Great Customer Service: 20 Surefire Tips

Photo Credit: AndreyPopov
Photo Credit: AndreyPopov

Customer service can make or break a company. Good results come from:

  • knowing what works
  • selecting employees who are willing to apply what works
  • training the employees to improve their skills
  • monitoring progress
  • praising good performance.

Your company policies may vary from some of the tips below, but this list provides a good start. Some of these tips apply to phone etiquette particularly, but most apply to all situations. And many apply to interacting with co-workers as well as external customers.

See if you can find one or more tips you have not yet implemented with your staff, or one that you have requested but is not yet fulfilled in actual performance.

  1. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude and positive regard for everyone. When people disappoint you, remember patience and compassion: you never know what’s going on in their world.
  2. Cultivate the attitude that fellow employees are your internal customers and deserve great service as much as external customers do. That’s teamwork.
  3. Smile. Be cheerful. If you’re on the phone, smiling puts a “smile” in your voice.
  4. Maintain good body language.
  5. Answer the phone by the third ring.
  6. Give your name and department or company name.
  7. Speak clearly and somewhat slowly.
  8. Listen carefully; take notes to aid memory when necessary.
  9. Take messages courteously and in written form.
  10. Ask questions tactfully.
  11. When talking to customers or coworkers, paraphrase what you think you understand so that customers will feel understood and appreciated, and so that misunderstandings can be discovered. The psychological impact is phenomenal.
  12. Address the individual by name.
  13. Focus on what you CAN do; avoid saying what you CAN’T do; avoid saying “I don’t know.”
  14. Affirm your desire to do everything you can to help.
  15. Ask if it’s OK before you put someone on hold while you obtain the necessary information.
  16. Avoid a long hold time.
  17. Always remain polite, cheerful, nurturing, concerned, sympathetic, even if you need to be firm.
  18. Transfer calls carefully; give the individual the direct number in case the transfer fails, and make sure the transfer worked before hanging up, if possible.
  19. Avoid a string of transfers: don’t transfer unless you believe that department WILL be able to help. Call the other department yourself, if necessary, to get a definite answer.
  20. Work hard to remember the other person’s paradigm. Remembering what things are like for him or her keeps you sympathetic and patient: customers don’t know the company website as you do; they aren’t familiar with company policies as you are. Not every co-worker knows what you know.

Many of these tips seem like common sense, but it’s amazing how many employees fail to follow them. A good staff development program will do more than train employees. It will also monitor performance and provide encouraging follow-up and accountability. All of this takes time, but is well worth the effort. Customers appreciate the effort, and employee morale is much, much better.

Got a question? Message me through this website. 

© 2013 Caryl D. Schlicher A Bridge To Excellence

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts totaling no more than 10 sentences and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Caryl Schlicher and A Bridge To Excellence, and provided that the appropriate URL is given to direct readers to the original content.


Goals: Getting Our Act Together

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Goal setting is a popular topic these days, and a very broad one. We could be talking about the goal of a business, and communicating that to employees. We could be talking about personal life goals. We could be talking about the goal in a particular discussion.

The following strategies should be helpful no matter what the application is (though you might change the language slightly in a different setting, but the principle still applies):

  1. To keep from being overwhelmed, focus on only one area of your life to start: work life, financial goals, social life, family life, health, spiritual life, whatever.
  2. Sit down with pen and paper in a quiet place and ask yourself, “What do I want to see changed?”
  3. Next question: If you got up tomorrow and that goal had been realized, how would you know? What would be different? What would you see? What would be the evidence of change?
  4. What results do you imagine will flow from those observable changes? Are you sure, or could you be engaging in wishful thinking? If you’re unsure, talk to someone you trust – a friend, coach, counselor, spiritual leader, mentor – whatever is appropriate for your particular area of concern.
  5. Thinking over your answers to #2 and #3, which specific changes are under your control, and which are under another person’s control? For example, going to exercise three times per week is probably under your control. Having your spouse treat you with more respect is out of your control to a greater degree (but we can always work to affect that situation). Likewise, developing your company’s mission statement may be completely under your control. But making sure your employees live out that mission statement – well, again, you have influence, but you don’t have absolute control.
  6. Become very clear, with precise lists if necessary, about what you can control and focus on that. This focusing is hard work. It’s very tempting to focus on the events or behaviors that you cannot control. Learning assertiveness, learning to use “I-statements,” and learning to let go of certain outcomes are all part of figuring out what you can control.
  7. Ask yourself what strengths you bring to this challenge. How can you employ them?
  8. Ask yourself what you have typically done in the past. Consider whether or not that’s working, and whether it makes sense to give up an unproductive habit.
  9. Ask yourself what has worked well in the past. How can you do more of that?
  10. Ask yourself what information you are lacking. Where can you find those answers?
  11. What steps or action items can you write down as a result of all of these answers? Is there a logical or chronological order to these steps?
  12. Does any step have a prerequisite step that you’ve left out?
  13. How would you rate each step in terms of difficulty?
  14. What barriers or pitfalls can you anticipate with each step? What proactive problem-prevention can you implement?
  15. Can you do something to make a particular step easier? Call for help? Consult an expert? Do your own research? Delegate some tasks to another person? Practice?
  16. Install some form of accountability to motivate you to keep climbing out of your old rut. Change is hard. We must work hard to combat the forces of inertia.
  17. Praise yourself as you learn to take better care of the things you CAN control. Try to build your expectations and satisfaction more on that. Increasingly, define “a good day” as a day in which you took care of your business, your behavior, your attitudes, your thoughts, your feelings. Look less and less for other people and outside circumstances to create your “good day.”
  18. Develop an attitude of gratitude for everything that goes right during this process.
  19. Catch others being good. Never miss an opportunity to express praise and appreciation.
  20. Always notice and celebrate the progress, the small successes, both within yourself and in others’ behavior.

