operates a subscription model in which pet food, treats and many other items are shipped regularly. Known for amazing customer service, Chewy is a role model for handling the delicate situation of a customer who passes away. In this case, the customer is a pet. Yes, the pet owner is the paying customer, but their furry friend is the real recipient of Chewy’s products.

When a pet owner informs Chewy that their pet has passed away, the company not only makes it easy to cancel the subscription, but they also do it with style, class and empathy. They send bereaved pet owners flowers, cards and refunds for recent purchases. They also request that the pet owner donate any unopened pet food and treats to local pet shelters.

It’s obvious that Chewy has a process, and there is a protocol for handling delicate situations like these. Its people are properly trained in not just what to do but also what to say and how to say it.

It may be the death of a customer, or perhaps just someone going through a difficult or emotional time; we must have a process mapped for these situations. Our people must know how to properly manage these delicate experiences with:

  1. Empathy
  2. Sympathy
  3. Care

Image Credits: Pexels, Shep Hyken

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Who is to Blame for Poor Customer Service?

Who is to Blame for Poor Customer Service?

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

The short version of the story is this. At about 9:15 p.m., I pulled into one of my favorite fast-food restaurants. There was one customer ahead of me in the drive-through lane. I assumed he was placing an order. After several minutes, I realized something else was going on. I wasn’t sure what, but the amount of time he spent talking to the person on the other end of the intercom took much longer than it should have. Eventually, he pulled around to get his food. It was now my turn.

I waited for the person to welcome me and ask what I wanted. It never happened. I then pulled around to the drive-through window. The employee inside ignored me. I tapped on the window and she came over and said the restaurant was closed. I asked what time they closed, and she said 11. I mentioned that it was not even 9:30. She shrugged and said, “I’m the only one here, and I’ve decided to close the restaurant.”

A few days later, I was with a high-level executive from a major restaurant chain and told her the story. She said, “It wasn’t the employee’s fault. It was her manager’s fault.”

Poor Customer Experience Cartoon Shep Hyken

The explanation was simple. The manager should never have allowed one employee to run a restaurant that takes a team of people. One, it’s impossible to do everything: taking orders, cooking the food, keeping the restaurant clean and much more. Second, it’s just not safe to have one employee in the store, let alone late in the evening.

At some point, you must trust your employees to do a good job. Yet if they don’t, who is to blame? The employee at the fast-food restaurant was put into a situation and given responsibility beyond her capabilities. Whoever is in charge of hiring must hire the right people who are capable – or have the potential – of handling the job. Whoever is in charge of training must give the employee the skills needed to do the job. Whoever oversees scheduling must make sure the restaurant is appropriately staffed.

Of course, there is more than just hiring, training and staffing, but the point is to not be so quick to blame the employee for a bad customer experience. Assuming the employee is capable, failure is often due to something or someone else.

The story I shared illustrates how failure in customer service is often not the fault of the individual but the system in place. All things considered, the responsibility for customer service success or failure usually lies in the hands of leadership, not the front-line workers.

Image Credits: Shep Hyken, Pexels

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Customer Service is Never Out of Your Control

Customer Service is Never Out of Your Control

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

Last month I was in Las Vegas for a major convention. I stayed at a very nice hotel, and each night I tried to fall and stay asleep. I emphasize the word tried because, unfortunately, there was non-stop, 24-hour-a-day road construction outside the hotel, as the city of Las Vegas is preparing for the Formula One race later this year. All night, there was jackhammering and bulldozing on the streets where the cars will be racing.

Upon checkout, I was asked, “How was your stay?”

I responded, “I love this hotel. It’s too bad about all that noise from the road construction.”

The front desk employee practically cut me off and curtly stated, “It’s out of our control.”

Of course, I knew it wasn’t the hotel’s fault. I didn’t blame them, but she was quick to point that out anyway. I can only imagine how many similar complaints she has heard from numerous guests over the past few weeks and will hear from many more until the project is over. She obviously has become annoyed by hearing the same complaint again and again, and somehow lost empathy or sympathy for her guests.

So how do you communicate something like this, that’s “out of your control?” Here are a few ideas using the hotel as an example:

  1. Respond With Empathy – First, respond to any and every comment about it with sympathy and empathy. Act like you care. You could say something like, “I understand how you feel about the noise. I wish we could do something about it, but the city of Las Vegas is preparing for the big race later this year. I’m sorry this happened.”
  2. Apologize – It may not have been your fault, but that doesn’t mean you can’t say, “I’m sorry this happened,” which is how I ended the empathy statement above.
  3. Be Proactive – If enough guests are complaining about something that is completely out of your control and you know the problem is going to continue, proactively inform them when they check in. You can even put a note in the room to warn them about the problem that really is out of your control.
  4. Come Up With a Solution – This may or may not be possible. In this example, the hotel could offer free earplugs. While it’s not their fault and really is out of their control, they could show a sign of effort to manage the problem, even if it isn’t the perfect solution.

A problem may be out of your control. That’s okay. What’s not okay is to use “It’s out of my control” as an excuse. Instead, see it as an opportunity to show empathy and care for your customers. It’s the words you use and the way you say them that counts.

Image Credits: Shep Hyken, Pexels

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Meeting Expectations Versus Managing Hope

Meeting Expectations Versus Managing Hope

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

At a recent customer service presentation, the speaker who preceded me said that we must do better than simply meeting our customers’ expectations, and he shared some stories of truly amazing service experiences. Then it was my turn to speak. I didn’t want to contradict him, but I needed the audience to understand that it is impossible to go above and beyond with customers at every interaction. Sometimes meeting expectations is a perfect experience.

In my customer service keynote speeches, I talk about ‘Managing the Moment’. The idea comes from Jan Carlson, and if you’ve been following me, you will recognize this concept. Every interaction customers have with you or your company gives them the opportunity to form an impression. Understanding this simple idea is a good start to developing and/or maintaining your customer service and CX strategy.

I believe you must manage expectations, and if you are even the tiniest bit above average in doing what customers expect, your customers will love you, give you high ratings, and refer you to their colleagues and friends. The key to being successful with this idea is to be consistent. You want customers to say things like, “They always are knowledgeable,” or “They are always so helpful.” The word always followed by something positive, typically an expectation is what you’re going for.

Shep Hyken Expectations Cartoon

So back to the idea of just meeting expectations. Some people confuse expectations with hope. Here’s what I mean by this. If I call someone for help and leave a message, I expect them to call me back, and I hope they will return the call sooner rather than later.

Let’s say I’m called back within an hour. I’m pleasantly surprised because the person met my expectation of the callback and did it in the timeframe I hoped they would – maybe even a little sooner.

Most customers won’t analyze the experience quite this way, but it is exactly what they want – or hope for. They will, however, notice that the call was returned quickly and may say, “Thanks for calling me back so quickly.” The returned call was expected. The comment about “quickly” indicates their expectations were met or slightly exceeded. And if you do that every time, the customer will use the always when they talk about you and describe the experience by saying, “They always call me back quickly.”

Let’s flip this around. I believe most customers hope for a great experience, but not necessarily an over-the-top or above-and-beyond experience. And based on their typical experience with service laggards, they, unfortunately, don’t have high expectations. So, whenever you meet or just ever so slightly exceed what your customers hope for, you’ve created a positive experience that gets them to say, “I’ll be back!”

Image Credits: Shep Hyken

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