Tag Archives | Seven Deadly Sins of Mediocre Customer Service

Seven Deadly Sins of Mediocre Customer Service – Part 7

We’ve reached the seventh and final “sin” of mediocre customer service — forgetting a customer’s name.

Whenever I’ve asked a roomful of people, “How many of you are bad with names?” the vast majority of hands shoot up. In an increasingly connected culture, most people struggle with such a simple but critical step in making genuine connections.

If you’re serious about delivering consistently exceptional customer service, remembering names is a crucial skill.

Name Game | iStockPhoto

The common excuse is “I’m just not good with names.” But, as memory expert Benjamin Levy asserts in his book, Remember Every Name Every Time, telling yourself you’re simply not good with names is a cop out. The truth is, we all have the potential to excel at recalling someone’s name. The problem… is us:

“We’re so unfocused on the person’s name we’re meeting that we never hear his or her name in the first place. Instead, we’re mired in self-consciousness, worrying about making a good impression: ‘Is my hair out of place? I can’t shake hands, mine’s too sweaty! Quick, think of something witty to say!’ In short, we’re so focused on ourselves that the other person remains a blur.”

Here are five simple steps designed to radically improve your ability to remember names from memory expert, Jim Kwik, who uses the acronym “SUAVE.” Having tried it, I found that it has dramatically improved my name recall. Here’s a brief explanation:

The S.U.A.V.E. Method

S – Say the name. It’s amazing how many people, when introduced to someone, will respond with, “Nice to meet you” without saying the other person’s name. Remember, repetition is power. Right off the bat, saying the person’s name immediately after hearing it will more than double the likelihood that you’ll remember it later.

U – Use the name. The more you repeat the name during the conversation — without abusing it — the more firmly you’ll ingrain it in your memory. Shoot for three to four times during a five minute conversation. This will seem awkward at first, but it will seriously enhance your name recall.

A – Ask about the name. Use this tool if the name is unusual — avoid it if the name is common. (You’ll likely come across like a dork.) You can ask about spelling, origin, meaning, etc. People respond to questions about their name. It resonates with them!

V – Visualize. One of the keystone habits of memory experts, visualization is one of the most basic of all skills, but few ever learn how to harness it’s tremendous power. Here’s an example:

Last year my wife, Debbie and I attended an eight week series at our church during which we sat at tables with two or three other couples. The first week, we struck up a conversation with a young couple sitting next to us. True to form, by the next week, I had completely forgotten both of their names, forcing my wife — who is much better at remembering names than I am — to bail me out. After forgetting their names each of the following two weeks, my wife finally whispered to me in an exasperated tone, “Sean Hannity.” When I responded, “What does Sean Hannity (the Fox News Talk Show Host) have to do with them?” she pointed across the table and said, “HE is Sean and SHE is Hanna.” Get it? Sean Hannity!” (I think she wanted to punctuate her point with something like, “You bonehead!” But since she was in church, she held back.) Without realizing it, Debbie used the most powerful tool the human brain has to retain information — the brain’s ability to form images. Seeing something in your mind — reading a description, for example, then looking away and re-visualizing it — is more effective than simply plowing through text. This same dynamic applies to remembering anything — especially names. It’s been over a year, and not only have I never forgotten the names of this engaging young couple, I never will forget them, because the mental association is so strong. It has attached itself to my brain like a suction cup thanks to a simple mental trigger.

Comic by Dave Walker | YouthWork Magazine UK

E – End with the name. Instead of simply saying a goodbye, try to ensure that the last word you say to the person you just met is their name.

There you have it: Five simple steps to dramatically improve your name memory! Make a commitment to try these techniques for 30 days, then let me know how it goes.

Here’s a challenge that will get you more comfortable with this process: For the next week, everywhere you go where you encounter someone with a name tag – restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops, etc. – make it a point to address the person serving you by name. Then make a mental note of both how you feel and the response you get from them. I think you’ll be happily surprised!

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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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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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The Seven Deadly Sins of Mediocre Customer Service – Part 2

The theme of this series, like the 1999 Monster.com Super Bowl ad highlighted in the first post, is that no one sets a course for mediocrity; instead, it creeps up on you and is reflected in small compromises and lazy decisions that compound over time, leading to cynicism and disillusionment.

Bill Marsh Customer Service | Allen-Kent Photography

In customer service, one of the telltale signs of compromise is the words you hear, even from experienced professionals. Powerless words undermine good customer service by projecting negative expectations, weakening your company’s image, and leaving customers annoyed, confused, and indifferent. Here are the five most popular words and phrases guaranteed to place you squarely in the mushy middle of mediocrity in sales, customer service, or any other people-related endeavor. Use them at great risk!
1. “I Don’t Know.”

One of consumers’ biggest pet peeves, this mediocrity-laced response is often followed by an equally lame follow-up, such as “I’m new here.”  When combined with no offer to find the answer, this is a direct invitation for your customer to go elsewhere.

A better response:

Eliminate the negative: “Gee, that’s a good question.”
Replace with a positive: “Let me check and find out.”
Never make lame excuses such as, “I’m new here.” Customers don’t care!

2. “We can’t do that.”

Never, ever tell people what you can’t do; tell them what’s possible.

A better response:

“Here’s what we can do.”

If the customer makes an impossible request, respond with, “I’m sorry, (request) is not an option we have available.” Notice how this softens the tone. Then re-state what you can do.

3. “You’ll have to…”

Since, in the customer’s mind, the only thing they have to do is to die and pay taxes, using this forbidden phrase is the quickest way to start an argument. And once you commit to arguing with a customer, you may occasionally win the battle, but you will always lose the war.

A better response:

Simply replace “have to” with “need to.” This simple word replacement turns your response from a demand to a request. Remember, great customer service people take orders, they never give them.

4. “Just a second.”

This is a common, reflexive response to telephone inquiries during busy times. It is a gross under-estimation that conveys nothing but mushy mediocrity if not callous indifference. Nothing ever takes “just a second,” does it?

A better response:

Replace with: “Are you able to hold? This may take a few minutes.”
Or provide a visual: “The information you need is in the next office which may take me a few minutes to retrieve.” Then give the customer options. “Would you like to hold or can I call you right back?”

5. “No.”

Similar to “we can’t do that,” the last thing a customer wants to hear is “no.” Although avoiding using “no” may not always be possible, never use it at the start of a sentence. There’s no reason to. Why intentionally frustrate a customer? You tell your pet or your two-year-old “no,” but if you’re a true customer service pro, you never use this dis-empowering word at the start of a sentence.

A better response:

Always respond with what you do have… and what you can do.

Remember, when it comes to customer service, words matter. The words and phrases you use in your everyday communication not only shape the outcomes you produce and the level of cooperation you get from others, they shape your own attitude as well.

To illustrate the impact of changing the words we use in serving customers, check out this short video from customer service trainer Jeff Mowatt:

Which of these words or phrases resonate with you? Which ones do you hear most often? What is one new habit or behavior you could adopt to communicate with more clarity and confidence?

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