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Q & A with Myra Golden

 

The SOCAP Annual Conference will feature a Spotlight Session, “Leveraging Social Media to Monitor Consumer Feedback.” The moderator for this session, Myra Golden of Myra Golden Media, recently sat down for a short Question and Answer interview to talk about social media and the panel she will lead at the SOCAP Annual Conference.

Q: As a Spotlight Session presenter at this year’s SOCAP Annual Conference, what are some key messages or ideas you hope to convey to attendees?

 A: My goal with this session is to equip customer care professionals with the ability to listen to online conversations, get involved in those social media discussions and use social media tools to engage customers and resolve problems. We are still in the early phases of social media’s influence in the customer care world, but we have also come a long way and learned a lot. I want to fast-track SOCAP members by helping them avoid the pitfalls I have experienced firsthand and sharing the methods it has taken professionals like me years to figure out.

Q: Social Media is clearly a hot issue within the customer care profession but can we expect this buzz to be a passing trend or will it become an integral part of the business approach to customer care?

 A: Social media is a hot issue and I don’t think it’s a passing trend. A recent report from Nielsen found that Twitter is the fastest growing “member destination community” on the Web, with an annual growth rate measured at a staggering 1,382%! FaceBook also continues to more than triple its annual membership as consumers are turning to social media to gripe about brands, create trouble-shooting forums and reach out to companies directly. Cutting-edge organizations like Comcast, JetBlue Airlines, Starbucks, and Cox Communications realized this early on and are now reaping the benefits of well-developed social media contact channels. We can definitely expect more consumer-brand interaction on social media outlets and higher expectations from consumers on brand responsiveness through social media. I envision the day when social media’s use as a customer contact channel is as crucial to companies as email is today.

Q: What significance do you see for customer care professionals in having a Spotlight Session on this topic at this year’s SOCAP Annual Conference?

A: Even before the economy took a downturn at the end of 2008, social media was emerging as a leading tool for integrating multiple sectors of the customer care profession. But now, the need to cut costs, combine operational tasks and offer new customer services has made social media that much more important. This Spotlight Session will hone in on the power of social media to cut costs while still building, restoring and strengthening customer relationships.

Myra Golden’s Spotlight Session on “Leveraging Social Media to Monitor Consumer Feedback“ will also include insight from industry experts Richard Clancy, formerly of Sony Electronics and Frank Eliason of Comcast Corporation. Be sure to attend this exciting Spotlight Session and take advantage of all the other outstanding activities at this year’s Annual Conference in Tucson, Arizona by registering today.
Join SOCAP International and our global community of customer care experts at our 2009 Annual Conference, October 11-14, at the JW Marriott Starr Pass in Tucson, Arizona.

 http://www.socap.org/Events/2009annual/index.html

Fall Opportunities with Myra Golden

HOW ZAPPOS DOES SERVICE – A CUSTOMER SERVICE COMPANY THAT ALSO SELLS

August 25, 2009 1:00 – 2:00pm ET

For Zappos customer service comes first, with the aim to acquire customers through word of mouth and retain existing customers through good service. In this program Myra Golden reveals what Zappos has done to not only build there image but how they retain their customers through exceptional service. Join us for a 60-minute audio conference where you and your colleagues will discover:

  • How to surprise & delight customers and get them talking
  • What it takes to build positive team and family style spirit
  • How to reflect your corporate culture to the customer
  • How to apply Zappos strategies to your customer service needs

http://www.pbconferences.com/Y9/0

SOCIAL MEDIA IS THE NEW CUSTOMER SERVICE

September 10, 2009 Omaha, NE – Society of Consumer Affairs Heartland Chapter

Omaha, NE

Myra will share all social networking communities brands need to be listening to and participating in and will walk participants through the process of exactly how to do it. Participants will walk away positioned to surprise and delight consumers who post gripes online.

http://www.socap.org

 THE CONFERENCE by Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce

October 6, 2009

Wilkes-Barre, PA

1 day mega business conference 5 tracks, 25 presenters, Keynote by Myra Golden –“Beyond WOW”

http://www.the-conference.biz/

LEVERAGING SOCIAL MEDIA TO MONITOR CONSUMER FEEDBACK

October 13, 2009 Tuscon, AZ

Social media is a major buzz word in Consumer Affairs, but how do you leverage social media tools to track consumer feedback? Who should own this process? Are there “rules” for using social media to monitor consumer feedback? What works and what are the pitfalls to avoid? These questions and much more will be the focus of this Spotlight Session moderated by Myra Golden and including top social media and industry experts. You will hear firsthand insights about using social media tools to engage with consumers and participate in hands-on exercises to help you advance your overall understanding of social media.

