On the front lines of customer service – how field reps represent

I frequently consult with a wide range of field reps in different industries, from EMTs to plumbers. While most reps are hardworking, independent and conscientious, they are still human. Like everyone else, they too get tired, overwhelmed and wary of dealing with angry customers. Regardless of their industry, however, most field reps’ concerns are similar – how do they do their job technically while creating lasting positive impressions that go beyond doing a good job? It’s difficult to do both well and remain professional and courteous at all times, especially when a customer visit doesn’t go as planned and difficulties arise.

What I’ve surveyed in successful and happy field reps is that they see their job as bigger than simply solving a one-time problem and more about friendly field repcreating loyal customers who gladly request our services again and again and tell their friends about us. Field reps who have this attitude of care are more engaged and motivated to deliver extraordinary service. Plus it makes them feel good in the process.

Following are some tips that all field reps can implement to help them excel on the front lines of customer service:

Strategies that Turn it Around:

  1. Be prepared! Before entering a customer’s site or facility, have the appropriate tools, materials, and paperwork ready.
  2. Have a clean vehicle. Your customers will notice and will equate a cluttered vehicle with a cluttered mind and work ethic.
  3. Walk with confidence, and a little pace, to your destination.
  4. Put away all other distractions like a phone or tablet as you’re walking in. Make this visit the highest priority at the moment. (You never know who’s watching.)
  5. Dress professionally – shirt tucked in, teeth free of food, hair combed.
  6. Smile and greet the customer warmly. Even if it’s the end of the day, the customer wants and expects to be treated as if he is important.
  7. Stay present with the customer. Focus on his issue not the three before or the two to come.
  8. Take your time with each customer. Don’t rush as if you are eager to leave.
  9. You’re a guest in someone’s home or office, so act like a guest. Take care of other people’s belongings. Return things if you borrow them. And don’t forget “Please” and “Thank You.”

Remember: Serving on the front lines of any enterprise can be an overwhelming experience. And for many field reps who are often the face of their organization, they must be well-prepared to represent with confidence, courtesy and professionalism—at all times and with all types of customers.

What do YOUR field reps do to make working on the front lines more rewarding? Please share in the comments section below.

How Kindness Cures in Customer Service

My mother has always said, “Fill them with kindness.” So, it’s no big surprise that this has been my motto my entire life. In support of my mother’s philosophy, recent data now proves the importance of kindness in customer service in healthcare.

In his recent article “Recognizing the Value of Kindness in Health Care,” Gary Greensweig gives poignant reasons and statistics on the importance of kindness in the healthcare kindnessenvironment. (Gary Greenswerig, D.O., is the chief physician executive of Dignity Health in San Francisco.)

Here are a few statistics:

  • 87% of Americans feel that kind treatment by a physician is more important than other key considerations in choosing a health care provider, including average wait time before appointments, distance from home and the cost of care.
  • 64 % of Americans have experienced unkind behavior in a health care setting:
    • 38% failure of a caregiver to connect on a personal level
    • 36% staff rudeness
    • 35% poor listening skills
  • Nearly 75% of respondents would be willing to pay more to visit health care providers who emphasized kindness in their treatment approach.
  • Nearly 88% are willing to travel farther to receive kinder care.
  • 90% of those surveyed say they would feel like switching health care providers after receiving unkind treatment.

Strategies that Turn it Around:

  1. Make sure everyone—from the boardroom to the break-room, from the lead physician to the head nurse, from the reception desk to the maintenance crew—knows the importance of demonstrating kindness to every person at all times. (And yes, co-workers included!)
  2. Be present–don’t let the business of the day interfere with truly listening to each patient, each time.
  3. Be compassionate and show empathy–demonstrate caring.
  4. Train all employees on a regular basis on what kindness looks and sounds like.
  5. Reward employees who do it right.
  6. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Remember: In today’s busy work environment, most people wear many hats, leaving us short on time to get everything done. Being kind may not take much time, but it does take thought. And the results may surprise you, pleasantly.

