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Exclusive Download: How to Talk to Customers Chapter

Earlier this week I reviewed How to Talk to Customers by Diane Berenbaum and Tom Larkin. The book was a good read and I said so in my review. In addition to the two great tips that Tom gave me while we chatted (use your last name in greetings and ask for permission to ask questions), Tom agreed to send me the chapter of the book that had the “33 Points” that I liked so much.

The chapter is available to Service Untitled for free. It includes the “The 33 Points of Incoming Calls”, how to score calls, as well as the “The 33 Points of Outgoing Calls.” It is, in my opinion, the best chapter in the book.

You can download that chapter of the book (Chapter 15) by following the instructions below:

  1. Go to http://www.serviceuntitled.com/downloads.
  2. Click the file titled “howtotalktocustomers..”.
  3. Click Save and save the document to your Desktop or a folder of your choice.
  4. Open the file using Adobe Acrobat Reader or Foxit Reader (my personal favorite).
  5. Read and enjoy!

If clicking the file does not work, you may need to right click it and choose an option like “Save Target As”. One of those two ways seems to work on pretty much every computer.

I guarantee that it’ll be worth the few minutes it takes to download and read (the file is 312 kb). Print it out and give a copy to your customer service representatives. It’ll be worth it!



By golly, I think Dell gets it!

I read this post today on Dell’s corporate blog and I smiled. I told myself (out loud) – “I think Dell is starting to get it.” They are a large company that is finally catching on to the whole “listen to the customer” thing.

The quick story is that Dell is going to offer Linux (Ubuntu) on certain systems. They formed a partnership with a company called Canonical, which is the company of sorts behind Ubuntu. Judging from their press release, Ubuntu is happy about it. There is a lot of positive feedback for Dell as well.

The more interesting part, though, is that Dell openly asks for feedback through their IdeaStorm site. The idea related to pre-installed Ubuntu had over 131,000 votes. It’s hard to ignore that, but kudos to Dell for 1) giving users a place to voice that feedback and 2) actually listening and acting on it. Here are the other top suggestions (in order of most positive votes – what’s in brackets are my comments):

  • Ability to have OpenOffice pre-installed
  • Have Firefox pre-installed as default browser
  • No Extra Software Option [this is available to XPS customers, and Dell is expanding the option to other lines in the future]
  • Option to have no Operating System pre-loaded [they sort of offer this, but from what I gather, not in the sense that the votes on IdeaStorm want]

I have no idea whether or not Dell will do any of those (I imagine they conflict with some of Dell’s agreements with Microsoft and other companies, especially the first three), but it will be interesting to watch.

Dell has been working really hard on improving their image and listening to customers. They have been sending people around the blogosphere to respond to comments, created their IdeaStorm site, worked quite hard on their blog, and more. To top it off, the company lists what they’ve done so far on their “Ideas in Action” site.

That is a lot more than HP or Lenovo does. It’s a lot more than many of the larger Web 2.0 companies do as well. Dell’s moves towards listening to customers is very progressive and they seem to be doing it at least somewhat right.

Granted, Dell still has a lot of room for improvement. They are getting much, much better at responding to feedback, but I hear the actual customer service they are providing is not improving nearly as much. Improving the actual customer service provided is a lot harder and a lot more costly. However, I think their actions so far show that Dell is motivated and they are working hard on improving.

Here are some quick things we can learn from Dell:

  • Go all out. If you are currently regarded as a company that doesn’t really listen to customers or respond to feedback, go all out. Start a blog, have people respond to comments, create an “IdeaStrom” like site.
  • Stay with it. Going all out for three months doesn’t count. You have to remain dedicated. Dell has dedicated more than a few employees (some of whom I have interacted with) to their “respond to feedback” cause. These people are working all the time on these types of issues.
  • Provide customers with a way to voice their opinions. Dell has their blog, the IdeaStorm site, and responds to comments on other people’s blogs as well.
  • Watch what people say about you. I’ve talked about this plenty! Use software to monitor what people are saying about your company. Then, respond to it.

This is a related post (entitled: Corporate Transparency) here at Service Untitled that you might find interesting.

Here are some suggestions about responding to customer issues that Robert Stephens of the Geek Squad and Best Buy told me (his words – only minor style edits by me):

  • Companies need to make it easier to communicate (all companies that have a phone number should adopt GetHuman standards)
  • It’s worth the investment in time. Whether you get 10 or 100,000 inquiries – deal with every one of them. Divide and conquer – meaning – the larger of a group you are, the more you should enlist in helping to respond to customer inquiries.
  • It’s therapeutic.  Executives often are too removed from the real action. Even handling 3-4 customer incidents a month really helps me to “stay alert” and keep a person fueled to constantly review every part of the experience and work to improve it. 
  • Every reaction should lead to action. I use every letter, e-mail, phone call, or blog entry as the beginning of an almost forensic process of 4 stages:
    • 1. what the customer reported. Should then cause:
    • 2. What was done to resolve it to the customers complete satisfaction, which then leads us to:
    • 3. What caused the problem and finally to answer:
    • 4. What will we do to prevent this from ever happening again.

Who would think there would be a day when a customer service person would say we can learn something from Dell.

Use outsourced staff to your advantage.

It doesn’t take much time to recall a negative experience you’ve had with an outsourced customer service representative. I can think of plenty of my friends telling me about when they were on the phone with “Sam” in India for two hours to try and get their computer fixed.

From my experience as a consumer and a customer service professional, some of the reasons why outsourced representatives often deliver less than ideal customer service is because they:

  • Cannot effectively communicate in the language (English).
    • They may know the answer, but may not know how to communicate it.
    • The wording and sentence structure can be confusing.
  • Are difficult to understand, which is by itself, frustrating.
  • Are not empowered to do anything.

From what I can tell, outsourced representatives generally seem to know their stuff and also usually want to help. They take pride in their work and do want to help – many just have difficulties doing so.

So, how can use outsourced employees to your advantage? Here’s what I generally recommend to the companies I talk to:

Have them do back of the house things.
If the language is an issue, avoid it. People in India, the Philippines, and elsewhere can make great programmers, data processors, server administrators, and so on. They don’t necessarily have to deal with customers firsthand. It allows you to utilize the large, educated, and inexpensive labor pool without inconveniencing any customers.

Email support.
This is quite dependent on the person. I’ve dealt with people in India who can write very well in English, but still have a very thick accent. These types of people would be great for email or live chat support. Find the people on your teams who can write well, but maybe not speak as well. Then, assign them to email support.

Empower them.
People in India are just as smart, if not smarter than their counterparts in the US and Europe. Keep that in mind and empower the representatives. I find it ridiculous that American support representatives have more power to give credits, elevate calls, etc. than their counterparts overseas.

Work with them.
Outsourced representatives should be treated the same as any other employee. Include them on group emails, in project management systems, and so on. If they are kept in the loop and know they are valued, outsourced employees will be motivated to work harder.

Teach them.
Outsourced employees want to learn as much as anyone else. Offer coaching, mentoring, English classes, technical classes, have a library of useful books available, and so on. Teaching and training employees almost always pays off down the road.

What are your suggestions for effectively using outsourced employees?

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