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Who are you? The importance of cross-searching. Part 1 of 2

I have no idea what the technical term for what I am describing is. It can be called “use other available resources” or “cross-search” or whatever, but once I explain I am sure you will understand what I am talking about. This is a two part mini series. The first part is my experience and the second part (to be posted tomorrow) is what you can do to make sure your customers do not have to have the same experience I did.

I called a large consumer company the other day. I found the phone number and how to get through to them on GetHuman. I used the GetHuman “cheat” and got to a live representative within about 5 minutes. He introduced himself, collected my personal information (name, email address, serial number from the product, etc.) and then gave me a case number. At first, I thought he was just giving me the case number in case I got disconnected or something, which is fine (and a good idea). I wrote the case number down and read it back to him. He confirmed what I had written down was correct.

I could hear him typing and about 10 seconds after I had read back my case number, he gave the phrase I didn’t want to hear “I will now connect you to a specialist if that is okay with you.” I said it was okay (not like I really had a choice) and waitd on hold for another 5 or so minutes before being connected to a “specialist.” I was connected to the specialist who started asking me for my personal information again. I told him I had a case number. He said “OK, give me the case number.” and I read it to him.

That is when the problem started. For some reason, the case number the first representative gave me (that I had written down) was not the right one. I think having the wrong case number was my fault (I transferred the case number from where I had first written it (my computer – typed) to a post it note (written) and I think I messed up a number in between), but that isn’t the point of the story.

I asked if he could search using my name or email. He said he could try. He searched using both (which I’m 100% sure were correct) and could not find my record. He kept searching, but still couldn’t find the case number that had been given to me by a representative 10 minutes earlier. We gave up and I explained my problem again, gave my personal information again, and we continued to troubleshoot the problem.

Part two will be posted tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Just a note to customer service bloggers.

Attention Customer Service Bloggers:
If you blog primarily about customer service or a related subject (like quality assessment), please send me an email (email address on this page) or leave a comment saying hi. That’s all it takes – I’ll email you the rest of the details after that.

A Mix of Things

I came across this page not too long ago and found it fairly interesting. The article outlines 12 steps for customer surveys and has some interesting information in it. The site has quite a few interesting articles on it – it certainly worth a look. The 12 steps are:

  1. Set the goal of the survey.
  2. Select the responsible persons in your organization.
  3. Determine the medium.
  4. Select the customers to survey.
  5. What’s in it for the customer?
  6. Write the customer survey.
  7. Testing the customer survey.
  8. Send out the survey.
  9. Handle the response.
  10. Analyze the information.
  11. Plan your action.
  12. Just do it.

The process is not a bad one and is actually quite effective. I’ll talk more about surveys this week. I’d also like to add a step. I had to call Linksys a few weeks ago and they sent me a survey shortly after I called. This was fine, but I didn’t get a chance to go over the survey until Friday. I went to click on the link and it didn’t work. I was asked to download a file instead of being presented with a customer satisfaction survey. So add “make sure everything works” to the steps as well – that way you know the surveys you are sending are effective.
While browsing the same site, I came across this article, which listed some Little Things that make a Big Difference like:

  • Answering a call by the third ring
  • Transferring a call quickly to the proper person
  • Timely return of voice mail and e-mail
  • Eye contact
  • A warm smile
  • A friendly hello
  • Just a moment, I’ll be right with you
  • Excuse me just a moment, let me find out
  • A polite and sincere tone
  • A genuine apology when warranted
  • You’re welcome
  • A heartfelt thank you
  • An honest attempt to help
  • Your undivided attention
  • Following up as promised
  • Taking the extra step in any situation
  • Honesty about problems and mistakes

Other interesting articles, which are worth a read and I may talk about more over the next few weeks:

  • 8 Critical Steps to Build a Customer Service Culture – Link
  • Words to avoid when talking to customers – Link

If anyone is particularly interested in any of the subjects I listed (or anything else on that site), let me know by posting a comment and I will try to cover it.