When was the last time YOU were treated with kindness in a customer service situation? I would love to hear your story in the comments section below.

 

 

 

How Emergency Room Delivers Exemplary Service

This is a continuation of last week’s blog about my mom’s trip to the Emergency Room http://wp.me/pFwfG-mK

From the moment I heard the voice on the other end of the telephone, I felt reassured and at ease. The caller immediately introduced herself to me as EMT Kathryn. She was calling from my mom’s assisted living facility, where she worked. Kathryn explained calmly Compassionate nurseand clearly that my mom was being taken out of bed in the middle of the night and would shortly be transported to the nearest ER. She further explained in detail how she was following the living facility’s instructions per its policy pertaining to infectious diseases. Kathryn was compassionate, extremely empathetic and eager to find a solution to what she knew was an extraordinary situation that did not fit entirely within the facility’s policy. She took the time and effort to note my name and confirm my telephone number, so she could get more information on her end and call me back with an update.

From the moment I heard the voice on the other end of the second telephone call of the night, I felt attacked and in trouble. A few minutes after talking with EMT Kathryn, the facility’s RN called. He was extremely rude and abrupt. He showed no compassion, was adamant about following the rules, abandoned all common sense, and considered absolutely no other options to resolve my mom’s atypical situation—like calling his boss for confirmation or my mom’s doctor for clarification.

From the moment my husband and I arrived in the Emergency Room, we were given full and immediate attention. Two EMTs and a nurse warmly greeted us and introduced themselves outside my mom’s room in the ER. The three emergency staff carefully explained what was happening. While they couldn’t understand why my mom was there, they did re-assure us that she was fine and would be sent back to her facility shortly—after running diagnostic tests to confirm their suspicion that she was not infectious. Not surprising for a Saturday night, the tests and results took FOUR hours. Throughout the night, however, the EMTs, doctor and nurses were extremely kind, caring, and service-oriented. When my mother answered questions and explained injuries, the nurse would stop typing on the computer, would look at her and say with all sincerity, “I’m sorry.” Not only was the nurse attentive and caring to my mom, but he was extremely patient with ME and my “goofy” (stress induced) antics. We felt like he was a friend and ally.

These caring and compassionate medical professionals turned a terrible Emergency Room experience into an exemplary service suite experience, much like a concierge, that we will remember with pleasure. They created a story that we can tell (and blog about to) our friends, families and clients.

Strategies that Turned it Around:
Here are some things that the EMTS and RN did that eventually made our experience great:

  1. immediately introduced themselves by name
  2. reassured us we were in good hands: before leaving, an EMT gently touched my mom’s shoulder, used her name, and told her she would be taken care of
  3. explained procedures thoroughly and without using medical jargon
  4. showed compassion and empathy throughout our stay
  5. did not appear to be rushed or bothered by my mom or my silly antics

Remember: Most people don’t enjoy visiting the doctor, more so, the Emergency Room. With exemplary service, health professionals can turn a seemingly bad situation into something that is remembered without dread or fear.

When was the last time you experienced exemplary service from a medical professional? Please share in the comments section below.

Company Policy Causes a Trip to the Emergency Room

Have you ever received horrible service that was based on a policy that made absolutely no sense in your situation? Was the policy in your case so far removed from common sense that it simply left you shaking your head in disbelief? Worse yet, was the offending party so entrenched in the policy that no one could see how illogical the policy was to your situation—but you? Well, you’re not alone.

Real World Story: It’s 9:00 pm on Saturday night. My mom is fast asleep in her “home” in the assisted-living community where she lives. A caretaker enters my mom’s room to check on her, but instead finds a doctor’ note on the dresser, reads it, and takes it to a supervisor. The supervisor immediately calls ambulancean EMT and orders an ambulance to take my mom to the emergency room. Distraught—not understanding what’s going on—my mom phones me in the middle of all the raucousness. My mom is then taken out of bed, not allowed to get dressed, get her purse, or get anything. She is transported to the nearest hospital, where the EMT, ER nurse, and ER doctor are all confused as to why my mom is there.