http://www.socap.org/Events/2009annual/spotlight.html

How to Get a Chatty Cathy to Cut to the Chase [Customer Service Tip]

Stressful day at work

Research shows the average business call lasts two minutes longer than it needs to. The bitter truth is most of us spend far too much time on the phone with customers and co-workers in idle small talk or listening to the whiner, rambler, or storyteller.

So how do you politely end a call when you know it’s no longer productive?  I’ll give you six of my favorite strategies for graciously bringing a long-winded caller back to focus.

One. Apprise of a time limit early

This doesn’t mean you state that you only have a couple of minutes.  It’s the reverse of that, and it works like this:  “I don’t want to take up too much of your time.” Or “I’ve taken up enough of your time” (even when they’ve called you.) “I’m sure you’re busy, so I’ll make this quick.” “One final thing I need to cover...”

Statements like these setup time parameters for you and help you end the call quickly and politely.

Two. Interject with a question when the caller pauses – This is something you’ll do with the long-winded caller, the rambler, and the storyteller. As they are going on and on, wait for a pause and interject: with a statement like…

  •  “The first thing we need to do is…”
  • “The reason I’m calling is …” 
  • “Listen, I need to get some information from you.”
  • “Real quick, I just need a couple of numbers from you…”

Three. Use the point question technique

Point questions help you bring the conversation back to focus…back to the point of the call after a few seconds of small talk (or rambling). Examples of point questions include:

  •  “How can I help you?”
  • ”What can I do for you?”

Four. Give a minimal response

When your customer asks you an open-ended question like, “How are your children?” you can give a minimal response this way: “My kids are great. What can I do for you today?

Five. Ask closed-ended questions

Avoid asking a talkative caller an open-ended question because they will go on and on in their response. Ask closed-ended questions that require only a one-word answer like, “Will tomorrow at 10:00 am work for you?”  Generally speaking, asking two to three closed-ended questions back to back will put you back in control of the call.

In this video, I discuss the Ask 3 Closed-Ended Questions Back to Back Technique. Share this video with your employees for quick training on call control.

Six. Use closing statements

You’ll use closing statements to signify the ending of the call. Closing statements help you get out of a conversation with a rambler or long-winded caller. Here are two simple closing statements:

  • “Before we hang up, I need to make sure I tell you…” Informs the caller that the call is ending.
  • “One final question for you…”

Don’t let calls get out of your control. The call should last just long enough to be productive. Rambling, storytelling or any idle talk is wasting your time and the customer’s time, and it negatively impacts service with callers who are waiting. Use these call control techniques, and you’ll get the storytellers and ramblers to cut to the chase, and you’ll be polite in your approach.

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.

Here’s a 10-Second Exercise to Help Your Employees Listen Better

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Please read the following.

 

Aoccdrnig to a rsceearcehr at Cmabridge Uivervtisy,

it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod

are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and

lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae The rset can be a

total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm.

Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey

lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

 

Fascinating, isn’t it?

I asked you to read the above paragraph to demonstrate a principle. Your mind is vulnerable. It can see things that aren’t there. This is important information for those of us who work in customer service.

It can be easy to add details that are not present (that is, to make assumptions, have suspicions, etc.).

Let’s work hard to really listen to the customer and draw conclusions based on all of the information presented to us. Let’s not add to it and let’s be careful not to miss information.

Want more ideas like this?

Imagine sitting in a local coffee shop that’s nestled in a bookstore, and talking over a latte with Myra about ways to help your employees deliver the best possible customer experience, and ways to help reduce stress on your employees as they deal with difficult customers.

Every week, often literally from a coffee shop, Myra gives you ideas that in one way or another are actionable towards improving your customer experience.

Sign up and join Myra over coffee every week.

