Posts Tagged 'customer service'

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

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.

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.

Broken promises – the newest addiction in customer service?

I have a hot button. But, maybe it’s just me. Maybe I blow things way out of proportion. But, my latest pet peeve is about people in service industries who don’t do what they say they will—people who simply don’t fulfill promises made to their customers.

The Verizon representative who promises to call you back in 10 minutes. He never does. The cable installer who promises that her manager will definitely call broken promiseyou today.  You never hear back from either of them. The Toastmaster who promises—out loud and in front of 19 other members—to give a speech on Friday and never shows up. The contractor who promises your windows will be ready on Monday at 3pm, yet doesn’t deliver, call, email or even answer his phone when your try to call.

I can understand and forgive one bad occurrence of promising and not following up. But, when it happens repeatedly, I lose respect for the offending company or individual. And, I lose the trust that they will EVER follow through on a promise. And I WILL take my business elsewhere because, to me, this repeated behavior is beyond frustrating and simply unacceptable!

My father was a police officer for more than 45 years. He was well respected for being honorable. And, a big part of his reputation was based on the fact that he always kept his word. As a result, my father was admired for being dependable, a man of high integrity and great character. If he said he would do something, he did it. Period.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all service companies and their representatives shared this work ethic? I bet we’d all have a lot less to complain about and, therefore, we’d be a lot less stressed.

Strategies that Turn it Around:

  1. Don’t make a promise that you can’t possibly deliver.
  2. When you honestly make a promise, follow through to make it happen.
  3. If you can’t fulfill a promise made because of unforeseen factors, call or email immediately and be honest in your communication. Apologize with sincerity, rather than place blame on others.
  4. Communicate, communicate, communicate—before, during, and after breaking a promise—to keep your customer informed and in the loop.
  5. If you find yourself breaking promises again and again, it’s time to look at the core problem. Honestly search for what the “real” problem is and take proactive steps to fix it. For example, if you’re breaking promises because you’re overextending yourself, then you need to fix how you schedule your day. If you’re breaking promises because you don’t have enough staff, then you need to do whatever is necessary to get the help that you need.

Remember: Promises kept earn loyal customers. Promises are not made to be broken. And if you or your company repeatedly breaks promises, you need to take immediate action to reveal the core problem. Then, take immediate action to fix that problem.

How do YOU feel when someone doesn’t follow through on a promise to you? Please share your experience in the comments section below.

How the Ritz-Carlton CARES about Customers

When people talk about companies that deliver great customer service, the Ritz-Carlton is consistently included in the conversation.  In an interview with the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai’s General Manager John Rolfs, he shares his keys to success.

Watch the short 2.38-minute video of the interview.Ritz- crop

Key take-aways:

  • C is for Credo: All employees carry “the Credo” with them to keep them focused on their goal– taking care of the customer.     Check out the credo and more
  • A is for All Knowing: Mr. Rolfs has worked in the service industry in a variety of jobs including chef, waiter, reception, housekeeping, management, then grew to general manager. He knows first hand what it takes to deliver great service—from the top of the ladder to the bottom rung.
  • R is for Routine: Daily Line-ups—team meetings—set the tone for the day and keep everyone focused on what is most important—the guest.
  • E is for Everyone: Everyone is encouraged to work as one big team—one big, happy family.
  • S is for Skills:  Employees’ individual skills and talents are important to great service. Therefore, the General Manager’s responsibility is to listen critically and to bring these skills and talents together.

According to Mr. Rolfs, service consists of three parts:

  1. Functionality — everything has to be perfect, if possible
  2. Emotional — the employee truly takes care of the guest
  3. Doing something so special that a guest never forgets — employees are empowered to do something extraordinary

Remember: Mr. Rolfs leads not only by example, but he also actively and consistently takes care of his employees by spending time with them, listening to them, and empowering them to make a difference in the lives of each guest. Because of his fair and respectful style, his employees are committed to him and to the Ritz-Carlton.  The next time you’re near the Ritz, give them a visit and check it out for yourself. I’d love to hear about your experiences.

What do YOU do to deliver consistently great customer service? Please share in the comments section below.

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