Here’s a novel idea I learned at a conference where I was invited to lead a session on how to motivate customer service staff. Since all the attendees were seasoned business owners and managers, the conference organizers asked me to facilitate an exchange of best practices, as well as adding my own process for improving the service culture. One manager shared that he now schedules his job interviews for Saturday mornings – at 6am! He says only a fraction of the people who apply actually show up, but those who do are already more reliable and have a better work ethic than the rest of the candidates. Makes sense… the first step to having a motivated team is to hire motivated people.
No doubt you’ve been hearing lots about staffing shortages. One reason for employee turnover is dealing with customers who are frustrated by supply chain delays and price increases. One misspoken word with an angry customer can set them off. That’s why in this video I’m sharing 5 tips for getting angry customers to back down – without being rude.
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Years ago on a family vacation, the sign for a roadside ice-cream shop surprised me. The sign facing the highway featured in large letters, “PUBLIC RESTROOMS”. I also noticed the place was packed with customers ordering-up their 14 flavours. Interesting how by offering their restrooms to the world, the world was rewarding them. Yet so often businesses have negative signs like, “Restrooms for customers only”, "No refunds w/o receipt”, “Cancelled appointments will be charged”, etc. I believe too many managers cling to an attitude of scarcity. They are so afraid of minor losses and incidental costs that they literally post signs that annoy customers. There are costs of doing business. Rather than fighting them, maybe we should do the opposite – embrace an attitude of abundance and create policies and signage that errs on the side of generosity. Sometimes, as with the ice cream store, nice folks do finish first.
When organizations bring me in to do presentations on customer service, one of the easiest areas for improvement may be how they answer their phones. For example, a typical phone greeting could be, “Good morning, this is ABC org, Susan speaking. How may I help you?” Sounds good in theory, but in reality there are 4 negatives: 1. It’s too long, so employees rush through with a monotone. 2. Employees confuse times and mistakenly say, good afternoon. 3. Finishing with ‘how can I help you’ rushes customers to get to the point – instead of introducing themselves. 4. The caller misses the employee’s name because it’s skimmed over early in the sentence. A more effective greeting is simply, “Thank you for calling ABC org, this is Susan.” It’s short, friendly, and helps customers remember your name while encouraging them to offer theirs.
Does this ever happen in your workplace? The manager who was bringing me in to train his team explained, “Jeff, I can understand when employees make a mistake. What drives me crazy is when team members cover their backsides and blame one another when foul-ups occur. We need a greater commitment to teamwork.” The problem is mosttypical approaches to teamwork are actually counterproductive.
Check out this video where I share what does work to create a more cohesive and cooperative team.
A common blunder when trying to influence others is talking too much. This is particularly true after asking a question. For example, a sales representative might “close” by asking, “Your thoughts on…?” At this point the rep needs to REMAIN SILENT. The silence maybe awkward, but it’s critical to wait while the other person makes that buying decision. More often than not, by remaining silent you’ll receive an affirmative answer. When it comes to influencing others, silence really is golden.
Chances are there are times at work where you and your team members feel low on energy and motivation. That makes for a long day… one that’s physically and mentally draining. Fortunately, there are five tactics I share in this video that help energize us physically and motivate us emotionally. Tip: be sure to watch right to the end – my last motivation strategy is shockingly simple and yet has the most impact on your productivity, reputation, and sense of self esteem.
Many organizations claim they are focused on delighting customers.
What if you could prove it within the first 30 seconds of your customer’s arrival?
Imagine you and your company are considering a new supplier. You schedule a time to meet a few team members at their establishment. When you arrive on site the first impression you register is a prominent sign in reception with your logo: “Welcome, (your name)! Nice.
Then as you’re given a tour, you note that every employee you encounter is wearing a name tag that includes your logo. Chances are you’re sensing this outfit is indeed customer focused. They differentiate their brand - not by drawing attention to themselves and their superiority - but by focusing on you and your brand. Nominal cost. Substantial impact.
Question: at work when an unpopular policy has been announced, have you or whoever introduced it - rather than explaining or justifying the policy - simply blamed head office?
The message to the local team is, I know this is unwelcome/ unnecessary/ stupid but senior management sitting in their disconnected ivory tower has issued a royal decree, and our job as
serfs is to comply. Even if it makes no sense.
This happens a lot in companies. Branch managers don’t want to take the heat from local employees about an unpopular decision. It’s easier to just blame head office. But consider the damage.
Employees feel like “the company” doesn’t really understand employee challenges out in the field. And if they (senior managers) do understand, they obviously don’t care. Imagine what that does to morale, turnover, and overall teamwork. Corporate silos become more entrenched. A ‘them vs us’ attitude becomes part of the culture. Meanwhile, one of our greatest management challenges is recruiting and retaining staff.
To prevent this fallout from an unpopular decision, consider the comment of a vice president who had brought me in to speak at his annual managers meeting, which included branch managers. “We are all HEAD OFFICE”, he pointedly stated as he gestured to the entire conference room. His message was that anyone in a management/ supervisory role anywhere represents head office. “It’s every manager’s role everywhere to explain why corporate decisions are made.” He continued, “If you don’t understand or agree with a decision, call us first and we’ll take all the time needed to explain it, so you can do the same with your team. But don’t ever just pass a decision off as something insisted upon by head office. Again, we are all head office.”
Speaking of ‘head office’, one of my clients, a senior exec in a multinational manufacturing firm, told me they consciously stopped using that term. They didn’t like that ‘head office’ made it sound more important than the branches. They merely switched the term to ‘home office.’ Simple and smart.