Posts Tagged ‘communication’

Customer Service: Grounded in a Statement

July 1, 2015

When I was in high school I, like many of my classmates, decided that a practical class to take would be something in business, so I took DECA, as one of my courses.  DECA, which stands for Distributive Education Clubs of America, taught me many important lessons on things like store security, advertising, and of course customer service.  At the end of the class, we were supposed to give a presentation on a specific area, and mine was store security; more specific in my case was money, and how to spot counterfeit bills.

It was a result of this class that I started to develop what would later become my customer service statement, which is “I am not here to give customers what they want, but to give them what they need, and to help them make the most of what they have.”  Keeping focus on this statement has continued to help me give customers the best service I have in my power to give, for years.

Customer service is the culmination of what you’ve learned, and what you believe when it comes to how you treat relationships with individuals in a business setting.  Your interactions with customers will either enforce, or alter your beliefs in this matter, but when you take the time to write it down in a statement, it gives you a solid foundation to work from.  There are many situations I’ve personally come across that would have ruined my relationship with my customers if I didn’t have something to work from.

If you are in contact with customers on a regular basis, whether employee, owner, or self- employed, it would be a good Idea for you to come up with a customer service statement, that will  leave your relationship with your customers on solid ground.  I don’t want you to just copy mine, because you need to put it in your own words; this is the only way you can make it a part of your own business experience.  I will, however, go over the thought process behind my statement in order to help make coming up with your own a little easier.

I AM NOT HERE TO GIVE CUSTOMERS WHAT THEY WANT

I don’t know who said it first, but no phrase in business makes me want to slap someone across the face more than “The customer is always right.”  Not only is this not true, but it has destroyed more business, customer relationships than any other philosophy in customer service.  Some customers want everything free, they want it now, and they don’t care if you break the rules as long as you give them what they want; in short, they want everything for nothing.  That is a very fast way to losing your business.

I used to work at Burger King (yes, I admit it.) and I was working the drive through.  We had a customer pull up to the speaker, and I began with my cheerful “Welcome to Burger King, how may I help you?”  To which the customer replied, “I’m not ready yet.”

“Just let me know when you’re ready to order.”

“OK, I’ll let you know.”  He replied.

5 minutes passed, then seven, which is when I asked, “Would you like a little more time?”

“Of course not,” he snapped, “I’ve been waiting here for ten minutes, for you to take my order.”  He quickly placed his order, and sped up to the window.  The moment I opened the window to accept the money, and give him the food, he started yelling at the top of his voice how we had the worst customer service, and how it was supposed to be “FAST” food, then asked for the manager.  The whole tirade I never said a word, because I figure it was better to let him vent, than to give him the satisfaction of letting him ruin my day.

The manager came to the window, and after the customer gave her an earful, she held up her hand, and said, “Then, sir, you should have never told him you would let him know when you were ready.” As the customer drove away red faced, and humiliated, I said in the most pleasant voice I could, “Thank you, have a nice day.”

In this case, the customer was both wrong and trying to bring me down with him. In many cases the customer will be wrong.  It does no good to yell back, because that will bring your day down, and prove the customer right.  The best way to deal with an irate customer is to acknowledge their error in a patient, and respectful manner.  They may have had a bad day, and are looking for someone to take it out on, so look for every opportunity to make their day better, instead of fueling their anger.

GIVE THEM WHAT THEY NEED

I don’t care what you do for a living, sales, marketing, service, whatever it is, your customers are coming to you to meet a specific need.  You wouldn’t go to a church to buy an apple, and you wouldn’t go the produce section of a grocery store to find Jesus, unless he needs an apple.

There are two very important things you need in order to supply your customers with what they need.  One is knowledge of what you are supplying.  If your job is selling computers, a good knowledge of computers can help your customers make an informed decision.  If, however, your knowledge is poor, your customer can end up with a piece of crap, and you could lose the sale, and the customer.

The other thing you absolutely need is the ability to listen.  Customer service is all about maintaining a relationship between a business, and the customer.  At the core of all successful relationships is communication, and a key to communicating effectively is listening to the entire message of the other person.  When you try to get ahead of the conversation, or cut the other person off before they’ve had a chance to finish speaking, you miss important parts of their message, and that could lead to miscommunication, and the ruin of that relationship.

One of the jobs I had was working at Inness Photo.  This is one of those stores that processes photographs, and sells cameras.  Being a nature photographer, I understand cameras, and what people can use to get the shots they want.  I can’t count the number of times a customer came in with a copy of Consumer Reports looking for the wrong camera.  The best example I can think of, and there are a lot, is the customer looking for a point and shoot to photograph birds.

Most birds are unapproachable, and point and shoots don’t have the range to get close enough to most birds.  She pointed at the 12x digital zoom, and I told her about the differences between digital, and optical zoom.  In the end, what I sold her was a Canon Digital SLR with a 300mm through 600mm zoom.

