Posts Tagged 'Communication'

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 Emergency Room Delivers Exemplary Service

This is a continuation of last week’s blog about my mom’s trip to the Emergency Room

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.

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.

Do You Pout Over Poor Pay?

Employees who are unhappy with their compensation has always been an issue within companies. And lately, it seems to be a dominating

According to Don MacPherson, President and Co-Founder of Modern Survey, employees routinely complain about compensation because “Pay is the easiest way we can articulate our satisfaction.”  In his article “Employee Motivation and Compensation,” McPherson further outlines six drivers of employee engagement:

1. I Can Grow and Develop
2. Confidence in Future of Organization
3. Personal Accomplishment from Work
4. Values Guide Behavior
5. Paid Fairly for Work
6. Senior Management has Sincere Interest in Employee Well-being

Driver number five, which addresses fair pay, plays a central role in employee engagement. The article explains how companies that focus more on the other drivers increase employee engagement—which increases employee satisfaction with pay. An interesting connection, huh?

BUT, what can you do as an employee if you’re not feeling completely engaged at work? You may need to be proactive by asking important questions of yourself and your employer.

Strategies that Turn it Around:

If you are not engaged at work because you pout over pay, practice the following tips:

  1. Ask yourself if your personal values are in line with the company’s values. Are you proud to work at your organization? If not, it may be time to look for work somewhere else.
  2. Ask your manager or HR rep for an explanation of your salary and what you can do to earn an increase or bonus. If your salary is comparable to other workers’ salaries in your field, and it is consistent with your geographic region, then ask yourself what it is about your job that troubles you. Is it really your salary that bothers you, or are you simply not satisfied with other areas of your job?
  3. Do you understand how your job fits within the overall objectives of the company? If not, ask your manager or HR rep for an explanation. Employees who see how their particular job impacts the bigger picture tend to be more satisfied and engaged.
  4. Do you get regular feedback—the good and the bad—from your manager or peers? If not, be proactive and ask your manager how you’re doing. Don’t wait for feedback during your yearly reviews only.
  5. Does your manager listen to your ideas? If so, does she follow up with updates?

Remember: While salary is important, it is only one of six drivers that leads to an engaged employee. In the workplace, everyone is always extremely busy. Managers may assume you’re satisfied and happy; when in reality, you’re not. Before giving up and jumping ship, try the tips mentioned above. Who knows? You may be surprised by the positive results to you, your team, and to your bank account.

What have YOU done to become more engaged at your company? Please share your responses in the comments section below.

What’s worse? The doctor or the cancer?

Have you ever received bad news from a doctor? Did the doctor’s way of delivering the news make you feel better or worse?

Real World Story: My sister-in-law, Holly, finds a lump in her breast. Alarmed, she schedules a mammogram.  Bad thoughts lead to bad news. After giving the “bad news,” her medical group recommends she get a second opinion.

For her second opinion, Holly drives three hours in Los Angeles traffic with her neighbor, who is having severe back pain. They miss their exit and immediately notify the doctor’s office. They arrive at 8:55am for an 8am appointment. The doctor will not see them. They need to come back tomorrow. Holly is now distraught. She has just driven three hours, is anxious about her diagnosis, and cannot possibly return the next day. She insists she see the doctor today. After much back and forth, the doctor agrees to see her.

At 9:15am, the doctor walks into the exam room looking angry. There’s no “Hello. How may I help you?” The doctor instead blurts out, “I looked at your results. I know what angry-female-doctorI saw. The cancer has probably gone into your lymph nodes and could be in your bone. You need to have a chest x-ray.” Holly is now in a panic. Lymph nodes? Bone? Am I dying? –  she thinks to herself. “The previous doctor didn’t see anything in the lymph nodes,” says Holly. This doctor then aggressively lifts up Holly’s arm and starts feeling under it, and says, “See, there’s a lymph node.” Holly then lifts up her other arm and says, “Yeah, and there’s the exact same one here. Are you saying I have cancer on both sides? Are you saying I’m dying?” The doctor replies, “I didn’t say that. We have to do a chest x-ray.”

Holly tries to ask additional questions, but the doctor puts her hands on her head, as if to say “Enough already!” By the exam’s end, Holly is terrified. “I feel like I’m dying right in front of your eyes.” The doctor replies, “I’m not sure about that.”

Thanks to this doctor, Holly leaves feeling hopeless and terminal. What a horrible way to give and receive BAD news.

Two emotionally excruciating weeks later, Holly is told by a different medical center that the cancer has not spread, is only in one spot, and can be treated. A fantastic third opinion!

Strategies that Turn it Around:

  1. Ensure you are in a positive mindset, ready to “be present” when communicating.
  2. Deliver BAD news – especially about life or death – with compassion and empathy, regardless of what else is happening in your world. Please.
  3. LISTEN to your patients’ reactions first, then respond appropriately. Remember #1 and #2.
  4. Be proactive if you begin to feel angry – take a break, drink water, pinch yourself. Remember: it’s not about you!
  5. Offer alternatives. Something can always be done.
  6. Help patients look beyond the bad and focus on a positive action plan.

Remember: People need you to care about their problems as much as they do. Once you do, they are more likely to listen to what you have to say. Will it be easy? No. Easier? Yes.

How do YOU deliver BAD news? Please share in the comments section below.

Restaurant Revelation: Is Your Food as Bad as Your Service?

When you’re greeted in a restaurant with bad service, do you doubt the quality of its food?
If a restaurant’s parking lot is littered with garbage, do you question the tidiness inside?
If a restroom is dirty, do you worry about the cleanliness of the kitchen and the people who work in it?

