As we head into the chaotic holiday season, I’d like to offer a few more tips on how to get great customer service.I’ve already offered some in an entry earlier this year, but now I’d like to expand to give you information that will help you get what you need faster and more efficiently:
1.Read and follow all of the instructions before you make a telephone call or send an email. I said this the last time I did customer service tips, but it’s a perpetual problem that so many people face. People tend to panic when they read something that alarms or confuses them and skim right to a telephone number to start dialing and firing off questions. Don’t do that. I can’t tell you how many times people said “oh yea, it says that right here.” Keep reading because businesses try to address their most commonly asked questions in instructions and the answer to your question may be in the next sentence (or paragraph). If you read everything and still have questions, then make the call.
2.Be mindful of deadlines and routinely busy times. There are two times when volume spikes: Right before a deadline and right around a holiday. Everybody rushes to get thing in, and that results in a slow down in productivity, especially if the staff has a heavy schedule or is short staffed due to people taking off for the holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day are especially heavy times (frankly, New Year’s Resolutions nearly kill me just about every year). So don’t wait until the last minute, or set an arbitrary deadline for the next major holiday. can assure you that you’re likely to miss it because you aren’t the only one cleaning off your desk. Submitting about a week to ten days prior to a deadline or holiday can make a world of difference in response time.
3.Gather things together before you call. It makes it easier for the conversation to flow if you don’t have to say “wait a minute” while you dig through piles of paper, or break into a conversation with a question you just thought of. Sit down and plan your questions before hand – write them down if you need to, and gather any paperwork you need to reference during the call before you dial. If you have to leave a voicemail and wait for a callback, set it aside where you can get to it quickly.
4.Find a quiet place to make telephone calls before you dial. I know this can be tricky because you can have an hour of silence, and then the place lights up with noise the minute you pick up the phone.Machinery, pets, children, and other people tend to pipe up when you pick up a receiver. I face it myself with screaming parrots at home and co-workers in the cubical farm around me at work. Just do the best you can to limit that background noise and it will actually make things easier for you.
5.If you have a heavy accent, consider saying “no” to the telephone. If you must call, be sure to speak slowly and annunciate. I’m not trying to sound rude. It’s just a simple fact that accents don’t translate well over the telephone and the heaver it is, the harder it can be to understand. This applies to domestic and foreign accents, too. And this is inexcusable to plead ignorance on because people aren’t shy about the “you aren’t from around here, are you?” question. If you’ve ever been asked that, at any place, any time, or in any contect, then you have an accent. Consider emailing your question if possible. And yes, I know I’m guilty on this one. I have a southern accent and I’m frequently asked to repeat myself over the telephone – in fact, I try to avoid drive-in restaurant speakers for this very reason.
6.If you leave a telephone message, don’t spit out your telephone number in a fraction of a second. Sometimes people ramble on messages, then spit out the number quickly when they realize they’re about to “time out.” Give your name and telephone number first (speak slowly, and consider repeating your number), and then give a brief description (1-2 sentences) about why you’re calling. Try to keep your entire message under 30 seconds. In fact, it might be wise to consider what you will say in a voice mail message prior to calling so you'll be prepared.
7.When you visit a place of business, be sure to fully secure your vehicle. This isn't really a customer service tip - it's more of a CYA tip (if you know what I mean). Don’t leave anything out in plain sight. Businesses have things stolen too. In fact, we had a customer have their truck broken into one morning during a meeting – in broad daylight in a public parking lot! It happens. Put personal items in trunks, consoles, or glove compartments and be
sure to lock all doors and set car alarms (if you have one).
8.Be mindful of business hours. Don’t loiter in parking lots before opening or after closing and whatever you do, DO NOT grab random employees and ask questions. Employees can only address questions related to their area and sometimes aren’t allowed to personally interact with customers unless they are in the building or
at a business-related function. Loitering around a building and approaching employees in parking lots is a good way to get security – or worse yet, the police – called. If you arrive early, stay in your car and direct questions to
the front desk receptionist or the person you’re there to meet.
9.Set deadline dates in your cell phone with a reminder to go off about a week before the deadline date. I mentioned this too, but it bears repeating because people keep claiming that “I got busy and it snuck up on me.” This is inexcusable with everybody flashing smartphones all over the place. Even the most basic cell phone has a calendar function. Use it.
10.Give other employees a chance to help you. So often, people will get a name, and that’s the only person they want to talk to. Don’t make your life harder by being stubborn and clinging to a particular employee. They’ve all
been trained and have the same answers for you. And likewise, don’t think you can play this the other way by calling back several times to “shop” for the answer you want. The answer to your question will be the same whether you talk to your favorite person, or whether you’re “fishing” for an answer. So accept what you get and don’t be a bully.
That’s it – eight new tips for great customer service and a repeat on two that, well, seem to need repeating. Follow these tips, and I can guarantee that you’ll get faster and better service all around.
That’s all today.
I remember a day last summer when the members of our Sunday School class that attended early service came in late. It turns out that a lady passed out as the pastors and choir were processing out at the end of the service.
"She was lying there on the floor and everybody was staring at her," one man said. "I suggested that we call 911 , but everybody ignored me. Then another man walked in, saw her on the floor, said 'gee, someone should call an ambulance' and all of a sudden every cell phone came out." He chuckled. "I'd said that two or three times, but it took ten minutes and a remark from somebody they were willing to listen to before anybody helped the poor woman."
The lady was alright, but that comment made me think. It seems that all of us have either the Power of Knowledge of the Power of Authority. The key to making life easier is finding out which one you're gifted with and rolling with it.
