What My Grandfather Taught Me About Unleashing Employee Creativity

Toronto Slide Deck.001

My Dad sitting on his Italian convertible in front of his plane – the plane he bought in his early 20s.

One Sunday in July of 1949, my grandfather took my dad, 10 years old at the time, to a small regional airport. My grandfather knew the owner of the airport and he had arranged for his son, a boy who wanted to fly more than anything else, to have his very first flight.

That 10-year-old boy was euphoric! As if he’d had any doubts at all, after that flight, he knew for sure that he would one day fly a plane! When recalling the Big Day, my dad told me that it was that day that he also knew he would own his own plane.

When he was around 16 years old, my dad ordered a blueprint from Popular Mechanics magazine for building an airplane, not a model airplane, but a real passenger airplane. “How did he build the engine?” I asked my grandmother the first time she told me the story of my young dad building his own plane. “He never got around to the engine. He went off to college before finishing,” she said, “but his plan was to use an old lawnmower motor.”

My dad told me,

“I actually thought I’d get the plane to fly, but Daddy knew I never would. He let me spend money on the plane, dream about flying the plane and spend countless hours on the plane, because this dream of building and the actual work of building my own plane that would never fly, fueled my dreams of flying. He knew that this passion would indeed lead to me flying and ultimately, owning my own plane.” 

When my dad turned 26, after earning his bachelor’s degree and then getting his private pilot license, he bought his own plane. His father’s support, belief and enthusiasm helped him achieve his dream. When leaders give employees support, belief and enthusiasm, they help employees unleash creativity, which can lead to a more productive and happy workplace.

Here are 3 ways – lessons from my grandfather – that you can unleash employee creativity for a happier and more productive workplace.

Continue reading

5 Phrases That Make Customers Think Your Employees Don’t Really Care

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 8.39.50 PM.png

I was trying to check in for my American Airlines flight on my phone. I was able to get one boarding pass, but not the other. After several failed attempts, I called American and explained my problem. I was transferred quickly and the person I ended up with looked into my itinerary and then said,

“Ms. Golden, this is a system error. You are checked in all the way through to Tulsa. I don’t want you to worry at all. Your flight is confirmed and you are checked in. You have a few options for getting your boarding pass (she gave me 3 easy options), but I want you to know it’s all good. You’re confirmed and checked in.”

I don’t want you to worry at all.

“I don’t want you to worry at all.” was exactly the right thing to say to me. The employee at American zeroed in on my concern that my flight wasn’t confirmed and she perfectly used the right words to acknowledge my concern and put me at ease.

Every interaction your employees have with customers is an opportunity to make the customer experience easy, helpful and friendly. The words your employees use make all of the difference. The lady at American used the right words. The wrong words can cause dis-ease in customers, or leave customers thinking you don’t care. In this article I’m sharing 5 phrases that cause dis-ease and make customers think you don’t care.

1. “The only thing I can do is…”

Customers, especially if they happen to be angry, need options. Never make a customer feel pushed into a corner. Even if you know, for example, that you have no appointments available for a customer today, pretend to check before telling them no. Do it this way. “We work on an appointment system. Let me check to see if we have openings today.” Then, “I can get you in tomorrow at 1:00pm.” That took a few more words than, “The only thing I can do is…” but it sounds so much more helpful.

2. “I can let you talk to my supervisor, but she’s just gonna say the same thing I’ve already told you.”

Continue reading

“Ms. Golden, I wasn’t able to get your credit card to go through.” (How to Handle a Customer’s Declined Credit Card)

iStock-186007759.jpg

Story highlight

This article is about how to handle a customer’s credit card

After a long day of travel, I stepped out of my Uber and walked into the lobby of the Marriott on Bloor street in downtown Toronto. A friendly lady looked up, made eye contact and welcomed me with her smile.

“Myra Golden; checking in” I said, somehow smiling back in spite of my travel fatigue. “I recognize that accent” she said. I’m thinking, no way she recognizes my Oklahoma accent; not here in Toronto. “Where are you from?” “Oklahoma” I could tell by her wide eyes that she did, in fact, recognize my accent. “That’s it! My aunt is from Oklahoma and you talk just like her!”  Wow, she knows her dialects.

We chatted about her aunt, what brought me to Toronto, and vegan restaurants in the area. While we talked, my phone was buzzing. Probably my husband ensuring I arrived safely. I always text or call him once I get to my hotel. Because I was so engrossed in our conversation, I didn’t stop to check my phone.

Then, at a break in conversation, the lady discretely said, with an empathic smile, I’m having trouble getting your credit card to go through.” I was shocked. Surprised. Feeling panic. It was a debit card, actually, and I knew I had more than enough money to cover a few nights in a hotel in Ontario. What the heck was going on? “I ran it a couple of times.” she said, with empathy in her eyes. Continue reading

Are your customer service people adding value to interactions?

Male Agent Stock_57242828_XLARGE.jpg

The night before a workshop I delivered last week in Charleston, SC I called the Mellow Mushroom for delivery. I removed cheese and meat from my appetizer, salad and entree. (It sounds like I ate a lot! I did.) The man on the phone asked, “Are you vegan?” To that I said, “Yes, I am.” “Me too,” he said. He then went on to explain that my Quinoa burger included a little egg as a binding and he wanted to know if that was okay. I was fine with that. From there we chatted about us both being “flexible vegans.”