It’s hard to imagine a situation that can’t improve if you work these steps. Give them a try and see what develops!

Got a question? Message me through this webiste.
© 2013 Caryl D. Schlicher A Bridge To Excellence

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts totaling no more than 10 sentences and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Caryl Schlicher and A Bridge To Excellence, and provided that the appropriate URL is given to direct readers to the original content.


The Questions We Need To Ask Every Day

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One of my favorite questions is “What works?” In other words, what methods will give me the results I desire?

“What works?” is a question we should ask in every area of life – succeeding at work, helping others succeed at work, building a strong marriage, parenting children, staying organized, improving our health, building strong communities, managing the national economy, you-name-it.

We can even apply that question to the other questions in life. Then, the question becomes, “What questions work well for us?” These are the questions we need to ask every day. And we should also be aware of harmful questions that lead us away from our desired goals. Some good and harmful questions come from Dr. Marilee G. Adams, author of the book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, and I’ve written many others.

Some people refer to the beneficial questions as “learner questions,” because they demonstrate a desire to learn and grow. And they refer to the harmful or less productive questions as “judger questions,” because they produce very harsh, critical judgments, which in turn produce negative feelings and diminished success.

So, let’s look at a few options for question asking, as we navigate our daily lives at work and at home. I think the benefits will be obvious to you.

Judger asks, “Who’s to blame here?” Learner asks, “What can I and others do to improve things?”

Judger asks, “How should I tell him he screwed up?” Learner asks, “Can I clearly explain how I would like things done the next time?”

Judger asks, “What’s wrong in this environment?” Learner asks, “What’s right in this environment, and how can we do more of that?”

Judger asks, “How can I look superior?” Learner asks, “What can I learn? And how can I help others?”

Judger asks, “How can I prove I’m right?” Learner asks, “What are the facts? What is the full truth? What is wise? What is the best thing for us to do right now?”

Judger asks, “How can I attack him or make him feel bad?” Learner asks, “How can I build him up, encourage him, guide him, and also enforce some boundaries when needed?”

Judger asks, “How can I control others?” Learner asks, “How can I control myself and maintain a healthy boundary?”

Judger asks, “How will I be hurt?” Learner asks, “How can I help others?”

Judger asks, “How can I defend myself in the face of criticism?” Learner asks, “What truth is there in this criticism, if any? Am I being honest with myself? And how can I help Judger to feel understood?” Only after this preliminary, open-minded analysis and good communication does Learner move forward to defending himself/herself as needed.

Judger asks, “How can I get an immediate answer for everything?” Learner asks, “Can I temporarily endure the discomfort of not having everything figured out?”

Judger desperately asks, “How can I eliminate imperfection in others?” Learner patiently asks, “Can I simultaneously accept what is, while still working towards needed improvement?”

Judger asks, “What should be rejected?” Learner asks, “What can be accepted or negotiated?”

Judger asks either-or questions and suggests false dilemmas. Learner considers both-and questions. For example, Judger asks, “Which of us is right?” Learner asks, “In what ways are we both right?”

Judger asks, “How can I win out over this other person?” Learner asks, “How can we both win? And what are the best options for each of us?”

Judger asks a lot of questions about things outside of his control. Learner asks a lot of questions about the things under his control.

Judger asks, “How can I avoid change?” Learner asks, “How can I manage change well?”

Judger asks, “How can I protect my turf?” Learner asks, “What are the highest goals for this organization or family? Am I working toward those goals?”

Judger asks, “How could I lose in this situation?” Learner asks, “What could I gain?”

Judger asks, “Why is that other person so dense?” Learner asks, “What does this person need from me and others in order to do better?”

Judger asks, “Why bother to try?” Learner asks, “What is possible?”

Judger often clings to the question, “What do we usually do?” Learner asks, “What options haven’t I considered? What limitations have I placed on my thinking? How else can I think about this?”

Judger asks, “How has this hurt me?” Learner asks, “What’s useful about this? How is it helping me to grow, even though it might be painful?”

Judger secretly and continuously asks himself, “What’s wrong with me?” Learner isn’t afraid of that question but also asks, “What’s right about me, and how am I working on improving?”

Judgers tend to react emotionally and out of ingrained habit; learners strive to respond with self-control and prethought. Judgers tend to feel powerless; learners are growing in their sense of personal power. Judgers often feel fear; learners are growing in faith, trust, and personal responsibility. Judgers often have a scarcity mentality; learners see abundance.

It’s useful to ask ourselves on a daily basis whether we’ve fallen into judger mode, which tends to be our natural state, or whether we’ve climbed into learner mode. Every day we can decide which we prefer. And we can ask ourselves, “What can help me get back into learner mode, or stay in learner mode?”

I could present a list of benefits for operating in learner mode more often. But why not conduct your own experiment and see what happens?

Got a question? Message me through this website.

© 2012 Caryl D. Schlicher A Bridge To Excellence

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts totaling no more than 10 sentences and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Caryl Schlicher and A Bridge To Excellence, and provided that the appropriate URL is given to direct readers to the original content.