7 Ways to Prioritize Customer Service
Your nametag says “How Can I Help You?” but you are thinking ” I wish I had Harry Potters Invisible cloak. Interacting with customers, sorting through company policy, and fielding complaints, make the customer service industry tough. However, putting on kindness, honesty, and patience throughout the day will make it easier to deal with unhappy clients, working long hours, and workplace pressures.
If you are a customer service worker or manage a customer service department, here are a few things to consider.
Practice basic communication etiquette. Start the interaction on a right foot by making the customer know you aren’t bothered with the request. Utilize the basics – greet customers with “hello,” be sure to smile, and make eye contact. If the interaction is over the phone, be sure to smile; your friendly tone will come across.
Handle difficult issues with class. Some customers are going to be downright hard to please. That’s a given! However, if the request goes against company policy, the customer begins acting belligerent, or something is your fault, remain professional and
avoid taking the tone of the unhappy customer. Explain to the customer that at this point you need to pass the situation to your supervisor. Know that happy customers who get their issue resolved tell 4-6 people about the experience. Even though you may be frustrated or stressed, your position has the power to either turn customers away or increase brand loyalty.
Keep your cool. Be aware if you need a few minutes to collect your thoughts and settle your attitude after a rough interaction. Give your next customer your full attention by taking a 2-3 minute break to avoid displacing frustrations.
Listen to yourself. Do you have pleasant conversations with your customers? Are you often talking about your family, your job, and your coworkers? Never vent to your customers about personal or work issues. Also, put value on the customer’s time. For instance, if you work in the food service industry, know they don’t necessarily want to spend their time drinking coffee while having small talk with you.
Avoid private conversations around customers. Details about your recent vacation or what you saw on Facebook shouldn’t be overheard by your customers. This concept should also be extended to our technology. It’s inappropriate for customers to see you texting or on a personal call.
Review your appearance. If your company doesn’t require uniforms, go the extra mile to impress. Along with following your company’s dress code requirements, pay attention to your accessories and raise the bar for yourself, including cared-for shoes, well-managed hair, and appropriately sized and colored jewelry.
Don’t forget the “thank you.” Leave each interaction with a positive note. Thank the customer for stopping in today, alerting your company of an issue, and patiently waiting for the resolution.
Finally, if you manage a customer service team it’s important to keep your employees satisfied. Know that 60% of customers will pay more for a better experience and 39% of your business will leave after bad customer service, according to SalesForce Desk. Your customer service team holds more power for your company than you might be giving them credit for!
Un-invited – It was The Belly Dancer’s Fault!
It stinks when you discover that you weren’t invited to something your friends were. Whether you’re five or 85 it isn’t a pleasant discovery, but when it happens to your kid, whew that really stinks.
One of my son’s friends came home with us after school. He left behind an invitation from another classmate in open form (I promise) on the floorboard along with graded math & science tests. The invitation was beautiful depicting a fun-filled day on a lake wave running, ski boarding and playing ball to celebrate the classmate’s birthday. All the things my little guy loves.
I thought to myself, why couldn’t this be one of those bowling parties that take place on the most beautiful day of spring -the kind my husband and I draw straws to see who has to be the taker? So I did what any mama would do, I went through my boy’s backpack in search of his invite. It needed to be cleaned out anyway, and I discovered a field trip waiver that was a hair from being past due. The backpack didn’t produce the invitation, so I ask my son if he checked his cubby and brought everything in it home. He said, “yes, Mommy.” I retorted, “Are you sure?” He then looked and me and asked, “Why Mommy? Why is your forehead all bunched up?” He went back outside to play with the rest of the kids that were shooting hoops in our driveway.
I thought to myself, dang who cares? I cared. I imagined myself sticking my tongue out at that mom the next time I saw her at school and then asked myself why does this matter? Really, Patricia it’s just a part of life and you want to help Harrison deal with the truth when he discovers he wasn’t invited. I was disappointed in myself for this response to the floorboard invitation.
