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Service Calls: Conclusion

The service calls series went rather smoothly. I don’t have anything to add, but here are the main points:

Service calls can be a good customer service experience if they are done right. Hopefully this short series has provided you with some information about how to properly do service calls.

Very short post today, but I don’t have too much to talk about.

The Horror of Time Slots

It is every customer’s nightmare when a customer service representative says anything to do with a timeslot. “We’ll call you back between 1 PM and 9 PM”, “The technician will be at your house between 8 AM and 7 PM”, “We’ll start caring about our customers and trying to improve customer service between the years 2035 and 3261.” The list goes on and on and it gets even more frustrating.

The best way to fix the issue with customers being inconvenienced with timeslots is simply by getting rid of them. No timeslots are the best timeslots.

Unfortunately, since we don’t live in “Customer Service Paradise”, no time slots are unlikely to happen. They do have a function, but they are almost entirely created to make it easier for the company and not the customer (there is a reason the word customer is in customer service, not company service).

The second best way to deal with timeslots is to make them as small as possible without them being wrong. If customers are told a representative will be there between 4 PM and 5 PM, the representative better show up at that time. Not earlier and not later.

Throughout the timeslot, the customer should be kept in the loop. If the representative is running early, late, or even on-time, he or she should call the customer and let them know the status. A call before the representative is ready to leave the previous stop is an excellent idea and will make the customer sure that they haven’t been forgotten about and that someone will be showing up on time(slot).

The key to timeslots are to keep them short and keep the customer informed. They are almost always customer service nightmare (despite how well they are done), but it’s best to keep them at acceptable instead of bad.

Tips:

  • Do not be early. The customer may not be home.
  • Do not be late. The customer will be home and will be furious.
  • Call early in the time slot if you’re going to be late.
  • Follow the Etiquette of Service Calls throughout the whole process.

Stop the Revolving Door of Employee Turnover

This is a guest post written by Robert A. Cameron of from Robert A. Cameron & Associates in Weston FL. Mr. Cameron works with employers to help them increase the effectiveness of their employee selection and retention, and improve their company’s productivity and profitability. They can be reached at 954-385-8701 or visit their website at http://www.racameron.com.

Stop the revolving door of employee turnover. Employee assessment tools have advanced so companies can now more effectively identify, select, and retain top performing employees, and that means providing better service.

The challenge and cost of employee turnover is one of the most discussed, most frustrating and most misunderstood problems businesses face. CEO’s have identified employee retention as one of their key challenges. Yet organizations continue to struggle with this costly issue. The science of psychological assessments has recently advanced, allowing the development of much more predictive assessment tools.

If you do not know what your employee turnover cost is, many experts agree that you can come surprisingly close to the cost of a single turnover incident by simply multiplying the annual salary for the position times 2.5 – that will cover productivity loss, recruiting and hiring cost, training cost, liability, unemployment and the other 101 hidden costs that we usually try not to think of when we lose an employee. What is the cost of poor customer service!

Employee turnover often begins with a poor hiring decision. When we hire someone who is a poor job fit, we have already begun an almost inevitable course that will end with failure – and another turnover casualty. Part of the problem of poor hiring lies with our poor tools: One comprehensive study of the hiring process indicated that, if an interview is your only tool, you have only a 14% chance of making a good hire. Add good reference checking (and we all know how difficult that can be), you can raise your success ratio to 26%. If your goal is to beat one out of four odds, you need better tools!

Fortunately, the science of employee assessments has produced increasingly useful tools to add to the art of hiring. While no assessment, or even a combination of assessments, guarantees success, the same study showed that use of personality, abilities, interests, and job matching measures can raise your success rate to 75% or better. Equally important, valid pre employment screening assessment tools in all of those areas can be applied for well below 1% of the projected cost of a bad hire.

Why don’t more of us use employee assessments to improve our hiring (and lower turnover)? Part of the answer lies in lack of education on the topic – not many of us have even attended a single seminar on use of scientific assessment tools. Part lies in reluctance to spend any money on new processes. Part of it, frankly, is the already overwhelming load we place on the people who are doing the hiring – they are so busy bailing the boat, they can’t take time out to turn on the bilge pumps! To change the course of turnover, you must recognize that the costs are killing you, that you can change course, and that the rewards are well worth the trouble.

For more information on employee assessments, you can call Robert A. Cameron & Associates at 954-385-8701 or visit their website at http://www.racameron.com. Thank you to Mr. Cameron for writing this post about a very interesting topic.

If you have an idea for a guest writer, feel free to post the person or company’s name, web site, etc. in the comments section.

