Tag Archives | The 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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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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