I thought Maria Shriver had fixed my angst of being un-invited when she shared on 20/20 how it hurts her feelings when her girlfriends go out to lunch without her. I thought, if she also gets the occasional un-invite with all of that good heritage & hair on her side, then it must be okay for me too. So I meditated on Maria Shriver for about 10 seconds and all sorts of candy bars popped into my mind.
The next step to the invitation saga was a call to my girlfriend who said the same thing. My logical side said who cares? But when it comes to angst with me, I am like a heat seeking missile. I wanted to pull that angst out by the root and smell the truth so I asked myself again why it mattered and the bravado part of me said, “You don’t want young cub to be hurt.” My logical side wasn’t buying it, so after surfing the web, eating a Butterfinger candy bar, and calling my sister – hmmmm triple hedge – hedge to smelling my truth! So back to the question why does it matter? I got my answer at lightning speed: The belly dancer. It was the belly dancer’s fault.
I had a play date as a child with the popular girl in school. Her mother brought me home. After a knock on my door and to our surprise there was a belly dancer – the outfit, the music, the miniature clapping finger cymbals, the eyeliner, just like Cleopatra wore in that movie. As the popular girl’s mother stood in our doorway looking like she just saw Elvis, I knew that was the end of my play dates. The belly dancer was also newly windowed like my dad. He had met her on a cruise and decided to bring her home along with his luggage.
Even thought the belly dancer was interesting, nice, and scary in a good kind of way, I just didn’t appreciate her post cruise impromptu arrival in our home.
Another play date-gone-bad happened as I happily got off my school bus with another friend in tow. We were greeted by about 100 motorcycles, a rare site in suburbia (this was before Jay Leno made motorcycles cool). They belonged to my dad’s new girlfriend, (who was also recently widowed by the leader of the Outlaw motorcycle gang). The bikers wore boots, chaps and the emblem of their gang was prominently displayed on the backs of their jackets. I did everything I could to get them to scram before girl number two’s mother arrived to be greeted by Rock who stood 6’8 and had long hair and the glowing gang emblem on the back of his jacket. Smoke billowed through our home. Loud rock music thumped and they occupied our home until 5:00 a.m. the next morning.
The third thing happened right about the same time. As I sat and daydreamed about a Golden Retriever greeting these Alpha Moms at our front door instead of belly dancers and motorcycle gang members, I heard about the sleepover Mrs. Hamrick had. Of course it all sounded amazing. She was the cool hip, beautiful young teacher that all the girls, as well as boys, liked. We all wanted to be Mrs. Hamrick when we grew up and all the boys hoped to marry her. Mrs. Hamrick hosted four girls in her home that weekend. They were girls that had regular bedtimes, Keds tennis shoes, good grades and a fully dressed Polo-clad mother greeting guests at the door.
As I listened to the girls with fresh faces, full tummies, and clothes that matched, laugh about their weekend with Mrs. Hamrick, I cried. I cried about missing my mama that a premature death took away from me. I cried for my normal intact home with bedtimes, warm dinners, and clothes that fit, and the visitors in my home being people I felt safe and comfortable around. I missed the folks from the PTA, church socials, and friends that I had grown accustomed to knowing and loving. But a magical thing happened as I got to know and love these not-so-typical people that graced my home. I learned about charity from the runs and rides that the motorcycle gangs would hold to raise money for children’s benefits. I learned they were the best tippers always tipping over the recommended amount. I learned that belly dancers are people under all that make-up and taffeta and eye gyration. They all had a story, a past, a heart, and hopes and they wanted to belong just like the rest of us. Their different ways broadened my closed mind and confused heart and let the truth and sunshine of the beautiful differences in all of us have its place.
A few years ago I had the good luck to hang with a comedian and their crew before a sold out/night performance. We ate, laughed and had a great day. The comedian’s NY agent was also with us the entire day. My husband and I walked him out at the end of the night and he turned to me and said, “Patricia you can hang with Kings and Paupers. That is a rare skill.” Then I thought who needs a Golden Retriever anyhow?
