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Good Experience, Terrible IVR

paypal_logo This post is short, but the point is really easy to get. I had to PayPal earlier this week. I’ve been a happy PayPal customer for a long time. The phone number was easy enough for me to find. It rang quickly and the IVR came on.

The experience was fine until that point. For some reason, PayPal’s IVR was really bad. It was worse than a usually bad IVR and it was very disappointing. There was a lot of PayPal jargon, it didn’t understand my voice very well, and the menus weren’t well designed. I had to scream at a few menus and eventually I got it to ask me if I wanted to be connected to a representative. Obviously, I said yes.

From there, the experience was just fine. I was connected to an English speaking representative within a minute. He was friendly and helped me get my issue resolved. He followed the proper customer service etiquette and knew the answers to my questions.

PayPal got it right with the hard part (the human part), but couldn’t get it right with the easy part (the IVR). It is a lot easier to change an IVR than it is to change a lot of humans. I was surprised to see such a disparity between the quality of the representative and the IVR.

Your company should not have that problem. If you can get the more complicated part of the customer service experience down, then there should be no excuse for not having the simple parts down. Remember to pay attention to the little things or your customer service experience won’t improve nearly as much as you’d like it to.

Another thing that PayPal did (that I liked) was send me an email when they received a document I had faxed to them. The email told me that they had received the fax, that the information provided allowed them to find me, and that it would be processed shortly. I got another email the next day saying that they were processing the document. Two very simple emails to send – both a huge help.

If PayPal had a better IVR, the experience would have gotten an A for sure.

Super Reference Checks

14288135_05fd9e848a I wrote about using the web to find out who was a star not too long ago. I also said that I would be writing a post about how to do super reference checks the next day, but apparently I forgot about it. My apologies, but here is the post on super reference checks for today.

The art of reference checking isn’t so much of an art anymore. If companies even bother doing it, it is kind of worthless. Because of fear of litigation, most people will only clarify the basics during a reference check. They will usually (but not always) confirm the dates the employee worked there, what their title was, etc. Anything beyond that is usually not provided.

How does one get around those barriers to get an accurate feeling about how someone is during a reference check? Like in many of my posts, the advice I’m giving is just what has worked for me and the companies I’ve worked with. It isn’t scientifically or studied in a very formal manner.

Do the checks.
Obviously the first step is actually doing the checks. A lot of companies don’t even bother with any form of reference check and that is a huge mistake.

Call employers that weren’t listed.
Pretty much anyone can come up with a list of three or four people that like them and have had a positive experience with the person. But what about the rest of their employment history? Consider calling companies that the employee didn’t list as a reference. See what they have to say.

Ask for people who weren’t listed.
It may be a good idea to ask to talk to the potential employee’s co-workers, the boss above their boss, etc. The point is to get an idea about what the employee was like from multiple perspectives and not just the one they listed on their reference sheet.

Ask for testimonials and/or recommendations.
It is a good idea to ask for testimonials and/or recommendations. Employees that have been working for a lot (as in: not right out of school) probably won’t have very recent ones, but see what they can come up with. The testimonials and recommendations don’t even have to be specific to the job – they just need to show something about the employee, their work ethic, their character, etc.

Ask tough questions.
While the answers you get might be somewhat limited, there is no reason you shouldn’t ask. Some companies may surprise you and answer or at least provide some hints about the candidate you are asking about. There is no reason not to ask tough questions.

Do you have any secrets when it comes to reference checks? How do you get information about potential employees through the checks?

Image courtesy of tallcrhis.

Using Other Resources to Improve Customer Service

278743888_51b085a201 There are billions (trillions?) of pages of content on the Internet. Even if a mere 1% of that content is at all useful, that is a lot of content. A surprising amount of companies are not using this content to improve the customer service and support they are providing. It is an opportunity that is constantly overlooked.

Having your representatives use other resources.
Companies spend a tremendous amount of time and money to build gigantic internal knowledge bases and information management systems. These are great to have and often very useful, but if representatives can’t find the answer, they should be encouraged to search Google or another search engine for it.

Consider other places.
There is a lot of great information scattered around the Internet. Consider looking in these places for great tips and answers:

  • Your own community forums (the amount of companies that overlook this extremely valuable resource is really sad).
  • Communities and forums visited by enthusiasts and experts in your space.
  • Specific blog posts.
  • Specific blogs.
  • Digg, Delicious, etc.
  • Resources (public knowledge bases, forums, etc.) from competitors.