She came in a couple of weeks later to print her pictures, and to let us know how happy she was with the purchase.

HELP THEM GET THE MOST OUT OF WHAT THEY HAVE

This part of my statement came from my own philosophy of helping people get the most out of what they already possess.  I think the company that best illustrates their commitment to helping customers get more from what they have, is Best Buy.  In order to help customers who aren’t computer savvy, but who own computers, they came up with the Geek Squad.  Not only have they helped me find a decent computer, that fit in my budget, and equip it with the latest version of Microsoft Office, but they have fielded my calls with computer questions, and helped me in wonderful ways.

Another thing that has happened numerous times, at Inness Photo, is that customers will come in looking for help with camera equipment that they can’t yet figure out.  It was for these types of customers that I added this to my statement.

If I sell a camera to a customer and send them away, I would be no better than Walmart, whose sales staff, in my personal experience, knows less about the products than the customers.  If you can help people achieve more from a computer, camera, phone, whatever they have, you can not only gain a possible customer that you didn’t have before, but you can also keep an existing customer that you might have lost if you couldn’t help them.

This isn’t limited to just products. You can help customers get the most out of a service you offer, to help them save time, and money.

Here is something that just happened to me recently to illustrate this. My wife, and I have been Verizon customers for a number of years, and last February our latest contract was up.  It was time to see about their latest deal to upgrade from the I-phone 4.  I did a little research, and with the amount I saved up, I was able to go up to an I-phone 5.  I thought it was a great deal, so I went to Verizon to exchange my old phone.

The sales representative pulled up my account and shocked me with a bit of good news.  He informed me that as good customers, with a long history, we qualified for the edge program which meant we could get the 5s for a few dollars each month instead of paying for the phone now, and the only thing I would have to pay for at this moment would be any accessories I might want.  On top of that, because of staying with them so long, our monthly bills could go down, instead of up.

I agreed to the 5s, got the Otter Box, to protect my phone, and took the service changes, which ends up taking ten dollars off my monthly bill.  As he was processing my order, he made the comment that saving customers like that is great for the customers, but probably not for Verizon.  I told him what I will tell you now.  What he did was the best thing he could ever do for Verizon, to which he gave me a puzzled look.  I told him that what he did was keep a customer for Verizon.  It was his concern to save the customer money, and give the best deal that will keep me coming back anytime I need a new accessory, or help with a problem.

I’ve been working with customers, in one way or other, for over 37 years, and maintaining a good relationship with those customers, using this statement as my guide.  As you come up with a statement of your own, some of you will do it in only a few minutes, and some of you will take a while longer.  It doesn’t matter how long you take, just make sure it is a true reflection of your customer relations philosophy, and that it benefits both you, and the customer.

The Importance of Communication!!!

March 13, 2011

Out of the tools we have as humans, the two most important are math, and communication.  Math is definitely important in the physical world.  Without it we wouldn’t have buildings, science, technology, or even industry.  Even with everything math does for our lives, I still feel communication is infinitely more important.  Whether at work, at home, or somewhere in between, communication makes it possible for people to work together and play together.  Without proper communication, any interpersonal relationship we have would be doomed.

There are many forms of communication humans use to convey ideas; there’s written communication, verbal, body language, any of the visual arts, music, and the list continues on.  The point is, when we learn the arts we are actually learning communication.  Is it any wonder when a school system threatens to reduce the arts programs that I get upset?  The arts are, at its core, communication in all its forms.   I just want to go over the more obvious forms of communication; written, verbal, and body language, because they are more universal to all people than visual and musical arts.

“When you read a book, as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading does.”  This quote from the movie “You’ve got Mail” Is one of the best quotes on reading I’ve ever seen.  The written word has a lot of power; even more than verbal communication.  I say this because it has more permanence.  We certainly can’t go back to ancient Greece, and hear the words of philosophers like Plato, but we can read what he said.  If you would like a more recent example, we can bring it up to 19th century England.  Charles Dickens wrote the story of “Oliver Twist”, which changed the way orphans are treated in society.

As writers, we have a responsibility to communicate thoughts and ideas that will help others, and bring them a greater understanding of the world around them.  Regardless of what we write; humor, drama, mainstream, or genre, how we write what we want to convey, is imperative in making our thoughts heard.

It’s only recently that verbal communication has made a lasting impression; with the invention of radio, and television, we have been able to hear what someone says long after their death.  The written word is designed with permanence in mind, but verbal communication is meant for that moment, and it is a lot more personal.

The biggest advantage to verbal communication is that not everyone can comprehend everything they read.  A perfect example is people with dyslexia.  As far as conveying thoughts, they are both important,  and need to be used correctly, or people will get the wrong impression.

