Tag Archives: customer

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customer service plan

Customer Service Plan and Other Aging Items

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Start with a plan. That is what many business experts suggest. We go to a conference room, boardroom, or gather for a campfire style chat around the coffee table. Do you have a customer service plan and is it working?

We already know that the best plans are only the best plans when they are properly executed. Organizations strive for buy-in, engagement, and loyalty. It is true for buying in to the plan. It is true when you sign up as an employee. The plan means there is an expectation.

Aging Items

When I buy a car and it breaks I expect the warranty to cover it, or I know it has aged out of the warranty. At this point, the value has changed. The original capabilities are somewhat less. The tires, wheel bearings, and engine life have eroded, at least a little.

The same may be said about our clothing, a vacuum cleaner, or our home. Across time and through use, they deteriorate little by little, bit by bit, and they are never the same as the first day.

Of course, some things we consider an investment. Paint a room, install new carpet, and get a new roof, perhaps a home now has more value.

One of the biggest challenges for us in the workplace, after the plan has been made, after the buy-in has occurred and employees and systems have launched, will it be an investment or a consumable?

Customer Service Plan

Some of the best customer service plans deteriorate across time. Exceptions become rules, what protects the customer shifts to what protects the organization, and the list of what is in the box declines in value.

That bright shiny plan, it grows dull, declines in value, and needs maintenance or a rebuild.

A customer service plan is about its impact on culture. Across time, culture is about tradition and becomes what is expected.

Your customer service plan should be an investment.

– DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a five-time author and some of his work includes, #CustServ The Customer Service Culture, and Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+


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care more

Care More and You Will Spend Less

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Is customer service at an all-time low? Many people suggest that it might be. Does spending less pay off with more? Do the businesses that care more have the biggest advantage of all?

People are wondering what happened to customer service. The well-known restaurant chain, the shopping mall, and the pharmacy, what happened to the customer experience?

Keep Costs Low

Many businesses connect caring with costs. Perhaps not always consciously, but they still do it.

Why train our youngest workers in customer service, they’ll be gone at the end of the season.

It takes an extra full-time employee to monitor the rest rooms, the landscaping, and the outside trash containers.

Only one checkout line is necessary. Customers can wait when we get busy.

Call us back in a couple of hours, we’ll give you and update.

Sorry, we did nothing. We needed more information before we could process your order.

The customer experience is a simple one. Do more, give more, and care more than what is expected.

Measuring the Experience

Sometimes the trick is analyzing what is expected. Expectations are not driven by the front-line supervisor, the storeowner, or the even the marketing committee. While all three may have a hand in it, ultimately the customer decides.

When the high cost franchise restaurant cannot survive while the mom and pop diner consistently is consistently packed, or when the local shopping mall closes, and when the medical office cannot understand why patients are so angry. Perhaps they need to consider how much they really care.

Better yet, start with caring, it may be too late when everyone has already starting leaving.

Care More

It really isn’t that hard to grasp. If the population of those you serve are citing the chronic problems with customer service, your opportunity is to care more, not less.

The best businesses avoid correlating expenses with the bottom line. They correlate expenses with growth which leads to a better bottom line.

When cutting costs to improve cash flow is the only thing you’ll do to improve your position. Your position will lack service. Your culture will be focused on spend less and earn more, instead of care more and spend less.

The biggest advantage is the one waiting on you to make a difference for human interaction. Dollar for dollar customer onboarding, retention, and lifetime value will be more effective when you care more.

It is the only effective way to get more by spending less.

– DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a five-time author and some of his work includes, #CustServ The Customer Service Culture, and Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+


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offload problems

Do You Offload Problems To Your Customers?

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Have you ever walked the path of least resistance? Do you look for the easy route to build product or provide services? Easy is often viewed as advantageous, in the short run at least. That advantage is less cost, but at what price? What happens when you offload problems?

It seems to be the nature of what many people and businesses do. They offload problems. They look for the short cut and the cost savings. The thought is, we will do this because the customer won’t notice or doesn’t really care. By the way, it saves us money or causes a return visit.

Customer Engagement

Our cars get a check engine light, but we have to purchase a code reader to get the code. Why doesn’t it just tell us the code?

You can put your trash in an outside a can, but you have to bring it to the curb for collection. Later you search for the lid around the neighborhood because it has blown off in the wind.

Why are there no baskets or shopping carts deep inside the store? Who is that easy for, convenient for, or designed to help? Of course, we know the answer.

Standards are Set

There are many other ordinary (for today) life scenarios. Why do I have to change the clock in my car, my cell phone does it automatically? Do I really need a frequent shoppers card, when I always pay with my same credit card?

Why do I have to have a login and provide a password for every software application? Better yet, why has my software migrated to a subscription service? When I buy a hammer I don’t have to keep buying it every month.