A lot of companies overlook these really valuable resources. They have made it a lot easier to find the best content. As such, representatives should be encouraged to give them a fair amount of attention.

When you find a great resource or page, add it to so some sort of internal (or public if you want) link repository or the appropriate article in your company’s knowledge base. It is perfectly okay (and encouraged!) to include links to other resources in internal documentation.

Send the link?
Some companies have a problem with sending a customer to any outside resource. This can be a valid concern, but in a lot of cases, shouldn’t be a concern at all. For example, a company I worked with would regularly send its customers to a very detailed guide about how to do something needed to troubleshoot their software.

The page was written up by the IT department of a college. The company and the college didn’t compete or have any issues, so it was no problem. Use your judgement about when to send the link, but in most cases, it probably shouldn’t be a problem.

Update your own content.
Based on your findings and other content that you come across, update your own content to reflect the findings. The update can include a few more links, a new section, a revised section, etc. As long as it is useful – that’s all that matters.

Photo courtesy of striatic.

How to Make Waiting in Line Better

184393421_43d9c31904 Lines have to be one of the most annoying parts of any customer experience. There are plenty of jokes about Disney World and how there are lines to get into lines there. Of course, this isn’t unique to Disney and happens at pretty much any theme park or busy place.

So how can lines be managed? They seem to be an unavoidable part of the customer experience. While you may not be able to avoid lines, you may be able to make the wait a lot less painful through these methods:

Don’t be stingy with the signs.
If your line is usually long, but moves quickly have a sign saying so. Consider placing “average time” signs every so often that explain something like “If you’re here, it is probably another 10 minutes.” Just provide some updates and information while people wait in line.

Be productive in line.
If possible, have a few “stations” before people get to wherever they are going. The stations can help check tickets, answer any basic questions, etc. If those things can be addressed before, it will help things go faster and break up the wait.

Design for lines.
Disney is pretty good about having lines in the shade. If the line is indoors, it obviously isn’t that much of an issue. However, wherever the line is should be comfortable (not too hot or too cold, not too cramped, etc.). Design with that in mind if you have a business that will tend to create lines.

Orderly lines.
While it is annoying, it’s necessary. Have barriers, dividers, etc. so that lines are orderly. I am personally a fan of the one line that goes to different people (most airports do it this way) instead of several shorter lines, but it depends on your business and how you can set it up in your space.

Be tasteful.
It is incredibly annoying to have to wait in line and hear the same information over and over again, see advertisements, be forced to listen to loud music, etc. The line experience should be done tastefully. You have plenty of time to show your “personality” and inform in more subtle ways.

Be innovative.
The New York restaurant The Shake Shack (pictured above) almost always has a sizable line outside. But they were innovative and installed a camera that can be accessed from their web site. A good idea and very useful.

Be friendly.
Like with a lot of things related to customer service, being friendly is always really helpful. If staff members are available to answer questions with a smile, direct people to the right place, and so on it will really help the experience.

You’re certainly waited in line for something. Have you had a better than average experience waiting in line before?

Photo courtesy of monkeyone.

Getting More From Low Wage Employees

61056391_31343afdc6 It isn’t uncommon to interact with minimum or low wage employees as a customer. You run into them all the time – at movie theaters, at fast food restaurants, at the grocery store, at Wal-Mart, etc. Low wage employees are a fact of life and equally so, a fact of customer service.

Since such employees (who are often young) are unavoidable, what can you do to get the most out of them? How can you work with minimum or other very low wage employees to get the most out of them?

It isn’t easy, but it is worth it and even necessary if your business is one that depends on such employees. Here are my suggestions for best utilizing these employees:

Pay a little bit more.
If every other movie theater in town pays its starting level people $6.50 an hour, consider paying $7.00 an hour. There will be more people applying and hopefully more quality applicants.

Have plenty of supervisors.
Supervisors may not even be the most appropriate term. Senior staff can work. When you have minimum or low wage employees, if they are relatively closely supervised, you’ll often see better results. If your normal manager to employee ratio is 1:5, consider making it 1:4 or 1:3 in the area where those employees work.

Consider alternatives during interviews.
When you are searching for people to hire, be sure to ask tough questions during the interview and pay attention to the answers. Someone’s ability to make up answers to interview questions isn’t always completely accurate or relevant. Check out this post about taking the search to the next step.

Invest in training.
For a lot of companies, “training” is a half hour video before the company puts the employee on the floor. This is obviously unacceptable. Invest in training. Ensure the employees are learning from training, that what they are learning is practical, and that the training continues even after the employee is hired.

