Tag Archives | mediocre

Seven Deadly Sins of Mediocre Customer Service – Part 6

The sixth deadly sin is a pernicious habit that not only undermines customer service, but virtually every social interaction. Chances are we’ve all been victimized by it, just as we have all, at times, been guilty of it ourselves.

What is it? Watch comedian Brian Regan as he explains:

Have you ever been the victim of a “Me Monster?” Perhaps at a cocktail party, rehearsal dinner, conference, or social function. “Me Monsters” tend to manifest themselves in predictable personality flaws:

  • Some are extremely opinionated.
  • Some are insecure and have a need to prop themselves up.
  • Some are trying to impress the person/people they are with.

Regardless of the type, “Me Monster” behavior can poison any customer encounter faster than it takes to say “I’m going elsewhere.” To be sure you’re not unintentionally talking your customers into the waiting arms of your competitors, consider the following tips:

5 Ways be Sure You’re Not a Blabbermouth:

via iStockPhoto

1) Know your own triggers. Most of us have certain topics we’re passionate about that compel us to talk more than we probably should. Some common examples:

> Politics
> Sports & Hobbies
> Religion
> Our children
> Certain topics or subjects we view ourselves as being an expert on.

Although it is tempting to express your opinions on issues you’re passionate about, remember: True professionals possess the self-awareness to recognize when they run the risk of over-indulging in conversation. Listening isn’t a talent; it’s a skill, much like creativity. Talents are traits with which we’re born, but skills are learned behavior which require discipline and intentionality.

2) Monitor your audience. Do your listeners often show signs of lack of interest, such as fidgeting, looking away, interrupting you or frequently saying “uh-huh” to push you to get to the point? Although some people you deal with may be poor listeners, if you observe these signs among the majority of the people you converse with, the problem is more likely you.

3) Embrace the silence. Some people are so afraid of the inevitable “gaps” in a conversation, they pay zero attention to the period at the end of each sentence and fill every quiet second with chatter. But if you’re dealing with an introverted personality, you could run your fingernails across a blackboard and chances are you’ll annoy them less than your idle chatter. Learn to appreciate silence by practicing stillness. Like listening, stillness requires discipline. Spend 30 minutes a day, for example, engaging in the practice of a quiet activity that requires concentration. Read a book, or listen to an audiobook. These quiet activities will help you to exercise your mind without simultaneously engaging your mouth.

4) Start tracking your yacking. Personal branding expert Joya Martin advises spending a week writing down how much time you spend talking after every conversation, paying close attention to excessive jabber. A good idea, since what gets measured invariably gets improved!

Here’s a rule of thumb to keep you on track. If, in any conversation, you’re speaking more than 60% of the time, you’re talking too much. Fifty percent is better. Thirty to forty percent is usually best.

5) Practice the one-sentence rule. Martin also suggests practicing responding to any question in a single thoughtful sentence. Compose your response carefully before speaking, instead of thinking aloud and rambling on. Then pause, and wait for a response. This will require some serious discipline and effort. If your conversation partner is interested in what you have to say, they will dig deeper and ask questions. If they don’t, this is a clue that you shouldn’t continue talking. Remember, you should aim to own only 30%-40% of the talk time in any conversation.

No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I want to bore the socks off of everyone I encounter today!”  Yet every day, well intentioned people sabotage important opportunities to build productive relationships because they simply don’t pay attention.

The stakes are high. If you want to excel in sales, customer service, or any people-related industry, you can’t afford to miss this. As Stephen Covey described in Habit 5 in his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Seek first to understand, then be understood.”

How do you react when you encounter a “Me Monster?” Have you ever had to approach or confront an employee, friend or colleague about it? How did it go? I’d love to get your feedback.

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Seven Deadly Sins of Mediocre Customer Service – Part 5

The fifth “sin” of mediocre customer service is something all of us, as consumers, have experienced from time to time.

George Walther, author of Power Talking: 50 Ways to Say What you Mean and Get What you Want, provides a perfect illustration of this all too common customer service breakdown in a story he shares about trying to get window screens installed in his home.