Real World Story:  On a recent Sunday afternoon, my husband, mother and I were leisurely sightseeing in a small southern California town. We were enjoying the quaint feeling of this lovely community, so we decided to stop in for lunch at a restaurant in a converted bank building.

We weren’t able to easily enter the building since my mother is in a wheel chair and the restaurant’s main front entrance has steps leading into it. My husband ran in ahead of us to see how we could enter. He quickly came back and showed us around the side of the building, through a back entrance, and into the restaurant. While we were walking, my husband told us that the employee with whom he talked was not exactly happy to serve us. Making matters worse, we noticed garbage on the floor.messy restroom - crop

We started to seat ourselves at a back table, since there wasn’t any room for my mom to maneuver anywhere else. Minutes later, an employee told us that we could move to the front of the restaurant. Although we said we were fine, she repeated her request — this time more forcefully. We told her, again, that we were fine where we were. Finally, impatient with us, she said we couldn’t sit there unless we made room around our table for other people to pass. Geez, she could have been a bit nicer and clearer in explaining why she needed us to move.

After we were situated at a new table, a waiter took our order. Although he was pleasant, he never returned to check on us or to refill our water and chips. We felt insignificant. During our stay, I went to use the restroom. Guess what? Yep, it was disgusting. The toilet was filthy and the floor was littered with used paper towels.

Our lunch was an awful experience! We were treated poorly, surrounded by garbage, and the food turned out to be mediocre.  We were initially very excited to eat inside this beautiful building, but the service and the food made our experience less than average. We will never return.

Strategies that Turn it Around:

  1. Regularly spot check around your premises for anything out of place, including the parking lot and restrooms. If there’s garbage on the floor, simply pick it up. You don’t always need to call the cleaning crew.
  2. Greet all customers as if they are the most important people in the world. If you can’t do it, perhaps working in a service job is not for you. Find another job.
  3. If you need a customer to sit somewhere different than where they want to sit, explain why it’s necessary to move and then offer to help. And, how about smiling every now and then.

Remember: First impressions are extremely important and are the responsibility of all employees, at all times, in all circumstances.

What do YOU do to create great first impressions? Please share in the comments section below.

Five Ways American Airlines Delivers BAD Customer Service

It was a normal travel day. I wasn’t expecting anything special, but I certainly wasn’t expecting anything bad. Luckily, we can turn around my bad travel experience into lessons worth learning.

Real World Story:

Here are the five ways American Airlines delivers BAD Customer Service:angry flight attendant

  1. Be a robot. I arrived at the airport at 5:40 am. I tried to check in using a kiosk, but got an error message telling me to go see a ticket agent. Naturally, the ticket line was extremely long, and I had only 45 minutes remaining until my flight left. I felt bad, but I stood in the First Class line, even though I wasn’t a first class passenger on this flight. The male ticket agent who called on me looked angry. I explained my situation. I didn’t want him to yell at me, so I was short, direct and to the point. He printed my boarding passes, and I left as quickly as possible.
  2. Criticize loudly and in public. At the gate, a female agent who was checking in people looked scary. To anyone who had more than two bags, she would scold very loudly, “You’re going to have to check one of your bags, and the fee is 25 dollars.” It felt like the Seinfeld episode about the soup nazi. When it was my turn at the gate, the agent was about to berate me. She took a double look at my bags and allowed me through – whew! I didn’t realize that flying was supposed to make one feel so bad.
  3. Demand, don’t explain. I’m sitting in the last row of the airplane. Two ladies next to me decide to watch a movie on an iPad without their earphones. This didn’t bother me, since it was so loud on the plane anyway. Not one passenger around us complained or even gave us “the look.” However, one of the flight attendants later told them to turn the volume down, which they did. Then, moments later, a second flight attendant said, “I will not allow you to continue to watch your movie without earphones.” It was very strange. There was no apology. No explanation. Just a rude demand. (By the way, the flight attendants had no idea that these two ladies had been waiting around at the airport for two days trying to get a flight home. They simply needed and wanted some light entertainment.) This certainly didn’t make them feel any better about their ordeal — that’s for sure.
  4. Treat customers like they are an interruption. During a 1.5-hour layover in Chicago, I sat near my next flight’s check in gate. During this time, I observed two female gate agents at their counter. They were happily talking to each other about personal things. Every time a customer approached their counter, one gate agent would stop smiling and look at the customer as if he were an interruption. When the boarding process began, the second gate agent checked in customers while continuing to talk about other passengers to her colleague. I wanted to ask if I could get a better seat assignment, but I didn’t feel like dealing with these two disinterested women.
  5. Don’t offer to help. Since I’m one of the last persons to board the plane, bin space is now sparse. I put down my big bag, and I talk to other passengers to see which of their bags I can move, so I can fit my bag into the overhead bin. During this search for space, a flight attendant from the back of the plane comes up to me and, instead of asking, “How can I help?,” she says very abruptly and sounding annoyed, “What’s going on here?” Once again, I felt like I was being reprimanded.

Strategies that Turn it Around:

  1. Greet all customers with a smile and act as if they are the only person in the world. Even if you have to fake it.
  2. If a customer violates a policy, gently, quietly, and kindly explain the policy and offer options.
  3. Explain, explain, and explain some more.
  4. See #1
  5. If a customer is struggling, offer to help.

Remember: The final destination is not about How Organizations Deliver BAD Customer Service, but the Strategies that Turn it Around. And above all else, “Blow their mind, just be kind.”

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. I look forward to reading about your experiences.

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