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212 Degrees

I lead my daughter’s Brownie Scout troop and I recently conducted a science experiment with my group of 13 second grade girls to demonstrate the power of making one small degree of change.

We put a small pot of water on a burner and put a cooking thermometer in the water and we discovered that:

At 211 degrees, water is (very) hot.
At 212 degrees, it boils.

I told the girls that with boiling water, comes steam.
And with steam, you can power a train!

The girls were just amazed that one degree made the difference between hot water and boiling water.

One extra degree makes all the difference and separates the good from the great. It separates the ‘simply very hot’ from something that generates enough force to power a train.

 Consider this…

The average margin of victory for the last 25 years in all major golf tournaments was less than 3 strokes.

The margin of victory between an Olympic Gold Medal and no medal is extremely small. In the 2004 men’s 800m race, the margin of victory was .71 seconds.

At the Indy 500 the average margin for the past 10 years has been 1.45 seconds.

Most of my readers have a vested interest in transforming their service culture. If that’s you, I want you to know that you can start small and start today. One small degree of change could position you as the service leaders in your industry.

Imagine the difference you could realize if you simply got all of your employees to smile through the phone as they spoke with customers. What if you took the time to hold a 5-minute customer service training with your staff this week?

I truly believe the difference between good and great can be as simple as making one degree of change.

Never forget…

At 211 degrees, water is hot.
At 212 degrees, it boils.
And with boiling water, comes steam.
And with steam, you can power a train.

Are Your Reps Making Any of These Mistakes In Consumer Email Responses?

 

 

An estimated 11 billion emails are sent everyday worldwide. If your Customer Service Department receives 100 emails a day and each one takes an average of 10 minutes to deal with, that’s more than two full work days involved in simply responding to email coming in on just one day! If this is your situation, your employees are probably overwhelmed and your customers are dissatisfied because they are experiencing unacceptable response delays.

E-Customer Service is supposed to make our lives easier, not harder. When E Customer Service is handled right, it offers many benefits, including increased customer satisfaction and retention, increased productivity, and reduced operations costs. 

Moving routine interactions online saves Cisco Systems nearly $270 million annually—with increased customer satisfaction. This week I am sharing with you 4 of the most common costly and time-consuming mistakes companies force their Customer Service Reps to make when handling email consumer response — and I offer solid solutions for each mistake.

1. Replying to Simple Requests and Routine Questions When You Should Be Using Auto Responders

A lot of us waste a lot of time responding to queries that won’t land us new business or even strengthen relationships with current customers when these same queries could be automatically handled. A simple, but often overlooked solution is to use Auto Responders. 

Auto responders allow you to send an immediate, pre-written response to anyone sending email to a designated address. For example, anyone sending an email to product44info@company.com could receive an automatic immediate reply with specific product information for Product #44, including a link to a downloadable product manual for Product #44, and no live person would have to read or respond to the message unless the auto responder doesn’t completely answer the customer’s question. To use Auto Responders, you’ll simply need to set up the pre-written messages and attach them to designated email addresses. (Your IT Department can help with this). 

2. Typing Routine Messages Over and Over When You Could Save Frequent Reply Messages in Draft Folders
Often, customer service professionals are saying the same thing over and over again to several customers via email. You can type the reply one time and save it as “draft” and then go back and copy the paragraph or phrase  and paste in your customer’s email. This draft can be saved on a folder on the company’s network or each customer service representative can have a copy saved in their email manager. Here’s how it works. If you often have to type something similar to: 

“We appreciate hearing about your experience, but we cannot compensate you in this matter because you failed to follow instructions for the product.”

You would save this exact phrase in a draft folder and then copy and paste it as needed.


3. Shipping Customers Documents or Explaining to Them Where to Go On Your Website to Find Information When You Could Just Put Commonly Requested Documents In Portable Document Format (PDF)
Don’t waste time and money shipping documents and booklets or telling your customers where to find your docs on your website. Save commonly requested docs in your draft email folder. This way you can immediately send customers documents, even large documents such as User’s Manuals or Warranty Information without expensive postage and time delays by creating PDF (Portable Document Format) documents. Create Adobe® (www.createpdf.com) lets you convert a variety of documents into PDF files that anyone can view using the free Adobe® Reader®.

