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When it gets busy, do you help out?

From what I have heard, seen, and experienced, most of the people who read my blog are customer service or business managers or executives. I also know there are also frontline customer service representatives who read my blog (thus explaining why I write posts that try to appeal to one or both groups and not just one exclusively), but a majority of my readership seems to consists of people who don’t actually answer the phones or reply to emails or do whatever for a majority of their day.

And I have a question for those people: when things get busy, do you find yourself jumping in and helping out?

Leaders who jump in and help have always impressed me. You surely have read about one super rich, super powerful executive or another who won’t hesitate to bend down and pick up a piece of trash he sees in his retail store or his supermarket or in his company’s parking lot. That is just their nature. But what about customer service managers who will jump in and help get the phone queue down or help reply to emails when there are a lot in the inbox? How common is this?

I wouldn’t say that managers jumping in to help is especially uncommon, but I also don’t think it is the norm. I’ve spoken to managers who will jump in and help out without a moment’s hesitation and I’ve also spoken to managers who wouldn’t pick up the phone themselves if the president was the waiting in the hold queue. Different companies have different cultures and different managers have different management styles.

What are your thoughts on this type of situation? Do you think it is better for a manager or supervisor to continue to manage and supervise when things get really busy or do you think it is better for a manager or supervisor to get in there and help out when things get overwhelmingly busy? I’ve always preferred and have tried to be the latter, but everyone is different. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

Pass on praise.

Chances are, your customer service department receives positive remarks and feedback from customers on at least a semi-regular basis (I hope you do, at least). But what do you do with these messages? You have a few options:

1) Delete them. This is the worst thing you can do. You should read through positive feedback and take the time to process it. Understanding what you do well is as important as understanding where you need to improve.

2) Reply to the customer. If a customer takes the time to send in positive feedback, reply to their message, letter, etc. and thank them for the kind words and for their business. If you do something special with the feedback, let them know what it is.

3) Tell the employees involved. If a customer mentions an employee specifically, let that employee know. Praise them, add the positive feedback to their file for the next review period, etc. Employees like to hear about customers writing in to say what a good job they do.

4) Tell the company. At a lot of restaurants, the beginning of staff meetings is often used to read good and bad letters the restaurant has received and to praise employees who do a particularly good job. Forwarding positive feedback around the company is great for morale. It recognizes specific employees who are doing well and lets other employees know that customers do care and are appreciative.

The ways the emails/letters can be distributed varies. I’ve seen everything from just forwarding them to the company mailing list to posting them all on a wall somewhere in the call center. I personally think printing them out and posting them somewhere is more personal and interesting. Look around your office and examine your company and see what you can do with the positive feedback you receive. Make it unique and of course, make it visually appealing. This is a great example from the Headsets.com office.

5) Do 2, 3, and 4. The best companies seem to do 2, 3, and 4. Positive feedback from customers is a big deal and should be treated as such. The companies that just dismiss it or smile and move on are missing out.

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