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Don’t hold back AT&T customer service agent

WaitingRachael Parcht, customer service representative for AT&T may have just been having an incredibly bad day, but that hardly can be viewed as an excuse for her terrible conduct on Twitter. Parecht’s tweet stated in part, but you’ll get the gist:

“I am an AT&T customer care representative, and if I credit every crazy person who called in, I’d get fired.”

Her other tweets followed the general insulting pattern, but added four letter expletives. Parcht’s Twitter account has since been suspended, and allegedly AT&T is investigating the situation.

It’s been pretty difficult not to have been affected by last week’s Arizona tragedy. President Obama’s speech asked people to step back from all the hate that seems to dominate politics and the press. He urged Americans to argue “in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds,” and though the President obviously doesn’t blame verbal attacks for the terrible shooting tragedy, it does bring up food for thought. It’s very easy to be rude nowadays with the anonymity of online media.

Customer service is also based on civility, and rudeness is expensive. Statistically supervisors spend one-fourth of their time dealing with either customer or employee rudeness. Stressed employees have poor self-esteem and are absent more often which leads to higher medical and legal costs. Factor in the expense of replacing these employees, and it has been estimated businesses can be losing up to $300 billion annually.

Of course ,we all agree that customers can be incredibly rude. Customers at checkout lines talking on their cellphones, children allowed to run wild in stores while their parents are oblivious to the actions of their little ones, and rude customers in stores and on the telephone can create profound stress for any customer service agent. Still it seems to be even more appalling when customer service agents lose their professionalism and both embarrass and cost any company the loss of reputation and business by such outrageous behavior.

It all goes back to the careful hiring of employees, the training of employees, and the positive support from supervisors to CEO’s. Customer care isn’t accidental, and it’s an organization’s duty to promote harmonious, civil, and polite representatives. After all good hormones come from positive brainwaves; we’ve all felt the natural rush of endorphins and serotonin for jobs well-done.

Where  the AT&T customer service representative may have just started out defending her company, I doubt that AT&T wouldn’t want all their customers to be happy, but I can’t help but think of all the customers running over to Verizon after that outburst.

photo credit: jeamariemarien

Customer service expectations for the medical community

Pronto SocorroEveryone needs medical attention from time to time, and the  professional medical community needs to think convenience, price, quality, and partnership. It used to be that a three-hour wait in the emergency room for a broken bone was to be expected, but that miserable experience has now gone the way of the dinosaur. Why? Customer service and expectations have changed the genre of urgent care as well as routine medical services.

Frederick Newell, author of Loyalty.com says if  you “save customers time, you’ll often beat the competition by lowering “time costs.” Hasn’t the time element always been one of the biggest complaints of medical services? It seems the medical sector has addressed many customer complaints by scheduling appointments online, sending medical records securely and electronically, and even employing self testing for medical conditions ranging from diabetes to asthma. Patients can upload results to their computers, save time and money avoiding a visit to the physician’s office, and have their health monitored in between visits while saving time and money.

My own experience brought me to the local urgent care center three weeks ago when I took a nasty fall and broke my wrist. My decision for not going to the local emergency room was the traditional lengthy wait time and the expense. Isn’t it ironic that my copay for an urgent care center was half of what it would have been for the same care at an emergency room?

Even though there are spiraling medical costs, regulatory pressures, and consumer advocacy, we still do have high expectations. The urgent care center was compassionate, pleasant, and diagnosed the break; suggesting I visit an orthopedic specialist for follow up care. I was treated medically and emotionally; never broke anything before and being left-handed was not the news I wanted to hear, but the genuineness, attitude, and demeanor made a less than pleasant experience palatable.

Here are my suggestions for any medical professional concerned about their customer service. After all a physician can’t just say, “I hope to see you soon.”