Interviewing in Our Tech-Infused World
When your resume was plucked from the pile and you were called in for an interview, you used to know what to anticipate – a face-to-face interaction, with the manager and perhaps an additional employee, behind a closed office door.
Today, that’s no longer the case. Employers are turning to creative and convenient options for a twist on the classic, in-person interview. Keep these do’s and don’ts in mind as you show up to, call in for, and even tweet your interview!
“Twitterviews” – Some employers are turning to Twitter as a public interviewing forum, making questions and answers not only public, but also are restricted to 140 characters.
Do make sure you are entering the correct hashtag.
Do limit your answer to one tweet.
Avoid sarcasm. Tone is hard to decipher.
Avoid addressing the public until the interviewer is completed with questions.
Do check for spelling errors and easily-misunderstood content before posting.
Skype and Video Conferencing – A convenient option for out-of-town applicants or preliminarily interviewing.
Do dress up for the interview.
Do put a sign on your door to alert any visitors to contact you later or for FedEx to leave the package at the door.
Do prop the computer higher than your head for a more flattering angle.
Avoid looking at yourself on the screen; it can make you seem insecure. Instead, look directly into the camera.
Avoid poor lighting. Test out several areas in your home office for the best combination.
Do update your online profiles, including your Facebook profile image and LinkedIn information.
Phone Interviews – Another convenient option for out-of-town applicants and preliminarily interviews.
Do be aware of your voice tone and volume.
Do smile when you talk and dress up for the interview. Even though they can’t see you, your professionalism will come through.
Do prepare for the obvious questions, such as the time gap in your resume or what your greatest asset is.
Avoid distractions. Clear off a workspace and seclude yourself in a quiet area of your home.
Do Google yourself to see what your front page displays.
Avoid pacing while you are on the call. Your breathlessness may come across as lack of authority.
Do stand up. You will sound more confident and energetic.
Video Recorded Interviews – Digital recorded interviews, through companies like Hire-Vue, allow HR departments to review candidates as they please. Interviewees answer a series of questions and record via webcam.
Do limit distractions and record in a quiet, organized area.
Avoid recording “on-the-fly.” Rehearse your answers and follow notes to stay on track.
Do dress up, shave, and put make-up on.
Do smile and annunciate.
Avoid bad lighting and unflattering angles.
Do test your audio and video quality before submitting.
Avoid watching yourself in the monitor. Instead, look directly into the camera.
Group or Panel Discussions –Being interviewed by a panel of employees or multiple interviewees spoken to at once.
Do make eye contact with the person who asked the question, but also continue to address the room.
Avoid talking over others.
Avoid getting tired of answering questions if you are in multiple interviews in one day.
Do understand that intimidation is often a tactic during group interviews. Do your best to stay relaxed and considerate.
Avoid impolite facial expressions while others are answering questions.
Do read the personality types in the room and attempt to connect with each interviewer.
Traditional, One-on-One – The classic, most predictable interview style.
Do look put-together. Business casual is a great standard to follow.
Do come prepared. Arrive early and bring your resume and portfolio.
Avoid bringing food or drink.
Do research the company and ask appropriate questions.
Do turn off or completely silence your phone. Since we are all “plugged in,” even a vibration from a cell phone can be distracting.
Avoid getting too personal. There’s a fine line between connecting with the interviewer and revealing too much.
Do prepare for odd questions. Companies like Google, Zappos, Whole Foods, even JP Morgan Chase are asking offbeat questions to make ideal selections for their companies.
No matter what communication style is selected for your next interview, be sure to close the interview properly. Send a thank you note, either to the physical mailing address or all appropriate emails. Your kindness is sure to go a long way. Even if you aren’t hired just yet, you never know what doors may be opened in your future!
Do’s and Taboos of International Etiquette
Whether you are traveling overseas or hosting an international guest at work, it’s important be aware of cultural differences. Your awareness can avoid embarrassment, allow you to relax, and help others around you be at ease.
