Being a customer service professional, I tend to be kind and patient when interacting with customer service organizations. I have a sincere appreciation for how difficult it can be as a front line employee, and the enormous expectations that come with the job. Most organizations recognize the impact providing excellent customer service can have, and it's up to their employees to make it happen. Never an easy thing to do.
Recently, I was travelling extensively for business in the United States. I flew various airlines, stayed at different hotels and ate in numerous restaurants. Of course, where I travelled influenced the kind of experience I had (hard to beat the Midwest and South for congeniality), I give credit to the organizations for creating the right environment for their employees to be successful.
Here are two companies that stood out primarily because of the employees I dealt with:
Marriott (congrats on taking my business away from Hilton - you earned it!)
Here's a shining example of how my loyalties will shift. I have always gone out of my way to stay at Hilton Hotels - I could always count on affordable options, great staff and comfortable rooms (especially for business). I was a happy and satisfied customer. On a recent Hilton stay, I found out that I could not earn award points (for my Hilton rewards program) because I booked my stay via a third party (a silly policy). I challenged it with the front desk and after getting nowhere contacted customer care. When I still couldn't make any progress, I wrote a respectful letter to one of their executives. Not an even a response. Suffice it to say, I was ripe for the taking.
So I decided to try Marriott. Here's how easily they took my business from Hilton. I encountered the exact same problem. I joined their reward program and booked via a third party. Once again, and only after I finished my stay, I learned that my three nights wouldn't qualify for rewards points, a policy that is absolutely not customer friendly! This time, after my average Trip Advisor review of the property, I received a note from the property General Manager (same day!) to address the concerns I had from my stay, including the points issue.
In this case someone reached out to me proactively, the best first step for any company to make when made aware that a customer wasn't entirely satisfied with his/her experience. This makes us feel like you care and that you are interested in understanding what went wrong, even if you can't resolve things to our full satisfaction. It took only two back and forth same day exchanges with the General Manager to secure my repeat business.
I received the 3 things that most of us are after when not entirely satisfied with a company's experience:
United - Your employees saved the day!
The greatest challenge facing North American airlines is on time departure and cancellations. Now, I am a safety first kind of guy, so I applaud airlines for making decisions that negatively impact the customer experience in the interests of passenger safety. The challenge is that flight delays and cancellations aren't always related to flight safety - other operational issues present themselves too.
Recently I flew United on an international flight, connecting via Chicago. By subscribing to their smartphone app, I was able to track my flights. I would get notified of any delays, enabling me to move about while in the airport and not be bound to my gate - a great customer first initiative! On this occasion, weather was the reason my first flight was canceled. I waited for my turn to speak with a United gate agent to rebook my trip but I wasn't optimistic as my final destination was a smaller U.S. city with limited flights in and out.
The mood was tense as United agents and passengers alike were anxious to learn if they'd spend the night at the airport. In this regard, United could have been better organized and been more proactive keeping us informed. It's when my turn came up that I saw the terrific employees they had running the show. I was met with a smile, and immediately taken through every conceivable scenario to rebook. Along the way, and faced with a growing tension from the passengers in line, this group kept their composure. 30m later I was re-booked :).
Well done United! - your employees made a difficult and stressful experience much easier to handle! They also found a creative way for me to still make my trip the next day (an important meeting could not be missed). And they did things quickly and gracefully.
These are two example of company employees getting customer service RIGHT. There are great examples I come across every day, and it's important that as industry professionals we take time out to recognize employess working tirelessly to represent their brands and do right by their customers.
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I have grappled with this question for a while. Should I be forgiving when being serviced by a federal or provincial agency in Canada? Knowing how difficult finances are and where the limited funds are being invested, is it reasonable to expect a certain level of service when interacting with them? What should my rights be as a patient or advocate on behalf of a patient? What is the expected customer experience? Let's explore.
I recently needed to speak with a division of the federal government. I called their published 800 number however they were experiencing high call volumes and waiting on hold was not presented as an option for me; I was forced to disconnect and try again later. Let me say this again, an agency of the federal government was unreachable on four separate occasions and did not provide me the opportunity to wait on hold for someone who could help. And there was no emergency the IVR made me aware of. Is that acceptable?
I don't think so. While I can sympathize with the limited funds available to staff their Call Centre appropriately, I cannot accept that a better, more efficient way to ensure callers could reach this agency was not available. I called on four separate occasions, each on a different day and time. I challenge our federal government to review its Call Centre operations across all agencies because this experience isn't good enough.
