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Happy Halloween! (and more)

Happy Halloween! I am not taking the day off today, but I am doing a post that is a bit shorter than usual. I may even give a few trick or treat tips!

The “Real” Post

A friend of mine owns a restaurant. He mentioned to me that he read my blog and asked how he was supposed to figure out what his customer’s names were (so he can address them by name). I looked at him and said there were a few ways.

Ask them.
For some reason, very few people seem to think about this. If a waiter has seen a group of people at the restaurant a few times – it may be appropriate to ask for their names so you can put a name to the face.

Look at their credit cards.
I’m not sure if the credit card companies like this, if it considered ethical, or what, but regardless, it is a good way to find out the customers’ names. Quite a few restaurants do this anyways, so I don’t see the harm in it. The point is remembering.


How hard is it for the waiter to ask the hostess what name the reservation was in? Not too hard.

Think about it.

Think about ways to find out what your customers’ names are and how to customize the experience accordingly. Usually the most effective way is to communicate with other departments and use tools that are already available.

The “Fun” Post

So there are two types of customer service when it comes to Halloween. The trick-or-treaters and the hosts.

I think the amount of trick-or-treaters who read my blog are probably quite limited. However, I say it is fairly likely that a good part of my readers have children. Tell your children to be nice, to smile, to say thank you, and to answer questions (i. e. what are you?) with a smile.

The hosts.
I’m sure there is a different term for this, but the hosts are the people who live at the places the trick or treaters visit. Like with the children: smile, be nice, ask questions (what are you?), say have a nice night, and all of those good things. If you have pets, you may want to put them in another room so they don’t scare anyone or get out. Oh, and give good candy!

Customer service on Halloween is simple. Follow the golden rule of being nice and you will do fine!

On another note, congratulations to Joe Kraus (who was interviewed on Service Untitled) and Jotspot, which was acquired by Google today.

To be honest with you.

I was looking at a service the other day and had some questions about it. I called the company and was connected to a sales representative fairly quickly. The guy was friendly and seemed to know what he was talking about. I was fairly impressed by the company I continued asking some questions.

Then, he said the words that customer service representatives should not say “To be honest, .” While most people (including me usually) don’t mind hearing these words, they should not be said during a conversation with a customer, co-worker, partner, or anyone.

The reason being is that when someone says “to be honest” it can be interpreted as “I wasn’t being honest with you before, but I will be honest with you now.” This may be taking it a bit extreme, but some people do think this way (and it is okay to think like that) and representatives shouldn’t say it.

It is kind of like asking how are you? (discussed here). The potential benefits are minimal, but the possible downsides are high.

Here are some alternative phrases:

  • Don’t use it. Just say what you are going to say. Instead of: To be honest, I think that plan may be too big for your needs. Say: I think that plan may be too big for your needs. Maybe you should consider plan b.
  • To be frank.
  • I believe.
  • Etc.

If you don’t use anything, customers will assume (hopefully rightly) that you always tell the truth and tell them what they need. This has benefits in more ways than one.

Upselling is often misinterpreted. Sales people define it generally as adding to additional things (i. e. upgrades, extra products, etc.) to an order. Customer service people often define it as companies selling customers more than what they need. Downselling is usually thought of as telling customers they don’t need as much as they are ordering (also known as being honest).

I’m not sure if I read it or if Mike Faith (CEO of Headsets.com) told me, but they often try to downsell customers. What the company works to do is point the customer in the direction of the headset that is right for them. This may involve upselling, it may involve downselling. He wrote (or told me) that this is beneficial, because the customers appreciate Headsets.com being honest with them. They will come back later and refer friends, which is the desired result.

You can probably rip someone off once, but that doesn’t work in the long-term. Remember the culture of trust that Craig Newmark of Craigslist talked about? Try and build that in and around your company. Make it so your company’s representatives never have to say “to be honest” – have them be honest all the time.

What do you know about your customers?

I saw this post from Simplenomics linked to by Maria at CustomersAreAlways. The question is very interesting. What do you want to know about your customers? I talk about learning about your customers quite a lot and try to stress its importance. Look at the things that Maria would want to know:

  1. Do they spend any time online and how much time?
  2. What are their favorite colors?
  3. What time of the day do they buy from you?

These are interesting (and very different questions). I’m not sure if I would ask these questions, but companies should have things they want to learn about their customers in mind. You can and should ask your customers questions. If they don’t want to give the information to you, they won’t. If they tell you to stop asking, stop. Some common questions that companies like to ask customers:

  • Birthday/anniversary dates for the customer, spouse, and children.
  • Interests
  • Favorite places to go/stay/eat/etc.
  • Do they have any pets?
  • What they prefer to be called (Mr. Smith, Bob, Bobbo, etc.)

Knowing things like this collectively makes a big difference through little things. Sending a card on a special day (discussed here) can really make a customer happy and let them know that you are thinking about them. Calling them by the right name never hurts and knowing about what interests the customer is a great way to start conversation.