4. Not Maximizing Technology By Making Your Website a Self-Service Center
Responding to simple routine, non-revenue generating inquires is almost always a waste of your employees’ time. Your people need to be available to handle contacts where they have the opportunity to restore customer confidence, build loyalty, or strengthen relationships with your customers. They don’t need to handle “Can you tell me where the nearest XYZ Outlet is to zip code 74012?” questions. 

What you need to do is generate a list of commonly asked questions and put the questions and your answers on your website so customers can search your database and find their own answers. This can save an enormous amount of time and money because customers can serve themselves instead of calling your reps or sending emails for help. One of my clients, Vistakon – a division of Johnson & Johnson, has the best example of online customer service I’ve seen. Check out Vistakon’s FAQ page by going to http://www.jnjvision.com/faq.html.Other great examples include Amazon.com and http://www.callcenterwebinars.com/faq.html.  

Bottom Line: Automate as much as you possibly can and always look for ways to automate more of your routine responses. Four out of 10 workers don’t find that email makes them more productive and that’s probably because they haven’t learned to automate common functions. Implement the ideas I presented here and you’ll find that email not only makes you more productive, but it increases customer satisfaction and frees staff up for more tasks.

How to Get Any Angry Customer to Back Down

 

Imagine your next phone call is from an angry, irate customer, and you’ve only got a few seconds to gain control. Are you 100% confident you can handle it? If not, you’re not alone.


Most customer service professionals dread having to talk to difficult customers. And it’s no surprise. A simple encounter with a demanding, irate, or unreasonable customer can leave you feeling angry, frustrated, humiliated, or emotionally drained. But this doesn’t have to be the case.


I’m about to reveal a hidden way for you to literally convert sourpusses into sweethearts.

Simply put, you can use these insider secrets to instantly turn angry customers into raving fans for you and your company – without giving away the farm.

Here’s how to get any angry customer to back down:


You must acknowledge the fact the customer is angry.

A big mistake among customer service professionals is to ignore a customer’s expression of anger or tip-toe around it. There is something known as the communication chain. When people communicate, they expect the person they are communicating with to respond or react…this response is a link in the communication chain. A failure to respond to communication leaves the communication chain unlinked…broken.

For example, If I walk into my office and say… “Hello Sherry, how are you?” ….and she says absolutely nothing, she’s broken the communication chain. And that leaves me feeling awkward, perhaps embarrassed.

If a customer expresses anger and we fail to respond to it, the communication chain is broken and the customer feels like they are not getting through. The customer might become even angrier and more difficult, as they are resorting to whatever it takes to feel “heard” and understood.

You can keep your angry customers from getting angrier by confidently acknowledging their anger and responding to it. You can respond to anger with a statement like, “Clearly you’re upset and I want you to know that getting to the bottom of this is just as important to me as it is to you.” This statement directly and professionally addresses anger – without- making the customer even angrier. Now that the anger has been acknowledged, you have completed the communication chain and the customer feels heard and respected.


Allow the customer to vent, but don’t lose control.

An Angry customer can be compared to an erupting volcano. When a volcano is erupting, there is nothing you can do about it. You can’t speed up the eruption, you can’t put a lid on it, and you can’t direct or redirect it…it must erupt.

When a customer is angry, they must experience and express their anger – and often this is done through venting. We should not interrupt an angry venting customer or tell them to “calm down.” This would be as futile as trying to tame a volcano. A volcano erupts and eventually subsides. Your angry customer will vent and eventually calm down.

Always let angry customers vent. In most cases, your customer will only need to vent for 15-35 seconds. Venting beyond 35 seconds can become ranting and cause you to lose control. After a few seconds of venting, you’ll want to jump back in and move the conversation forward constructively.


Apologize…whether the fault lies with the customer OR the company.
It’s amazing; the mere act of apologizing sincerely to a customer can result in an immediate calming effect and move the customer right out of a hardball mentality.


But a lot of companies advise their employees NOT to apologize to customers because they want to be careful not to assume responsibility for a problem that may actually be the fault of the customer.

You need to know that it’s possible to “safely” apologize to customers. Here’s an example of a “safe, but sincere” apology offered when the problem is clearly NOT the fault of the company:

“Mr. Smith, please accept my apology for any inconvenience this misunderstanding may have caused you.”

Notice, this apology does not blame the company OR the customer…it’s offered simply to create goodwill. Always apologize and be sure your tone sends the same message.


