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

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

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

I don’t want you to worry at all.

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

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

1. “The only thing I can do is…”

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

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

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5 Mistakes Your Employees Cannot Make on the Phone

Bored Telephone Worker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

How to Talk to Your Employees About the Way They Talk to Customers

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My husband helping our son with homework a couple of nights ago

Story highlights

Maintain employees’ esteem when giving constructive feedback so you protect the relationship and get behavior change

I’m sitting on my patio, with my feet up. It’s cloudy and there’s a light breeze. Such a contrast to the oppressively hot and humid summer we’ve had

Sitting here on my patio I made a list of 50 things that I’m happy about right now. I do this exercise from time to time, whenever my mood needs lifting. Some of the things on my list are:

  • I got all of the wood polished.
  • Though Warren’s team lost, his spirit remains high.
  • ClearCorrect trusted me to train their team for a second time and I’m fully prepared for the big day!
  • We had a fantastic get-away to Dallas and I’m so glad Dad was able to join us.
  • My homemade lunch, Portobello Mushroom Burgers and Sweet Potato Fries, was amazing!
  • Michelle’s Dad’s cancer is gone! God is good!
  • My lunch  yesterday with Toneille at the Vault was amazing! The vegan food was fabulous and I loved catching up with Toneille. 

My husband is one of the coaches on our son’s football team. We got beat 43 – 0 on Saturday. The loss felt as bad as it sounds. Right now my husband is sitting in front of the computer with my son watching game film. He was pointing out everything my son did wrong.

My son’s body language and tone told me my husband was bringing him down. That’s why I’m on the patio. I had to get out of the house.

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That Time When the McDonald’s Happy Meal Didn’t Make My Daughter Happy

 

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Me and Lauren when she was 6 years old

When my daughter was 4 years old McDonald’s was her favorite place to eat out. We always got her the Happy Meal with chicken McNuggets. To this day she’s still not a “burger” person.

One afternoon we stopped at McDonald’s on the way home from pre-school. I placed Lauren’s usual Happy Meal order through the drive-thru speaker.

I drove up to the first window and the employee opened the window and waited for me to hand him my money. He took my $20 bill, gave me change and the window closed.

I drove up to the second window, it opened and an employee handed me a small Sprite and a Happy Meal in a bag. I handed the bag and drink to my daughter in the back seat.

As we drove off, my daughter said,

“Mommy, do they talk at this McDonald’s?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“The people. They didn’t talk when they took your money and they didn’t say anything when you got the food.”

 

Wow. I actually hadn’t even noticed the lack of verbal communication. Me, the Customer Service Queen didn’t even notice. You know why I didn’t notice? Because rote interactions like this are so common that this felt like the norm. 

But she was right. Other than the voice coming through the drive-thru speaker, there was no verbal communication.

 

It just so happened that 5 weeks to the day from this muted drive-thru experience, I was scheduled to deliver a keynote at Hamburger University, on the campus of the McDonald’s worldwide headquarters outside of Chicago.

I’m a storyteller. I had to tell this story to my audience of McDonald’s managers and executives. So I did. I opened my keynote with the story of “Mommy, do they talk at this McDonald’s?”

The audience was stunned. Frozen. Speechless. They may hate me for this, but they needed to hear it. I knew I’d done the right thing. Regardless of how awkward I felt on the big stage at that moment, they needed to hear this.

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The 2 Mistakes Your Front Desk Staff Cannot Make in the First 6 Seconds of a Phone Call with a Patient

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I took my son to the pediatrician yesterday afternoon for his annual checkup. The nurse did a quick vision test and then recommended I take my son to an optometrist. I was hoping my son would be the one person in our family who did not need corrective lenses.

In the car on the way home I called the eye doctor we’d used for my daughter a few months ago. Here’s how the call went.

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How to Handle Difficult Customers – The Aikido Principle of “Don’t Push”

2 Reasons Your Employees Are Failing at the Customer Experience

 

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You know your customer service is not where it needs to be. You know your employees aren’t delivering the level of service your customers expect and deserve. And this is keeping you up at night.

There are 2 reasons why your people are failing at the customer experience.

They aren’t establishing rapport with customers. And this is a big one. And, they aren’t in harmony with what your customers need and expect. Let’s take a look at the reasons agents fail at the customer experience, and explore what you can do about it. 

  1. They aren’t establishing rapport with customers

This morning I was monitoring calls for a contact center client; something I do often. Here’s how the Agent opened the call.


Customer: “Hi Bill. My name is Marley Robbins (not her real name), how are you?”

 

{Dead silence followed. Bill did not respond to Marley’s greeting. At all.}

 

After exactly 6 seconds, the customer picked up the conversation. Not the employee, the customer.

