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Customer Service content from Leo Nelson

Customer Service Numbers

It’s not a big deal finding a toll free number for a company, but finding a toll free numer that can eventually lead you to a live human operator is becoming an ordeal. Thankfully the good folks over at Quickbase have a customer service chart with shortcuts you can take to avoid the typical corporate Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system – the press #1 followed by 2 followed by 3 followed by ‘Please Try Again – A Response Is Required’ system.

Two numbers I definitely need from the chart are for Amazon.com (800-201-7575) and for Comcast (800-266-2278). In the past my computer manufacturer’s number would have been on the list, but unlike Dell, Gateway has a much more friendlier and more efficient customer service team and as a result I’ve never had to wait more than 2 minutes to speak to a customer service representative. In fact just two days ago when I called to have my laptop CD-ROM drive fixed, the whole troubleshooting process and new shipment confirmation was done in less than 5 minutes.

As a consumer, if I can speak to a company representative in less than 2 minutes and get a problem fixed in less than 5, you’ve essentially got me locked in as a life time customer.

The Ultimate Listener

Yesterday I received an email from a Hotmail Product Manager asking if I was still having trouble with connecting to Hotmail via Outlook/ Outlook Express. I was baffled; my blog post about my negative experience with Hotmail was heard and after a couple of e-mail exchanges my problem was resolved. Although, a large part of this solution was probably because of my beta testing experience with Microsoft, I’d like to think that that Aditya Bansod took time to listen to my feedback and act on it, and ultimately reflect very, very positively on the new ultimate listener on the block – Microsoft.

As I blogged about earlier, I think that a company that is willing to exceed the wants and expectations of the customer ultimately wins the battle. In my opinion a listening company encourages constructive feedback back to the company and also creates massive positive word-of-mouth advertising. After this experience you’re going to have to work twice as hard to get me to switch to a competitor’s product and to any company customer loyalty is the ultimate prize.

Thank you Aditya for listening and solving my Hotmail problem. It seems like the new team working on the Kahuna/ Mail Beta is dedicated to changing the service lockin perception and has already laid an amazing foundation to support this change.

What is Customer Service?

According to the ACA Group, customer service is the ability of an organization to constantly and consistently give a customer what they want or need. However, like most definitions that are gradually morphed or changed to suit the times. Any company can mimic a competitor’s feature set and with the ability to outsource customer service functions it has become much easier to provide wanted services or needs. However, the new economy demands a new definition, one that indicates that customer service is the ability of an organization to constantly and consistently exceed the expectations of a customer.

Will you listen to me?

Are you a listener? That was the plot of another Nancy Friedman video. When on the phone Nancy reinforced the idea of jotting down important items that you may need after a conversation was over. Some other pointers on becoming a better listener include:

1) Decide to be a better listener
Most education systems teach you to analyze or compute but expect you to know how to listen. The starting point, like many other things in life, is deciding to be better and sticking to it.

2) Welcome the caller/ conversation
This really boils down to tone of voice, attitude, body language. When someone talks to you, are you typing away at your keyboard?

3) Concentate – Block distractions
Ever tried talking on the phone when you’re mowing the lawn? Is the Verizon commercial (Can you hear me now) a mockery of bad cell phone reception or just a cue to get people to try and listen?

4) Keep an open mind and avoid jumping to conclusions
I cannot count the number of times this has happened to me. As Nancy says, assumptions can be made at anytime … before, during or after a conversation. Whenever you call a Help Desk and start describing a problem, ever notice how there’s generally a scripted response first? How frustrating is it to endure through someone assuming that you called for assistance with a bill and be transferred to the billing department when in reality you were calling to get your name of their mailing list?

5) Give feedback that you’re listening
The ‘right’ spoken signals can let your caller know that you are indeed listening. Although sometimes using the wrong words can sometimes give the impression that you are least bothered about what they are saying.

6) Take notes while you listen and review notes with caller
Review notes at the end of a call can sometimes annoy an impatient caller. Are you reviewing notes because you didn’t listen right the first time around? Make the review session a very brief summary of the most important items in the call and always provide a reference (e.g. problem number, reference number, badge number and name, ticket number) incase the person needs to follow up.

Internal Customer Service

At our meeting last week we were introduced to another Nancy Friedman training video. Otherwise known as the Telephone Doctor, Nancy is a leading expert on client service and telephone etiquette. Although I disagree with her approach of referring to clients as customers, I still think she definitely knows how to convey the client satisfaction message.

In the video, Nancy introduce the concept of internal customer service. Some of her key points were:

1) Know the mission of your organization and the role of your department

2) Internal customer service is everyone’s responsibility

3) Respect employee differences

4) Recognize the personal space of others
e.g. loud music, strong odours

5) Work to resolve conflicts
e.g. peer to peer conflict resolution

6) Show Appreciation

Nancy also introduced the BIF approach. This 3 letter accronym stands for Behavior, Impact, Feeling. The BIF approach is a process that can help improve the method used with conflict resolution or to show appreciation more effectively i.e. express how a person’s behavior is impacting you and how you feel about the particular behavior. As always, tone of delivery and timing can play a large role in how effective the BIF approach will be.

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