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Five Tips to Improve Service for Your Customers Monica Postell

How do you improve ser­vice for cus­tomers?” Now there’s a topic that no one ever talks about, right?

On the con­trary, it seems it’s the focus of everyone’s atten­tion – from the board­room to con­tact cen­ter ser­vice man­agers and right up to ser­vice and sup­port rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Improv­ing ser­vice for cus­tomers is on everyone’s mind – or should be.

I’m going to pro­pose to you that there are five com­mon sense prin­ci­ples that if applied will sig­nif­i­cantly improve ser­vice. The prin­ci­ples stand on their own merit. What you choose to do to imple­ment them depends on your par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion. Here are the prin­ci­ples we call the HEART Model™ and some exam­ples of how they apply to improv­ing cus­tomer service.

Hear and Understand

There’s a lot of con­ver­sa­tion in social media cir­cles about lis­ten­ing to your cus­tomers. I know per­son­ally I appre­ci­ate it when com­pa­nies lis­ten to me. Unfor­tu­nately that didn't hap­pen on the call I'm about to recap. A very pleas­ant rep­re­sen­ta­tive from my cable com­pany called last Fri­day to try to sell me on switch­ing from my cur­rent land line to the cable company's phone package.

The rep was on task and did a lot of things well but totally missed an open­ing I gave him to solve a prob­lem I was hav­ing with his com­peti­tor. He heard that I wasn’t inter­ested in switch­ing but he didn’t seem to reg­is­ter that I was unhappy with the cur­rent carrier’s voice-mail.

As soon as he heard I wasn’t inter­ested in switch­ing (and I did say that) he promptly and politely closed the call. What that told me was that he was more con­cerned about his aver­age call han­dle time (AHT) than lis­ten­ing to what I was say­ing about my cur­rent ser­vice. Is that good cus­tomer ser­vice? Let’s just say that it would have been much bet­ter cus­tomer ser­vice if he had lis­tened and, as a result, had been able to give me some­thing that resolved my prob­lem. I’m pretty sure you have to hear and under­stand a prob­lem before you can solve it.

Expect the Best

I’ve writ­ten about “Expect­ing the Best” before because I think it has the power to trans­form a cus­tomer ser­vice inter­ac­tion from mun­dane to some­thing really spe­cial. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives are a thou­sand times more likely to have a good day and pro­vide great cus­tomer ser­vice if they come to work expect­ing the best.

What that means is they come to work trust­ing that their train­ing, their tools, and their knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence will help them do their jobs the way they really want to. They come to work with con­fi­dence that man­age­ment has their back. And they come to work visu­al­iz­ing work­ing with cus­tomers who are coop­er­a­tive and appre­cia­tive of their efforts.

Here are three tips for cre­at­ing a cli­mate that sup­ports “expect­ing the best”:

  • Hire the right peo­ple. Tony Hsieh of Zap­pos fame said in an inter­view that he didn’t care if prospec­tive employ­ees were pas­sion­ate about shoes. They had to be pas­sion­ate about cus­tomer service.
  • Make task enable­ment a pri­or­ity. That means pro­vid­ing the kind expe­ri­en­tial train­ing that really pre­pares employ­ees to do their jobs and giv­ing them tools that actu­ally help them be more effi­cient and effec­tive in pro­vid­ing mean­ing­ful cus­tomer service.
  • Sup­port the prin­ci­ple through fre­quent coach­ing and feed­back. Praise is the fastest way to ensure you see pos­i­tive behav­iors repeated and adopted by others.

Act with Integrity

Do you want a guar­an­teed way to improve cus­tomer ser­vice? Demon­strate integrity – keep com­mit­ments, fol­low through, accept respon­si­bil­ity if there’s an error, and treat every­one like you’d like your favorite per­son in the world to be treated.

Respect Diver­sity

I saw an inter­est­ing two minute TED video from Novem­ber 2009 from a fel­low named Derek Sivers whose premise is that “There’s a flip side to every­thing”. To me, it speaks to respect­ing diversity.

So when we think about respect­ing diver­sity we have to rec­og­nize that cus­tomers want to be taken seri­ously; they want to be given the ben­e­fit of the doubt, and treated with respect even if they approach a prob­lem in a way that is dif­fer­ent from how we might see it.

It’s our job as cus­tomer ser­vice pro­fes­sion­als to demon­strate that we “get it”, we see what they see. To do that reps need to lis­ten, ask ques­tions, and con­firm their under­stand­ing before pro­ceed­ing to assume the cus­tomer lives on a street not a block…or vice versus.

Tran­scend Yourself

Tran­scen­dence is about growth, learn­ing from mis­takes, set­ting goals and when they’ve been met, set­ting new goals. Com­pa­nies can improve cus­tomer ser­vice by lis­ten­ing to what their cus­tomers say about their ser­vice and adjusting.

I called a long term health insur­ance com­pany (who shall go name­less to pro­tect the inno­cent and any hope of claims being set­tled in the near future) and was con­fronted by a seem­ingly end­less labyrinth, oth­er­wise known as an IVR. How many menus would I endure before sur­ren­der­ing and hang­ing up? The IVR won. I hung up and found another num­ber and even­tu­ally reached a very nice, very help­ful agent. The IVR expe­ri­ence, how­ever, had so irked me that I was curt and unfriendly to her. I ana­lyzed my atti­tude while on hold (Did she do that to man­age my mood?) and ended up real­iz­ing that I was tak­ing my irri­ta­tion out on her inap­pro­pri­ately. So — here comes the tran­scen­dent moment! — I apol­o­gized for my curt­ness and told her to tell every­one who’d lis­ten at her com­pany that the IVR was mak­ing her job harder than it needed to be.

Do you know any com­pa­nies you wish would lis­ten to you and tran­scend themselves?


With a back­ground in per­for­mance improve­ment and instruc­tional design, Mon­ica Postell works with Impact Learn­ing Sys­tems in design­ing and deploy­ing train­ing and devel­op­ment pro­grams that fos­ter real cus­tomer loyalty.
4 Five Tips to Improve Service for Your Customers
Mon­ica Postell
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  • http://www.impactlearning.com/blog/industry-issues-news/2010/07/5-more-tips-for-improving-service/ 5 More Tips for Improv­ing Ser­vice | Cus­tomer Ser­vice Blog | Impact Learn­ing Systems

    […] co-worker, Mon­ica Postell, wrote a blog post a few months ago called 5 Tips to Improve Ser­vice for Your Cus­tomers. I love that post for a num­ber of rea­sons, one being the fact that it fea­tures our cul­tural change […]






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