How to Craft Friendly Emails That WOW Customers

How to Craft Friendly Emails That WOW Customers

10 Tips to Take Your Emails to the Next Level! 

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You’re in for a treat, because today I have for you a unique email session with the most important tips, tools and techniques you need to make your emails appear both friendly and professional. If you communicate with your customers via email, you can’t afford to miss this!

1. Write a Subject Line That Pops
The subject line is your first impression in email communication so make sure your first impression is personal and attention-getting. By far, the most common subject line in email responses to customers is: “Re: customer web inquiry”. Sure, it’s accurate, but what a waste of opportunity to connect with customers and make your communication memorable.

You can immediately capture your customer’s attention by doing 2 simple things with your subject lines: (1) Using the customer’s name in the subject line (whenever possible) and (2) inserting a short phrase that speaks to the customer’s issue. Here’s what I mean:

Joe, the lawn mower manual you requested is attached.
Lynn, your replacement widget will ship tomorrow.
Lauren, here are tips to help maintain your garden.

Personalize your emails and they’ll be read before anything else in the customer’s inbox. I guarantee it. Now, when you personalize subject lines be sure to keep it short. Subject lines should be no more than 60 characters. It’s just fine to use fragments in subject lines as long as you’re clear.

2. Open with a friendly salutation.

Most emails from companies open with “Dear.” Be different and friendly by opening with “Hello.”  Email is a much less formal communication means than the business letter. It should be conversational – just like you’re sitting across from your customer. Let your salutation be as simple and friendly as “Hello Myra.”

3. Thank the customer for the email and/or complaint
A lot of companies begin complaint response letters with: “We have received your email dated…” Don’t do this. The fact that you’re responding to the email is irrefutable proof that you have received the customer’s letter. Instead of wasting words, immediately go into a response designed to restore the customer’s confidence and regain their goodwill.
My favorite approach to beginning a complaint letter is to begin by expressing appreciation for the feedback. Here are some ways to express appreciation for customer feedback:

“Thank you for taking the time to write to us.” (This is ideal for a response letter to a customer who is actually responsible for the error or when you cannot honor the customer’s request for a refund or exchange.)

“Thank you for your email. We appreciate customers who let us know when things aren’t right.”

“Thank you so much for taking the time to write to us. We appreciate the opportunity to clarify what we think has happened.”

4. Use Personal Pronouns to Personalize Your Message and Establish Rapport
The Franklin Covey Style Guide suggests, “Probably no single language choice is as effective in making business documents human and personal as well-chosen pronouns.”  And this style guide is absolutely right. Using personal pronouns like I, Me, You, and We make your emails more conversational and friendly.

Take a look at this excerpt from an actual email to a customer. The customer sent it to me and raved about how awesome the email was. What made it great was the use of personal pronouns by the customer service rep to make it real and establish rapport.

I am very sorry to hear of your recent disappointment in our studio
services.  We assure you that customer satisfaction is our top priority and we want the service at our studios to reflect that principle.  We realize the importance of having portraits taken and the time and effort involved in preparing for a sitting.  As a mother of three children I can certainly understand the frustration and disappointment you had with having to wait so long and then not having the quality sitting you are entitled to.

5. Empathize with the Problem Your Customer Has Experienced

One of the easiest ways to connect with your customers on a personal level and let them know for certain that the email didn’t come from a template is to use empathy. Last summer I returned a camcorder to QVC. A couple of weeks later I contacted the company via live chat to check the status of my return. Here’s how the customer service representative WOWed me with an empathetic response to my routine question:

Ms Golden, I’m so sorry the Canon Vixia HV30 MiniDV HD Camcorder hasn’t been processed as of yet.   I know you’re anxious to have this completed.  The return processing time can take up to 17 days from the date an order is returned to QVC.  I hope your item is processed soon.

What I especially loved about this response was, “I know you’re anxious to have this completed.” And “I hope your item is processed soon.” Show a little empathy and personal concern in your emails and soon your customers will be raving about you!

6. When the Email Addresses a Problem, Explain What Happened and Why

Taking the time to explain to customers what might have caused the problem helps you re-establish trust. Here’s how Jet Blue explained what happened in an apology letter to its customers after a pretty big fiasco.

 

 “The storm disrupted the movement of aircraft, and, more importantly, disrupted the movement of JetBlue’s pilot and inflight crewmembers who were depending on those planes to get them to the airports where they were scheduled to serve you. With the busy President’s Day weekend upon us, rebooking opportunities were scarce and hold times at 1-800-JETBLUE were unusually long or not even available, further hindering our recovery efforts.”

