Customer Service at Sea
May01

Customer Service at Sea

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...

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Speaking The Language Of CX Value
Mar06

Speaking The Language Of CX Value

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...

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High Altitude CX
Nov22

High Altitude CX

Encouragement and practical wisdom for those ascending the mountain to better customer service. If you’ve never been to Mount LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains, it’s one for your bucket list.  The 5.5 mile trek up the mountain along the iconic Alum Cave trail is as breathtaking as it is challenging.  What makes this particular hike unique, however, is the unexpected treasure you’ll find at the top.  LeConte Lodge seems to come out of nowhere as you break through the trees and enter a small clearing.  At 6,360 feet, it brings new meaning to staying in the penthouse.  I had found a rocking chair with a fantastic view, when just a few yards to my right I was privy to a high-altitude customer service lesson. How does one obtain food and supplies for 35 guests on the top of a mountain?  Pack llamas of course!  A small herd of llamas forms the epicenter of culture for the lodge.  Not only are they essential in the most practical sense, but they are also mountain celebrities.  People could not get enough of these four legged, backpack-bearing creatures.  One group of day hikers from the mid-west was especially curious.  As they approached the animals (getting far closer than I dared to go), out came The Shepherd of the Llamas to protect his herd. In many ways, The Llama Shepherd was exactly what you would expect of a person who lived in a mountaintop lodge.  A huge beard, earth tone clothing, and Teva sandals were a few of his Appalachian attributes.  One thing, however, set this man apart quite definitively.  On his left leg was a giant brown tattoo of a llama.  He clearly loved these furry creatures more than many parents love their own children.  I braced myself for a sharp reprimand as the tourists encroached on the animal’s personal space.  After all, they were not even overnight guests of the lodge, but just dime-a-dozen day hikers. I was shocked at what actually transpired.  The shepherd welcomed them with enthusiasm…answering a barrage of questions, allowing them to be touched, and even helped the tourists with their llama selfies.  With all the people wandering around atop this mountain, it really struck me how polite, patient, and personal this man was.  It challenged me to think about how we treat customers in our service environment.  Here are two wisdom nuggets from the Llama Shepherd: Find the thing you really want to share with other people, and support that! – It may not be pack animals, but you’ve got a thing.  It’s fairly easy for many service professionals to fake a smile or warm tone...

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Customer Service, Kayaks, and the T.W.R.A.
Jun25

Customer Service, Kayaks, and the T.W.R.A.

A lake-side lesson in credibility.  Written by Nate Brown and Jim Quiggins. “The unspoken.”  It’s not only a feature of awkward prayer gatherings, but it can also be the most important element in customer service transactions.  An outstanding resolution requires so much more then answering the surface level question.  Oftentimes the best hope an analyst has of getting to the root cause is by perceiving the unspoken need.  If the customer has carried an emotional burden with them to the call, the analyst’s job is not only to resolve, but to heal.  This concept was recently personified by an unlikely source in Long Hunter State Park. I (Nate) love Kayaking.   Add a fishing pole to the equation, and I am a very happy man.  Such was the case early Saturday morning on the beautiful Couchville Lake just outside of Nashville.  The weather was outstanding – and I was even catching some nice fish.  My good fortunate took a surprising turn, however, as I became engulfed in the wake of a Tennessee Wildlife and Resource Agency (TWRA) vessel.  There were two agents standing on the boat, and one of them meant serious business.  His frantic yelling echoed across the otherwise silent lake.  Once my distress receded, I could hear him urgently demanding to see my life jacket.  A life jacket?  In a kayak?  Clearly this person had no idea how I’d been doing this for 12+ years and had never needed a life jacket.  A defensive tone took shape as I explained how not only did I not have a flotation device, but I did not need one.  As expected, the agent threw the book at me – taking a messianic tone as he articulated the special regulations for Couchville lake and the dangers involved. I was not even close to caring what he said.  My goal was to internalize my anger and shut up while I awaited inevitable punishment. It was at this moment that our interaction took an astonishing turn.  Instead of reaching for his ticket book, the agent began unbuckling the straps of his own life jacket.  He removed it and held it out as a gift.  His expression changed from that of a disciplinarian to a concerned friend. The realization washed over me fast and strong.  This man was not out here to punish minor violators, but rather to keep people safe and protect them.  The gesture communicated his purpose so clearly…making me see how foolish I was to have been defensive.  The agent had won my full loyalty and trust by showing that he cared about me as a person. This is how great...

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The Top Six Lessons from Six Years of Service
Jun06

The Top Six Lessons from Six Years of Service

..A jump start for those new to the Customer Service industry. Congratulations on winning your role in customer service!  As someone celebrating six years in the field, I can say with confidence that there has never been a better time to choose support as a career.  Whereas customer service representatives used to be seen one of the most entry level, dispensable roles in the company, the CX (customer experience) revolution has elevated it to its rightful place as a strategic and critical responsibility.  The past 2208 days have yielded countless tears and difficult moments for me.  Still, when I look back to consider the learning and growth that has taken place, I do not regret a single one.  Here are the top six things I wish I knew when I first put on the magic headset… 1) Take Initiative – You will know two of the absolute most important things – your products and your customers – better than anyone else.  This knowledge uniquely positions you to solve big problems.  Carve out time each week to think about the challenges your business is facing and contemplate solutions.  Be bold to offer these when opportunities present themselves (or create your own opportunities..have that elevator speech ready to go)  Chances are you will bring something new to the discussion from your daily interaction with customers! 2) Be Consultative – Don’t become a “phone drone.”  A service interaction is like a condensed marriage ceremony.  The customer has come forward with a challenge.  You as the analyst must combine knowledge of the product or service – with an understanding of the challenge – to find the best possible solution.  Customer service professionals will often train often on a product or service they support, but rarely on the industry they represent.  This will limit your ability to understand the customers’ perspective.  By becoming an industry expert, you can transcend the question the customer is asking…reading between the lines to handcraft a better solution.   The most exciting part is that you get to leverage your personality to make the interaction unique!  Customers want to see the human side of you, and when done in a professional context, it will score major delight points. 3) Find External Inspiration – Chances are 99% percent of your company believes they are customer service experts.  If you have a reasonable level of soft skills then you can make customers happy right?  This could not be further from the truth.  Customer Service is a science as wondrously complex as any other business discipline, especially when done proactively.  Find a community of service professionals that will educate you, challenge you and inspire you to...

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