Do your best to research the country you’ll be visiting and the guests you’ll be hosting. Here are just a few examples of the cultural “do’s” and “taboos” for 4 areas of the world:
Do give a firm, brief handshake accompanied with eye contact. It is custom in a few South American countries for women to extend their hands first.
Do dress conservatively. Countries range in formality from Argentina as the most formal and Brazil as the least.
Avoid raising a fist to head level; in Chile it is associated with Communism.
Do plan on long lunches and late, social dinners.
Avoid the OK sign in Brazil; it is offensive.
Avoid putting hands in pockets; in Mexico it is considered rude.
Do compliment the host and food during a business dinner.
Do leave business matters for after dinner. Business in China is based on relationship.
Avoid using chopsticks incorrectly. They should not be waved, used to drag plates, or used to spear food. It is custom to ask for Western utensils if chopsticks cannot be mastered.
Do arrive on time; punctuality is valued.
Avoid flippantly giving out your business card. Both hands are used in China to signify giving something of value.
Do address others by their titles and be aware of where you are sitting during a business dinner. The most honored, often the host, will sit in the middle of the table.
Avoid misunderstanding a “weak” handshake. In China, prolonging a handshake is a good sign.
Do dress conservatively when conducting business. Dress with little emphasis on accessories. Women should avoid wearing pants.
Avoid talking with hands, pointing, and using the “OK” sign, which means money.
Do expect others to be fashionably late; punctuality is not expected.
Avoid wrapping gifts in white, bright colors, and bows. But always wrap gifts before presenting them.
Do eat rice plain. Never mix with other food or sauce.
Avoid resting chopsticks on a table, setting them down in an “X” formation, and resting them on separate sides of the plate.
Do return a bow greeting with a bow equally as low as the one received.
Do understand the word “no” is avoided. This is important to know during negotiations since a “yes” may be the response when “no” is the intended answer.
Do acknowledge everyone in the room before conducting business.
Avoid scheduling meetings on Fridays. As Friday is the Muslim day of prayer, the business week in Dubai is Saturday to Wednesday.
Avoid alcohol. Instead of offering to meet over drinks, meeting for tea or tobacco pipes is the alternative.
Do wear modest clothing and neat attire. Women should avoid tight clothing and cover arms.
Avoid extending business meetings and discussions. Most Dubai natives like to finish work before 5 p.m.
Just as we welcome international business travelers and accept their taboos as simple cultural misunderstandings, it’s likely your business peers will do the same. Don’t use this as an excuse to not do your research! It can save you from embarrassment and help you be socially at ease.
Ultimately, when interacting with international travelers or traveling abroad, put on genuine kindness and be considerate to others. Your personality will shine through any cultural taboos you may have overlooked.
6 Tips to Stand Out at Networking Meetings
Networking events are designed to meet others in your community, while sharing who you are and what you do. It’s more than passing out business cards and getting a door prize. It’s presenting yourself so your talent and personality shine!
Before attending your next event, consider defining your goal. Is it meeting five potential clients? Is it finding someone to add to your staff? Maybe it’s getting one contract signed this month. Having a specific goal in mind can help you stay focused and engage in conversations.
In addition to keeping your goal in mind, here are 6 ways to stand out at your next networking function.
- Judging Your “Cover” – When presenting yourself at networking events, remember that others will “judge your cover” before they “read” your business. You are your brand while you network. Consider presenting yourself in a way that others can make quick, correct assumptions about your professionalism, creativity, and work ethic.
- Cross Your T’s – Before the meeting, give yourself time to go above and beyond basic hygiene. Floss your teeth, put makeup on, shave your face, tweeze your eyebrows, etc. Taking the time to do this allows you to be more confident and secure throughout the event.
- Learn to Listen – Research tell us the average person listens for only 17 seconds before speaking again. While networking is about you telling others about your business, take time to listen as well. When others are talking, don’t just think about what to say next. Ask questions and truly care about what they are sharing. If they end up being a future colleague or client, your relationship will be built on kindness and consideration. Lock your phone in the car, so you aren’t constantly checking it each time it shakes, rattles, and rolls.