  • Your staff should be friendly, helpful and take the time to answer a patient’s questions whether it be about waiting time or what a patient can expect. Some offices interview patients first to educate and soothe the tense, anxious, or even embarrassed concerns they may have previous to meeting with the doctor.
  • Survey patients right after their appointment either in person or by email. Ask the patient if she was satisfied with the care she received, and what could be done to make the experience better. This will give you time to evaluate your employees and how they are interacting with patients.
  • Have a friendly, inviting waiting room. Make sure the staff smiles and is friendly.
  • A staff member should greet every patient when the patient is being led into the examination room. The staff member should walk at the patient’s pace.
  • Physicians should adhere to the “4 C’s” that being concern, civility, congeniality, and courtesy.

photo credit: Tarcísio Vasconcelos

Name tags for employees; thumbs up for customer satisfaction

Oh the punsIf you need more convincing that it is truly the little things that can make a big difference in the way your customers feel, then you won’t want to stop reading. Admittedly, the survey done by Shopper Anonymous of London surveyed 116,000 shoppers in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, but I’m betting that most shoppers either in the United States or abroad have similar opinions as to the quality of customer service and their respective appraisals of what they define as customer satisfaction.

Shopper Anonymous reports a 12 percent rise in customer satisfaction in a range of businesses whose staff wears name badges as opposed to companies with no name badges. The company has been following the trend for the last eight years.

So what makes name badges so wonderful? Customers like to be able to distinguish between other shoppers and employees. Haven’t we all asked someone if they worked at a particular store when we were searching for personnel to help us? Customers trust staff members wearing name badges; even more employees are easily recognizable. It gives employees accountability because we have a name, and that makes a sales agent a real person. In addition it creates a professional appearance, and one of an assumed authority; at least in an employee’s profession.

In real estate sales, buyers and sellers appreciate real estate agents wearing name badges. It is a state licensed profession; we have a responsibility to the public. Physicians wear name badges; I’m interested in knowing who put the cast on my broken wrist three weeks ago, and many other professions follow suit. It’s perfectly logical that we all want to know who we are dealing with in our professional lives; therefore why wouldn’t we want to know who we are dealing with when we purchase a new suit, a new washing machine, a computer, or even a pair of Gucci shoes?

In addition, an organization can reap the benefits of using name badges. The design of the badge can promote a company’s identity; it can boost one’s brand. Haven’t we all noticed we are naturally friendlier to those we can identify with a name? When I go to a restaurant, if a server is not wearing a name badge, I always ask for their name. It just helps me connect, and build a rapport so when I want that extra glass of wine, I don’t have to raise my hand for a server; I can actually ask Sean Pagliarro to help me. Publix employees all wear name badges, and when I get to the checkout counter, and Mary Boyle says hello, I can say hello to Mary. All in all, it’s a great way to give a tiny bit of personal attention to your customers, and even if just for a few minutes show us you’re human.

photo credit: minor9th

What Employers Can Do to Foster Employee Engagement

With the current economic condition, many organizations have been forced to cut costs and reduce staffing levels. These kinds of business decisions can affect the remaining employee’s ability to stay positive and not focus on the negative. Employees need to be actively engaged so they can add value to the organization. The customer experience can be significantly affected when employees are not engaged. It’s difficult to have engaged customers if you don’t have engaged employees.

According to Wikipedia, “an engaged employee is one who is fully involved in, and enthusiastic about, his or her work, and thus will act in a way that furthers their organization’s interest.” According to Scarlett Surveys, 31% of employees are disengaged and 4% of those 31% are hostile.

So what is the purpose of employee engagement? When employees are engaged they are emotionally attached to the vision of the organization. They believe in what they do, the organization’s vision and the direction the organization is going.  Employees who are engaged put their heart and soul into their job and have the energy and excitement to give more than is required of the job. Engaged employees are committed and loyal to the organization.

Here are some tips on how to foster employee engagement:

  • Have a well defined vision that all employees buy into. Organizational leadership is responsible for communicating the vision and keeping it in front of the employees. Employees should be able to recite the vision statement and why the organization does what it does.
  • Good communication within the organization can be one of the most important things an organization can do to foster employee engagement. Employees spend one third of their life in their job and have an interest in what is going on within the organization. They desire to know how the organization is doing financially, how corporate objectives are being accomplished and how what they do contributes to achieving corporate objectives.
  • Employees need to feel like they do meaningful work and that what they do makes a difference.
  • Employees want the opportunity to develop and grow professionally. Provide employees opportunities to develop and grow in their job and within the organization.
  • Create a strong team environment. Strong employee engagement is dependent on how well employees get along, interact with each other and participate in a team environment.
  • Create a culture of trust. Employees need to trust each other as well as their leadership. Employees are constantly watching leadership to see how their decisions affect the strategic direction of the organization and if their behaviors reflect what they say.
  • Employees need to know what is expected of them and need to be given the training, tools and resources to accomplish their goals. They need to be held accountable for achieving their goals.
  • Employees need to feel validated and that they are a valued part of the organization. Leadership needs to show how much they care for their employees and show recognition for efforts.
  • Employees need to feel like they are part of the process, that their thoughts and ideas matter and that they have a voice in how their work is performed.
  • Employees need to feel like they belong to a community, a team, a family. For many employees, coworkers are the only family they have, so maintaining a work environment where all employees get along and work well together is very important.
  • There is a lot of research that supports the fact that employees leave organizations because of their direct supervisor. Strong employee engagement cultures foster manager and leadership development.
  • Competitive compensation, benefits and reasonable working conditions can also significantly impact employee engagement.

