A collection of posts on the topic of Customer Service.
Using DiSC in a customer service context to enhance both the customer and the agent experience. There is a plethora of training options available to service leaders who are looking to enhance the communication skills of their agents. Having had exposure to many of these, DiSC is my top choice with the most significant impact. Having now studied DiSC and received my credentials as a certified facilitator, there is no mystery why the tool is so great for a customer service environment. This post will introduce you to the basics of DiSC theory; explore how it enhances communication skill for agents, as well as recommending next steps to start using DiSC with your team. The DiSC Model of Behavior was first introduced by Dr. William Moulton Marston in 1928 (yes, the same guy who created the “Wonder Woman” comics). His theory proposed that the expression of emotions could be grouped into four original categories – Dominance (D), Inducement (I), Submission (S), and Compliance (C). With countless iterations and improvements over the years, DiSC has become a reliable and widely recognized training tool. While on the surface it may appear to be just another test for basic self-awareness, this is not at all like the “What’s Your Patronus?” quiz on Facebook. The assessment will help by identifying an individual’s primary communication tendencies and potential weaknesses. When well facilitated, DiSC is all about learning how to become more flexible as a communicator- rather than providing validation and further entrenching yourself into default behaviors. Another wonderful aspect of DiSC is how it’s applicable to both customer and internal communications. DiSC for Improved Customer Communication When you pause to consider, it is really quite remarkable what an agent is able to do each day. Within seconds, the analyst must ascertain the communication style of the customer and construct their message accordingly. You have customers that want the bottom line as quickly as possible (D), others that love to be educated with laborious details (C), and still others that just love to chat about personal things for twenty + minutes (i). When the agent has a solid understanding of DiSC, they will be able to better classify their audience and customize their message for the best result. In other words: Using DiSC, your agents will form a better connection with customers a higher percentage of the time. DiSC for Improved Internal Communication Not only will DiSC improve customer communication, but also internal interactions. One of the chief benefits for leaders is developing well-balanced, high performing teams. While all four communication styles have valuable attributes, they also have significant shortcomings. However, when a team has each communication style working in harmony, the dynamic is greatly enhanced. Additional benefits for Customer Service leaders include the following: Hiring The Right Agent – When you understand the landscape of your team from a DiSC perspective, you will also know where your largest gaps are. As an example – if you have a team full of visionaries (i), but often times fail to execute, it may be time to hire a “C” or two. Having candidates take the DiSC exam will ensure you are hiring the right player based on gaps and the responsibilities of the role. Enhanced Manager to Agent Dialog – Coaching conversations are hard. When leaders...read more
Customer experience lessons enhanced by the open ocean. With all the trouble in the “friendly skies” lately, many travelers are considering vacation transportation alternatives. One such creative option is to take to the water aboard Carnival Cruise Lines. Having just disembarked from our families’ third cruise vacation, I can safely say that Customer Service is alive and well on the emerald seas. It’s mind-blowing to consider all the work that goes in behind the scenes to create an effort-free vacation for the guests aboard. Carnival has a bit of a reputation in the industry as being the “party boat,” however from my experience they are simply very good at accommodating all types of passengers (spring-breakers included). When you’re stuck on a ship for seven days, there’s bound to be at least one moment when you find yourself at guest services. Mine came as we were waiting for dinner and I noticed someone had left their purse in a public area. I returned the purse to guest services where an exceptionally kind gentleman named Chaimongkon showed a great deal of gratitude for the action performed. As I was filling out a form, an older gentleman abruptly grabbed the purse off the desk, muttered something about it being his wife’s, and scowled at both of us. The rudeness of the man left Chaimongkon and I in momentary shock. Later that evening, I returned to my room to find a handwritten note from Chaimongkon thanking me for returning the purse and a gift of two drink vouchers. His kindness turned a sour moment into a memorable service experience. This highlights just a few examples of what makes Carnival agents so good at their uniquely challenging jobs: The emotional intelligence of the agent to witness the rudeness of another guest, and then putting forth the effort to make it right The ability of a front-line agent to make an executive decision, and provide a monetary gift as an extension of goodwill The timeliness and logistics by which he made these things happen One of the most powerful things about the guest experience is the