Offload Problems

I’ll often ask participants in my customer service seminars, “What are you doing that punishes your customer?” When you answer this question and remove the punishment, you will delight your customers. Delighted customers bring you more customers.

Every time you take a short cut in design, engineering, cost cutting, or easy for you, you sabotage your customer’s experience.

This is exactly why customer service is about a culture, it is not about a department.

– DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a five-time author and some of his work includes, #CustServ The Customer Service Culture, and Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+


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reaction culture

Reaction Culture In a Service Economy

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Have you ever avoided a conversation, speaking up in a meeting, or taking a call from a customer because you’re anticipating a harsh undesirable reaction? Does your workplace have a reaction culture?

Reaction Culture

In the reaction culture, our plan is to wait for something to break. We wait for the compliant, the problem to arise, or the shipment to be unsatisfactory. The assumption often is, no news is good news.

When a problem occurs we send it to the customer service department, or we call one ourselves when we are the victim. We wait for people to look for us, hunt us, and track us down. Everything else, well, it is just good news, not bad.

Our reaction then, is probably to avoid bad news. Avoid the compliant, avoid the problem, and hope that good enough will be exactly that, good enough.

May be that isn’t the right tactic. Reactionary isn’t the right approach for communication, it doesn’t spell leadership, and it certainly is probably not the best resolve for customer interactions.

Proactive Is Lucrative

It seems to me that proactive is much more lucrative. Customer service should be about a proactive culture of service. It is not a department, and it certainly shouldn’t be only about a transaction gone wrong.

What if the metric was tallied differently, what if it was not about problems fixed but more about problems never occurring?

What if the sign on the wall in the plant was a count of how many days without a reported customer problem? Safety matters, but so does the customer, without them there isn’t a plant at all.

Labeled As Good

When we make customer service about a department it places the weight of everything on a reaction and making things just good enough.

It seems to me that there is a difference between good enough and being enough to be labeled good.

Proactive is a better choice, it is much different from the reaction culture.

– DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a five-time author and some of his work includes, #CustServ The Customer Service Culture, and Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+


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Good service

Good Service Done Right, Can You Find It?

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It seems that there are universal truths about many things in life. Are there universal truths about customer service? Can we still get good service done right?

Many believe that it is a very interesting time for small businesses, franchise holders, and non-profit organizations. Likely, there are no limits on size, shape, or even sector. It could be your small town dentist office, a large-scale telecommunications provider, or the 1940’s railcar dinner.

Today, as frustrations mount with poor service, the desire for good service increases. Repetitive breakdowns cause people to seek something better. Rejection may lead to obsession, and stories of poor service lead to a new quest to find the exceptions.

Universal Truths

What are some of the universal truths about good service? What are organizations doing to deliver?

They are:

  1. Timely
  2. Responsive
  3. Caring
  4. Kind
  5. Honest
  6. Trustworthy
  7. Valued
  8. Considerate
  9. Forthcoming
  10. Well-managed
  11. Respected
  12. Active
  13. Participative
  14. Decisive
  15. Resourceful

Perhaps this represents just a handful of the qualities that make things go more right, instead of wrong.

Wrong Things First

It is easy for organizations to focus on the wrong things first. By choice, they often focus on self-protection, cheapest to spec and good enough to close the sale.

These choices often become values and traditions. The traditions the organization holds on the inside. Their dirty laundry and the things they stuff in the closet.

They aren’t broadcast or made public, at least not in the written form. Customers quickly figure it out though, and they are just as quick to tell others or jump to a social media channel to spread the word.

Unfortunately, it is the evolution, the life cycle and a self-created destiny.

Good Service

For the organization that wants to change, the one that wants to grow its base, build a new reputation, and deliver good service, it often becomes about a process of unlearning.

Unlearning the bad habits, unlearning the self-protection factors that restrict quality and removing of the mindset of building or delivering to the cheapest spec wins.

Why is all of this important? It is important because there is a difference between done and done right.

– DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a five-time author and some of his work includes, #CustServ The Customer Service Culture, and Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+


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successful service

Successful Service Is a Promise Kept

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Customer service goes wrong when the first reaction is to deny a problem exits. The most successful service happens when the promise to the customer is kept.

Every transaction contains a promise to the customer. This product will work, you will get fast delivery from our on-line store, pressing one will get you to technical support, and our waiting room is comfortable, you’ll be called shortly.

Customer Promises

Customer service is everywhere. Schools have students they are the customer. The barber has a customer sitting in the chair. Your cellular provider has subscribers.

It is the person who receives postal service mail, the person pushing the shopping cart, and the person channel surfing on their HD TV.

What every customer wants to know is that you’ll keep your promises.

You will educate my child, give me a great haircut, and keep my cellular network up and running.  You will also deliver my mail, keep good store hours, and give me great television entertainment at a reasonable price.