7. Respect Your Customer by Answering ALL of Her Questions
Answer ALL questions – this is a BIG one. Customers find it frustrating to get an incomplete response from the company. Carefully read and re read the customer’s email to ensure you have captured every issue and make sure you respond to each of the issues.

8. Don’t Use Email to Give a Customer Bad News
Tim Sanders, best-selling author and former Yahoo! Executive, said recently in his newsletter: “At Yahoo!, I always told my folks, ‘Email is for saying yes and for exchanging information. If you want to say no, criticize or get into an emotionally charged issue, pick up the phone or do it in person’. Email fails to communicate your intentions, so it usually looks pretty insensitive.”

Certainly, it’s going to take more time and effort on your part to pick up the phone and call a customer to communicate bad news, but you really need to make the sacrifice.

Speaking to the customer by phone gives you the opportunity to establish rapport, re-build trust, offer alternatives, or to offer a sincere and unreserved apology. Email communication is so vulnerable to miscommunication and you are at great risk for losing the customer when you convey bad news electronically without the opportunity to truly defend your position.

9. Add a P.S.
I’m about to let you in on a secret that is apparently unknown to most companies: Studies show that the postscript is the most often read and the first read portion of any letter. Joe Vitale, author of Hypnotic Marketing, encourages his readers to always use a P.S. and says “Your P.S. is your chance to state your strongest point, or offer your guarantee, or to mention just how wonderful your product is.”

Here are some great ways to add a post script to a complaint response email:

P.S. As a concrete form of apology I am sending you two additional widget kits. You can enjoy one now and one later. Thanks for being a loyal Widget Company customer!

P.S. I wanted to let you know that right now we’re running a special. When you buy 2 widgets, you get a third widget at absolutely no charge—and we pay the shipping. This may be a great time to pick up a widget up for you, your mother, and a special friend!

P.S. You are always welcome to call me with any additional questions. My direct dial number is 443-982-1131.

10.  End your email on a friendly note.

Here’s one way Amazon Customer Relations ends emails:

 

Regards,

Autumn Walker Executive Customer Relations

Amazon, I love you.

Of course, you don’t have to go that far. You can simply end your emails in a friendly way by adding your name, toll-free number, and email like this:

Sincerely,

Jane Doe

1-888-888-8888

jane@abccompany.com
Adopt and apply these simple tips and your emails will grab your customer’s attention, be memorable, AND they will help you build and strengthen loyalty with your customers!

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 How to Handle Difficult Customers with Myra Golden

Myra Golden BW-2

These questions are from a live audience at a training Myra recently delivered in New York.

 

1. How do you handle the customer who immediately demands to speak to a supervisor or manager without giving the Representative a chance to handle the issue?

What you don’t want to do in this situation is flat out refuse to let the customer speak to a manager because that will only escalate the situation. You also don’t want to dismissively transfer the caller to your manager. Even though the transfer would be honoring the customer’s request, you are actually teaching customers to escalate.

The best approach is going to be for you to sincerely try to help the customer while leaving the door open for a conversation with a manager if you cannot solve the issue. Here are a couple of phrases that have proven to be very effective in getting demanding customers to give frontline Representatives a chance to help them:

  • “I’m sorry you feel you need to speak with someone else, but that’s the reason I’m here. I have been given full authority to help resolve your concerns. May I have the opportunity to resolve this first?
  • “Please give me an opportunity to try and resolve this for you. That’s why I’m here.”

2.  I’m not paid enough to put up with callers who yell or cuss. Do you feel it is appropriate to hang up on abusive customers?

No one should have to endure verbal abuse from irate and unreasonable customers. We all have our own thresholds of tolerance of difficult behavior and only you determine your threshold. Once you’ve reached your threshold, I believe terminating a phone call is appropriate providing you have (a) sincerely attempted to create calm and diffuse anger and (b) you end the call as diplomatically as possible.