The questions that Mike at Simplenomics asks are good things to know. I’d suggest checking out his list and seeing if you can come up with any questions that might be good to ask your customers. A lot of the information that Mike would want to know can be gathered through some crafty surveys. Some of the information, companies already have.

The more relevant information you know about your customers, the more you can use it to customize and tweak not just the customer service experience, but entire product experience as well. This can lead to more satisfied customers, and in turn, more repeat business and referrals.

For example, if I knew a majority of my readers would prefer to read posts on the weekend, but not Tuesday or Wednesday, I could write on Saturday and Sunday instead. However, I haven’t surveyed my readers yet – but keep in mind, I’m always open to suggestions.

Try to learn about your customers. It will be worth the time and money.

Commandments 8-10

I’m going to finish up my mini-series on the Top 10 Commandments of Customer Service today with commandments 8 – 10.

8. Give more than expected. In the sense the article suggests, the advice probably belongs more in an article about business in general than about customer service specifically. Regardless, you should always try to be better than the rest. Always try to Wow your customers (as I was yesterday) and go the extra mile whenever possible. Your customers will certainly appreciate it.

9. Get regular feedback. I talk about the importance of collecting and using feedback a lot. It is probably one of the most talked about things on my blog. Always solicit feedback from customers, and once you have it, use it.

10. Treat employees well. Remember the three legged stool? Employees (not just customers) have to be happy as well. I talk a lot about what you can do to make employees happy – just remember: your employees are your customers too. Search for happy employees on Service Untitled and you’ll get an idea of what needs to be done to make employees happy.

So, those are the Top 10 Commandments of Customer Service according to that article. I think they are fairly accurate – 100%, no, but certainly on the right track. If most companies just followed these rules, they would be far better off than they are now.

Short post today, but it got the information across.

An Etiqutte Follow-up

Remember the guest writer post earlier this month by Jodi R. R. Smith, the author and etiquette consultant? Well, I have a story related to that post that I would like to share.

Jodi and I exchanged a few emails before and after that post. We discussed what type of article would be best to post on Service Untitled, what she does, and a few other things. After the post went up, Jodi asked for my address. After a quick question, I gave her my address and kind of forget that I had given it to her.

A few days ago, I remembered. I got a little package in the mail from Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting in Massachusetts. I wasn’t too sure what was in the package, but when I opened it, I found a very nice thank you card and a little gift (a very nice leather portfolio/notepad with a pen). To say the least, I was impressed.

Step back and think about it. Jodi was kind enough to let me use an article she had written on my blog for free. She put up with my questions and probably worse, me for at least 5 or 10 emails. Dealing with me is no easy task and she was patient enough to do so.

To me, that’s plenty! But then she really goes and exceeds all expectations (as she suggests to do in her article) and sends me a personal thank you card and a little gift. For those of you who are curious what a perfect thank you card/note sounds like, here is what she sent:

Thank you so much for mentioning Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting in your blog regarding the etiquette of customer service. It is fun to be mentioned in a blog and was enjoyable to read!I so appreciate your including Mannersmith and hope you enjoy the enclosed portfolio.

I hope we have the opportunity for our paths to cross again in the future.

This simply does not happen too often, which is why it surprises me so much when it does happen. Plus, it is a darn good follow-up regardless! Kudos to Jodi – Mannersmith will definitely be the first company I recommend if a client or friend is in need of etiquette advice or consulting services of any type.

Imagine if you did this whenever a member of the media, a customer, etc. wrote or said something positive about your company? You think the customers would appreciate it? I can almost guarantee it.

Thank you cards and similarly effective follow-ups are very powerful things. Plus, despite what people say, getting something in the mail is far more personal than an email message.

Think about what opportunities you have to send a personal follow-up, whether it be a thank you or just a “Can we help you with anything else?”. New signups, upgrades, mentions/recommendations by customers or media, etc. comes to mind.

Once you think of the potential opportunities to send such follows-up, do it! Send the follow-ups, the thank you’s, whatever it takes! Little gifts are nice, but aren’t required. It is certainly the thought (and effort) that counts.

Note: This post provides at least some evidence of why I work in customer service and not as a comedian.

Note #2: I do send people who contribute to my blog as interviewees, guest writers, etc. a thank you email, but will start sending a thank you letter. It definitely makes a difference.

Commandments 4-7

I’m continuing my post regarding the Top 10 Commandments of Customer Service. Today, I’m covering commandments 4-7.

4. Make customers feel important appreciated. Amen! Your customers make your business possible and you should certainly appreciate them. Re-read my series on service calls. There are a few things I suggest that companies do to make their customers feel important. See what type of difference it could make? How do you feel when you receive a thank you card? It makes you feel good. How do you feel when a company pays attention and does something to make you feel appreciated? It feels great! Chances are, the company will gain some respect and likely, some business.

5. Help the customer understand your systems. People hate industry or company-specific jargon or terms. They also hate having to learn how to use things. Something that customers hate even more is not having any ways to learn how to use things.

If you have a complicated product, have a few ways for customers to learn how to use it. Have tutorials, have manuals, have FAQs, have videos – whatever it takes. Ask your customers what you can do to make your product easier to understand and use. You may be surprised about what they say.