Often the root of the problem starts with the perception of a promise not kept. The first interaction conditions what will happen next. Unfortunately, often the first message received is denial that a problem exists. Denials aren’t always verbal, sometimes they are visual.

Visual Denials

The website contact page takes you only to a form. A waiting room has only three chairs, one is broken, one is a child’s chair, and one has food on it. You can watch any one of the 15 stations in your TV subscriber package but you only want one.

It could be that none of those represents the promise that the customer expected, so they’ll often take what they can get, they will accept it as is. They’ll fill out the form, stand in the waiting room, and occasionally watch the one channel in the package that they actually enjoy.

Successful Service

Successful service is a promise kept. It is not closing the sale. It is not denial that there is a problem.

Customer service is only effortless when you don’t believe the customer could ever have a problem.

– DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a five-time author and some of his work includes, #CustServ The Customer Service Culture, and Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+


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learning customer service

Learning Customer Service Is Important

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There is always a critic about customer service. People say hindsight is twenty-twenty. Is learning customer service important?

Talk to anyone long enough and they’ll share a bad customer service experience. It is easy to analyze the game after it is over.

Customers Matter

It is in the mission statement, the plague on the wall, and clever meme that is on the poster. Organizations always claim that customer service matters.

Show the customer that we care.

Take care of the customer.

Our customers are number one.

Understanding the Critic

The critic does not represent the truth about customer service or the customer experience. What the critic knows, says, or does is not representative of the knowledge of the team.

Knowing how a screwdriver works and being able to use one with precision are two different things.

Delivering exceptional customer service is a skill. When we understand that it is a skill then we also recognize that it can be built, developed, and shaped.

People often quickly scoff at the idea of learning more about customer service because they believe they already know it, and after all, they can point out all the mistakes of others.

The loudest critics may need the most development. Not because they don’t know what it is, but because they aren’t on the field delivering.

Learning Customer Service

Sometimes the learning part is not about what the tool is used for, but it is about how the tool is used. This includes when, where, and the management of circumstances and situations.

There is a difference between screaming from the bleachers, yelling at the television, or commanding it from the C Suite.

Organizational commitment and a culture of the service experience starts with learning but it is only made possible from action on the field. It will take more than knowing what the tool is used for and being a critic when the tool slips.

Learning customer service is always important. It starts inside the organization long before it is delivered outside.

– DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a five-time author and some of his work includes, #CustServ The Customer Service Culture, and Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+


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Perfect customer service

Delivering Perfect Customer Service

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Is perfect realistic? Can you deliver the perfect product, service, and experience? What is required to deliver perfect customer service?

Beauty may exist in the eye of the beholder and the same is likely true for the customer experience.

Moments of Customer Service

Most of our experiences are the result of moments. The moment you hold the newest smartphone, the moment you look in the mirror wearing the new outfit, or that moment when you test-drive the new car. All of our experiences are about emotions. Some feel perfect, at least for that moment.

Therefore, the customer service that we deliver, the things that delight and inspire customers, they are all about the moment. Those moments are often connected to people, places, circumstances, situations, and timing.

What is perfect right now, in this moment, may be a one-time experience. What is happening now probably isn’t the exact thing that will happen next.

Perfect customer service is situational. It is like leadership, communication, and delegation. What is perfect in this moment, for this person, in this situation won’t hold true for very long.

Circumstances Define Perfection

If you are insisting on delivering perfect customer service every time, you may want to think about the circumstances before planning for the outcomes.

Having an umbrella at the right moment may be perfect, holding an umbrella all the time, perhaps not so much.

Rules, policies and procedures are necessary, but they seldom consider every possible circumstance.

Perfect Customer Service

If you’re looking for perfection, you’re going to have to have truth. The truth is perfection is a moving target. Consequently, rules and policies are guidelines.

Organizational culture will shape the flexibility around the circumstances that will lead to the perfect moment.

What happens the next time, in the next circumstance is only perfect for that moment.

Your culture won’t define the moments, but the outcomes of the moment are defined by your culture.

– DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a five-time author and some of his work includes, #CustServ The Customer Service Culture, and Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+


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vendor abuse

Have You Heard of Vendor Abuse?

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Vendor abuse isn’t a joke, it is a real thing. While I like to position most of my writing with a swing towards the positive, I feel this is an important issue.

Let me start by providing a little background about a situation I recently witnessed.

Background

I was at a local printing and office supply superstore. Unfortunately, I was behind the counter, working on my order from the day before. That is another story, which I will address in a minute.

While I was behind the counter a gentleman approached the store personnel expressing the urgency of some documents he needed printed and bound. My back was towards him but I overheard the exchange. He expressed that he needed these documents and that they were court ordered.