Apparently, the doctor’s note mentioned that my mother had tested positive for MRSA two days prior, so the doctor had put her on antibiotics to treat it. MRSA is an infection-causing bacterium that can be contagious when left untreated. However, the assisted-living facility has a firm policy: anyone with MRSA MUST be taken to a skilled nursing facility to avoid infecting other residents. Period.

The medical staff in the ER said that MRSA is extremely common and that since my mother was on antibiotics, she could not infect others. The ER staff considered my mom’s trip to the emergency room a complete waste of time—not to mention the stress it put on her: to be taken from her bed and home, brought to the ER, tested, only to be sent back to the assisted-living facility FOUR hours later.

This begs the question: When should common sense bypass “the policy”? It appears that we are training employees to be robots, to simply follow the rules without exception, and not to think logically through individual cases. These situations are unacceptable, and they probably happen way too often. Can’t we ask for better from our employees through better training?

Strategies that Turn it Around:

  1. Policies are in place for the majority of cases. Follow them within reason and remain flexible.
  2. When a situation appears to violate a policy, look at all the facts surrounding the situation before blatantly rejecting viable options. Your situation may be unique, so it will require a unique solution not covered in a policy.
  3. If you absolutely MUST abide by a policy, take the time necessary to explain nicely and compassionately with whoever is being affected what is happening and why are doing what you have to do. Do NOT make them feel like they are Patient Zero. Geez!

Remember: Policies are in place for definite reasons; therefore, they are meant to be followed—especially in medical situations. However, there are exceptions to every rule, and common sense and great communication skills go a long way in healing a wounded spirit.

Have you ever experienced someone enforcing a policy that seemed ridiculous? Please share in the comments section below.

Games to Build Customer Service Spirit

As children, we all enjoyed playing games. Most of us were probably at our most creative and free when we played games as kids. We also took more risks without worrying too much about negative consequences. So why is it that as adults, we moan and groan about playing games?

So, it’s time for us to recapture some of that spirit. Okay, no moaning! It’sgames - crop also important to include this new spirit into our work lives, where we spend the most time — at least eight hours a day, for at least five days a week.

So, how exactly does playing games improve business communication? In my video, Games for Business Communication, I’ll explain the biggest benefits of playing games: through play, we get to engage with others in a safe environment, and we are better able to absorb more readily the main learning points of any game. Simply put, games help us to learn new things about others while having fun.

Strategies that Turn It Around!

  1. Two truths and a lie. This game allows you to get to know your fellow team members a little better by evaluating three statements made by someone and figuring out which one of the statements is a lie.

a. Depending on the size of your group, get people into groups of 3 or 5.
b. Everyone needs to write down two truths and one false statement about themselves.
c. Each person then reads the three statements and the rest of the group tries to figure out which statement is the lie.
d. Each person who guesses a correct false statement gets a point.
e. Once every person in each group has revealed his or her false statement, tally up all of the correct false answers.
f. Pick a winner from each team and reward him or her.

Mirror mirror. This game helps people to recognize elements of non-verbal communication styles like big hand gestures or head nodding. The object of the game is to spot physical movements and mirror them back to the person with whom you are speaking, thus learning to communicate in her style. This makes people feel more at ease.

Pair people into couples.

  1. Have each partner talk about anything for a minute (e.g., what they did this weekend, favorite food, favorite movie — anything.)
  2. The partner who is listening will then observe the person talking, paying close attention to the non-verbals (e.g., fast moving hands, head tilts, shoulder shrugs — anything that is non-verbal.)
  3. Have each person tell his or her partner which non-verbals they observed and how they mirrored the gestures. This will reveal which gestures were perceived as friendly and which were a little annoying.

Remember: People are more at ease when they communicate with others who have a similar non-verbal communication style.

Which games or icebreakers have you used effectively to improve business communication among your staff members? Please share your experiences in the Comments section below. I look forward to engaging with you and your comments.