Shortly after this experience, I dealt with a medical emergency on behalf of a family member, which led to me to dive deeper into our medical system's customer experience. While part of the experience was quite positive, especially the care provided by the doctors and nurses, other areas could have been better, including:
I can only imagine the complexities involved in running a hospital, let alone what the staff go through helping the sick and managing their anxious family and friends. That said, I am still going to challenge them to Be Better. I know budgets are tight but I don't think as patients and advocates we are asking for anything that isn't manageable. Here are five inexpensive ways hospitals can improve their patient/customer experience:
The above are not expensive to implement and a good way to start improving things, Moreover, several can be applicable to all public service organizations. Our public agencies can Be Better and while I empathize with the challenges they face, I believe they should hold themselves to delivering the best possible patient/customer experience. This is even more important when we are at our most vulnerable (e.g. when in a hospital).
We are Customer Service Simplified! Check us out at www.simplifyingservice.com and don't forget to like us on facebook and follow us on twitter. To get in touch call 647-202-7385 or 416-453-7997. We can help!
A guest blog by Jennifer Fabri, our newest Senior Consultant
"In the best, the friendliest and simplest relations flattery or praise is necessary, just as grease is necessary to keep wheels turning."
- Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
People like to be praised. I do! I feel great when someone tells me something I've done well and it encourages me to do even better next time. It also helps me keep my eye on the big picture, instead of getting caught up in those things that maybe I'm not so great at. But is all praise good? Can too much go to your head? How do you give GREAT feedback?
As leaders, we find ourselves faced with all kinds of situations where we need to share feedback,, both good and bad. Some situations will require extensive coaching and training to aid development and teach new skills; others can require pretty direct and candid feedback about something that wasn't done well. But sometimes we just want to give kudos for a job well done.
Sounds pretty simple, right? I watch an employee diffuse a difficult customer situation and I want to let them know that they've done a great job. So I tell him, "Great job!" Is that adequate? Well, it probably feels pretty good to the employee in the moment because they know that the boss has seen them do something great. But what exactly does "good job" reinforce? Does the employee know why I thought they were great and what behaviours specifically, they should continue to demonstrate? Probably not.
We believe that there are five components to great feedback:
So now let's revisit the example we talked about regarding handling a difficult customer. Your feedback might sound something like this:
"John, I just overheard your conversation with (customer) and I wanted to share some feedback. I thought the way that you paraphrased his concerns and then immediately expressed empathy was great. It showed you really understood why he was upset and enabled you to identify a different solution that he was happier with. I wanted you to know that I think you did an excellent job managing that discussion and that is exactly how we make great experiences for our customers! Awesome job!"
Compare this to "Great job..."
As an employee, what would you rather hear? We believe that sharing specific feedback on a frequent basis can have a lasting impact on employee behaviour, which will have a positive impact on the customer experience, which of course, means enhanced company performance.
To learn more about how to provide effective feedback and coaching for your employees, give us a shout at 647-202-8385 or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And learn more about us at www.simplifyingservice.com.
We are Customer Service Simplified!
We recently published an article in Contact Centre Pipeline, North America's leading trade publication on Customer Service and Call Centres. Check out our thoughts on employee engagement and how it remains the #1 tool for companies of all shapes and sizes as far as delivering an exceptional customer experience. Click here: Employee Engagement Article - Enjoy!
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So, how often have you called a company and had to use this exact phrase when things didn't go your way? Does it sometimes feel like nobody is empowered to do the right thing when the right thing seems so obvious? Unfortunately, it's probably a bit too often and that the real question is why. The answer from this corner is simple: too many organizations are putting processes in place that limit employee empowerment. Moreover, by not focusing heavily enough on employee training, coaching and development, companies are not setting their most important assets (their front line employees) up for success.
If companies want their customers to receive fast and one time resolution to their inquiries, it is imperative that they create an environment that fosters independence. This applies to all customer facing channels such as call centres, stores and on line web help. In all cases, employees need to have the right tools and support to make decisions that balance the best interests of their customers and the organizations they work for.
Here are five ways to create an employee centric environment that fosters effective decision making:
Employee empowerment is one of the fundamental opportunities facing customer service organizations today. Regardless of company size and channel EVERYONE can benefit from an increased focus on how to more effectively empower their employees. Doing so will lift their overall engagement and that translates into a better customer experience. And a world class customer experience will improve your bottom line!
To learn more about how to build a great employee empowerment strategy, give us a shout at 647-202-7385 or email@example.com. And learn more about us at www.simplifyingservice.com.
We are Customer Service Simplified!