The store personnel were very courteous and respectful. I was listening. I had my customer service antenna tuned in. They expressed that they were operating under an extreme overload and couldn’t promise his work to be completed within three hours which was his request.

After some back and forth discussion he handed over materials for copying and the understanding was that they couldn’t promise binding but they could provide the duplication. They moved his order to the front of the line (ignoring an already existing backlog) and he walked away.

Work In Progress

They started his copy order and their high speed machines were happily spitting out lots of paper. About five minutes later, he returned to the counter and asked for his original copies back. Once again, although my back was turned my customer service ears were on.

The personnel somewhat surprised said that his order was running and as I looked over my shoulder that person pointed to a now three to four inch high stack of paper, it was the output from his order. Long story short, he demanded his originals, and left the store. He never paid a dime.

Apparently, during his five minute absence he walked out of the store and telephoned a competing business. They must have offered to meet his deadline.

I’m not an attorney, but guess what? He is an attorney. The court ordered documents he needed were connected with his professional work. Now, although I’m not an attorney I would like to suggest that there was a contract. The moment he agreed to the printing and handed over the documents he was on the hook for the order.

Vendor Abuse

I’m a person who believes in doing the right thing. I believe in living up to what I promised. No, the customer isn’t always right. Yes, this is an inappropriate way to treat a vendor. I call it vendor abuse and his behavior, multiplied, is exactly why you and I have to pay more.

Perhaps needless to say, the store had to throw away in my estimate 750 to 1000 sheets of paper. It was not their fault. They were actually going out of their way to help.

Behind the Counter

What was I doing behind the counter? My order from the day before which had some very specific instructions connected with the binding was not assembled correctly. I could have stomped up and down or I could have pitched a fit. I also could have walked out and called a competitor.

Instead, I was behind the counter helping to make an unintentional mistake better. Starting over, especially with another vendor would have cost me much more. This store has good people. They are hard working and are part of the community. They shouldn’t be abused or intentionally misused.

I wonder how Mr. Attorney treated the next vendor, and what about the clients he represents.

Hash tag – shaking my head. Hash tag – vendor abuse!

– DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a five-time author and some of his work includes, #CustServ The Customer Service Culture, and Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+


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Leading Sales Across Generations – Boomers to Millennials to Gen Z and Back.

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Are you responsible to sell across the five generations active in our workforce today? Surprising to some, nearly every professional has some sales responsibility, from selling themselves, to selling project ideas, and of course to include those who occupy full time sales positions. It is important to keep in mind that a one size fits all model created by a boomer without consideration for gen Z buyers will struggle just like a smartphone app developed by gen Z may not be ever be downloaded by a traditional.

Diverse-Business-Team-Shaking-Hands-1090857

I don’t want to confuse medium with message, brand promise with value proposition, or the nature of transactional sales as compared to consultative sales. What I am offering are three general characteristics to keep in mind when reaching across any of the five active workforce generations.

Anticipate conditions of satisfaction: To suggest you “put yourself in their shoes” may seem to be over simplifying things, but that should probably be one of your first objectives. Assuming what you are selling reaches across all generations, consider what differences will exist and what will reduce concerns or refusals. Make every attempt to view your product or service through their lens. Think gen Z selling a tablet computer to a just retired traditional.

Understand relationship parameters: Connecting with the customer and building relationships will vary. Gen Z may be thrilled to explore communicating through a follow-up text message while earlier generations may believe in eye-to-eye, face-to-face, handshakes and hard copy signatures. Always consider every customer touch point from brick and mortar buildings, to websites, to personal interactions. The value of touch points are critical, a gen Z will expect to see your website on mobile, while a traditional may expect a personal visit. Build the relationship their way, not yours.

Never waste their time: What constitutes a waste of time? It may depend on the generation. A meeting with a traditional that incorporates background and theory of the goods and services (which takes more time) may feel like a very appropriate and well invested use of time. On the other hand a 30 second elevator pitch may be all a millennial or gen Z needs to hear. This doesn’t suggest who is correct or who makes better decisions but it does suggest there are differences. Seek commonalities by considering how time is valued across the generational continuum.

A boomers satisfaction in an automobile purchase may be very different from gen Z. A real estate (home) purchase by traditionals may be very different as compared to millennials. Methods for consultative sales versus transactional sales should be carefully considered and will definitely impact your approach. Mediums, branding, and value propositions also need careful consideration and if you’re spanning all generations be sure to seek commonalities not just develop a focus on differences.

As with everything related to selling, communicating, or working across the generations there are variances in personal style regardless of the generation and in many cases there are variances from day-to-day, or even across weeks or months since schedules, job pressures, and even amounts of sleep may condition both personal and professional interactions.

– DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker, and coach that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is the author of the newly released book, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at DennisEGilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.


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