Reward great employees.
If you have some minimum wage employees that are doing really well, by all means, reward them! An extra night off, a small bonus, and/or public recognition are all great ways to encourage the particular employee (and his or her peers) to do a great job.

What are your experiences like with low to minimum wage employees? How do you work with them?

Photo courtesy of tracy_olson

A New Way to Find Great Employees

There are a lot of smart things that most companies don’t do. Luckily, the wonders of blogs and consultants help you get some ideas about what smart things your company can do. Today, I am going to write about a highly effective way to find great employees for customer service jobs.

For anyone who has ever tried to recruit great customer service employees, you know it is like finding a needle in a haystack. Some people are qualified, but don’t have the right attitude. Others aren’t qualified, but have the perfect attitude. The best people already seem to have jobs. That’s why you need to be different and creative with your recruiting methods.

My brilliant suggestion is this: be on the lookout for great employees, everywhere. It may seem like common sense, but so few companies do it.

For example, I’ve had great customer service experiences at/with:

  • my local grocery store
  • fast food restaurants
  • regular restaurants
  • clothing stores
  • my ISP
  • using various services online (see this post about ChaCha)

The customer service at all these locations isn’t always consistently amazing, but I’ve had at least one notable (and positive) experience at each. The difference is in the representative and usually, their attitude. The type of person who can make a customer service experience notable just because of a great attitude is the type of person you want working for you.

So why not ask? That’s part two of the brilliant suggestion. Offer these employees your card and say something like “If you’re ever looking for a job, we’d be really interested in interviewing you for a customer service position we have an opening for.”

Here are some things worth noting:

  • This can be considered “poaching” employees, but you can use your judgement to decide it’s right or not. If employees are happy where they are, they won’t leave. Use your judgement about whether you feel it’s right or not.
  • Usually, you will be able to tell whether or not the person is interested pretty quickly.
  • Your rate of offers to interviews to hires will probably be pretty low, but it’s worth it, especially if you have a hard time recruiting quality people.
  • Be relatively stingy with your offers. Don’t hand out your card to people who do okay. You’re looking for people who do an exceptional job.
  • You likely have to have a hire the smile, train the skill type philosophy for this to work. Chances are, the people you offer jobs to won’t have the specific skills needed to do the job (yet).

So, if you go to a place regularly and know of a person that seems to have a great attitude, consider offering them your card. Encourage your employees to do the same.

There are a lot of great people out there just waiting to be discovered, so get started.

Photo courtesy of Brymer.

Non-Verbal Communication

Over the weekend, I went to a restaurant. Like in many restaurants, the manager came by and asked how everything was. I recently wrote about the action of asking how everything is and what the answer should be, but I left out a key element: how to ask.

The how to ask seems pretty simple, right? Just say “how is everything so far?” or “are you enjoying your experience?” However, it is quite a bit more involved than that. The asking requires more thought and effort than just asking.

This particular manager’s posture was not good. He was standing up straight, but his non-verbal actions did not suggest that he cared. He almost walked right by my table before he asked, his hand was on the edge of the table (because the majority of his body was already past it), and he wasn’t looking straight at me. The manager’s non-verbal communications did not suggest that he cared or was paying much attention.

Various studies show that a vast majority (like 90%) of communication is non-verbal. This manager’s non-verbal communications did not suggest that he cared. They suggested he was in a rush and had other things to do.

However, you can be better. Your non-verbal communication can be far better that the manager’s I saw.

Stand in the middle of the table.
I was sitting in a booth, which on one side has a wall and the other side is the walk way. He was on the very edge of the table in the walk way. He should have been standing near the middle of the table facing at the wall.

Don’t seem rushed.
While this may technically be verbal communication, you don’t want to seem rushed. If you are running around and seem excited, out of breath, etc., don’t ask customers how their meal or their experience is going.

Look friendly.
You want to look friendly and smile while you are asking customers how their experience is going so far. If you look upset, bored, intimidating, etc., you are a lot less likely to get honest feedback.

Say it sincerely.
Your tone of voice should suggest that you are interested in the customer’s feedback and want them to enjoy the experience. You don’t want to seem like you are being forced to do it.

If you can’t do it right, don’t do it.
If you are having an off day, ask someone else to ask. You want to only ask if you are feeling your best.

What does your non-verbal communication suggest about you?

Photo courtesy of jaroslavd.

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