Here are four diplomatic phrases I share in my customer service workshops that you might consider using before hanging up on a verbally abusive caller:

  • “I’m sorry. It isn’t possible to help while listening to that language. If it stops, I can help.” (This statement is made in an attempt to create calm and prevent the need to terminate the phone call.)
  •  “I’m trying to help you, but if you continue to yell and swear, I am going to ask that you call back another time. It’s up to you…which would you prefer?”
  •  “If a few minutes helps you calm down before we continue, that would be fine. You can certainly call me back.”
  • “I want to help you, yet the language is getting in the way.”

Note: Your tone is critically important with the above statements. You must come across calm, neutral, and non-threatening.

3. What would you say is the single biggest mistake companies make when speaking with angry or unreasonable customers and what can we do about this?

A common mistake customer service professionals make is not acknowledging the fact that the customer is upset.  I realize it might seem logical that you would not want to point out the fact that your customer is angry for fear that it might only exacerbate the issue, but actually, just the opposite is true.

It just isn’t helpful to ignore anger or tip-toe around the customer’s anger and here’s why. There is something known as the communication chain. When people communicate, they expect the person or persons they are communicating with to respond or react. This reaction is a link in the “communication chain.”  A failure to respond to communication leaves the communication chain unlinked (or broken). For example, If I walk into my office and say… Hi Terasita, 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, that you are not listening. So, the customer may speak louder to make his or her point. They 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 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.

4. Is there truly a benefit to letting (angry) customers vent and if so, how long is appropriate?

There truly is a benefit in letting angry customers blow off steam through venting.  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 cannot direct or redirect it…it must erupt.  When a customer is angry, they must experience and express their anger…through venting. We should not interrupt them 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.

A good vent doesn’t need to last very long at all. I suggest allowing your customer 30-45 seconds for venting. This is enough time for your customer feel heard, but not so much time that the customer flies off the handle. After about 45 seconds, the venting often becomes redundant or rambling and customers may be even making themselves more upset so you will need to regain control of the conversation after this window of time.

5. Dealing with difficult customers over the phone is one thing, but how do you diffuse anger when the irate customer is 2-feet away from you.

Psychologist, Dr. Terry Riley has observed: “Today’s customers are more harried, more demanding, and more dangerous than ever.” I agree with Terry and my main objective when working with professionals who service customers in retail environments, is to keep the employees safe. I’ll give you 3 pieces of advice for dealing with difficult customers in face-to-face interactions:

a)      Avoid the appearance of a physical challenge. Body language is powerful in any human interaction and especially so with angry or hostile customers. Your body language needs to send the message that you are cooperative and open. The best stance is going to be to the side of the customer. This way, you pose no physical challenge to the customer and you’re also in a less vulnerable position should the customer become violent.

b)      Help customers feel they have choices, options, and control (Bacal, 1998). It’s very important for customers to feel they have some control over the outcomes of their situation. Give them options and let them make choices, even small ones. Reducing choice and removing privileges tends to encourage aggression.

c)       Use a calm tone and non-inflammatory words. Deliberately use your voice to create calm. Speak slowly (so that you can think before you speak). Avoid escalating your voice, and never threaten the customer with inflammatory statements like: “If you don’t calm down, I can’t help you.”

6. How do you explain to a customer that you cannot honor their request for a refund or exchange without having them get really upset with you?

I know this is a tough situation, but trust me, you can diplomatically refuse a request for a refund or exchange. Here are 3 responses you can use, depending on your specific situation:

  • “It is our company policy that we cannot pay a claim that involves consumer error. We have a responsibility to the company to uphold the integrity of our products. When a product performs as expected and has no deficiencies, we cannot take responsibility and accordingly can offer no financial assistance.”
  • “Although you might not agree with my decision, I’d like to explain it so you can at least understand.”
  • “We appreciate hearing about your experience, but we cannot compensate you in this matter because you failed to follow instructions/did not read instructions/misused the product.”

7. How can I safely apologize to a customer for a problem that is not the fault of the company? I want to apologize as a way to rebuild the relationship with the customer and yet I don’t want to assume blame for the problem.

I salute you for apologizing to your customers both when the problem is the fault of the company and when your company is not at fault. Here’s how you can apologize when the problem is not the company’s fault:

  • “I’m sorry that you had to make this call today.”
  • “I’m sorry for any frustration you may have experienced.”
  • “I’m sorry for any inconvenience this misunderstanding may have caused you.”
  • “I’m sorry, I feel awful about your problem.”

 

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.