Identifying Good Customer Service Candidates

Today’s post is a guest writer post written by Darlene McDaniel, who for a lack of a better term, is an interviewing and hiring guru. She knows her stuff when it comes to interviewing, hiring, and training new and potential employees. I asked her to write a guest post for Service Untitled and this is what she came up with – a very interesting and informative read.

Most prospective candidates walk into an interview and hope the hiring manager likes them. While most Managers go into an interview hoping this next prospective candidate will be the right person for the job. When you are looking for new employees, most of the time it is critical that you find the person quickly, because there is a gap in your organization and you need someone to fill it. As a result many managers make quick decisions and rather than ask one more question, they make a decision and many times, unfortunately it is the wrong decision. It is very important that as the hiring manager you ask enough of the right questions to ensure that you are hiring the best candidate for the job. Interviewing prospective employees is never a guarantee.

Here are a few ideas that will help you interview prospective Customer Service Representatives and find the right employees for your organization:

1. As the hiring manager you must have an excellent understanding of your organizational climate. What type of organization do you work for? Who has been successful and who has not been successful in that climate. Some organizations are very open to creativity and a free exchange of ideas. While other organizations are not interested in what you, as an employee think should be changed. Look for candidates who will flow in the “current” of your organization. It will eliminate placing “square pegs in round holes.” If the person you are interviewing is use to working in an environment that allows creative problem solving, but your organization has very clear boundaries, rules and regulations that must be followed, it would be a mistake to bring them into the organization, no matter how well they say they can adjust to your rules. Unless the organization is moving towards creative problem solving it would be a bad fit.

2. Identify Customer Service Representative in your organization who display the skills and abilities you are looking for in your organization. Identify what makes them successful and develop a profile of the type of employee you are looking for based on someone who meets or exceeds your expectations. Match prospective employees with the profile. Know which skills and abilities in the profile are absolutes and which ones are negotiable. Which skills can be taught and which can’t be taught. Clearly articulate the skills and abilities you are looking for in the published job description and ensure that each of your prospective candidates has at a minimum 80% of those qualities. Two qualities that you should see in prospective CSR candidates is excellent problem-solving and an innate desire to help people. If finding solutions is not enjoyable to the prospective candidates, they may not be the right person for the job.

3. Create behavior-based questions that will be part of the screening process throughout the entire interview process. There should be key indicators that you are listening for during the actual interview. Based on your research, you should know when a prospective candidate is credible and when they are making it up as they go. Listen for inconsistencies during the interview. Look for inconsistencies on the resume/cover letter they provided.

4. Along with skills and abilities, personality does matter when hiring Customer Service Representatives. According to Robert Cialdini, “People do business with people they like.” If your Customer Service Representatives are not pleasant, patient and knowledgeable, they will only hurt your business. It cost more money to find a new customer, than it does to retain a customer. Personality is not something you can teach someone in a new hire training class. The people you hire should bring that to the table when they come into your organization.

Writer Bio:
Darlene S. McDaniel, Motivational Speaker, Facilitator and Coach has 8 years as a hiring manager for various large organization. She has hired 100’s of Customer Service Representatives working for organizations such has American Express and AT&T. She has written a workshop called Tough Questions? Great Answers! This workshop will give prospective candidates tangible keys for unlocking the mystery behind job interviews! She is an expert on both how to interview people effectively and teaching people to sharpen their skills so that “on a short list they get the first shot at the job!” For more information or to contact her send an e-mail to: info.toughquestions [at] yahoo [dot] com.

Customer Service in Life

I talk to a lot of people that work in, write about, and/or care greatly about customer service. They may be the people I interview, co-workers, friends, or whoever – but I talk to and work with a lot of people who are “into” customer service. There are a few interesting things that come out of this.

I realize that I am not alone.
The best thing about talking to other customer service people is I realize I am not that weird. They also think about customer service, how it can be applied, how it can improved, etc.