The simple inquiry, “Are you vegan?” led to rapport-building conversation and such a friendly and unique experience for me. The man was friendly. He was genuine. He made me feel completely comfortable with my many customizations. And he gave me an engaging and genuine interaction.

Are your people adding value to your company through their interactions with customers?

Your employees can add value to the customer experience by doing 3 things: Making personal connection, Acknowledging concern, and Empathy

1. Making Personal Connection

This is what the man at Mellow Mushroom did, and it’s so easy to do. In my workshops I tell people to look for something they can comment on, something perhaps that they have in common with the customer. For example, a customer service agent could say, “I ordered that exact same duffle for my daughter. She’s in cheer as well and she loves that she can throw all of her outfits and makeup in it and easily carry the bag over her shoulder.” This sharing helps create rapport because it’s genuine – and it just might lead to a sell or up-sell.

2. Acknowledge Concern

Continue reading

5 Mistakes Your Employees Cannot Make on the Phone

Bored Telephone Worker

I just finished reviewing calls for a client I’ll be working with in Chicago. Before all of my onsite customer service training workshops, I like to listen to a random sample of calls between employees and customers. This call review helps me to know exactly where to focus in my training.

In today’s call review I noted 5 communication mistakes customer service representatives tended to make repeatedly. These mistakes happened multiple times with the same employees and I heard these mistakes being made by several different employees.

Here’s what I summed up on my legal pad after my call review.

  1. Employees often don’t speak in complete sentences. I’d hear things like, “Name?” “Zip code?” and “Serial number?”
  2. There was a lot of over-talking and interrupting. Employees would literally cut customers off mid-sentence or just over-talk them to make sure their point was made. That made me cringe.
  3. Dead-air space wasn’t handled well. While employees were busy looking through notes or trying to find something on the computer, they just let the customer hang on. I could hear keys clicking, gum smacking and occasional sighs, but there was almost no verbal communication during the dead-air space.
  4. The worst part of the calls for me was that there was no personal connection. Customers would often go right into their issue and then the agent would say something like this: “What’s your serial number?” There was no acknowledgment of the customer’s frustration, no “I’m happy to help you with this,” They just went into probing.
  5. At times I felt like the customer was made to feel stupid. It was like the customer was asking “dumb” questions, though all of the questions seemed reasonable to me. Employees would come back harsh or condescending.

This customer service group is in urgent need of my “intervention” and in exactly 16 days they will get it. I can’t wait to land in Chicago and give these employees the human relations skills they need to talk to customers with care, concern and friendliness.

When you enroll your employees in the online version of my “customer service intervention” training right now, imagine the benefits you’ll receive. Employees who struggle with apathy, rudeness or harshness will get the empathy training, telephone skills, and human relations skills they need and they will soften and deliver a better customer experience.

You can get these benefits and more – without having to buy my plane ticket, foot my hotel bill and pay my full-day training fee. If you’re ready to take your customer experience to the next level, check out my eLearning. Let’s get to work on this together.

 

 

What Call Center Agents Can Learn from Jack Nicholson About De-escalation

In this week’s professional development event, my De-escalation webinar, I’m going to open with a video clip from Jack Nicholson’s Five Easy Pieces. I’m showing the famous “Chicken Sandwich Diner” scene from the movie.

The clip shows Jack Nicholson’s character trying to customize a sandwich from the menu. I chose this scene because, as a vegan, I am ALWAYS customizing menu items in restaurants – the clip really resonated with me. In the clip, the waitress’s facial expression is sour, her body language is standoffish and to Nicholson’s request she responds, “No substitutions. Only what’s on the menu.” Calmly, Jack explains that he doesn’t want what’s on the menu, he wants to modify the sandwich. Unwilling to help, the waitress says, “Do you want to talk to a manager?” Within seconds, the situation escalates to the point of Nicholson yelling and breaking dishes.

I’m sharing this clip to set the tone for the de-escalation webinar. I share several proven de-escalation strategies that will de-escalate volatile customers. But it would be remise of me not to prepare my clients to pre-empt an escalation by avoiding things that are are known triggers.

After we watch the video, I’ll share what went wrong in this scene. The employee made 4 big mistakes; mistakes that led to uncontrollable escalation. Here’s what she did wrong:

1. Started with a negative.

Nearly before the customer could ask his question, the waitress said, “No substitutions.” Her initial negative response put the customer on the defensive and showed that she was unwilling to help. This negative response started the cycle of escalation, which I talk about in the webinar. The cycle of escalation is:

Initial Contact —>  Employee Response —> Customer Reaction —> Employee Reaction

The employee’s initial contact was negative in word, attitude and body language. The customer responded with intensity, and then the employee became defensive and difficult. This led to an all-out explosive situation.

2. Spoke only about what she could not do.

Continue reading

Make Sure Your Language Doesn’t Invite Escalation

Women with headsets working at a call center

I blocked off yesterday afternoon to listen to a random sample of recorded phone calls between customer service representatives and customers (patients and providers) for my client. I’m preparing to deliver a full-day De-escalation workshop to this group in a couple of weeks.

One of the things I noticed is that some of the employees have a tendency to use language that opens the door for escalations. It’s unintentional. I’m sure of that. The employees are overwhelmed, if not stressed. Their customers can be difficult. In an effort to try to control conversations, provoking language is sometimes used. I’m hearing things like: Continue reading