Taking the time to strategically foster employee engagement can be one of the most positive things an organization can do to affect the customer experience.

Writer Bio: Kathy Clark is an MBA who is passionate about helping small business owners see their vision come to life by creating corporate infrastructures that support business development and growth through strategic customer focus. She writes for, and is the founder of http://thethrivingsmallbusiness.com.

Photo courtesy of lululemon athletica.

Maximizing customer satisfaction for e-commerce

logo150ForeSee, a market research consulting company which rates website satisfaction reports both Amazon.com and Netflix.com as the best online retailers for customer satisfaction. Both companies scored 86 out of 100 – any score over 80 considered to be excellent. This is the sixth year of the survey, and both companies have consistently done well.

What made Netflix so successful in the customer satisfaction category and how can we apply their success to our e-commerce future successes? Netflix didn’t start out with a great deal of content, but grew using more methods for customer accessing content by the Internet connected devices, game consoles, Blu-ray Disc players, and television sets. Netflix streaming videos were an instant success, and their marketing campaign have made their services and hardware extremely popular. What’s more is the company continues to expand and improve; an absolute necessity in today’s online market.

The home entertainment giant has been credited with having a great website. According to ForeSee, shoppers are 61 percent more likely to purchase online with customer satisfaction scores above 80. The criteria judged included brand loyalty, recommending the company to others, and how customers are treated online. Customers are concerned with content, quality, website functionality, and merchandise. Ironically price slashing wasn’t a big deal; customers were more interested in the website functionality. That would serve as an interesting element for smaller online organizations worried about competing with the huge companies who cut their prices more often (prices still need to be kept competitive however).

Website functionality success includes an easily accessible site with content and  user-friendly explanations. Customers are interested in blogs, and forums – good quality discussions and helpful solutions to commonly asked questions. Recent and relevant articles pertaining to the venue of the business, and customer service avenues readily available with immediate solutions, guarantees, and personal service add to their appeal. The website should be vibrant, and above all offer the customer the best shopping experience ever!

“In a recovering economy, a lot of us assume that declining satisfaction is a result of frustration with prices. Our research shows that is not always the case, and that it varies drastically from company to company,” states ForeSee Results CEO Larry Freed.

Care about how your customers are treated online, and it seems they will care about you.

photo credit: bizbuzzmedia

Customer service tips for police officers offered

The Photogenic gafIn the UK, police chiefs are taking some customer service tips from a popular department store named John Lewis where customer service is treated as a skill. It seems a recent survey revealed that officers “answered their mobile phones while talking to people or had unprofessional musical ring tones.”

Now I’m not sure if unprofessional ring tones should be a significant complaint of a police officer’s lack of customer service skills, but the idea presented more ideas that have merit. According to the article, the Greater Manchester Police could benefit from treating the public with more consideration and approachability; after all we’re all not the “bad guys.” The article suggested that officers be more considerate when speaking with crime victims and witnesses.

It’s doubtful that the Greater Manchester Police are going to sit through any of John Lewis’ formal customer training courses, and the police department has of course denied that was ever in their plans, but why shouldn’t police officers be trained in some of the best practices of customer service? They are here to serve the public, and can’t we expect to be treated as important citizens?

So let us look into what important basics of customer service we would like to expect from police officers regardless of the country they serve. Officers should be able to listen to people. Perhaps taking a personal phone call while speaking with a citizen is rude, but then again we as citizens have to be able to understand our assumed perception of whom the person is on the other end of the iPhone might not be a girlfriend, a wife, or a friend. A police officer’s professional life can be multi-faceted, so it is important not to assume.