Try a little Verbal Aikido
In my live Handling Difficult Customers seminars, I demonstrate the martial art Aikido and offer it as a strategy for diffusing anger. I began teaching this unconventional approach to managing conflict after having my breath taken away as I watched Steven Segal effortlessly defeat his opponents without violence or aggression in half a dozen of his movies. Aikido is a nonviolent martial art that can be effectively applied to conflict situations with customers. Here are a couple Aikido principles that you’ve gotta try out with you next difficult customer:


(a) Never meet force with force. In Aikido there are no direct attacks and very little striking or kicking. When dealing with angry customers it is natural to respond to an attack with an attack. If the customer yells, we might be tempted to escalate our voice. When the attack gets personal, we may become defensive and less willing to work with the customer. While we may feel justified in launching our attack because we’ve been attacked, we must realize that a defensive (forceful) response only escalates the original problem. Let’s learn from the Aikido masters and not attack back defensively. Instead, we will respond carefully and strategically.

(b) Work to strategically calm down the attack. In physical Aikido this is done by both the use of relaxed body posture and open hands. Verbal attacks from irate customers need the same calming strategy. In Aikido, the master will step aside rather than confront the attack. This takes the power and speed out of the attack and allows the master to stay centered and calm. When you respond to your customer with “Clearly, we’ve upset you and getting to the bottom of this is just as important to me as it is to you.” anger begins to dissipate. You’ve addressed the anger directly and non defensively and you haven’t been pulled into the drama of the attack. Strategically choose your words and tone so that you come across with confidence, control and credibility. This “strategy” will calm down the most ballistic customer.

Pull out the tried and true “Broken Record” technique.
If your customer is ranting, raving, or rambling and you feel you have lost control of the conversation, you can quickly regain control using the Broken Record technique. Use this technique by simply repeating a sentence or phrase over and over again until your ranting customer hears you. It can be as simple as:

“Mr. Jones, what I can do is send you coupons for three bags of potatoes chips.”


“Mr. Jones, what I can do is send you coupons for three bags of potatoes chips.”


“Mr. Jones, what I can do is send you coupons for three bags of potatoes chips.”


This example would be effective for the customer who is demanding more, but three coupons is your limit. The reason this technique works is that typically, repeating yourself, verbatim, in a non-confrontational tone, will force the upset customer to stop talking – if for no reason – than to get you to stop repeating yourself. It’s very much psychological.


In Summary
Acknowledge your angry customer’s “pain”, let them vent a bit, don’t be afraid to apologize, and always have one or two verbal self defense techniques on stand-by. When you do, you will be thrilled with how effective you are at getting angry customers to back down. And once you’ve gotten a taste of how easy it truly is to get angry customers to back down, I believe you’ll be completely STOKED and actually look forward to the challenge of facing tough customers.

The Moment of Truth

 

Every customer contact is a Moment of Truth that creates a Moment of Misery, a Moment of Mediocrity, or a Moment of WOW. In the Moment of Truth you can create customers for LIFE or you can initiate a slow and painful demise of your company one customer at a time.

A Moment of Mediocrity is what most often occurs in business to customer interactions and this is where the customer’s expectations were met – and those may even be low expectations. Customers who experience a Moment of Mediocrity, feel “satisfied” but will not reward the company with loyalty. These customers are only your customers because they haven’t found a better experience.

A Moment of Misery is created each time you fail to meet the customer’s expectations. Often, Moments of Misery result in damaging and highly persuasive negative word-of-mouth advertising and customer defection.

A Moment of WOW is created when you exceed the customer’s expectations. Service must be truly outstanding and service providers have to go “Beyond WOW” to create the Moment of WOW. Moments of WOW create a profitable base of loyal customers, which results in growth, increased profits, and lasting value. (For hundreds of ideas on how to create Moments of WOW, pick up my brand new book, Beyond WOW)


Two years ago I stayed in a luxury hotel in Miami with a corner ocean view room. I paid $179 for a one-night stay and my expectations for service were high. I experienced a myriad of problems during my short stay and one situation stands out. The morning of my departure I called the Concierge to arrange transportation to the airport. Here’s a summary of this Moment of Truth:

Me, the Customer: “I need to be at Miami International Airport by 5:00 pm for a 6:00pm flight. Can you arrange transportation with Super Shuttle for me? “ Simple request – or so I thought.

Concierge: “Ma’am, you have to give at least a 24 hour notice for a shuttle to the airport. I cannot call for you. You can take a taxi or we can arrange a car for you for $99. “

Me, the “paying” customer: “Why do you need a 24 hour notice for a routine ride to the airport?

