Customer Service – how much do you care?

“Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”
Damon Richards

Customer service is about showing how much you care – actions speak louder than words. How often have you been annoyed or angry about being shown indifference by people in customer service roles? There are 10 customer service actions – note the words ‘service’ and ‘action’ that I think all people in custom service roles should use. I will use an example that was the subject of and earlier blog.

Many years ago I was managing a vehicle transport company in regional Australia. A transport manifest arrived by fax at 4.00 pm and upon reading it I learnt that there was a car arriving within the next 2 hours that was due in Brisbane that night. Brisbane was 1,200 kms up the road (14 hours drive away). To make matters more complicated the car was needed by the customer in Cairns in 2 days time (a further 1,700 km away or 20 hours drive away). The vehicle was for a customer to use on his tropical beach holiday a further hour’s drive north. There was no way of physically getting the vehicle to Cairns for the customer.

1. Calling back when promised

The customer was called back. After initially alerting him to the problem the customer was called back within the 24 hour period as promised.

2. Explaining what caused the problem………… simple language

I explained that it was our fault and we would have a solution for him not having his car on holidays.

3. Letting customers know who and what numbers to call

He was given my phone number and the Brisbane branch manager’s phone number.

4. Contacting customers promptly when a problem is solved

As soon as the hire car in Cairns had been arranged he was advised.

5. Giving customers full access to speak to management

I stated that if he was not happy with our solution he could contact my General Manager.

6. Telling how long it will take to solve a problem

He was assured that we should be able to solve the problem before he left for Cairns within next 48 hours.

7. Offering useful alternatives if a problem can’t be solved

As we could not physically get his car to Cairns on time, we offered him a hire car at no cost.

8. Treating customers like people, not account numbers

Self explanatory.

9. Advising customers on how to avoid a future problem

It was suggested that he advise the depot next time he required his vehicle to be transported that it was “IMPORTANT” and needed priority.

10. Giving progress reports if a problem cannot be resolved

Whilst we solved his problem by offering him a hire car, he was contacted at every transport leg where the car was delivered to Cairns.

A seemingly impossible situation was solved using these 10 customer service actions. The customer was happy and continued to be a client for many years. As the quote implies, I could have told him it was impossible to get his car to Cairns in the time frame required (“how much you know”) Instead, customer service was demonstrated (“how much you care”) and he was happy.

These 10 actions are so fundamental to good customer service that in our logistics business I had them framed and placed in every office.

Above the Line and Below the Line Thinking…

Above the Line and Below the Line Thinking…

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
― Abraham Lincoln

Continuing on from a previous blog highlighting the difference between excuses and reasons and making sure you are not the road block, we have the concept of above and below the line thinking.

This is a very powerful concept – “The Line” is the parallel that divides our character and represents responsibility. Responsibility is a very important word. It is a powerful life skill that puts into practice the act of ownership; taking responsibility and being accountable for your actions.

Acting below the line our lives become circumstance-driven and include the characteristics of laying blame; denial and making excuses.

Are you a victor or victim?

Laying blame is far too common in organisations and businesses; whether it is the CEO or others. It shows that they are not willing to be accountable or responsible for their actions. Excuses don’t solve the issues either, nor promote responsibility. They usually cause frustration.

With denial we are committing yet another below the line action “I didn’t do it.” This obviously ineffective response can create certain frustration in others and make us appear unreliable and dishonest.

Yes, victims let things happen to them; do not take control; are pessimistic; find reasons why not and always appear tired and stressed.

By choosing to act above the line  we are using response-ability (that is taking responsibility for your performance and showing you have the ability to be responsible). It is a powerful skill. This can be defined as having the ability to respond (that is be pro-active). With response-ability comes increasing choices and freedoms that we may have never had before.

By living above the line, you take responsibility for your own life, business or career. You begin to have greater control because you stop blaming things outside yourself for your current situation. I can remember being in a business where a manager always came up with excuses about poor business performance whilst continuing to deny there was a problem. This was extremely frustrating for me. It began to affect my work performance and emotional state. I was blaming him rather than taking ownership for my performance. I decided to take responsibility for my performance and the business performance and this filtered down the organisation to others, making them take responsibility for their sections……..and unsurprising performance improved and so did workplace morale.

Responsibility is the ability to respond to the events that happen in our lives. When you sit back and accept things that happen to you, you are allowing the circumstances of life to control you rather than taking control of what circumstances come in and out of your life. When you take action, you make life happen for you…………not to you!

Never Never Say These Things…

Never Never Say These Things…

 “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first”

Mark Twain

Too often, unfortunately when service providers, managers and staff fail to manage in a pro-active way, and things fail or do not go the way they expected, they come up with excuses.

What are differences between reasons and excuses?

The measurement for success in business today is performance. Whether you are a pleasant person, honest or related to the boss or is not, is irrelevant if you are not contributing to the business’s performance in a positive way.  Too often we hear about employees being unfairly treated when a business folds or lays off staff, however perhaps rather than blaming ‘someone else’ whether it is the owner, managers, the market or customers the employees could have taken effective action that may have prevented the current situation.

I call this ‘discretionary effort’; the difference in the level of effort one is capable of bringing to an activity or a task, and the effort required only to get by or make do. In other words “going the extra mile”…

Here is a list of phrases to avoid which are excuses, not reasons:

“They didn’t get back to me” – so you did not follow up?

“I thought someone else was taking care of it” – so you don’t take responsibility in your job”?

“No one ever told me” – so you don’t communicate with those around you?

“I didn’t have time” – did you have time to talk around the water cooler or photocopier?

“I didn’t think to ask about that” – so you don’t  think about your job?

If there are roadblocks in the business whose job is it to remove them?

Yours or ‘someone else’s?

Sometimes in business , there are too many people  talking  about their rights (what they think they are entitled to) rather than their responsibilities (taking initiative and being pro-active).

Good business owners and managers love employees who remove road blocks and are positive and pro-active.

My observations over 30 years in business is that if you use excuses like those above then you are the road block! Everybody learns from experience and learning is a ‘state of mind’ – so don’t be a roadblock…