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Quick Post: How flexible should appointment times be?

A quick post today that was inspired by an email I got from a reader. He asked just how flexible his policy relating to changing and canceling appointment times should be – a terrific question.

Companies are afraid to create liberal polices for fear of them being abused. However, a mindset like that isn’t fair to the majority of customers that won’t abuse the policies (see this post about working for the 99% instead of the 1%). Very few customers will wake up saying “I’m going to try and pull one on Company X today.” The vast majority of customers will have legitimate for using the flexibility and will almost certainly appreciate the added flexibility (i. e. the very liberal return policy at Nordstrom).

Since the majority of customers won’t abuse the policy, design your appointment policy to be as flexible as you can. There is a delicate mix between operational efficiency and policy flexibility that has to maintained and this depends entirely on the company and the business.

For example, if your company is a one man plumber, you can’t have appointments changing all the time because there is only one person to send to customers’ homes. If your company has 50 plumbers on staff, though, it isn’t a big deal to change who goes where because chances are someone will be available. If customers come to you, the same thing applies. If you are a one man doctor’s office, you need to keep appointments fairly strictly. If you have five doctors and plenty of patients, it doesn’t matter as much. It is important to look at your business and what you can handle.

The most important part is to create a policy that you can realistically support. If you find yourself providing bad service as a result of this liberal policy, you should definitely change it.

Quick Post: Use Your Blog

A quick post today about using your blog to help deal with the issue of knowledge share as well as how to get the most out of your internal blog. As you may very well know, most major blogging systems (WordPress, for example) have an email to post feature. This feature allows you to quite simply email a post to a special email address. The blogging system will then translate the email format into a blog post (usually pretty simple: subject as title, body as main post). This is handy for quick posts on the go and from your email client.

This handy feature can also be used to make a dead simple internal blog. Instead of dealing with the complications and annoyances of posting solutions and good ideas to the internal blog through a desktop blog editor or through a web interface (small, but it is all relative), representatives can just email their solutions directly to the blog. Some systems keep the posts in draft mode (therefore a moderator within the company could edit / verify / approve / etc. any articles) while others just publish it right away.

Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense (and be very simple) to have a coolsolutions@company.com email address within your company that automatically posted the coolest solutions to tough problems to an internal blog. If everyone reads the internal blog, they could very well get a lot out of those posts and know what to do if the issue comes up in the future.

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Three Qualities for Customer Service

Quick post today, but a useful post. What are three qualities that great customer service representatives generally have?

Providing great customer service requires a great attitude. Customer service representatives that have a go the extra mile, want to make the customer happy attitude will do much better than those that seem disaffected and could care less. You should be looking for someone who means it when they say “It’s my pleasure.” Those are the type of people you want on your customer service team.

Customer service requires not only attitude, but aptitude as well – a great attitude can’t get the problem fixed by itself. Your customer service representatives should all have the necessary aptitude to get their job done. They should be familiar with the tools, processes, terms, etc. needed to help and educate customers.

Great customer service representatives seem to have a drive that isn’t found in a lot of employees. They are very driven to get the problem resolved and to help the customer. Going the extra mile is something they do on a routine basis and they don’t know the word no. Reps who have this drive will see a lot of success.

What are three qualities you think customer service representatives should have? Do you have anything to add?

Quick Post: Thank you notes and bad handwriting.

I was asked a question about what people with bad handwriting should do when it comes to writing handwritten thank you notes.

I can relate. My handwriting has always been terrible. It shows no sign of improvement and I have to write out a lot of thank you notes. This could present a serious problem, right? Actually, not really.

The big tip here? Print carefully and make your handwriting as legible as possible. Send out the card anyway. Even if your handwriting is bad, getting a handwritten thank you note from a company, colleague, etc. will impress the recipient.

If possible, ask someone else to write it. Everyone knows someone with good hand writing, so just ask them to write a few lines down (with text you provide, of course). That is probably the best solution.

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Saturday Laughs

A little change of pace from regular posting.

  • The “It Could Be Worse” problem for (de)motivating call center employees. [YouTube Video] (Thanks Tom!)
  • This is old, but it’s making fun of Microsoft’s outsourced technical support. [YouTube Video]
  • Funny spoofs about shopping online vs. shopping in a store. [Get Elastic Videos]


Quick Post: Use the right words.

I called a company yesterday and asked to speak to a friend of mine who works there. The person who picked up the phone informed me that my friend wasn’t in the office today. I thanked and him and he said “no problem, man.”

Besides that one word, the customer service experience was just fine. The phone was answered quickly, the representative was friendly and polite, and all of that good stuff. It was just that one word that threw the experience off.

Short story shorter, don’t use words like man, dude, brother, sister, etc. when talking to customers. Inform your representatives not to use words like that. They aren’t bad per say, but they definitely aren’t appropriate for a customer service call.

For most companies, you are better off to avoid using that language when doing anything associated with work. I’ve had a client call me brother several times in a phone call before. I wasn’t going to say anything, but it’s funny.

I’m not old by any means and those words are familiar enough to me. I know whoever is saying them means well – they just aren’t called for in a professional environment or interaction.

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(I wonder if Google is going to punish my lame sense of humor.)

Quick Post: Monitor What People Say

It’s a holiday here in the US and as such, it’ll be just a quick post today.

I found a cool post at Lifehacker the other day about monitoring what people say about you. This is something that is important for companies to do and the way they described provides a very complete way to see what is being said about your company, product, etc. around the Internet.

The link explains basically everything you need to do. You are essentially importing a series of subscriptions (20+) from various search and other sources to your RSS reader. In my test, some of them weren’t really needed, but you can always add/remove searches as you want.

If you are concerned what people are saying about your company and regular Google Alerts isn’t good enough, this method is as good as any that I am aware of.

How do you monitor the Internet for mentions of your company, products, or services?

Dell Customer Service Ideas

I read an interesting post on the Dell blog today. It linked to a section of their IdeaStorm site that lists some service ideas they had. Their three ideas?

  • “Geek to Grandma” support aka skill-level based routing (which we talked about here).
  • Team based customer service.
  • Premimum support (which we talked about here).

Some interesting ideas. I hope Dell continues to monitor the feedback and answer the voters’ questions. The ideas mentioned are somewhat vague, so I’m sure the voters’ would appreciate clarification.

Later today there will be a post about the hardest part of customer service. This is just a quick post.

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