Concierge: “It’s our procedure. You can take a taxi or I can arrange a car. Those are your choices.”

Me, the customer/ the reason you have a job: “Okay, can you just veer away from “procedure” and see if the shuttle can pick me up eight hours from right now?”

Concierge: “I can give you the number and you can call.”

I called Super Shuttle and the representative said, “Sure, the royal blue van will meet you out front at exactly 4:30.” See how easy that was? Why couldn’t the Concierge just pick up the phone and check?

Here’s what the Concierge should have said upon my request for a shuttle: “Ms. Golden, typically Super Shuttle requires a 24 hour advance notice, but I’ll see what I can do. If I cannot arrange transportation with the shuttle, we can get you to the airport by taxi or private car. Let me check on that and I’ll call you right back.” This response would have made the Moment of Truth a Moment of Mediocrity and perhaps I would have considered another stay at the hotel. But my moment was Misery and not only will I not return, but like every customer, I’ll spread negative word-of- mouth advertising.

A Moment of Misery is created every time you:

*Tell a customer “No” without first telling them what you can do

*Quote policy

*Fail to follow-up/follow through

*Make the customer tell and retell their story with unnecessary transfers

*Respond to complaints with an accusatory or interrogatory style

*Refuse to take responsibility for problems

*Fail to apologize to customers

*Tell a customer they are wrong – even when they are wrong

*Cut a customer off

You only get one Moment of Truth with customers. What will it be?

26 little ideas to help you be nicer to unhappy or complaining customers

Portrait of a smiling business woman with an afro in bright glass office

Here are 26 ideas you can print off and share with your customer service employees. Or, you could share these ideas in a quick 3-minute training.

 

The ABC’s of Customer Recovery

Act as if every lost customer’s value to the company comes out of your paycheck.

Believe the best of customers. Don’t make the mistake of assuming most customers are out to simply get something for nothing. The truth is, less than 1% of customers contact companies with ulterior motives in mind.

C ommunicate with diplomacy and tact when you final answer is “no” and when explaining company policy.

D on’t tell a customer she is wrong. Telling a customer they are wrong never makes them want to agree with you. It only pushes them more forcefully into their original position.

E mpathize with unhappy customers and allow this empathy to season your responses.

F ind a way to say “yes” to customers. Instead of saying “no” or telling the customer what you can’t do, think critically about what you actually can do.

G ive a token item such a coupon as a concrete form of apology.

H ave a sense of urgency. Demonstrate with your words and speed of response that getting to the bottom of the problem is just as important to you as it is to your customer.

I nvolve customers in the problem resolution process. Sometimes it’s very helpful to simply ask, “How do you see us resolving this?”

Jot down the customer’s name and details of the problem they are describing so you don’t have to ask the customer to repeat information.

K eep customers apprised of your timetable and progress toward resolving their problems.

L isten with the intent to truly understand your customer, not with the intent to interrupt, reply, or correct.

M onitor your voice and attitude to make sure you sound  friendly, helpful and willing.

N egotiate resolutions that balance both the interests of your company and your customer.

Open the door with unhappy customers with open- ended questions. Make your questions demonstrate a sincere interest in better understanding the customer’s problem or experience.

P ut yourself in the customer’s shoes. How would you feel if the exact same problem happened to you?

Q uickly apologize. Apologize both when the company is at fault and even when the customer is responsible for the error. An apology goes a long way in creating calm, diffusing anger and regaining goodwill.

R ecognize that the issue is not the issue. The way the issue is handled becomes the real issue.

S ay “no” diplomatically and without causing resentment. The best way to do this is to start out by telling the customer what you can do.

T hank customers for their feedback.

U p-Service your customers by suggesting products or services that enhance the value of their current purchase.

View the customer as the reason for your work- –not as an interruption to your work.

W OW customers.

EX amine the root cause of problems and work to eliminate problems at the root.

Y ou are the company to each customer. Never underestimate your power to influence the customer’s future buying decisions.

Zero in on the customer’s needs and wants.

 

Now you can give your representatives even more great skills for delivering the best customer experience and for handling difficult customer situations. Sign up for my email list and learn specific tips, approaches and phrases to help your employees help your customers.