Etiquette of Service Calls (including Time Slots)

There is a lot of etiquette involved with service calls. Again, it is the little things that make a big difference. I think it is best to outline them in order that they occur:

Before an Appointment is Made:

  • Have the ways to contact your support methods clearly published.
  • Menus should be simple and hold time should be reasonable.
  • Have customers do troubleshooting steps (if necessary), but make that experience pleasant and personal.
  • If available troubleshooting options have been exhausted, arrange a service call.
  • Have the same representative arrange the service call – do not transfer the customer.
  • Arrange a service call at the customer’s convenience, not the company’.
  • Keep time slots to a minimum (1 or 2 hours is probably okay, but anything above that is really pushing it). If possible, have exact times (we’ll be there at 2:00 PM).
  • Get directions.
  • Read back the service call information to the customer and confirm.
  • Ask them if they have any questions, comments, or concerns.
  • After the customer hangs up, go back to the computer system and verify the service call appointment was made correctly.

After an Appointment is Made:

  • Someone should verify service call appointments daily to ensure they have been entered correctly.
  • The customer should be called and asked to confirm the service call appoitment 24 hours prior. If the appointment was made within that 24 hour period, do not call.
  • At the beginning of the time slot or about 1 hour before the representative is expected to arrive at the customer’s home or office, have the representative call to confirm any directions and the time of the appointment as well as give the customer an update (running on time, early, etc.).

During the Appointment (steps for the representative):

  • If possible, park on the street (wide streets only) or in a nearby parking space. Do not annoy neighbors, but try to avoid the customer’s driveway (cars leak, etc.). If you need to park in the driveway, confirm that with the customer before the appointment (see the previous step above).
  • Wipe your feet thoroughly.
  • Use the doorbell. If there is no doorbell, knock three or four times.
  • When the customer answers the door, introduce yourself and greet the customer by name.
  • Wipe your feet again (this time it’s for show).
  • Ask the customer if they would prefer you put covers on your shoes before entering. (They have plastic things you can put around your shoes.)
  • Give any personalized gifts as necessary.
  • Do what you have to do to fix the problem.
  • Do not bring any food or beverages in the house. You can ask if the customer is okay with you brining water in the house, but if they say no, it’s no.
  • Avoid going in and out if possible.

After the Appointment:

  • Call 48 hours later and ask if the problem is fixed or if the customer had any problems. Give a basic customer satisfaction survey.
  • Call in another two weeks and ask if everything is okay.
  • Send a card or a letter in the mail another week (total three weeks later) thanking the customer for their time and patience and apologizing about any issues.

Throughout the Entire Process:

  • Everyone involved should be friendly.
  • The customer’s convenience and satisfaction should be the ultimate goal.
  • Hold times and amount of transfers required should be as little as possible.
  • The customer should be addressed by name.

If you do all of those things, you’ll have an amazing customer service experience for your service calls. The keys are to keep time slots as small as possible, be nice, and confirm everything.

On Monday, we’re going to have some unrelated content. Then, on Tuesday, there is going to be more about time slots.

Making A Service Call Personal

OK, so your company is going to have to make a service call to a customer’s house. How do you make the experience personal?

Read up on the customer.
Read up on the customer a little bit before going to their house. Check out their file and see how long they have been a customer, where they live, and any other notes. Maybe even do a quick Google search and see if they have been in the newspaper lately, etc

Bribe.
This may be slightly debated, but you can bribe some people to like at least tolerate the service call experience. Bribe them. Not cash, but thoughtful little gifts. Here are some good ways to bribe without it being too tacky:

  • When the customer is making the service call appointment, ask if they have any pets. If they have a dog, bring the dog a little bag of treats. If they have a cat, bring a little toy mouse. Make sure there is enough quantity so at least all of the pets can get something.
  • If they don’t have any pets or if the item needing fixing/maintenance is expensive, ask if they have any small children. Bring a little toy for the children or a little coloring book with some crayons. Keep things simple. If the item is expensive, bring both pet and children gifts.
  • If they have older kids, consider getting them a small gift card ($5 or so) to a local music store or the local mall (you may be able to get the gift cards for free since you are send the store customers – just ask them).

Get and use names.
Just don’t give out random gifts – put the kid or pet’s name on the items. To Bob from your friends at The Air Conditioning Store. This makes the experience quite personal and the customer will feel less like just another service calls. When the customer answers the door, address them by name. Try and address the customer by name throughout the entire service call.

If you are going to an office.
If you are going to office you can do one or all of these things. Consider getting a little flower arrangement for the break room, a pen for your client, or something thoughtful and creative along those lines.

Also.
Also consider giving out things that your business offers that may help customers. It should be a tangible item that the customer gets for free (i. e. not discounted).
It’s not that complicated to make a service call personal. It takes a little bit of effort, a little bit of money, and that’s it.

Update: At 11:30 AM, I called the company that was supposed to be coming to my house to fix my television. The service call was setup incorrectly and they couldn’t come. No call or anything. They gave me a credit on my month’s bill (it was about 20% of the month’s bill) and I have re-scheduled the appointment for a couple of weeks from now.

Home & Office Service Calls – A Series

A lot of businesses have to go to their customers’ homes or offices for some things – whether it be sales or service. Whatever, the reason, the experience better be good or you risk losing a customer, which as everyone knows, is certainly not a good thing.