consistency. Chaimongkon fit right in with his shipmates – all of whom held themselves to this same standard. And it was not just at the guest services desk either….both my daughters favorite crew member was “Waterslide Walter” who made their time in the water playground an absolute blast. The entire dining team blew us away. Despite a grueling all day and most of the night schedule, they went above and beyond on every detail. By this point, the service professional in me came out and I had to peek behind the curtain . How did this remarkably consistent guest experience come to exist? I flip-flopped down to guest services in my swim suit, hoping that maybe I’d be able to set up a brief interview with the Guest Services Supervisor the next day. Just five minutes later, I was sitting across from Sylvie who was happy to oblige the odd request (despite my lack of proper interview attire). Question One – How do you stay motivated to deliver exceptional customer service to extremely challenging people? Patience and empathy were the key themes. Sylvie explained her technique of visualizing the guest as though they are a friend or family...read more
How to foster a customer-centric mindset in a dollars-driven reality. For six years, I’d held a Customer Service job with essentially one objective: make everyone around me happy, and make customers happy as a consequence. It was perfect for my gregarious, people-pleasing personality. The year 2015, however, brought with it a role change and a game-changing truth: businesses are more than just smiles, free food, and birthday celebrations. As it happens, most companies exist to make money. Moving from a Customer Service role into a professional services organization caused a significant mental evolution. The all-important “C-Sat” (Customer Satisfaction Rate) suddenly took back stage to a far more demanding metric…revenue. While this transition was very disorienting at first, a customer-centric mentality once again helped me find my way. After all, happy customers and revenue are very closely related. Now finding myself back in a Customer Service role, my perspective is greatly broadened. Having been forged in the fires of a customer-centric mentality, and now understanding the revenue generating side of the business, I can make better decisions. Many things can drive better customer experience in the short term, but may ultimately be detrimental to the business in the end. Adding the “revenue reality check” taught me a new language – the language of enterprise value. By finding opportunities to enhance the customer experience, while also enhancing the bottom line, CX leaders will find far fewer barriers to impacting change. It’s our responsibility as CX leaders to be a powerful voice for the customer. However, our ability to perform in this function is greatly enhanced when we also understand the objectives of the larger organization. Viewing the world through the lens of the customer is vital, but you will lose focus and credibility if this is the only perspective you have. You must bring narratives together in order to find truth and tell the right story. Enterprise value is the language of the executive. Learn to speak it, or become stuck between customer needs and organizational understanding. Using statics such as these from InsightSquared will bring your narrative out of the hypothetical “touchy-feely” realm and give you credibility in associating CX initiatives to the bottom line: Are you a Customer Service leader looking to speak the language of enterprise value? Start with these simple actions: Solve a problem that’s not (directly) your problem – Understand the challenges that your sales and marketing leaders are experiencing and find a way for customer service to be involved in the solution. Customer service can nearly always make a positive impact on sales and marketing challenges. Helping the organization achieve a more consistent brand voice is an excellent example. Read “Chief Customer Officer 2.0” by Jeanne Bliss – Whether your organization has a CCO or not, the idea of bringing leaders together to create a customer growth engine is a total game-changer. This book will help you to see the big picture and renew your thinking. Give yourself more dots to connect – As Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things.” Think about the part of your business for which you know the least. Get intentional about learning this area and other areas so that you can be more creative in solving the big ticket problems. Avoid the “fortress” mentality – Customer...read more
I know what you may be thinking. Yet another meaningless corporate raw-raw statement that will be forgotten in a week!? I’m with you. Two years ago, I would have been in the same state of mind – but before you do your best Judge Judy eye roll and surf on, I challenge you to give the Customer Service Vision Statement a chance. There are few things this remarkably simple that pack such a huge ROI potential for our teams. It was an ICMI workshop by the one and only Jeff Toister that first turned me on to the concept of a Customer Service Vision. Since that time, the truth of his statements have taken root and evolved into a new mindset for me. This is not a rewording or a replacement for your company’s vision statement….quite the opposite in fact. In many ways, it’s like a completion. Our most powerful motivation lever as leaders is to create meaningful work tied directly to the company’s purpose. Sadly, according to CX