I look for good customer service.
Every time I go to a store or hear about someone’s experience with a product or a company, I think about it as a customer service experience. I was at Macy’s the other day and it took a while for someone to help me. I went to Nordstrom and it also took someone a while to help me. However, Nordstrom recovered and I received apologies from two separate people at least three different times. They were very helpful and did a great job. I was initially unhappy, but Nordstrom did a great job at recovering. I looked at this as a customer service experience and it isn’t something that many people would notice.

I am often disappointed.
Unfortunately, I am forced to deal with companies that do not provide good customer service. There are lots of companies out there that don’t seem to care about customer service or simply cannot do it. It is even more unfortunate when every company in the industry or my available choices are all the same in terms of the lack of quality customer service they provide. People I talk to and work with often feel similar.

I try to provide great customer service in everything I do.
Another thing that I happen to do as well as the other people I talk to and work with try to do is provide great customer service in everything I do. Almost every email I sent has a link to my blog with the text “Customer Service & Customer Service Experience Blog” right above the link.

The pressure is on to provide great customer service when scheduling an appointment, answering a question, fulfilling a request, or whatever it might be. If you work for a company that is known to provide great customer service, you happen to do the same thing. It is tough, but it’s worth it and I believe people know the difference.

I expect others to provide great customer service.
I often find myself expecting others that I deal with to provide great customer service. This may be as simple as returning a phone call or being available when I have an appointment to talk to you or see you, but I do have fairly high expectations. Not everyone can meet these expectations all the time, but I find myself expecting people to do so.

When hiring employees, seek employees that try their best to provide great customer service in everything they do. Potential employees with this mindset will usually become superstar customer service employees. People who try and be nice and attentive in everything they can be trained to become superstar customer service employees. Remember about hiring the smile? It applies here, too.

Plus, you should also try your best to provide customer service in everything you do. Be nice to co-workers, customers, and employees. Be nice to sales people at stores. Return phone calls and emails in a quick and professional manner. Just be nice – it pays off.

We Do Not Monitor This Email

Have you ever gotten an email from someone and received a response back “Do not reply to this email address. We do not monitor this email address.” These two lines of text on the bottom of emails are interesting.

Think about it – what does it mean? I interpret it as: “We aren’t going to monitor this email address because it makes things too difficult for us.”

For companies, the whole point of sending emails (like notifications, newsletters, etc.) from an email address that does not receive replies (or is “not monitored”) is to make it more difficult for the customer to ask questions. If it is more difficult to ask questions, it is less likely that they will ask.

Some companies aren’t that terrible, though. Some companies will include a link to their support center or (less likely) provide an email address that customers can email if they questions. This is better than excluding the contact information all together, but why not just make it easy for customers to reply right in the email?

Advantages to allowing customers to reply in the email:

  • Usually easier for the customer.
  • Customers appreciate it when companies are easy to contact.
  • Representatives can tell what customer is talking about (customers can easily quote the part they are unsure about, preserve the subject, etc.)
  • More chances to wow a customer with great customer service.

Disadvantages to allowing customers to reply in the email:

  • More email accounts to monitor.
  • Likely more inquires/requests from clients.
  • More chances to screw up.

Solutions to disadvantages (in order of listing of disadvantages):

  • With most helpdesk systems, this is not a problem. Just another queue to glance over at and see there X number of open tickets.
  • This is something that can’t be avoided. Chances are, if your company is easier to contact, more people will contact it. You may need to pay a bit of overtime or hire another representative (relative to your company’s size).
  • Don’t screw up! If your staff is not screwing up most of the time, a few extra tickets won’t cause everyone to start screwing up suddenly.

To me, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Making it easy for customers to contact your company to inquire about newsletters, surveys, notifications, etc. is worth the extra effort it takes. Customers will appreciate it and you may even see increased sales.

For example: if a company sends me a newsletter with sales promotions. I don’t understand the terms of one of the promotions I’m mildly interested in. If I have to go out of my way to ask the question, I probably won’t. However, if I can simply quote that part of the email, add my question, and click send – I will ask. Then, if the answer is something I’m okay with, I may sign up.

See the possible benefits? Are your emails going to start being monitored?

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