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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

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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.

How to Handle a Complaint Over Email -7 Simple Steps

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Every email that goes out from your customer service team has your company’s brand in the signature line, it puts your corporate reputation on the line, and at the fingertips of a disgruntled customer, your emails can be plastered all over the Internet by way of a powerful blog.

Nearly half of all routine customer service questions emailed are not answered adequately. Companies are addressing only a portion of customers’ questions or the answers they give leave customers thinking a robot must have read the email.

Another big problem with consumer email response is many emails are just plain sloppy. They are filled with mistakes that make companies look unprofessional. Most people don’t review or edit their emails – they just hit “send”- and when they do, they are putting an entire brand’s credibility on the line.

Email customer service is supposed to give customers quicker answers and solutions while allowing companies to slash operations costs. When email threads go back and forth unnecessarily because questions aren’t answered, operations costs exceed the cost of telephone interactions. And sloppy emails rob companies of credibility.

So you need to carefully craft and proof your emails. How do you do it? Here are 7 basic steps for you.

Step One- Read the customer’s email in its entirety

Forty-six percent of consumers opening emails from companies are frustrated to discover that their question(s) was not answered. This often happens because employees stop at the first problem described in the email and they, at best, skim the rest of the email. Read the entire email before typing anything.

An excellent way to ensure you respond to every question in the customer’s email is to copy the customer’s email and paste it into your reply back. After pasting the customer’s content into your reply, go paragraph by paragraph through the customer’s email and type your response after each of the customer’s paragraphs. You are, in essence, taking the customer’s email and breaking it into little workable chunks and easily addressing every single issue. (After addressing the customer’s questions completely, you, of course, delete the pasted paragraphs.)

Tip – I often copy exact words and phrases that the customer uses in her initial email and paste it into my reply. This allows me to “mirror” the customer’s language and it shows that I truly did read the customer’s email.

Step Two- Open your email with “Thank you.”

A lot of companies begin complaint response emails 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 email. 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 email 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.”

Step Three – Apologize

Most company replies to emails that describe problems do not include an apology. To not apologize to a customer who has experienced a problem is to miss an opportunity.  Making an apology to customers after things go wrong is positively related to satisfaction with the company’s “recovery.”  When your employees apologize to customers, they convey politeness, courtesy, concern, effort, and empathy.

Let me let you in on a little secret: an apology doesn’t have to be an admission of fault. And it’s not even about placing blame. The whole point is to convey that you genuinely care about how the customer was treated and to regain goodwill.

I believe in apologizing to the customer whether the problem they experienced was a result of an act of nature, a third party, or even the customer. It goes without saying that I believe that we must apologize when the problem is the fault of the company.

Here’s how you can apologize when the problem is not the company’s fault:

  •  “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.”

Step Four –Explain why or how the problem happened

A vital, but often overlooked element of customer recovery is to provide an explanation for how or why the problem happened. Taking the time to explain to a customer what might have caused the problem helps organizations re-establish trust.

In an article titled, Manage Complaints to Enhance Loyalty, John Goodman says, “In many cases, a clear, believable explanation as to why the policy or performance is reasonable will at least mollify the customer and, in some case, satisfy him or her.”

 

Providing an explanation can be as simple as saying,

“Thanks for taking the time to let us know about _____. We appreciate customers who let us know when things aren’t right.”

A customer posted a response letter from  Southwest Airlines on the Consumerist website that provides an outstanding example of how to give customers a frank, yet the safe explanation of why a problem occurred. The transparent justification of the problem in this letter subliminally offers an apology, makes the letter feel personal, and it certainly rebuilt trust with the recipient.

Customers will always appreciate you taking the time to explain why the problem occurred and again, this gesture on your part helps to reestablish trust.

Step Five- Offer compensation if applicable

When the problem is clearly the fault of the company, recompense (in the form of discounts, free merchandise, refunds, gift cards, coupons, and product samples) will help you restore customer confidence and regain goodwill. Our research has found that 58% of complaining consumers who received something in the mail following their contact with the company were delighted, versus only 40% of those who did not receive anything.

Don’t hold back when it comes to compensating customers after a service failure. Your reward will be increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and powerfully persuasive positive word-of-mouth advertising.

Optional, Bonus Step – Surprise & Delight

This step is optional, but I highly recommend it. Surprise and Delight is all about inspiring a feeling of astonishment through unexpectedness.

One of my clients in the beauty industry is maximizing surprise & delight by creatively using gift cards in a way that is generating profits. They used to compensate customers dollar-for-dollar; a $3 overcharge was resolved with a $3 check. Makes sense doesn’t it? Well, now they give a $10 gift card for a $3 overcharge. The customer is WOW’d. But not only is the customer WOW’d and telling her girlfriends about the unexpected gift card, but the company is enjoying a redemption rate of 67% with customers spending 2x the gift card amount in the store.

Try a little surprise & delight and you’ll get your customers talking and, if you design it right, you’ll also enjoy growth as a direct result of the WOW factor.

Step Six – Proof your email!

Grammar gaffes make your company look bad. You and I both know spell check (and even grammar check) won’t catch everything. You are going to have to invest a little time to read and re-read every line of your emails to make sure they look and read professionally. Here are some hard and fast email proofing tips:

  • Point with your finger and read one word at a time. Yes, this will take some time, but you’ll be amazed at how many mistakes you capture this way.
  • Read your email aloud and silently.
  • Proof for only one type of mistake at a time. Do one read through just for punctuation, another for word usage, and another for accuracy of your message.
  • Print your email out and read it.
  • Start at the final paragraph of your email and read it backward.