It is important, however that police officials keep victims updated on the progress of their inquiries; people are entitled to know how their cases are developing, and police departments although busy do have public relation departments that can add to customer service. People just want to be kept in the loop; what happens after a crime is reported? It is part of the job, and being polite and informative is a learned skill; something that should be required even from the police.

I wonder if the top performing police officers will be rewarded with outstanding customer service certificates as sales representatives are at John Lewis?

photo credit: Electronic Pulse

Customer service goes to court?

MagsafeThe case of Systemgraph, a support company approved by Apple, and Greek physician Dimitris Papadimitriadis are becoming an Internet sensation, and it’s all about customer service or the lack thereof – depending which side you find defensible that is.

Papadimitriadis had trouble with his iMac and took it to Systemgraph for repair. He did not purchase the computer from Systemgraph. The computer had dark patches on the screen, and the company recommended interior and exterior cleaning and replacing the LCD panel. When Papadimitriadis went back to pick up his computer, he said it was worse – saw spots of moisture behind the screen and the LCD panel had not been fixed. Systemgraph offered to perform another repair, but by this time Papadimitriadis had allegedly lost confidence.

From a Google translation, Papadimitriadis stated, “I insisted that such computer ceases to be credible and relied on Article 540 of the Civil Code and Section 5 of Act 2251 – legal right to ask for a refund or replacement with my new PC under warranty.”

Systemgraph would not refund his money since he did not purchase the computer from them, prompting Papadimitriadis to post his story on a forum. And so here comes the drama. Systemgraph has stated that Papadimitriadis has damaged their reputation and the company is suing the doctor for 200,000 euros ($267,000). Papadimitriadis’ post as translated by Google referred to the company as “dodgy,” but didn’t seem harsh, but Systemgraph claims he was rude and aggressive stating it was an “organized attempt to slander and insult” their fine name.

This is the first time a Greek company has taken a customer to court for an online post, and both sides seem to have their supporters. The trouble for customer service, that is how I see it – who would ever want to take their computer to Systemgraph for service or repair? I would want to avoid them at all costs.

The court hearing is set for January 19, 2011. What do you think?

photo credit: Travis Isaacs

Back to the basics for customer service

EdimarIs it really poor customer service or do we as consumers expect too much? Do people really boycott businesses and restaurants the first time we feel we are treated poorly? When I first graduated from college, and of course I was poor, I purchased what to me was a very expensive white shirt with navy blue trim from Macy’s. I didn’t wear it for a while because it was way beyond my budget at the time, and so I waited for a special occasion to dress up and show it off. I followed the directions to launder the garment, and the navy blue piping bled onto the white part of my beautiful blouse. Unfortunately, Macy’s customer service was rude and even argued with me telling me that the store never carried the brand, and I could not have purchased it from their store.

I didn’t have the receipt, and never did return to Macy’s for years after that and had no recourse at the time; there was no Twitter and no Facebook either. I’m not even sure if the late 1980’s put much effort into employee training and the consequences for rudeness, lack of training, or chewing gum in my face as the customer service representative told me I was not receiving a new blouse or a refund.

I would like to think in the ensuing 25 years that customer service has evolved into an appreciation of the customer and her business. We surely write about it enough, but I am convinced we learn about tomorrow by what is happening today as a result of what we did yesterday. Customer service may have evolved into a much more sophisticated science, but still shouldn’t my experience never have happened?

And so now in 2011 let us return to the core elements:

  • When I walk into a store, someone should greet me, smile, and engage me in a short conversation. I don’t want to feel obligated to stand there and chat, but someone thanking me for my patronage would make me feel important.
  • I want an employee to ask me if I need help and point me in the right direction. I don’t want anyone to hover over me unless I ask for that particular kind of assistance.
  • I want to speak with a kind person who I see is genuine and not someone who is doing their job just for the paycheck.
  • If there is a waiting line at checkout, I want the cashier to smile and be kind; never yell out “NEXT.”
  • If I’m purchasing something heavy in weight, I appreciate someone helping me load it into my car.
  • I appreciated the bank manager opening the door for me the other day. (I broke my wrist two weeks ago.)
  • I want a customer service representative to believe me when I bring in faulty merchandise and act courteously, promptly, and ethically when I have a complaint.

I’m looking forward to a great year of customer service.

photo credit: NeoGaboX

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