- Improve Your Communication – Brush up on your interpersonal skills and be conscious of what you need to work on. Some examples include how to improve your handshake, the best way to give out your business card, and how to better remember names.
- Make a Statement – Wearing a statement piece is a great way to initiate conversation. A great pair of shoes or a sharp tie can help move a conversation. One focal point of your appearance can even make it easier for others to approach you with a compliment, then leading into a conversation. Wearing a statement piece doesn’t mean something tacky that will diminish your professionalism; it’s simply an item that helps you be you!
- Perfect Your Pitch – You’ll need to introduce yourself quite a few times at typical networking events. Find the balance between not babbling on, yet fully explaining your company and services. Practice your pitch aloud to yourself or a friend beforehand. Avoid canned responses or ones that have people walking away wondering what you do. Also, consider adding the “why” to your pitch so others will know your passion.
Basic networking etiquette and kind interactions will allow you to comfortably introduce yourself and get to know others in your community. While the main goal in business is to make money, successful networking is professionally representing yourself and sharing your passion with your peers.
You can’t network if you aren’t there! Do some research to find networking meetings in your area. Often networking events are defined by industry, gender, political party, and geographical location. Find one that suits you and get out there!
Honor Your Administrator in the Best Way Possible!
Good administrators do what they do, so you can do what you do better! Take time to honor your office administrator this April 24. Celebrate your star employee this Administrative Professionals’ Day in the “language” they speak best.
Did you know there are different ways we accept affirmation and respect? Author Dr. Gary Chapman defined 5 basic “languages” that we all speak to express and receive appreciation. Dr. Chapman calls them languages for a reason.
Picture this: someone is speaking Italian to someone who speaks German and expects the other to respond. We all know the outcome – the German-speaking man will not understand one word and will fail to respond. That’s exactly how showing affirmation can be. We might think we are speaking German, but Italian is coming out!
Here are the 5 languages of appreciation and some ideas to outdo your administrator with honor this April 24:
- Receiving Gifts – If your administrator speaks the language of gifts, it doesn’t need to cost much to have an impact. A simple token of gratitude will go a long way. For example, have his Starbucks order waiting on his desk when he comes in. Add a gift card so it will be the gift that keeps on giving.
- Quality Time – Spend time talking with your administrator today. Consider taking a department out to lunch in his honor. Even if it’s only 30 minutes, do your best to unplug and be present. Quality attention is important to quality-time people.
- Encouraging Words – Acknowledging with your words is a powerful way to appreciate the hard work he or she has done. Consider writing a kind email to thank her or acknowledging her at an upcoming meeting. Specificity is important to someone who receives affirmation through words. So don’t just thank her, let her know why. Write a note with the top ten reasons you appreciate him or her.
- Physical Touch – Greet your administrator in the morning with a welcoming handshake or appropriate pat on the shoulder while thanking him for his commitment and great attitude. Give a gift card for a facial or message.
- Acts of Service – Many administrators are wired to receive affirmation in this way due to the nature of the job. Be on the lookout for things you can “do” for her today. Consider publicly commending her at a meeting or finalizing the raise you were putting through. Volunteer for their favorite charity.
Appreciation languages aren’t written on resumes, so how can you find out where your employees line up? Two great ways to determine are:
- How they give affirmation, and
- What they complain about.
Did she give out holiday presents? She might be acts of service or gifts. Do you find that he enjoys chatting in the elevator? He’s likely quality time. Also, the reverse is true – we often complain about what we desire. If your assistant pointed out how rude her family was for not bringing anything back from the Bahamas, chances are she’s gifts.
Communicating encouragement to your staff can strengthen your team, develop a positive workplace culture, and sharpen your communication skills as a leader. Being in charge of an office team is no easy task. Learning to better “speak” each employee’s language is a wonderful way to value and affirm your staff.