 

Customer: “I’m calling about…..”


 

Do you see the problem with this call? The Agent failed to acknowledge the customer; he failed to simply answer the question, “How are you?”

The customer was stunned. I could hear her shock in her silence and in the tone and guarded way she spoke for the remainder of the call. Not surprisingly, the call didn’t go well. Bill was rote, defensive about company “policy” and the customer became argumentative and eventually requested to speak with a supervisor.

 

How did we get to a place where exchanging a simple pleasantry is “too much” for an employee?

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Bill could have simply said, “I’m well. How nice of you to ask. How may I help you today?” Or something similar. A response like this would have completely changed the feel and outcome of that phone call.

What Bill failed to do, what Bill needed to do, was establish rapport. There are many elements to creating rapport; most of them incredibly simple to pull off, but one key way to create rapport is to engage the person in conversation.

You create rapport by having conversations with people. Not by having rote exchanges that could be done better by an IVR. If someone says hello, say hello. If someone asks you how are you are doing, for goodness sakes, answer the question!

 

  1. They aren’t in harmony with what the customer needs and expects

 

Bad Customer Service Makes You Sick

 

A great customer experience must meet 3 criteria.

  • Meet needs. The customer’s need(s) must be met.
  • Easy. You must be easy to do business with.
  • Enjoyable. To get to the level of great experiences, the experience must delight customers in a meaningful way.

 

A couple days ago I went to a grocery story to get fresh Brussels sprouts. That’s all I needed. I went to the produce section and I didn’t see Brussels sprouts. I asked an employee who was working in produce where I could find Brussels sprouts.

You know what she said to me? “If they’re not out here, we don’t have any or we haven’t put them out yet.”

And she turned around and continued to stock fresh corn on the cob. No friendliness. No offer to help me look for them. Certainly no intention on going to the back to see if they, indeed, had fresh Brussels sprouts.

“If they’re not out here, we don’t have any or we haven’t put them out yet.”

I literally had to pause and compose myself so that I would walk out of the store like a patient and dignified woman. But I was thinking, well, never mind what I was thinking.

This is a perfect example for harmony. Again, the 3 criteria for being in harmony are: Meeting needs, being easy to do business with and providing an enjoyable experience. Here’s how this store measured up:

Meets needs. Nope. I had one need. Brussels sprouts. I’ve gotten them at this store before, but this day they were out. My needs were not met.

Easy. Parking and getting into (and out of) the store was easy. Finding an employee was easy. So, yes, the experience was easy.

Enjoyable. Uh, no. The one interaction I had with an employee made me pause and think negative thoughts. I didn’t enjoy an employee not making an effort to look for Brussels sprouts. She didn’t smile at me and she didn’t seem concerned about my needs. She didn’t even pretend to care. This was not enjoyable.

This grocery store was not in harmony. You have to meet at least 2 of the 3 criteria to be a candidate for harmony. Obviously, the goal is to meet all 3 of the criteria for harmony.

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(I went to a natural grocery store and got my Brussels sprouts.)

 

You can fail to meet a customer’s needs and still provide a great customer experience. Whole Foods did this for me.

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Right before Thanksgiving I was looking for Arrow Root Powder. I went to Whole Foods. I thought Arrow Root Powder was a spice, so I went to the spice aisle. The store was crazy busy. Employees were running, serving and working. There was a man on a high ladder on the spice aisle. I couldn’t find Arrow Root, but I didn’t dare ask him for help because he was 15 feet in the air.

After a few seconds, though, the man looked down from the ladder and said, “Can I help you find something ma’am?” He then climbed down from the ladder and helped me look. When we couldn’t find it, he took me to not one, but two other sections in the store. We still couldn’t find it. He urged me to come back tomorrow afternoon, as a truck was due to arrive later that day.

I didn’t get my needs met that day at Whole Foods, but the experience was enjoyable, because one employee took the time to talk to me and try to help me. The experience was also easy. Whole Foods was in harmony, by meeting 2 of the 3 criteria. I give Whole Foods an A+ for the customer experience based on the one employee I spoke with.

Note: It turns out Arrow Root is a powder and it is in the baking section. I discovered that on my second visit. Now I know.

Position your employees to create rapport with customers through conversations and engagement. Fiercely focus your customer experience on meeting needs, being easy and enjoyable. When you do, your company will be well on the way to delivering consistently great customer interactions.


 

Now you can get even more tips for the telephone call flow! Sign up for my free on-demand webinar and learn 4 ways to establish rapport with callers, discover Disney’s “3 o-clock Parade” strategy and see what Gumby can teach you about the telephone customer experience. Watch this 60-minute video now or share it with your employees.