Most of us, I presume, have had an “Ed’s Screen’s” experience that left us frustrated over poor follow-through, nebulous promise times, undisclosed charges, etc. Or perhaps you’ve been guilty of the same “sin,”in serving your customers due to excessive demands, time pressures, supplier problems, etc.

While there is no simple technique or word track that can compensate for personal accountability or process integrity, here are two simple habits that will help you do a better job at managing the expectations of your customers:

Develop the Habit of “Under-Promise and Over-Deliver.” The best at customer service understand that unforeseen time delays, additional costs, and other events beyond their control will inevitably happen, so they build in buffers that reduce the chances of letting customers down. It’s as simple as a delivery company promising that something will be dropped off by noon and then telling the driver to make sure that the object is delivered by ten in the morning, thereby exceeding the expectations of the customer. Furthermore, learning to under-promise and over-deliver not only improves the customer’ perceptions, it also reduces the stress so often associated with serving people.

Eliminate the word “should” from your customer service vocabulary. As George Walther pointed out, he really had no right to criticize Ed’s failure to fulfill his many promises. By using the word “should” instead of “will,” Ed never really promised anything. I know there’s a strong temptation to use this word, as it has become reflexive in our communication, but there’s tremendous power in being decisive. Learn to replace the phrase “I should” with “I will.”

Manage Customer Expectations | iStockPhoto

When you think about it, managing people’s expectations goes well beyond customers; it includes coworkers, children, family members — anyone you engage with on any significant level. Learning to communicate like this will improve any relationship.

Have you ever been the unfortunate recipient of an “Ed’s Screens” experience? Are there any specific tools you use to better manage your customers’ expectations? I’d love to get your feedback.

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Seven Deadly Sins of Mediocre Customer Service – Part 4

Sister Cecilia, my seventh grade teacher at St. Bede Catholic School in Holland, PA, was, at that time, a very influential person in my young life. Tall and remarkably athletic for a nun who wore a full habit, she could defend the post in playground hoops as well as any high school kid. She could be charming and vivacious when we behaved ourselves, but if one of us so much as giggled, belched, or looked cross-eyed during class – especially Catechism – one menacing look or penetrating glance from her was all it took to scare us back to folded hands, straight posture, and rapt attention.

Sister Cecilia, it turns out, was an expert in body language.

In our everyday communication, when the words we use don’t match the signals we send through our posture, facial expressions, gestures, and voice tone, people always believe the signals. That’s why body language is so important in making genuine connections. And yet, I’ve notice how few customer service professionals attach any importance to this fundamental human relations skill.

Bad Body Language is #4  in my Seven Deadly Sins of Mediocre Customer Service series.

To illustrate how we communicate our feelings and intentions through our body language, watch this fascinating – and funny – TED Talk clip from behavioral scientist Amy Cuddy:

How to become a “pro” at using body language to send the right signals

Image via iStock Photo

Pay attention to some simple “body language basics.”

1) Make Direct Eye Contact and Smile. A warm, inviting smile can put anyone at ease, and it also makes you look winsome and approachable.
–  Smile with your eyes (I mentioned this in my last post.) When you do make direct eye contact, soften your eye expression and make your eyes “smile” or “twinkle” to show that you’re friendly and genuinely interested in making contact.

2) Open up. When people are uncomfortable or standoffish in a situation, they have a tendency to display closed body language – crossed arms, folded hands, etc. In essence, they are subconsciously trying to look “smaller” verses opening up and inviting others into their personal space.
–  Display your openness by pointing your heart toward other people, sitting or standing with an upright (but not stiff) posture, and uncrossing your arms.
–  Posture: Hold yourself with a tall, open stance. Smile when you make eye contact with your customer. Hold your body in a relaxed and easy manner with uncrossed arms. You will convey much more approachability than slouching or leaning with arms crossed or hands in your pockets.
–  Avoid your phone. To look approachable, you must be accessible. Be careful not to check your phone in the presence of guests – it makes you appear distracted.
–  Beware of nervous or self-comfort gestures, such as touching your hand to your face, especially putting it over your mouth, biting your fingernails or tapping your foot, all of which signal boredom, impatience, or distraction.