This will be a series on how to do home and office service calls. We’ll even touch briefly on how to do home and office sales calls.

  1. Today: Introduction and Series Overview
  2. Tomorrow: Make it Personal
  3. Friday: Etiquette of Service Calls (including Time Slots)
  4. Monday: Unrelated Content (an Interview or Guest Writer)
  5. Tuesday: Time Slots
  6. Wednesday: Conclusion (and Overflow Day – in case I think of anything else that should be mentioned

There is a new category for service calls. There is also a new category for guest writers. Within the next few weeks, there will be at least one guest writer posting here about a topic they specialize in or about an experience they had.

A note
Just a note to the Service Untitled readers who own tech businesses or other businesses that don’t require physically going to a customer’s home or office – I would suggest reading this as it is something that you will likely have to do at some point, and you can apply it in other situations (such as going to meetings at say, a bank or a potential partner’s office).

Introduction
A service call is a difficult part of the customer service experience. Depending on why the service call is taking place, it could be something as serious as something being broken (like air conditioning, electrical circuits, etc.) or something as minor as routine maintenance. Despite the reason, the customer is rarely happy that the service call is occurring.

Like most customer service experiences, you have to think of the service call from the customer’s viewpoint. They have to wait at their home for someone to show up, the person shows up (sometimes late) and likely gets their house dirty or their landscaping messed up, and to top it all off, the person doing the service call (who I’m calling the representative even though I’m pretty sure they have a special name – feel free to post it as a comment) may not even be able to fix the problem and there is always the risk that the representative could steal or break something.

Lots of things to go wrong with the customer service experience and very few things to make the customer happy. If something is broken, the best case scenario is that the customer thinks “OK, this broke, but they need the fixing as painlessly as possible.” That’s not terrible, but again, the customer would prefer that whatever it is did not break or require maintenance. So, as a business owner, you should try and make the normally bad experience a great one and that’ll help set you apart from your competition.
I think this should be an interesting series. I actually have someone expected to come to my house to fix my television today (between 8 AM and 12 PM), so I’ll pay attention to what the representative does and does not do to make the customer service experience either bad, acceptable, or great.

The Rebate Experience

Happy July 4th. A bit of a (relative) comedic post today.

Yesterday I purchased a DVD from a local store. The clerk told me that it had a mail in rebate for $10. I (ignorantly) thought to myself – that’s cool, it should be fairly easy. I was certainly wrong.

I’ve sent in plenty of rebates in the past, but normally not for relatively small amounts. Some are pretty easy, others are quite difficult, none represent great customer service or a commitment to the customer service experience.

There’s a post here that kind of shows what I’m talking about. If companies make a certain process (like peeling off a sticker) difficult, they probably don’t care enough about their customers to make it easy. The same thing goes for the rebate process.

Here’s an overview of the rebate process/experience I had to endure:

  1. Take off and put the original the UPC code.
  2. Get the original sales recipient from the store.
  3. Fill out the rebate form.
  4. Copy everything for my records.
  5. Put it all in an envelope.
  6. Send it to the longest address I’ve ever seen.

Here are my comments regarding each step:

  1. The “package” had 2 UPC codes. There was one that was actually on the DVD cover and another that on the surrounding plastic wrap.
  2. I was given two receipts (which I didn’t notice until after I sealed envelope and of course, I thought I forgot to include the receipt). Plus, the receipt the rebate form told me to include had a different name than the store I purchased the DVD at (I think the listed name was the store’s parent company).
  3. No problem, but there wasn’t exactly much room, nor was it very clear about what should and shouldn’t be filled out.
  4. Not so bad, but it’s easier to send copies and keep the originals.
  5. No problem. I’m glad I had envelopes and stamps, though.
  6. The address was unnecessarily long. It was about 6 lines and had a 15 character ID number of some sort I had to put on it.

Does that represent that the anonymous parent company cares about my convenience? Certainly not. I really don’t like rebates and doubt I ever will, but if they could just make the process a bit easier, it’d be so much nicer for everyone.

Note: This is an example of the business/finance departments not adhering to the suggestions provided by the customer service department.

So if your company is going to have any sort of mail in rebates, at least make it easier than this process. Shorten the address, ensure the form is not nearly as ambiguous, and tell the customer they should have gotten two sales receipts. It’s still hard enough so the person who doesn’t care at all won’t do it, but it’s not so bad where the process is downright annoying.

Interview with Craig Newmark – Founder, Chairman, & CSR at Craigslist

Today’s post is an interview with Craig Newmark, the founder, chairman, and a customer service represenative at Craigslist.org (yes, you read that correctly).

If you’re not familiar with Craigslist, it is a gigantic site with ads for everything from apartments to jobs, and most are free to post and all are free to look at it. It’s a very interesting concept and the site has really made customer service a priority since day 1.

Craig is a very interesting guy who is very down to earth. He was kind enough to answer some questions I had for him, which have been posted below (click on More).

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