Step Seven- Respond as quickly as reasonably possible

The average company takes 46 hours to respond to a customer’s email. This is not okay with customers. You need to shoot for responding to emails within 2-4 hours. Is this easy? No, but you need to align your processes and manpower to make it happen.

And here’s why: A speedy response will improve your corporate credibility with consumers and it boosts customer satisfaction. Research shows the longer it takes for companies to respond to email complaints, the greater the customer’s perception that they have been treated unfairly.

Every email that goes out from your customer service team has your company’s brand in the signature line, it puts your reputation on the line, and it forms a binding document between you and the customer. Make sure your message is professional, actively works to regain customer goodwill, and is free of embarrassing gaffes. Follow these simple seven steps and your emails will bless you, rather than curse you.

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.

Excellent Problem Response Letter From American Airlines

Watch my full customer recovery video to get 5 steps for restoring customer confidence after service failures.

Tweeting for Customer Service

 

More and more companies are discovering that Twitter can be a powerful tool for capturing the voice of the customer –and responding to that voice with immediacy. Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read other users’ updates known as tweets.  

One of the biggest appeals of Twitter is that it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends and colleagues quickly with short “tweets”. For example, this morning I tweeted: Watching a bunny nibble grass and listening to birds sing as I work on my laptop from my patio this morning.” And just like that, I let 2000 of my friends know what I was doing.

 But, Twitter isn’t just a cool site for personal use. Businesses can use Twitter to have conversations with customers, solve problems, and to update on promotions and products. Here, I’m featuring 3 ways companies are using Twitter for customer service and I then I’ll show you how YOU can get started using Twitter TODAY for customer service in 4 easy steps.

Zappos uses to Twitter to surprise & delight customers.

 Last month I posted this tweet: “Researching Zappos service culture for ideas to help my clients. I got so excited during my research that I placed my first Zappos.com order.” And 7 minutes later I received a tweet from Zappos:

“Thanks for trying us out! I have upgraded you to one day shipping so you will get your order tomorrow.”

Zappos followed through…the next day at 9:04am, my Zappos order I arrived. I was so thrilled that I went back to Twitter a posted a praise tweet.

Cox Communications Tweets to find and fix problems. 

Recently I experienced problems with my high-speed Internet. I made several calls to Cox Communications and after four days the problem persisted. Frustrated, I logged on to Twitter and posted this gripe:

“Cox Communications in Tulsa just basically told me there’s nothing they can do about my modem constantly dropping Internet!!!!” 7:23 PM Apr 7th from web.

First thing the next morning, I received the following Tweet from Cox Communications:

If you need help getting your Internet problems resolved I’m here to help.

8:33 AM Apr 8th from web

 

And the Cox tweeter did help. He sent out a tech the next business day. After the problem was fixed, I posted a praise tweet.

Southwest Airlines gets involved in conversations with customers.

Last spring BusinessWeek magazine reported that  a Southwest customer experienced a two-hour delay and while waiting around the customer tweeted his displeasure. The customer was surprised to receive a Tweet from Southwest the next morning with the following message: “Sorry to hear about your flight –- weather was terrible in the NE. Hope you give us a 2nd chance to prove that Southwest = Awesomeness.” How awesome is that?

Ready to start using Twitter for customer service? Here are four simple steps to get you started, right now, on Twitter.

1. Setup a Twitter account TODAY. Go to http://www.twitter.com/ to setup your free Twitter account.

2. Start making posts.  Get the conversation started by making 10-12 posts that will be relevant to your customers. Here are some examples of posts from companies:

  • @Starbucks -Get ready … We’re giving away 5 $100 Starbucks Cards. We’re taking the answers on the MyStarbucksIdea blog. Question coming in 10 minutes.2:13 PM May 22nd
  • @myragolden – Be everywhere, do everything, and never fail to astonish the customer. -Macy’s Motto
  • @DellOutlet- 20% off any Dell Outlet Latitude™ Laptop or Tablet PC. Enter code PHTK5R655CZZWX
  • @JetBlue – We’ve started our “Live from Terminal 5” concert series at JFK. Traveling through today? That’s Dan Dyer http://www.dandyer.com performing.

3. Conduct a search on your brand. Find out what people are saying about your brand by going to http://www.twittersearch.com/. Twitter search will give you real-time search results on every single conversation on Twitter about your brand. You’ll want to conduct this search every day, several times a day.

4. Get in on conversations about your brand. If your Twitter search pulls up anything about your brand, you’ll need to respond. Remember, when Cox did a Twitter search and found my gripe, they immediately engaged me with “If you need help getting your Internet problems resolved I’m here to help.” And engaging customers really is that simple. You spot a gripe (or compliment) and then you hit “reply” and start the conversation.

You need to be right there when and where consumers talk about your brand online so you can respond in an immediate and personal way. Adopt these 4 steps for using Twitter for customer service and you’ll be on the cutting edge of serving customers through the powerful social media.

Are you monitoring online conversations about your brand? If not, why aren’t you? My blockbuster webinar, “Social Media Is the New Customer Service” will put your company on the fast-track to protecting your brand credibility by listening to online conversations. The live event has passed, but you can download the digital recording right now and watch it with everyone on your customer service and marketing teams. Here are the details:

 http://www.callcenterwebinars.com/socialmedia_rec.html