We’ve all heard that actions speak louder than words, and with body language, that is very evident; from the way you stand, to the way you look at someone when they make you mad, to those lovely finger gestures on the highway when someone cuts you off.  Your body can convey emotions better than your words, at times.  There is no permanence to them, and it’s only conveyed in the moment, but it can tell others a lot about you and your personality.

Proper communication skills are essential in starting, and maintaining solid relationships.  Not being clear in your communication can lead to misunderstanding, heated tempers, and the destruction of any relationship.  So be careful how you communicate,  and save your relationships.

Use responsibly…

October 10, 2009

We all have those kinds of friends; you know the kind.  They say they’re going to keep in touch, and you do receive e-mails, but instead of actually communicating anything, all they do is forward jokes, and perverted pictures that they assume you find tasteful.  O K, maybe that’s just some of my friends, and they may just be good friends when you’re face to face, but when they send e-mails they are a totally different person.  So this leaves me with the question, what does that say about them, and their view of me?

When you send e-mails, it’s important to think about what you’re communicating to the recipient.  If all you send are humorous forwards, you are saying that you have no real creativity, and that you prefer to be a pest rather than a true friend.  What it says you think of me is either I’m too serious, and need to lighten up, or you think I’m too self-centered to take anything seriously, and too stupid to understand anything higher than third grade humor.

If all you send are religious forwards, you are showing me that you are a religious fanatic that wants to toot your own piousness to everyone who hasn’t already been turned off by your holier-than-thou attitude.  That shows that you think I am a heathenish sinner, who will never make it into heaven unless I forward your message to 10 of my closest friends; or that I’m incredibly gullible to fall for another chain e-mail.

I’m not going to say much about what it says if all you send are pornographic e-mails, except you should be ashamed of yourself you pervert. (You know who you are)

In all seriousness, forwards do have their place, and they can be useful in communicating something you found exciting, or humorous, but that shouldn’t be all you send.  E-mails are designed to give you a full range of tools to express yourself, and if all you do is forward you aren’t giving your recipient the chance to know the real you.

If you do type real messages make sure to use the spell check, or your spelling can be a distraction from what you’re trying to say.  Your grammar doesn’t have to be perfect, but you should at least punctuate.  Sending a message with no punctuation is not only harder to read, but it sends the message that you are an uneducated hick, or at least an executive (just kidding).

I realize the English language is being infused with a plethora (I just love that word) of abbreviations, but unless you know your recipient is up on all the jargon, keep it to a minimum.  It can become very frustrating trying to decipher such language, and the point could be lost.

The best thing you can do is proofread your e-mail, and make sure it communicates exactly what you want it to say.  Used correctly, e-mails can become your best way to communicate, beat only by face-to-face talking.  Use it responsibly.

Something on subject for a good laugh: what your e-mail address says about you, just go to this link. http://thecoffeedesk.com/news/index.php/2009/08/08/what-your-email-address-says-about-you/

Enjoy,
Allen

The purpose of blogging

May 4, 2009

There are three types of blogs on the Internet.  The first is personal, and the second is journalistic, and the third is business.  Regardless of which type you write there are good purposes to all three.

When I was in elementary school, our class was asked to write in a journal everyday, and at the end of the week we would read some of our entries to the class.  This was before the days of the Internet, so we still had to work with pencil and paper.  In essence, personal blogging is the same thing.  It is journal writing with newer technology, only instead of 20 or 30 kids, you’re sharing it with a much bigger classroom.

One benefit to blogging is the writing practice.  Without practice we can never improve, and with keeping up a blog site, we get a lot more practice, and we can get feedback on how to improve, through the comments we receive.

Second, it is a great way to get your name out in the writing community.  When you are a writer, and a prospective editor wants to see how you write beyond the samples you sent, they could just look at your blog.  Or if you write a blog and the right person sees it, they might offer you more writing work.

Blogging allows some people to entertain.  Comedy writers, genre fiction, any kind of entertainment writer can use the blog format.  The best example I can think of is Andy Rooney.  His sarcasm has worked on both television, and in writing, which makes him and his writing entertaining.

Blogging is also used to educate.  Schools are now using blogging in the classroom as a learning tool.  There are some things that they can’t cover in the classroom, so they use the Internet to supplement a student’s classroom experience.

What is the ultimate goal of writing, or any other art form?  It’s to communicate an idea, and blogging does this perfectly.  Blogs come in many forms; opinion, essay, article, daily journal.  Regardless of which one you choose to write, you will be communicating something different to different people.

Challenge: If you feel you have something to communicate, and would love the writing practice, try to maintain a blog on a regular basis.

For further information on blog writing, you ought to get the book “The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging”  It has already helped me.

Enjoy,
Allen