Let me explain. Have you noticed that there are some people that everyone will follow to the end of the earth? Every word they say is gospel truth and nobody questions then (even in circumstances when they're dead wrong and people should know better). Most people call them "natural leaders" but the truth is that they have what I call the "Power of Authority." There's something about them that causes people to listen to and follow them. People with the power of authority seem to excel in positions like business, medicine, mental health, law, teaching and politics because people are drawn to them and to believing that what they say is truth. They may or may not really know their head from a hole in the ground, but there's something about their demeanor that attracts people to listen to them and do what they say. These are the ones that everybody asks for advice from. They lead and others follow, but you don't dare bring them down to the masses.
On the other hand, there are people like me. I get asked for information and directions more than any person I know. In fact, there were two occasions recently where a total stranger blew right past 10 people and came straight to me to ask for directions. The people with me even commented that they passed several others that could have helped them, but they seemed to target me. It's not just directions either - I get asked all manner of questions all the time. I even put something on my Twitter feed last night saying I had to find out what it was about me that inspired the inquisitiveness in people because I get pounded with questions more than anybody I know. I definitely have the Power of Knowledge, because people seem to target me as their source of information. Ah, but there is a line I better not cross. For example, if someone asks for directions and I say "here's the most direct route, but I know a better way that will bypass traffic," they'll hold up a hand and say "no, no. That's ok. I just want to know how to get there." (Obviously, it's happened many times.) They make it very clear that I'm not the boss of them. They just want information, thank you very much. They'll process and apply the information I provide the way THEY choose. People with the power of knowledge tend to excel in areas like administration, the arts, entertainment, managing money (accounting), and assistant positions where they're the brains behind the people with the Power of Authority to keep them in check while the world follows them. These are the people with the brains and insight that you want to collaborate with on your teams.
I'm not sure what elusive thing it is that determines whether you have the Power of Authority or the Power of Knowledge, but I do know that it's best to know which you have and to go with it. Because you aren't going to get the other no matter how hard you try. Trust me, I've never won an elected position - hell, I've never even been nominated. But I've slapped away so many invitations to serve on committees and in organizations that I've lost count. See, I'm invited, not elected. And that's a good way to know which you have.
There are other ways too. What happens when people ask you for advice? If they don't do it or if they immediately disregard it and do something completely different, you're a Power of Knowledge person (they were asking to collect information). If they do it, you're a Power of Authority.
Here's another one. What kinds of questions do people ask you? Do they ask you for advice and how to do things? You're a Power of Authority. Do they ask for general information or "do you know" or "have you heard of" type of questions? You're a Power of Knowledge.
And here's the best indicator: How often do people ask you for directions? If never or rarely (and they're so befuddled when you're done that they ask someone else), you're a Power of Authority. If your like me and you become the world's personal GPS the minute you leave your driveway, well, I think you get it.
It amazes me that personality tests seem to miss this critical component of personality, because it is important. It's a good indicator of how your personality meshes with your place in the world.
So, which type are you? Think it over. You might be surprised.
That's all today. More later.
Hi all; I hope you're doing well and having a great week. I tried, I really did, but it just hasn't worked out so far.
The foot is healing, for which I am extremely grateful. I haven't been brave enough to get back on the treadmill yet. Maybe in another couple of days. Today is the first day I've gone the whole day without pain.
The rest of life, however, has been one for the "what the hell?" files (although that's not what we really call it but hey! I'm trying to maintain some sort of decency!). Work has been one thorny issue after another, all week long. I untangle one mess and here comes another. There must be some evil imp ravaging my cubicle. I think I beat most of it into submission today. *Hopefully,* and I say that in the "if the Lord wills and creeks don't rise" sense, I did manage to get things flowing properly, balls in other courts, and I made my final visit to the State House for a committee meeting for this session today. *Hopefully* As things have shown a tendency to unravel - or worse, to pull a phoenix and rise from the ashes - I'm not counting it done yet.
Then yesterday we got word that a friend at church lost her battle with pancreatic cancer yesterday. Don't worry, I'm not going to put you through those musings again. We went through this - oh wait! Exactly a year ago today, when a friend at my former workplace died of THE VERY SAME THING!! There's much I don't understand and this scary timing is one more thing on the heap. But I suppose faith is about accepting that you don't have the answers and being ok with the questions. Or something like that.
I'm trying to find out how things keep getting past me. I don't know stuff that I usually find out without even trying. For example: Did you know the new Transformer's movie is coming out on July 1st? I knew they were making one but had no idea it was done. I also didn't know that they moved a new deposit machine just up the hall from my cubicle, that several files I've been looking for are in the cabinet right next to my desk, that you can get Microsoft Office for iPads, that the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie came out last weekend, that "True Grit" was a remake, that they were thinking about extending the legislative session, or that there's an old wives tale about more people dying in the spring because of something with the sap in the trees (another one for the "what the...? files). I think I've been working too hard and too much. Yes, I've had problems with my mind wandering lately, but this is ridiculous. I definitely need to take a break this weekend. No writing, chores, errands, visiting, volunteering, or anything.
So here I sit with all these questions and more. Like why does my parakeet sing like a canary? Why does my computer smell like my perfume (that never gets near this machine)? How did Zack chew curtains that are nowhere near his cage? Why did Chloe growl at me when I got home? What is going on with this crazy, hot weather? And many, many more.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is life in the rabbit hole! Hmm. I sense inspiration for short stories in my future. Life like this is the catalyst for it.
Well, my brain is fried so it's time to go. I hope you have a Happy Friday tomorrow. Heck, I hope I have a Happy Friday tomorrow either. It's been a challenging week, but I'm not giving up on having at least one good day in it.