Here is a story reflecting an experience I had. I was working with a client who happened to deal with storage. For computer savvy folk, what a gigabyte or a megabyte (maybe even a terabyte!) is fairly clear. For someone new to the Internet or online storage? It’s like another language.

I suggested the client to explain what a gigabyte was. A few days later, they posted a page on their site with definitions of terms. Their explanation for a gigabyte? “A gigabyte is 1024 megabytes.” I told the client that the explanation needed a bit more work. This is what I suggested. “A gigabyte is 1024 megabytes. In less technical terms: your average song is about 4 megabytes. This means, about 500 songs equals about 1,000 MB, or about 1 Gigabyte.”

The 4 megabyte song example isn’t 100% accurate, but it helps potential customers who don’t know that much about storage understand the term gigabyte. Try and do that when explaining terms for your product or service.

6. Know the power of “Yes.” Saying yes is so important to customer service. The advice the articles gives (when you get a request that is at least somewhat feasible, say Yes and then figure out how to do it). This is going the extra mile, and your customers will appreciate it. Say no as little as possible and do what you can to fulfill your customers’ requests and make them happy.

7. Know how to apologize. People make mistakes. Everyone realizes that. Admit when/if you make a mistake and offer the customer a sincere apology. Don’t blame others – try to fix the problem. Respond to complaints accordingly and make it so customers know where to voice their feedback and concerns.

I’ll finish the mini-series with commandments 8-10 later this week. Tomorrow’s post is about an experience I had related to an excellent follow up experience. It definitely relates to commandment four and is exemplary of a well handled follow up.


I’m not quitting or leaving – don’t worry about that! Today’s post is about how to properly close a customer call. Friday’s post with the link to an interesting resource also provided me with a long list of future topics, one of which was closing a call. I’ve talked about greetings before, but the goodbye is almost as important. Train your employees to use a properly close the call and it can help quite a bit.

What it should have.
Your goodbye should have the following things:

  • Asking if the customer needs anything else.
  • A thank you for calling.
  • A repeat of the representative’s name.
  • Optional: How to handle feedback.
  • Optional: Have a great day, enjoy the rest of your evening, etc.

Here are some examples of closings that have the various elements. Obviously, tweak them so they fit your company and your processes.
Rep: Is there anything else I can help you with today?
Customer: No, I think that’s it.
Rep: OK, thank you again for calling Company XYZ. Again, my name is Bob and if you have any feedback, feel free to email it to us at feedback@companyxyz.com.

Rep: Is there anything else I can assist you with today, sir?
Customer: Nope.
Rep: Wonderful. I’d like to thank you for calling Company XYZ. Once again, my name is Bob. If you have any other issues, feel free to give us a call!

Rep: Is there anything else I can help you with today, Betty?
Customer: No, I’m fine. Thank you.
Rep: OK. Thank you again for calling Company XYZ. My name is Bob. If you would like, you may stay on the line to complete a brief survey regarding this support experience.
Customer: OK. I’ll do it.
Rep: Sure, just a moment. Thanks again for calling! Have a great day.

An important part of closing the call is not to have your ending be too long. If it’s too long, the customer will either hang up before you are done or just think that it is unnecessarily long. The second example I gave was a bit on the long side, but wasn’t too bad.

Of course, don’t give any sort of sales pitch at the end. Those are tacky and will surely cause the customer to leave with a bad taste in their mouth. Like all greetings/endings, the thank you’s, have a nice whatever, etc., should all be sincere. If they are going to sound fake, don’t bother.

Tomorrow I will talk more about the Top 10 Commandments of Customer Service.

Customer Service Metrics – Lots of them.

I find a lot of interesting links at CustomersAreAlways. Today I found a very interesting one – this page. There are lots of questions, lots of metrics, and lots of very interesting things. The site, in short, is fascinating. Compared to what I talk about, the stuff is relatively technical, but still extremely important.

The interesting thing is that most questions have several answers so you can get different opinions and views. The people seem to really know what they are talking about and have a lot of information and insight to share. From what I can tell at first glance, the people responding are more in the call center set of customer service professionals (i. e. customer service looked at as a cost center – not one of opportunity), but for more technical things and metrics, the information is interesting.

There are hundreds of discussions about a lot of different topics from abandonment rate to VoIP and everything in between. I have a feeling I’ll be reading this over the next few days and hopefully finding some very interesting things to talk about. Some of these topics are existent because of bad customer service (i. e. getting people to hang up before they talk to a person), but still need to be kept in mind.

The problem with a lot of customer service managers is that they focus way too much on such objective metrics. Customer service is not that objective of a field. The point is to make the customer happy and that can’t always be done or measured with formulas, metrics, etc. Look at customers as humans – people who are making your business possible – and not numbers, and that is the first step to customer service success.

I need to get  a copy of Maria’s customer service related bookmarks. I imagine it would be fairly interesting. Short post today, but it is Friday, and I did do an extra long post yesterday.

Have a great weekend!

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