7 Questions About Negotiating with Customers with Myra Golden

 

 

 

1. Is it wise to make concessions when negotiating with customers?

Every negotiator, even savvy executives, concedes from time to time and as long as the concession makes good business sense, it’s okay. BUT – and this is a BIG but – you need to be aware of what your concessions are saying to customers.   A large concession on your part tells the customer he can get a lot more, so he may press you for more. Rapid concessions undermined your company’s creditability. Only make concessions if you have considered all of the alternatives, you feel it will maintain the customer’s loyalty, and when it balances the interests of both your customer and your company.

  2. How do you respond in a negotiation with a customer when the customer’s demand is unreasonable?

 I use 5 little magic words: “That sounds a little high.”  And then you pause. No matter what dollar amount the customer puts out, just state the 5 magic words and then sit back and wait for their response. Most people become increasingly uncomfortable with silence and will feel compelled to respond. Most likely, your customer will either make a more reasonable request, or they will try to justify their request.

 3.  What do you do when you find yourself in a deadlock with the customer in negotiation situation? That is, what do you do when the customer isn’t accepting your offer and you are not willing to concede?

Don’t allow the customer to push you into a corner. Here’s a phrase that will help you set and enforce your limits, while at the same time moving the conversation forward: “We see this differently, and I am going to have to put more thought into the perspective you have shared with me. It’s helpful to me to understand how you see things. In the meantime, here is what I can do to solve the immediate problem.”

4. Is it appropriate to negotiate with a difficult customer who is actually responsible for the problem they are complaining about?

I am not for compensating customers when the problem is clearly their fault. Never forget, today’s exception becomes tomorrow’s expectation. Customers have eternal memory, and they’ll expect you to give in again if they encounter the same “human” error. Here’s how I’d respond to the customer when the problem is clearly their fault:

“We appreciate hearing about your experience, but we cannot compensate you in this matter because you failed to follow instructions (or misused the product, etc.)”

 Negotiate Like a Diplomat  (Immediately downloadable Webinar Recording)

10 Simple Strategies for Negotiating with crafty, cunning, and unreasonable customers Learn more!

 5.  Should frontline customer service employees be involved in negotiations with customers or should this always be the responsibility of supervisory or management employees?

As long as employees are trained, empowered, confident, and known to make good judgment, they can negotiate with customers.  Having said that, it’s often a good move for frontline customer service representatives to admit early on that they don’t have the final say in a negotiation. (Even when they do have the final word, this is a good move.) Admitting this gives the representative a graceful exit, should negotiations become deadlocked.

 6. What are some of the most common tactics customers use to paint companies into a corner in a negotiation situation?

There are many tricky tactics customers will use when negotiating.  When it comes to negotiating a settlement in a product liability complaint, a common tactic is the use of hypothetical questions. An example hypothetical question is “If my 3 year old son had bitten into the hamburger that had the piece of glass in it, don’t you agree that he could have been in serious condition?” This is clearly a setup and you cannot answer the question.  Get the customer focused on solving the actual problem that did occur and nothing more.

7. Is it appropriate to negotiate with customers via email?

Yes, it is. Ten years ago I would have answered differently, but today email is the preferred communication medium of many of your customers. You need to know that email negotiations tend to take longer than phone and face to face negotiations and email negotiations are less likely to end in agreement. If things become tricky via email, pick up the phone and call your customer.

 Myra’s gift to you…9 Phrases – word-for-word for how to handle difficult negotiation situations. Download your free handout now.

Do you ever find that you’ve spent more money to resolve complaints than you know you should have? Do you sometimes “pay a customer off” just because it’s easier to “get rid of them”? Do you wish you had more confidence in your ability to negotiate with customers? 

Introducing…

Negotiate Like a Diplomat  (Webinar Recording)

10 Simple Strategies for Negotiating with crafty, cunning, and unreasonable customers Learn more!

“Give Me 90 Minutes And I’ll Have You Negotiating Like a Diplomat.”  

Myra Golden

 From the desk of Myra Golden:

I promise, after this 90-minute How to Negotiate with Customers webinar, you will be inspired and thrilled with how effective you are at negotiating with customers.  And once you’ve gotten a taste of how easy it truly is to get angry customers to back down and reach win win resolutions, you will be completely STOKED and actually look forward to negotiating with customers!

 How to Negotiate with Customers is CLEAR, CONCISE, and geared to give you QUICK RESULTS that will empower you to reach agreements that balance the interests of both your customers AND your company.

Get the full story here.