3) Practice Mirroring. Babies do it even before birth; their heartbeats and body functions take on a rhythm that matches those of their mothers. As adults, we do it when we are talking with someone we like, are interested in, or agree with. We subconsciously switch our body posture to match that of the other person – mirroring that person’s nonverbal behavior and signaling that we are connected and engaged.

When done with intent, mirroring can be an important part of developing trust and rapport. Mirroring starts by observing a person’s body posture and then subtly letting your body reflect their position. If their arms are crossed, then slowly begin to cross your arms. If they lean back, you do the same. You will know that you have developed mutual rapport if your partner begins to mirror you in return. I know it may sound manipulative if you’ve never heard of it, but mirroring is based on the simple truth that we are attracted to people we perceive are like us – even on a subconscious level.

Have you ever thought about the non-verbal signals you send when you engage with people? If so, how would you rate yourself? If you could change one body language behavior, what would it be? I’d love to get your feedback.

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The Seven Deadly Sins of Mediocre Customer Service – Part 3

How long do you think it takes for someone you meet for the first time to decide whether they like you or not?

First Impression | iStockPhoto

According to research by the Harvard School of Health Sciences, it takes less than two seconds. In one study, students seeing a two-second video clip of a teacher with no sound came to the same conclusion about that teacher as students who had spent an entire semester with them.

Similar studies in behavioral research reveal similar conclusions about how quickly people form impressions. Consider these findings:

In a Tufts University study, subjects were shown thirty-second video clips of physician-patient interactions. They found that people’s judgments about the physicians’ “niceness” was the biggest predictor of whether or not that physician would be sued.

A Princeton University study found that a one-second view of political candidates’ faces has a 70% accuracy rate in predicting US Senate and Gubernatorial races.

While it’s not especially revealing that people form first impressions quickly, the “stickiness” of those impressions and the resulting implications for how they influence outcomes, from malpractice suits to political elections, is powerful — with big implications for anyone in customer service.

And it is primarily driven by what we see.

In dealing with people, your skills, intentions, and your willingness to solve your customers’ needs all take a back seat to your ability to get them to like you within the first few seconds of meeting them. Failing to pay attention to this ubiquitous human relations principle is the third deadly sin of mediocrity in customer service.

Here are two simple but effective behaviors to help you make the most of the all-important first few seconds of customer contact:

1) Smile with your Eyes. Also known as the “Duchenne smile” from French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne’s research, which found that engaging the muscles around the eyes (the orbicularis oculi muscle) and raising the cheeks verses simply raising the corners of your mouth produces positive emotion. It is the most sincere type of smile. When you engage your eyes instead of just your mouth, your smile has the power to charm other people. The tricky thing about smiling with your eyes is that it’s very difficult to fake. When you smile with your eyes, you’re really feeling happy. Channeling good thoughts when you smile can help you appear more genuine, and when you get really good at it, you can smile using only your eyes.

2) Eye Contact. For many people, making good eye contact is surprisingly difficult, but if you want to be a better listener, better talker, and increase your chances of creating an instant positive impression, learn to practice making better eye contact.

Here’s a simple tip from Nicholas Boothman to help you make better eye contact right now:

What a new car launch taught me about the power of first impressions

As a Pontiac dealer from the early 90’s until the franchise’s demise in 2009, I remember the much anticipated relaunch of the Pontiac GTO back in 2004. Riding the wave of the super-successful relaunches of classic 1960’s muscle cars like the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro, we were excited for the debut of one of the real icons in Pontiac’s storied past.

But the launch was a complete disaster — and after two years of dismal sales, General Motors ceased production.

Why? Interestingly, the automotive press — Motor Trend, Car & Driver, and others — gave the car high marks for its power, performance, and handling. The real problem was what critics called “anonymous” styling. Instead of evoking the nostalgia of the muscle car era, the new GTO looked like a re-badged version of the Grand Am or Grand Prix, disappointing legions of muscle car enthusiasts and further eroding the Pontiac brand.

Here’s the point: Just like the GTO, you may have a lot under your hood, but if you’re unable to make a great visual first impression and make it quickly, you may never get the chance to show people what you’ve got.

Think about the impressions you form of others when you first see them or meet them. What are the visual cues that trigger a negative reaction? A positive reaction? What is one thing you could do to improve your first impression skills? I’d love to get your feedback.

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