luminary Scott McKain, two thirds of an organization’s employees has no idea what makes their organization unique. It’s no wonder why company vision statements are often distant and irrelevant to what actually transpires in the life of an employee. A Customer Service Vision Statement is your opportunity to bridge this gap, and channel purpose into everything from quality management, to coaching conversations, to rewards and recognition. Hopefully the why is now clear. Next up, we have the what and the how. I’ll break down our service vision at UL EHSS and offer tips on how to create your very own. Our Customer Service Vision: “Supporting our customers and each other in a manner that’s effortless, accurate, and friendly.” That’s it. You may be thinking “how silly to write a 700+ word blog about a 14 word statement.” Well, I’m a silly guy. I also believe the best vision statements are short enough to actually remember. Let me unpack this statement briefly, as it will help your thought process as you go about creating your own. “Supporting our customers and each other” – The key phrase here is “each other.” We sometimes push a customer focus to the point where we blind ourselves to the simple fact that Customer Service is a team sport. When a culture is established where agents go out of their way to help each other, your ability to assist customers increases exponentially. Make the privilege of serving one another a big deal. “Effortless” – For our demographic, great customer service is all about facilitating resolutions quickly and easily. When we can get our administrators back to work with minimal drama, we’ve done our jobs well. There’s no “wow” moment required, and “delight” rarely leads to increased customer loyalty (view Customer Effort vs Delight blog here). “Accurate” – The keyword is knowledge, which enables accuracy. A support organization is really only as good as its ability to create, curate, and distribute knowledge. We are working hard to become a “KCS” or knowledge-centered support team. We also create a culture of life-long learners. Everyone should be continually growing in his or her knowledge and abilities. “Friendly” – In a world overrun by IVR’s, chat bots, and automated messages, our support team places a huge emphasis on the...read more
Practicing mindfulness has been a popular concept in western society for many years now. Introducing mindfulness in the workplace has become fairly common, especially for corporate leadership teams. These tools are not just for the leadership any more. Successful mindfulness and meditation programs have been integrated at every level in major companies like General Mills, Ford, Aetna, Google and Procter & Gamble, just to name a few. Customer service and contact center staff need the tools to reduce stress, increase focus and productivity, as much, if not more than the average office worker. It is a tough job emotionally. Unfortunately, many of the workplace mindfulness programs available require a commitment to downtime for participation that is just not practical in a contact center situation. The good news is that introducing mindfulness on a smaller scale, in a less intrusive way to the work shift still has a positive impact! Case studies have shown improvement on just about every KPI with the contact centers that simply gave instruction on mindful breathing and encouraged agents to practice it throughout their day. Better metrics, happier customers and more engaged agents are results we all want to know more about. Without doubt, there is a place for some level of mindfulness in your contact center. Let’s back up for a minute and make sure we are on the same page about what mindfulness is and what it means. There are varying degrees of misconception, not only about what mindfulness is but how accessible it can be. Simply put, mindfulness is focusing on and living in the moment. That’s it. Being here and now, giving attention to this moment in time. Easier said than done. Mindfulness techniques are used to work toward achieving the state of being in the moment and focused on one thing at a time. No one is ever completely mindful 24 hours a day, every day, hence the term “practice”. There are effective and positive benefits to practicing mindful techniques whether you spend hours or merely minutes a day on the process. So, now that we understand what it is, how and why does it belong in your call center? There are three main ways I have seen the introduction of mindfulness to a team of agents affect positive change: Retention – Investing in an agent’s EI (Emotional Intelligence) creates a loyalty and desire to excel at their jobs. A small midwestern call center I worked with last year was really struggling with attrition. This was compounded by being in a location with a very limited pool of candidates. It was important that they retain the reps they brought on board and that just wasn’t happening. Only one of three new hires were staying for six months or more. With no sweeping changes, just a little revamp of training and adding mindful techniques, the improvement was almost immediate. Not only during initial training, mindfulness was encouraged and practiced with all reps on the floor as part of the overall culture. Now, at nearly ten months later more than 65% of that group of agents is about to celebrate their one year anniversary with the company. In addition, there has been little or no attrition with existing reps and they are now planning to expand. On a...read more