How poor telephone etiquette can lose a customer in 5 seconds or less

Have you ever called a business and the person who answered the phone spoke so quickly that you doubted you called the correct place? Did you ask for the customer service rep’s name and not understand the reply, feeling embarrassed to ask again? The problem with this poor first impression is that it’s a long lasting bad impression. We form our opinions about angry call center ladyothers and the businesses they represent in the first 5-10 seconds of an interaction. And, if we start with a bad first impression, it’s hard to change it to positive one later. And, if I actually have to drive to an actual location, I will most likely enter the business with a bad attitude from the start.

Strategies that Turn it Around:

  1. SLOW DOWN your rate of speech and enunciate—no matter who’s calling. Make that first impression positive.
  2. BE PRESENT. This may involve cleaning your work area—and especially your mind—to be free of distractions and clutter.
  3. FLIP HOW YOU THINK. Don’t think of a ringing telephone as an interruption. If you think it’s an interruption, you will sound like it’s an interruption—not a great first impression.
  4. SMILE before you dial—yes, it’s an old saying, but it’s still applicable today. Can you tell someone’s mood by how they answer the phone? Of course you can.
  5. MATCH your customer’s rate of speech speed. If a customer is in a hurry and is speaking quickly, remain friendly, but pick up your pace. If the customer speaks slowly and softly, you should do the same. People like people who are similar to themselves. So, the quicker you mirror them, the quicker you will build rapport.

Remember:  Customers use the phone to talk more than any other form of communication.  Therefore, it’s important to know and follow appropriate telephone etiquette, especially when we want to make the most of our first impressions.  As call center representatives, you are the face of your company and a reflection of its brand.

What good or bad telephone experiences have you had with service companies? Please share in the comments section below.

Complaining without arguing? Is it possible in customer service?

Have you ever called a company to complain about a product or service? Were you so frustrated that you started to yell? Were you successful in winning the complaint by yelling?

We’ve all been there. And, most likely, we’ll be in similar circumstances again. Therefore, we should be well prepared to win a complaint when we’ve received a less than stellar product or service. The problem of poor customer service is so prevalent, that I was recently interviewed by Lisa Gerstner for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine (March 2014) for an article titled “How to Complain.”

Here’s a summary of the Strategies that Turn it Around:complaining

  1. Before you write, call, or visit with a complaint, remain calm. Take seven deep breaths.
  2. Have ready the facts and documentation to support your complaint. It’s hard to debate the facts. For example, know when the events took place, know the names of the people with whom you communicated, and know the promised deadlines.
  3. Decide what you want to resolve your issue. Think of at least two viable options that will satisfy you.
  4. Check the offending company’s website for the best approach to launching your complaint. For some companies, it may be best to send an email. For others, a call would be faster; and for others still, Facebook or Twitter may do the trick. When using written communication, make sure your message is brief and free of grammatical and spelling errors.
  5. When communicating with a representative to answer—what seems like—irrelevant questions, remain calm. The questions may be part of the company’s service recovery process.
  6. If the representative cannot give you what you want, ask to speak to a supervisor.
  7. If the supervisor cannot or will not help, go to the corporate level. Most of the time, you can find corporate contact information on its website.
  8. If your problem is still not resolved, contact a consumer or government agency like the Better Business Bureau or the Office of Consumer Affairs.
  9. As a last resort, sue the offending company in small claims court.

Remember: Complaints are a great opportunity for companies to fix something that is broken. Before you launch your next complaint, remain calm, be prepared, and be persistently pleasant. You just may be surprised by the results.

What do YOU do when you need to complain about a product or service? Please share in the comments section below.


About Barbara

Visit barbarakhozam.com to learn more about Barbara, her program topics, and how you can book Barbara as a guest speaker at your event.

Learn More

Download a Free Chapter from Barbara's Book

Archives

Connect with Barbara

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,536 other followers

Recent Tweets


%d bloggers like this: