Customer Service Reader

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Customer Service Reader Readings on Customer Service, from the best minds in the field Customer Service and the Pursuit of Happiness Does happiness at work matter? Most of your life is spent going to work, being at work, going from work, thinking about work, and talking about work after work. If you work in customer service, and are not happy with your job, you have the wrong job. You should find the calling that makes you happy. When you are happy at work, you’ll never have to work another day. Most people don’t expect to find happiness, working a customer service job. But customer service, by its very nature, presents unique opportunities for the pursuit of happiness, not only for individuals, but for society as a whole. Researchers in the field of Subjective Well-being (happiness) have found that there are certain characteristics that happy people have in common. Happy people: Have self-control Are grateful Have good social relationships, supportive friends and family Have an adequate income Have respectable jobs, and Have a philosophy that provides meaning to their lives. Using this framework, can we, as providers, find happiness through customer service?

Self-control The consistent practice of outstanding customer service behaviors requires an extraordinary amount of self-control. It starts with the realization that YOU are in control. You choose your attitude You choose your response You choose to set aside your personal problems You choose to give others a better day When we take control, we refuse to be victims of circumstance, or of our own personal weaknesses. We take charge of our lives and of the situations that we face. This is a principal requirement of a life in service and, as it turns out, a principal requirement for a happy life.

Gratitude "Thank you" is perhaps that the second most important customer service phrase. We use it (or ought to use it) dozens of times a day (thank you for calling, thank you for bringing that to my attention, thank-you-comeagain). When we use these phrases authentically - i.e. when we mean what we say - we develop a habit of thankfulness. In Akumal III, Dr Bob Emmons reported research which showed that "people high in gratitude are more satisfied with life, have more vitality, more happiness, more optimism, hope, positive affect, lower psychological symptoms, more prosocial behaviors, and are higher on empathy".

Good social relationships When you consistently practice customer service values and skills, such as kindness, listening, empathy, gratitude, responsibility, and persuasion, you develop habits that will stay with you for the rest of your life, and that can be applied to all other aspects of your life. You'll be able to make friends more easily, and will be better skilled at strengthening your relationships with your friends and family. They in turn will tend to reciprocate. People who are happy have strong relationships with friends and family. This is both a characteristic of happy people, and a consequence of their behavior.

Adequate income There is a premium in the labor market for outstanding customer service providers. More important, we have the opportunity to constantly increase both our short-term and long-term income by applying our customer service skills. As Henry Ford once said, one who is “absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large.”

Respectable jobs This has two components. There’s the respect that you get for how you do your job, and there’s the respect you get for having that job. It’s not easy to provide outstanding customer service to every customer, on every transaction, every minute of the day. If you can do that, that’s something you can truly be proud of, and it’s certainly deserving of respect. Chances are you already stand out, and are duly rewarded. The second component, respect for the job itself, depends less on the individual, and more on the team as a whole. When everyone in your organization or location provides outstanding service, people tend to talk about you, and you're likely to be known and respected for the service that you provide. It's a source of pride just to be part of such a team. The hard part is that it does depend on everyone. All it takes is one bad player to ruin the whole game.

A philosophy that provides meaning to their lives The principles at the root of outstanding customer service are simple enough to say: Our lives have more meaning when we serve others Customer service is, first and foremost, a form of service To serve each other and each customer is to serve humanity As customer service providers, we touch millions of people each year. Each contact is an opportunity to make each life we touch a little better each day. And when we make people happy, they tend to pay it forward. Through the phenomenon psychologists call the “emotional contagion”, we can be carriers of an epidemic of kindness. We can be weapons of mass construction. I'll end with some thoughts from some people who are a lot smarter than me: Everyone can be great because everyone can serve. Martin Luther King Jr Joy can be real only if people look on their life as a service. Leo Tolstoy The value of a man should be seen in what he gives and not in what he is able to receive. Only a life lived for others is a life worth living. Albert Einstein Every one of us does render some service or other. If we cultivate the habit of doing this service deliberately, our desire for service will steadily grow stronger, and will make, not only our own happiness, but that of the world at large. Mohandas K Gandhi See also: Q&A with Dr Ed Diener 07:58 PM in Happiness, Psychology, What's in it for labor? | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Strategic advantage through customer service Customer service is not always crucial to the success of an organization. Its importance is determined primarily by supply & demand. If there are few suppliers and many consumers, suppliers can dictate the terms of the relationship, and customers may have no choice but to accept them. Most organizations, however, are not so lucky. Competition has exploded the cozy castles of all but a few protected markets, and will continue to undermine those as well. Where competition flourishes, customer service is essential to an organization's long-term viability. It must be central to its strategy. A company can outperform rivals only if it can establish a difference that it can preserve. Customer service is such a difference. Few companies are able to excel at customer service, because it is very difficult to control. Left to itself, the level of service may vary greatly between two servers in the same restaurant. One salesperson may offer great service to one customer, then aggravate the very next person in line. The difficulty is compounded when you have a multi-unit operation. In addition to variability within units, you also have variability among units. That is both the challenge and the opportunity. The consistent delivery of superior service requires the careful design and execution of a whole system of activities that includes people, capital, technology, and processes. The few companies that can manage this system do stand out, and are sought out. This is the foundation of what Michael Porter calls their sustainable competitive advantage. But although it does require an almost heroic effort to build and maintain such a system, it's not so hard to get it started. Service today is in such a sorry state that it doesn't take much to surprise most customers, and to make them want to come back for more. The trick is to get started before your competitors do, then to stay a few steps ahead. By doing so, you'll be doing your whole industry (or community, or strip mall) a favor. Unlike price competition, which tends to sink all players, competition on the basis of service is one of those tides that lifts all boats. 05:55 AM in Strategy & Ideology | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)

What is strategy? Excerpts from What is Strategy? Michael E Porter in Harvard Business Review A company can outperform rivals only if it can establish a difference that it can preserve. It must deliver greater value to customers or create comparable value at a lower cost, or do both. The arithmetic of superior profitability then follows: delivering greater value allows a company to charge higher average unit prices; greater efficiency results in lower average unit costs. Ultimately, all differences between companies in cost or price derive from the hundreds of activities required to create, produce, sell, and deliver their products or services, such as calling on customers, assembling final products, and training employees. Cost is generated by performing activities, and cost advantage arises from performing particular activities more efficiently than competitors. Similarly, differentiation arises from both the choice of activities and how they are performed. Activities, then, are the basic units of competitive advantage. Overall advantage or disadvantage results from all a company's activities, not only a few. Competitive strategy is about being different. It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value. Strategy is making trade-offs in competing. The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. Without trade-offs, there would be no need for choice and thus no need for strategy. Strategy is creating fit among a company's activities. The success of a strategy depends on doing many things well - not just a few - and integrating among them. If there is no fit among activities, there is no distinctive strategy and little sustainability. Management reverts to the simpler task of overseeing independent functions, and operational effectiveness determines an organization's relative performance.

Fit and Sustainability Competitive advantage grows out of the entire system of activities. The fit among activities substantially reduces cost or increases differentiation. Thus in competitive companies it can be misleading to explain success by specifying individual strengths, core competencies, or critical resources. It is more useful to think in terms of themes that pervade many activities, such as low cost, a particular notion of customer service, or a particular conception of the value delivered. These themes are embodied in nests of tightly linked activities. Strategic fit among many activities is fundamental not only to competitive advantage but also to the sustainability of that advantage. It is harder for a rival to match an array of interlocked activities than it is merely to imitate a particular sales-force approach, match a process technology, or replicate a set of product features. Positions built on systems of activities are far more sustainable than those built on individual activities. Consider this simple exercise. The probability that competitors can match any activity is often less than one. The probabilities then quickly compound to make matching the entire system highly unlikely (.9x.9= .81; .9x.9x.9x.9= .66, and so on).

The Role of Leadership The challenge of developing or reestablishing a clear strategy is often primarily an organizational one and depends on leadership. With so many forces at work against making choices and tradeoffs in organizations, a clear intellectual framework to guide strategy is a necessary counterweight. In many companies, leadership has degenerated into orchestrating operational improvements and making deals. But the leader's role is broader and far more important: General management is more than the stewardship of individual functions. Its core is strategy: defining and communicating the company's unique position, making trade-offs, and forging fit among activities. The leader must provide the discipline to decide which industry changes and customer needs the company will respond to, while avoiding organizational distractions and maintaining the company's distinctiveness. 06:04 PM in Consistency, Leadership, Papers, Strategy & Ideology | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Ultimate notes Notes on The Ultimate Question, by Fred Reichheld The average Net-Promoter Score (NPS) for U.S. companies is less than 10% Senior managers are delusional. 96% of senior managers said they were “focused” on the customer. 80% believed they delivered a “superior experience” to their customers. But when their customers were surveyed, only 8% of their companies were given a superior rating. Measurement is not enough. Pointless to set up an NPS measurement system if you don’t understand that delighting customers is the only path to true growth. If you do get it, three things you must do: (1) design value propositions that focus on the right customers, then create a complete customer experience capable of delighting each targeted segment, (2) deliver those propositions end-to-end, with all employees pulling in the same direction, (3) do all this over and over again. Good design is not enough. What counts is a company’s ability to deliver those propositions consistently. Delivery depends primarily on the spirit, enthusiasm, and cooperation of frontline employees - the people who actually produce the goods, or deliver the services and deal with the customers. And there's the problem. Bain surveyed North American employees who had worked ten years or more for the same company. Only 39% trust their leaders to communicate openly and honestly. Only 33% believe that employee loyalty at their company is valued and rewarded. Only 28% say that their company values people and relationships above short-term profits. Only 19% provide enthusiastic referrals for the company that employs them. To build an organization that creates promoters: (1) send the right messages to your people, (2) hire and fire to inspire, (3) pay well and invest in training, (4) keep teams small to enhance accountability and service, (5) link measures and rewards to company values. Don't tread on Fred. On Claes Fornell (principal author of the American Customer Satisfaction Index): "the Journal reported that Fornell had been buying or short-selling shares of companies surveyed by the ACSI prior to releasing the data for publication". On JD Power: "There are J.D. Power winners for flights over five hundred miles and flights under five hundred miles. Perhaps we'll soon see awards for the highest customer satisfaction among bankrupt airlines." See also: Excerpts from Chapter 1 (inc a link to a downloadable pdf version) Reichheld on Loyalty, the war on customers, wrong yardsticks, keeping it simple Fred Reichheld's net promoter slide show. A 3-minute presentation. A Survey of Surveys The Net Promoter Forum 08:18 PM in Consistency, Hiring & Training, Loyalty, Surveys | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Firing up the front line Notes from Firing up the front line Jon R. Katzenbach and Jason A. Santamaria, in Harvard Business Review For many organizations, achieving competitive advantage means eliciting superior performance from employees on the front line. McKinsey & Company and the Conference Board studied five distinct managerial paths that result in committed, high-performing frontline workers. The approach discussed in this article, the “Mission, Values, and Pride (MVP) Path” generates organizational energy through mutual trust, collective pride, and self-discipline. Frontline employees commit themselves to MVP organizations because they share its values, and are proud of its aspirations, accomplishments, and legacy . Among those studied, these organizations were classified as following the MVP path: Marriott, 3M, The New York City Ballet, and the US Marines. MVP organizations have five practices in common: they over-invest in cultivating core values, prepare every person to lead, know when to create teams and when to create single-leader work groups, attend to all employees, and encourage self-discipline as a way of building pride.

Practice One: Over-invest in inculcating core values Define your core values. What do you stand for? Why do you exist? Stress the importance of your values, e.g. integrity, honor, courage, and commitment. Define critical objectives, e.g. speed, responsiveness, flexibility. Build a sense of belonging to a noble cause. Build collective pride and mutual trust. Encourage mutual accountability. Assign training and mentoring to the most experienced and talented role models. Increase the length of training programs from a matter of hours to days or even weeks. Role play realistic scenarios that require recruits to apply the company's values when making tough decisions.

Practice Two: Prepare every person to lead An organization's belief that everyone can and must be a leader creates collective pride and builds mutual trust. Each person knows she can rely on her colleagues to take charge, just as she can be relied upon. Energy and commitment naturally follow, and have a powerful impact on morale. The first goal is not to teach recruits how to take charge, but to demonstrate the qualities that characterize effective leaders in action: morality, courage, initiative, and respect for others. MVP organizations follow this up with ten weeks or more of training in the practical and theoretical components of running an organization, from logistics to motivation.

Practice Three: Distinguish between teams and single-leader work groups Managers tend to label every working group in an organization a "team", but employees quickly lose motivation and commitment when they're assigned to a team that turns out to be a single-leader work group. Single-leader work groups are fast and efficient, and are needed when individual tasks are more important than collective work, and when the leader really does know best. Most work in business is done by single-leader work groups, which rely entirely on their leaders for purpose, goals, motivation, and assignments; each member is accountable solely to the leader. Real teams are rare. They draw their motivation more from missions and goals than from leaders. Members work together as peers and hold one another accountable for the group's performance and results.

Practice Four: Attend to the bottom half Most managers resist devoting time and talent to the bottom half. They believe it's easier and cheaper to replace underperformers than to rejuvenate them. In places where the economy is booming, labor is in short supply. Many companies that once seemed to have an unlimited number of applicants for low-level positions are now struggling to keep every job filled. For that reason alone, salvaging underperformers makes sense.

Practice Five: Use discipline to build pride

MVP organizations emphasize self-discipline and group discipline. They ask every member of the front line to be her own toughest boss and to be a strict enforcer for her colleagues. It takes very little to harness the power of discipline, to get frontline employees to set and beat their own high standards for performance. It starts with an executive decision never to be content with enterprise-imposed, top-down discipline, and a commitment to encouraging self-discipline and group-discipline. MVP units celebrate the achievements of teams that practice self-discipline, but also visibly confront the failures of those that don’t. Such a dynamic could backfire in certain circumstances - for instance, if the underlying values of the institution are corrupt. But in their approach to discipline, MVP organizations demand that everyone act with honor, courage, and commitment. When people do so - on their own and as a group - enormous energy is unleashed. 08:39 PM in Culture | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

The Solution An organization’s success at the consistent delivery of outstanding service is merely the cumulative result of the contribution of each of its members. Outstanding service is just the consequence of each individual’s choice to be great at service. That’s our decision, as individual providers, to make. It’s our responsibility. And it’s our gain. Notes from Chapter 3, The 8th Habit, Stephen Covey Most of the great cultural shifts started with the choice of one person. Sometimes it was the formal leader; most of the time, it was not. These agents of change first changed themselves, then inspired and lifted others. They possessed an anchored sense of identity, discovered their strengths and talents, and used them to produce results. People like this don’t get sucked in or pulled down by all the negative, demoralizing, insulting forces in the organization Their organizations are no better than most organizations All organizations are, to some degree, a mess Don’t wait for your boss or organization to change Be an island of excellence in a sea of mediocrity Be contagious Learn your true nature and gifts Use them to develop a vision of great things you want to accomplish Understand the needs and opportunities around you, and meet them Make a difference Find and use your voice Serve and inspire others Inspire others to find their voice All of us can decide to leave behind a life of mediocrity, and to live a life of greatness We all have the power to decide to live a great life No matter how long we’ve walked life’s pathway to mediocrity, we can always choose to switch paths 05:58 AM in Culture, Happiness, Hiring & Training, Leadership, Psychology, What's in it for labor? | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The employee experience Notes from Customer Experience Management, Bernd Schmitt In most companies, employees do not care about their jobs. A Gallup survey found that only 25% of employees are “actively engaged”. 75% are just muddling through. University of Michigan’s David Ulrich observes that “job depression” is on the rise. Disengaged and depressed employees are not likely to deliver a great experience to customers. To turn that around, you must engage the heart and soul of every employee. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi at the University of Chicago found that employees want to experience work as “flow” – when they become so involved in what they’re doing that they lose track of time. Flow is about optimal experiences and enjoyment in life, and the ultimate goal is “turning all life into a unified flow experience”. When that happens, work does not feel like work, and the separation of work and leisure becomes meaningless. Work and leisure become one. You can make that happen by treating employees as customers, and applying the principles of Customer Experience Management. 1. Find out what they want, learn about their experiential world. 2. Ask them what they would change. 3. Instead of imposing a regime, let them help develop their new work environment. 4. Get them really involved in the brand. Run workshops and discuss what it means to them. Let them suggest how they can live the brand in their work and in their personal lives. 5. Examine the employee interface. How can you improve contacts and interactions? 6. Seek their input about innovation, include them in developing innovations. If you pay attention to your employees experiences, you will be rewarded with a happier, more productive, more proactive workforce. Utopia? Yes, sadly many companies today still operate according to a command-andcontrol system. Strategy is developed at the top and disseminated to the front lines in an environment of fear. This experience-destroying, military model of the organization fails to recognize the innovative and valuecreating forces that a positive employee experience can unleash. 06:26 AM in Change Management, Culture, Empowerment, Psychology, What's in it for labor? | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Zaltman on creativity Notes from How Customers Think, Gerald Zaltman 80% of all new products or services fail within six months, or fall significantly short of forecasted profits. The reasons boil down to a failure to understand how customers think, and how we think about how customers think. Our mental doors are stuck, and we have to pry them open. To understand our customers, we have first to acknowledge that they do not necessarily understand themselves. Their motivations are often beneath the surface; 95% of decision-making goes on subconsciously. We should also understand and develop our own habits of mind. These habits help us be more creative about how we discover what customers want, and what to do about them.

Restlessness. We should make our own work out of date, and view conclusions as beginnings, rather than endings. Ask “what makes me restless,” and make sure you have plenty of whatever it is that does. An appreciation of the irregular, and an eye for the odd. Welcome the unexpected. How can I better detect anomalies? How can I create anomalies? Reasoned but visceral stubbornness. Have cool passion. Be more committed to the process of creating ideas, than to the ideas themselves. Seek knowledge from other domains. Maintain the courage of your convictions. Tolerate those who disagree. What foreign fields are most interesting, enjoyable, and important to visit? Wide peripheral vision. Ask generic questions. Avoid premature dismissal. What makes me curious and nosy? What tempts me to break things that work? See also: Lou Carbone, What makes customers tick 09:54 PM in Psychology, What customers want | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Good people make good service. Good service makes good people. Listed below are competencies extracted from the Emotional Competence Framework of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations. They are the competencies that matter most to the success of customer service providers. Conversely, when we practice service - whether on customers, family members, colleagues, or communities - we become better at these competencies. We become better people.

Outstanding customer service providers: Realize the links between their feelings and what they think, do, and say Have a guiding awareness of their values and goals Are reflective, learning from experience Are open to candid feedback, new perspectives, continuous learning, and self-development Are able to show a sense of humor and perspective about themselves Can voice views that are unpopular and go out on a limb for what is right Are decisive, able to make sound decisions despite uncertainties and pressures Manage their impulsive feelings and distressing emotions well Stay composed, positive, and unflappable even in trying moments Think clearly and stay focused under pressure Act ethically and are above reproach Build trust through their reliability and authenticity Admit their own mistakes Meet commitments and keep promises Hold themselves accountable for meeting their objectives Are organized and careful in their work Smoothly handle multiple demands, shifting priorities, and rapid change Adapt their responses and tactics to fit fluid circumstances Seek out fresh ideas from a wide variety of sources Entertain original solutions to problems Generate new ideas Are results-oriented, with a high drive to meet their objectives and standards Set challenging goals and take calculated risks Pursue information to reduce uncertainty and find ways to do better Learn how to improve their performance Readily make personal or group sacrifices to meet a larger organizational goal Find a sense of purpose in the larger mission Pursue goals beyond what’s required or expected of them Cut through red tape and bend the rules when necessary to get the job done Persist in seeking goals despite obstacles and setbacks Are attentive to emotional cues and listen well Show sensitivity and understand others’ perspectives Help out based on understanding other people’s needs and feelings Understand customers’ needs and match them to services or products Seek ways to increase customers’ satisfaction and loyalty Gladly offer appropriate assistance Grasp a customer’s perspective, acting as a trusted advisor Are skilled at persuasion Fine-tune presentations to appeal to the listener Are effective in give-and-take, registering emotional cues in attuning their message Deal with difficult issues straightforwardly Handle difficult people and tense situations with diplomacy and tact Orchestrate win-win solutions

In addition, outstanding customer service leaders: Acknowledge and reward people’s strengths, accomplishments, and development Offer useful feedback and identify people’s needs for development Mentor, give timely coaching, and offer assignments that challenge and grow a person’s skill. Understand the forces that shape views and actions of clients, customers, or competitors Accurately read situations and organizational and external realities Use complex strategies like indirect influence to build consensus and support Listen well and seek mutual understanding Welcome sharing of information fully Foster open communication and stay receptive to bad news as well as good Articulate and arouse enthusiasm for a shared vision and mission Step forward to lead as needed, regardless of position Guide the performance of others while holding them accountable Lead by example Recognize the need for change and remove barriers Challenge the status quo to acknowledge the need for change Champion the change and enlist others in its pursuit Model the change expected of others Spot potential conflict, bring disagreements into the open, and help deescalate Encourage debate and open discussion Build rapport and keep others in the loop Make and maintain personal friendships among work associates Balance a focus on task with attention to relationships Collaborate, sharing plans, information, and resources Promote a friendly, cooperative climate Model team qualities like respect, helpfulness, and cooperation Draw all members into active and enthusiastic participation Build team identity, esprit de corps, and commitment Protect the group and its reputation Share credit See also this article which codes the whole EC Framework according to customer service requirements: basic competencies, higher-level competencies, and competencies for customer service leaders. 06:36 PM in Culture, Emotional Competence, Happiness, Hiring & Training, Leadership, Psychology, Service & Society, What's in it for labor? | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

What Makes Customers Tick? Excerpts from What Makes Customers Tick? Lewis P. Carbone, in Marketing Management Most businesses have no idea why customers behave as they do There's never been a better time or a more compelling reason to get to know your customers. Given the challenges facing business today, it's not surprising that the Marketing Science Institute lists "greater insight into the customer experience" as one of its top research needs. Increasingly, we have the means to achieve that end. Innovative new approaches and research tools are now becoming available to help businesses expand their view of customers and dig deeper to understand what truly makes them tick. The practice of going directly to consumers to find out what they think about a product, service, or experience is a basic foundation for business decisions every day. Implicit in this practice is the assumption that customers will accurately report their thoughts and desires. Yet time and again companies engage in painstaking and expensive research to guide new initiatives, only to find that consumer behavior in the marketplace bears no resemblance to what their research indicated. Marketing has always been based on taking consumers at their word - on grilling them for insights about their tastes, buying habits, and brand attitudes. Yet approximately 60%-80% of all new products fail. Why? Because traditional research doesn't take into account how the consumer mind works.

How the Brain Works Up to this point, much of the effort put forth to understand customers has dealt with how they behave and what they have to say. What has not been developed -- in large part because the capability hasn't existed -- is a deeper understanding of why customers behave the way they do. Most conventional market research assumes customers understand how they develop preferences and feelings about their experiences. However, we're learning that the conscious choices consumers make are determined almost exclusively through unconscious processes. By relying on consumers to accurately report why they act the way they do, popular research methods like focus groups and surveys very often force customers to develop "intellectual alibis" -- to make sense out of things that they simply aren't able to articulate due to their subconscious origins. Instead of the real reason for buying or not buying something, these conscious-centered approaches result in rationalizations based on how people think they ought to be motivated. The good news is that in the last decade neuroscientists have learned more about how the human brain works -- how people process data, both consciously and unconsciously -- than in all previous centuries combined. Because of this, we can now begin reaping valuable insights based on how customers formulate their thoughts and preferences about a product, service, or the total experience. In particular, modern neurological research shows that people don't think and draw conclusions in linear, hierarchical ways or in exclusively conscious ways. Instead, they glean cues and bits of information from all the senses, above and below awareness, to form a composite experiential impression that becomes a basis for preference, loyalty, and advocacy.

What Customers Can't Say Opinions, even though they are conscious expressions, seldom tell the complete story. Science is proving that the unconscious dynamics of customer thinking provide the richest understanding of attitudes, behavior, and loyalty tendencies. Studies in neuroscience have revealed that as much as 95% of all thinking occurs in our subconscious, which means it is also the starting point for conscious action. It's that dynamic linking that explains the failure of conscious-focused research activities to correctly predict consumer responses in the marketplace. Like the tip of a very large iceberg, the rational reasons consumers give for their buying decisions and preferences are highly influenced by the mass of information below the surface of consciousness. By the time people become aware of a decision on a conscious level, it has already happened in their unconscious mind.

Choose Your Tool New approaches are emerging that provide windows into unconscious consumer thinking. And "experience management" perspectives and techniques are making it possible to translate that information into more relevant day-to-day interactions. In How Customers Think, Gerald Zaltman states that the foundation for understanding customers is to "draw on research from an array of disciplines to extend managers' comfort zones." Those disciplines may range from musicology, neurology, philosophy, and linguistics to the more familiar fields of anthropology, psychology, and sociology. Combined, Zaltman notes, they give marketers powerful new tools to help them "better understand what happens in the complex system of mind, brain, body, and society when consumers evaluate products and the experiences they have with them." What follows are some examples of innovative approaches in the areas of interpersonal, observational, and linguistics research. From them, it will become more obvious how drawing on an array of disciplines offers marketers expanded options for putting together a more complete picture of consumers.

Thinking Metaphorically One of the most productive of the innovative research strategies pioneered by Zaltman is the study of the metaphors that consumers use to express their thoughts and feelings (the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique, or ZMET for short). A metaphor is a way to understand one thing in terms of something else. For example, the metaphor of "being in good hands" has nothing to do with being physically touched or held, but the meaning is clear. Neuroscience has revealed that humans think more in images than in words. For this reason, metaphor elicitation researchers rely on visual images chosen by respondents in one-to-one customer interviews to help surface metaphors. When recognized and probed for the thinking behind them, metaphors are considered reliable vehicles for transporting unconscious thoughts to conscious awareness. This is enormously useful information because, as Zaltman states, "no matter what the characteristics of a product, experience, or brand, it will always be initially perceived by consumers in some organizing framework or metaphor." What's more, universal metaphors are often revealed after probing just a handful of interview respondents. Once surfaced and recognized, these metaphors become an invaluable form of shorthand for understanding how offerings and experiences fit into people's lives. And those insights often become the basis for new product designs, communications, or experience designs.

Learn by Observing Most businesses rely on that hard data in lieu of observing consumers in their natural settings -- and often miss important insights as a direct consequence. But companies are discovering that simply observing customers offers a wealth of information they cannot get with traditional research methods. With enhanced technological capabilities, watching consumers in their natural settings is becoming an important part of the expanded research mix. During development of Quicken, its top-selling accounting software, Intuit brought users into labs and even sent engineers into people's homes to see how they used the product. This took engineers a step beyond what customers verbalized and enabled them to see how clients physically used the product. "This type of observation gives you a depth of understanding beyond which customers can articulate," says Craig Cunningham, CEO of Customer Integrated Solutions, a consultancy that helps companies create client-driven initiatives. "It gets you past what clients think they need and helps you see what they really require." Paco Underhill, a retail anthropologist, has done considerable research documenting the "science of shopping." Through video observation and customer interviews, he has observed more than 1,000 distinct shopping elements, everything from how shoppers negotiate department store doorways on a busy Saturday to how often they touch the merchandise before buying and the intricate ballet of product placement on the shelf.

The Right Words When an organization understands the effect of certain words in specific contexts, and is able to cue metaphors where possible, the impact of its communication can improve exponentially. The fast-deepening science of linguistics offers marketers exciting ways to understand customers and communicate more effectively with them. Charles Cleveland, founder of Communications Development Corporation (CDC) and former director of the Academic Computing Center at Drake University, has developed patented conversation analysis software that can make ultra-fine distinctions in the human communication process. It does this by comparing the language of one context (or group) to another and recommending the necessary language shifts to move to the desired context. To see the power of even simple nuances, consider this example from "The Little Words in Life," a paper delivered by Cleveland in 2000 as part of the University of Toronto Distinguished Fellow Series. Imagine you are renting a car at an airport. And you're in a hurry. The agent at counter A says, "I'll have a car for you soon." The agent at counter B says, "I'll have the car for you soon." Which car agency would have the edge in making you feel most confident that your need was understood and it would be met? Most likely rental counter B because the words its agent used, "the car," imply it has a specific car picked out, creating an impression that the vehicle is being readied just for you and will be brought down in a minute. At the other counter, "a car" left a more general impression -- it's even possible someone might still be out searching for a car in the lot. The implications for how customers experience businesses in the years to come are profound. Organizations that develop expanded approaches for understanding their customers will gain powerful competitive advantages. It's the difference between trying to make judgments from a single snapshot or having an array of perspectives from different vantage points that offers a far more holistic and truthful picture. The ability to play back a video, assess body language, gain insights from verbal contexts, or surface meaningful metaphors will lead to far more relevant connections with customers, which will lead to greater differentiation, loyalty, and value for all concerned. Read: Lewis Carbone, Clued In: How to Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again Hear: Lou Carbone & Chuck Feltz, Experience As A Value Proposition See also: Gerald Zaltman on Creativity 06:26 AM in Psychology, What customers want | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

What customers want This summary of factors is a work in progress, derived from various articles in this Category. It is rendered in table form in the Customer Service article in Wikipedia.

Good People Friendly, helpful, courteous Empathetic Knowledgeable, accurate, thorough Able to recommend solutions Able to anticipate needs Resourceful, empowered Efficient Trustworthy, authentic Reliable Responsible Appropriate appearance and demeanor

Good Offering Good selection Good quality Available demos In stock Clear descriptions & pricing Competitive prices Financing, deferred payments

Convenience Convenient locations Long hours Available help, fast service Signage that facilitates self-service Fast checkout Shipping/delivery Installation Phone/web support On-site repair Hassle-free returns Quick resolution of problems

Good Environment Clean Organized Safe Low pressure Energy level appropriate to clientele 03:57 AM in What customers want | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Empowerment prerequisite Notes from Built to Last, Chapter 6, pages 138-139, Jim Collins, Jerry Porras Companies seeking an "empowered" or decentralized work environment should first and foremost impose a tight ideology, screen and indoctrinate people into that ideology, eject the viruses, and give those who remain the tremendous sense of responsibility that comes with membership in an elite organization. It means getting the right people on the stage, putting them in the right frame of mind, and then giving them the freedom to ad lib as they see fit. It is tightness around an ideology that enables a company to turn people loose to experiment, change, adapt, and - above all - to act. . . . Nordstrom has a one-page employee handbook - a single 5"x8" card. It says: Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1 : Use you good judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules. While visiting a class at the Stanford Business School, Jim Nordstrom was asked how a Nordstrom clerk would handle a customer attempting to return a dress that had obviously been worn. His reply: I don't know. That's the honest answer. But I do have a high level of confidence that it would be handled in such a way that the customer would feel well treated and served. Whether that would involve taking the dress back would depend on the specific situation, and we want to give each clerk a lot of latitude in figuring out what to do. We view our people as sales professionals. They don't need rules. They need basic guideposts, but not rules. You can do anything at Nordstrom to get the job done, just so long as you live up to our basic values and standards. 05:31 AM in Culture, Empowerment, Hiring & Training | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Remembering World-Class Courtesy In February 1998, the National Partnership for Reinventing Government released its report on Best Practices in "World-class courtesy". Long since consigned to the dustbins of bureaucracy, the report (prepared with the cooperation of USAA, Nordstrom, and Ritz-Carlton, among others) deserves to be exhumed. We paid for it, we may as well use it. Some key findings:

Each of the organizations studied exhibited these characteristics The organization's cultural climate reflects a commitment to meeting and exceeding customer expectations. Senior leaders demonstrate by example the organization's commitment to exceptional courtesy. Employees are empowered to fully meet the needs of their customers. Courtesy is practiced by everyone throughout the entire organization. Specific and ongoing training in courtesy is provided. Formal and informal screening techniques are used to hire employees with exceptional skills in courtesy. The organization establishes systems to measure the value of its services to customers. Services are provided seamlessly from the customer's perspective. There is zero tolerance for discourteous service. All the organizations found that courtesy improves customer loyalty.

Courtesy & Behavior Courtesy is expressed as a wide range of respectful behaviors and positive attitudes. Personal characteristics and behaviors that were repeatedly expressed by our partners as essential elements of courteous behavior are: a willingness to discover opportunities to exceed the customer's expectations, sincerity, a friendly smile (even over the phone), using the person's last name (unless the customer indicates otherwise), a neat appearance, proper use of the language, exceptional listening skills (attentiveness), a relaxed and natural tone of voice, appropriate eye contact, clear communication at the customer's comprehension level, and knowledge about the product or service.

Quick tips for improving courtesy Be flexible. People's expectations regarding courtesy vary. Learn to take your lead from your customer. Quiet, reserved people tend to appreciate a more reserved and dignified sort of service. Loud, spirited people often like to know that the person they are talking to is "getting it." Use good judgment always, but be ready to stretch a little to make your style better match your customer's expectations. Take some risks to delight and surprise the customer. Consider the chef who, upon realizing he sent a dinner to a table with the meat slightly overcooked, immediately went out to the table, sat down, took a bite from the overcooked meat and said, as the surprised couple looked on, "Hmm...I thought so, a bit overcooked. Please forgive me. The next one will be perfect and on me!" Practice servant-leadership. Develop a passion for service and then put that passion to work in whatever position you now hold. If you are already a recognized leader in your organization, then serve as a mentor for others who wish to become servant-leaders. Smile your best smile. Customers appreciate a pleasant atmosphere. A smile always helps. Use your smile frequently when dealing with the public. You will come to enjoy the many benefits it will bring you and your customers. Listen as if you mean it. The greatest compliment to another person is listening to them. Really listening. You have to listen as if you mean it. Sit up, take a few notes, ask clarifying questions, show some reaction to what is being said. Call people back. If you must use voice mail, update your message daily, check it at least twice a day, and get back to people within one day at the latest. Returning calls has a direct relationship to dependability and dependability is the cornerstone of good customer service. Demonstrate phone courtesy. The tone and pitch of your voice can assure the caller that you are sincere, friendlyand that you are listening. Create a vision for your caller that you are responsible and dedicated to resolving his or her issue. Develop a team focus. Team work is definitely needed when it comes to improving courtesy. Demonstrate your team commitment on a daily basis.

Developing Strategies For Implementing World-Class Courtesy The following strategies are a composite of the ideas worked out by the team members for implementing world-class courtesy in their own agencies. Depending on your individual circumstances, these suggestions will hopefully serve to stimulate interesting and practical ideas. Remember: Your journey toward world-class courtesy begins from where you are, not from where you wish you were. The important thing is to get started. 1. Establish credibility. Unless you are the CEO in your organization, you may want to first establish some credibility on this topic. Develop a good knowledge base of what world-class courtesy is, or could be, in your organization. You can start by reading this study thoroughly, marking those sections that look interesting , and taking some notes as you go along. You may also want to read several of the articles listed in the selected bibliography. 2. Determine your organization's attitude toward courtesy. Determine what your organization's current mission, vision, strategic plan, or value statements say about courtesy. With the issuance of the President's Executive Order 12862 on setting customer service standards, the enactment of the Government Performance Results Act of the 1995, and the National Performance Review's publication of customer service standards, you probably have a good basis for assessing your organization's current level of and attitudes toward customer service. 3. Take a "snapshot". Determine where in your organization might be the best place to take a "snapshot" of how courtesy is currently being practiced. Choose an office or section that already has an interest in knowing more about its customer service capabilities. If its not obvious at first where to start, arrange a meeting with an appropriate official or committee to which you can provide a short briefing on the benefits of looking at organizational behaviors leading to world-class courtesy. 4. Publicize, promote, and popularize. Through information, actions, and tools, help your organization journey toward world-class courtesy. The report also includes an extensive bibliography. 08:19 PM in Hiring & Training, Papers, Standards & Guidelines | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Service self-assessments The National Performance Review's Best Practices Report on "World-Class Courtesy" includes two surveys that you may adapt to assess your organization's ability to deliver outstanding customer service.

EMPLOYEE COURTESY ATTITUDE SURVEY The following short survey tool has been used successfully by members of the study team in soliciting information from their organizations and stimulating dialog in small discussion groups about improving courtesy. You can use this survey to gain some preliminary information from members of your organizationat all levels regarding their beliefs about courtesy. Please answer on a scale of 1 (very important) to 5 (not important): 1. When you are the customer, how important is "courteous behavior" compared to other characteristics of quality service that you value? 2. As someone who provides services to customers, how important is "courteous behavior" compared to other characteristics of quality service that you value? 3. Within your own work area, how would you rate the level of courtesy now practiced on a daily basis? 4. Please list any organization or type of service where you have personally experienced world-class courtesy? What made this experience stand out in your mind?

ORGANIZATIONAL SELF-ASSESSMENT ON COURTESY This survey tool may be used to determine how close your organization is to providing world-class courtesy. Because this survey instrument will result in an item-by-item score as well as an aggregate score, it will be easy to assess and organize the findings. After reviewing it, feel free to reproduce or adapt it in any way to better meet your organization's customer service objectives. Use this survey with senior executive, mid-level supervisory, and nonsupervisory staff in your organization. The more employees who participate, the more useful the information will be. Assessing Courtesy in your Organization This self-assessment survey covers 10 areas organized as an easy-to-complete checklist. These 10 areas comprise important characteristics for an organization to consider in moving toward world-class courtesy. Answer this survey from your perspective in the position you presently occupy in the organization. Perspectives will differ from person to person, which makes the findings much more useful when they are discussed later. For the purposes of this survey, the following definitions are provided. Courtesy: Using accepted and appropriate manners, as interpreted from the customer's perspective, to meet the expectations of the customer. World-Class Courtesy: Using exceptional manners, as interpreted from the customer's perspective, to exceed the expectations of the customer. Instructions: Please answer either (Yes), (No), or (N/A) to all characteristics. When you are not completely sure which to select, check the answer closest to your current understanding of the situation being described. Only (Yes) answers count toward your final score.

1. The cultural climate reflects the organization's attitude toward meeting and exceeding customer expectations. The physical environment (floor, halls, waiting areas, grounds, etc.) is attractive, clean, and otherwise conducive to meeting and exceeding customer expectations. Senior management ensures that all staff members have a clear understanding of the organization's mission and key objectives. There is a written document(s) that describes the organization's beliefs on how customers should be treated. The organization's beliefs regarding courtesy are included in a written document provided to all employees. Employees are provided with parking, food services, fitness and recreation facilities, and other comparable employee benefits. The organization features employee amenities. The organization solicits feedback from both customers and employees regarding the quality of service provided. __________ Total number of yes answers Consider: Employees who believe that they are valued partners in the organization are more likely to treat customers in the same way. Possible strategy: Ask 10 customers currently using your services what their first impressions of your employees and environment were and why. Take notes. Discuss the results and make changes. Do this again in four months to see if there has been improvement.

2. Senior leaders demonstrate by example the organization's commitment to exceptional courtesy. Leadership has developed a written strategy, mission, and vision that include courtesy. Senior managers demonstrate by personal example the organization's commitment to providing the highest quality service to customers. Mid-and entry-level supervisors demonstrate by personal example the organization's commitment to providing the highest quality of service to customers. Courtesy among employees is as important to Senior-, mid-, and entry-level managers as courtesy provided to customers. The organization's leadership development program includes a segment on courtesy. Leadership plays a significant role in new employee orientation. __________ Total number of yes answers Consider: Among world-class organizations, courteous behavior is an intrinsic and inseparable aspect of the customer service strategy, and is supported by senior leaders and all employees who seek to lead and improve the organization. Possible strategy: Who in your organization seems to be a leader in courtesy? Seek out these people and talk to them about their approach to courtesy. Work with them to design and implement a courtesy program in your organization.

3. Employees are empowered to fully meet the needs of their customers. Employees are fully empowered to perform their jobs at a high level of competency (e.g., sufficient training and mentoring, good computer support, functioning equipment, adequate space to perform their jobs, and strong management support). Employees are empowered to do whatever it takes to satisfy the customer. Employees are encouraged to be innovative, take risks, and seek out opportunities to improve services provided to customers. Employees are formally rewarded for outstanding work, skills, and accomplishments pertaining to customer service. Employees are informally rewarded for outstanding work, skills, and accomplishments pertaining to customer service. __________ Total number of yes answers Consider: Who in your organization is most likely to be the first person your customers will see or hear? You really need to focus on this idea and on this person: In his or her first few seconds of contact with the customer, this person will be seen as the exemplar of everything your organization knows about courtesy and customer service. Possible strategy: Ask your employees what would better empower them in meeting and exceeding customer expectations. Act on these suggestions and give your employees what they need to do their job.

4. Courtesy is practiced by everyone throughout the entire organization. Substantive efforts are made in this organization to provide and encourage the same level of courtesy to employees, contractors, and stakeholders as is provided to customers. Management and union representatives conduct business in an atmosphere of mutual respect and courtesy. Employees are as courteous to and respectful of each other as they are to the external customers of the organization. __________ Total number of yes answers Consider: Employees treated with dignity and respect will provide the same to their customers and co-workers. Possible strategy: Write down what you consider the three most important aspects of being a good friend. Now ask "Do I practice these behaviors with my co-workers? With my boss?" Reflect on your answers with an eye to possible improvements.

5. Specific and ongoing training in courtesy is provided. Employee orientations specifically address the organization's expectations regarding courtesy. Employee orientations include presentations by senior-level management on the organization's expectations regarding customer courtesy. A training manual or other written material used for training exists that specifically addressees customer courtesy. Employees are given specific courtesy or customer service training. __________ Total number of yes answers Consider: Timely and innovative training should be linked to the organization's key values and services. Possible strategy: Create a list with two columns, one titled "Customer Service Goals" and the other "Training." Write down your organization's key customer service goals in the left column. Then list the completed or planned training for that goal in the right column. Are there any goals for which no training is offered? And, if you are providing training, who is attending? Should others also attend?

6. Formal and informal screening techniques are used to hire employees with exceptional skills in courtesy. A screening protocol or process that addresses courtesy is used when hiring employees for positions requiring customer service skills (such as multiple interviews or personality testing). Customer courtesy is included as an element in an employee's job or position description. __________ Total number of yes answers Consider: Can you imagine The Ritz-Carlton hiring a concierge who didn't smile, speak clearly, dress neatly, or seem particularly enthusiastic or helpful to customers? Why not? Because this hotel understands the requirements of a professional concierge and selects only those employees who are best suited and expertly trained for this type of work. Possible strategy: Coordinate a meeting of key staff in your area of the organization and thoughtfully answer the following questions. How do you know you're hiring the right people for the right job? What options are available to you to ensure a "hire right the first time" model? How might your organization achieve the same certainty of success that The Ritz-Carlton has when hiring? What two things can your organization do now to begin needed improvements in this area?

7. The organization establishes systems to measure the value of its services to customers. At least one reliable and validated system of measuring customer feedback is used in this organization (e.g., customer survey cards, employee survey cards, team meetings, focus groups, complaint-handling system). Data collected from this system are analyzed and distributed throughout the organization for review. Specific improvements in customer service were made over the past year as a direct result of the system for measuring customer satisfaction. Customer waiting times for services are monitored, analyzed, and otherwise used to produce continuous improvements in services. An integrated and effective complaint-handling system is in place that is easily accessible to all customers in the organization. Organization-specific customer service standards exist, and are periodically monitored, and results are provided back to the customer in a timely manner. The organization solicits feedback regarding services provided. Customers are encouraged to provide specific feedback regarding their perceptions about courtesy. __________ Total number of yes answers Consider: Characteristics that relate to courtesy like "sincerity," "respect," "dignity," and "being treated as a valued person," are best determined through the use of a validated survey tool that asks customers to determine whether, and to what degree, they feel these qualities were present. Possible strategy: Ask 10 customers about the following behaviors they observed in your organization, then record the answers and discuss them with an appropriate courtesy team. Initial contact Did your greeting include a smile and a handshake? Use of eye contact Did employees maintain good eye contact with you? Appearance Was the employee's appearance neat, well-groomed, and appropriate for the setting? Customer assessmentDid you say anything to the employee that would imply satisfaction or concern? Use of customer's name Was your name used appropriately in the context of the dialog? Tone of voice Did the employee's tone reflect confidence, helpfulness, and friendliness? Body language What effect did the employee's body language and posture have on the interaction?

8. Services are provided seamlessly from the customer's perspective. Computer technology and other technological support mechanisms are fully utilized to support employees who serve in a front-line role with the customer. Front-line employees are encouraged and expected to take a prominent and active role in determining how to improve services to their customers. Front-line employees are authorized to take whatever actions are required to ensure that customers receive the full measure of service expected by the organization. __________ Total number of yes answers Consider: As your customers are transferred from one employee to another (handed off), their perception of your service quality will most likely decrease in satisfaction and expectations. Possible strategy: Write three examples of what you consider to be seamless service between two parts of your organization. Then write two examples of what you consider poor hand-offs between two parts of your organization. What makes these situations different? What opportunities can you explore to improve the poor hand-offs? Where could you start immediately to apply these lessons to other parts of your organization?

9. There is zero tolerance for discourteous service. Discourteous behavior to customers, if observed, is viewed by the vast majority of employees in the organization as a situation requiring their immediate attention. Discourteous behavior among employees, if observed, is viewed by the vast majority of employees in the organization as a situation requiring their immediate attention. __________ Total number of yes answers Consider: Effective complaint-handling systems provide a pathway for quick resolution of allegations of discourteous service. How's your complaint-handling system? Possible strategy: The next time you are waiting for a telephone call or have a few moments to spare, perform a quick check of your attitude and evaluate your performance in the midst of an otherwise hectic day. Ask yourself: How good was I with my last customer? Am I really listening to my customers to determine their needs? If I fail to meet my customer's expectations, do I apologize sincerely and stay with the customer until the problem is solved?

10. Courtesy improves customer loyalty. The vast majority of employees in this organization take pride in their ability to exceed customer expectations. The organization presently enjoys a reputation within its community and among its peers as "best in class" in the area of customer support and services. The organization has been publicly recognized for its outstanding customer service and support within the last year by an outside evaluator. The organization spontaneously and frequently recognizes outstanding staff achievements. __________Total number of yes answers Consider: World-class organizations strive for 100 percent customer satisfaction. How would a goal of 100 percent customer satisfaction work in your organization? Possible strategy: Save articles with outstanding customer service ideas in a file. Keep this file and refer to it often in your customer service areas. Play "secret shopper" and explore customer service areas in other organizations rated as world-class. While visiting, rate the aspects of the organization that relate to your own.

ASSESSMENT RESULTS Organizations that provide world-class courtesy generally score at least 35 on this survey; a perfect score is 43. Based on initial results from organizations that volunteered to pilot this self-assessment, a typical score is 24 or less. If you score substantially lower than 24, do not be discouraged. Each world-class organization went through the phase you are now in. They were committed to world-class courtesy, and never stopped identifying opportunities and implementing improvements. You can do the same: Use the exercise to identify those areas in which you have opportunities for improvement. Plan, experiment, and implement in order to create an organizational culture that will be identified by the exceptional courtesy provided to your employees and customers. 08:05 PM in Surveys | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Satisfaction drops again Customer satisfaction in the retail sector dropped another 0.3% in Q4Y5 vs Q4Y4, and is 4.4% lower than when satisfaction in the sector was first measured, the ACSI survey shows. Claes Fornell, Director of the National Quality Research Center at the University of Michigan, which runs the American Customer Satisfaction Index, attributes the drop in satisfaction to a misplaced emphasis on sales at the expense of service. "As with many other service industries, the challenge is often how to best balance productivity per sales person with quality of customer service. Too much pressure on staff to generate sales can have a detrimental effect on the quality of service that the staff is able to provide, which, in turn, has a negative effect on repeat buying," Fornell said. "Since many retailers measure and manage productivity, but don’t usually have good measures of the quality of customer service, it seems possible that some companies put too much emphasis on productivity at the expense of service."

10 Biggest Gainers 1. Kmart Corporation +4.50% 2. Charles Schwab +4.20% 3. Target +4.00%o 4. Expedia +3.90% 5. Amazon +3.60% 6. Aetna +3.20% 7. Albertson's +2.90% 8. AAFES +2.80% 9. Supervalu +2.70% 10. Lowe's +2.60%

10 Biggest Losers 1. Home Depot -8.20% 2. MetLife -7.80% 3. Prudential -6.50% 4. Farmers Group -5.20% 5. Wells Fargo -4.30% 6. UnitedHealth -3.00% 7. Circuit City -2.80% 8. State Farm -2.50% 9. 1-800-Flowers -2.50% 10. Safeway -1.40% See also: A survey of surveys, I should've bet some money 11:13 AM in Surveys | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

20-70-10 Excerpts from Winning, by Jack & Suzy Welch If there is one of my values that really pushes buttons, it is differentiation. Some people love the idea; they swear by it, run their companies with it, and will tell you it is at the very root of their success. Other people hate it. They call it mean, harsh, impractical, demotivating, political, unfair - or all of the above. Obviously, I am a huge fan of differentiation. I have seen it transform companies from mediocre to outstanding, and it is as morally sound as a management system can be. It works. Companies win when their managers make a clear and meaningful distinction between top- and bottom-performing businesses and people, when they cultivate the strong and cull the weak. Companies suffer when every business and person is treated equally and bets are sprinkled all around like rain on the ocean. Differentiation defined: Differentiation is a way to manage people and businesses. It holds that a company has two parts, software and hardware. Software is simple - it’s your people – and that’s the more controversial of the two. It’s a process that requires managers to assess their employees and separate them into three categories in terms of performance: top 20 percent, middle 70, and bottom 10. Then and this is key - it requires managers to act on that distinction. I emphasize the word “act” because all managers naturally differentiate - in their heads. But very few make it real. When people differentiation is real, the top 20 percent of employees are showered with bonuses, stock options, praise, love, training, and a variety of rewards to their pocketbooks and souls. They are the best and are treated that way. The middle 70 percent are managed differently. They are the majority of your employees. And that’s the major challenge, and risk, in 20-70-10 - keeping the middle 70 engaged and motivated. That’s why so much of managing the middle 70 is about training, positive feedback, and thoughtful goal setting. If individuals in this group have particular promise, they should be moved around among businesses and functions to increase their experience and knowledge and to test their leadership skills. To be clear, managing the middle 70 is not about keeping people out of the bottom 10. It is not about saving poor performers. That would be a bad investment decision. Rather, differentiation is about managers looking at the middle 70, identifying people with potential to move up, and cultivating them. But everyone in the middle 70 needs to be motivated and made to feel as if they truly belong. You do not want to lose the vast majority of your middle 70 - you want to improve them. As for the bottom 10 percent in differentiation, there is no sugarcoating this - they have to go. That’s more easily said than done; it’s awful to fire people - I even hate that word. But if you have a candid organization with clear performance expectations and a performance evaluation process, then people in the bottom 10 percent generally know who they are. When you tell them, they usually leave before you ask them to. No one wants to be in an organization where they aren’t wanted. One of the best things about differentiation is that people in the bottom 10 percent of organizations very often go on to successful careers at companies and in pursuits where they truly belong and where they can excel. 05:09 AM in Recognition & Accountability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Because it feels good Excerpts from Dazzle Me! By the editors at Dartnell. Writer: David Dee “Providing great customer service is a triple win,” says Paul Timm, a professor at the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University. “Your customers feel good, your organization prospers, and you feel good.” Q: In 50 Powerful ideas, you say “the best reason to give good service is that it makes you feel better.” What do you mean? A: If customers expect that they’re going to be treated poorly, they become defensive and begin treating you, the employee, poorly. Very few people can put up with the day-to-day barrage of unhappy customers who expect to be treated poorly. Q: What’s the alternative? A: Choose to provide outstanding customer service instead. No one can force another person to give good service beyond the most rudimentary mechanical levels. But when we choose to give of ourselves – to apply the power of customer service - we feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction. Then, a job can be fun and rewarding. Q: A cynic might say that most customer service jobs don’t pay enough for all that extra effort. A: But there are other rewards. Like the satisfaction you feel for acting professionally on the job. And providing good customer service is really teaching you how to get along with people. Those skills are widely applicable to all the relationships in our lives, personal and professional. Q: You’ve said that providing good service can be fun. How’s that? A: For most people, true fun is equated with satisfaction. It’s fun to feel good about something you’ve accomplished. It’s fun to know you have the power to give of yourself to achieve team success. It’s fun to grow as a person and develop new skills and abilities, and to know you’re increasing in value every day through your experience and learning. 08:33 PM in Happiness, Psychology, What's in it for labor? | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Easy to surprise Excerpts from Dazzle Me! By the editors at Dartnell. Writer: David Dee

Deliver surprisingly superior service “Go the extra mile for customers” is another way of saying, “surprise customers by doing something extra for them.” If you make a personal commitment to surprise your customers, you’ll have gone a long way to providing service that far exceeds the service average reps provide. Here are four ways you can achieve this simple personal goal: 1. Surprise customers by always being courteous. 2. Surprise customers by doing more than they ask for. 3. Surprise customers by taking pride in your work. 4. Surprise customers who have come to expect the worst by being professional in your bearing and manner.

Commitments to yourself 1. To always maintain a professional manner and appearance. 2. To greet customers warmly and to always make them feel welcome and comfortable doing business with you and your organization. 3. To always be prompt, courteous, and friendly in serving customers. 4. To always adopt a problem-solving attitude when you handle complaints and inquiries. 5. To carefully assess each customer’s needs and recommend specific products or services that will provide the highest level of satisfaction. 6. To find the right answers to all customer questions and to keep up-to-date on the products and services your company offers so you can pass the correct information on to your customers. 7. To be familiar with all organizational procedures and policies so you can handle every customer transaction with minimum error and delay. 8. To follow up on inquiries from customers and ensure their satisfaction. 9. To know your company’s promotional campaigns and to support these efforts whenever you deal with customers. 10. To turn new customers into returning customers by providing the kind of service they expect and are entitled to. 08:31 PM in What customers want, What's in it for labor? | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

2005 CGTA Retailer of the Year Elliott & Company, winner of the CGTA's 2005 Retailer of the Year Award, share some tips to help retailers excel in customer service: 1. Greet every customer with a genuine smile when they enter 2. Make it personal. Get to know your client's names, likes, and dislikes. 3. Give your customers the freedom to explore. Don't smother them the second they get in the store. Let the customer discover unique products without feeling hassled. 4. Focus on introducing and informing the customer on new products, rather than selling. 5. Wrap absolutely everything for free. 6. Accept returns for refund or credit with grace. 7. Offer free local delivery of all oversize merchandise. 8. Find ways to thank your clients for shopping with you. Offer extra services like customized gift baskets, or offer home consultation for a fee, then waive the fee with a minimum purchase. First opened in 1987 by Mark and Krys Elliott, professional working artists, Elliott & Company is based in St. Catherines, Ontario. 09:27 AM in Where to buy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Core ideologies Core Ideologies In Visionary Companies Excerpts from Built to Last, Chapter 3, pages 68-73, Jim Collins, Jerry Porras with links to currents statements Core ideologies = Core values + Purpose Core values = The organization's essential and enduring tenets; a small set of guiding principles Purpose = The organization's fundamental reasons for existence 3M Innovation; “Thou shalt not kill a new product idea” Absolute integrity Respect for individual initiative and personal growth Tolerance for honest mistakes Product quality and reliability “Our real business is solving problems” American Express Heroic customer service Worldwide reliability of services Encouragement of individual initiative General Electric Improving the quality of life through technology and innovation Interdependent balance between responsibility to customers, employees, society, and shareholders Individual responsibility and opportunity Honesty and integrity Hewlett-Packard Technical contribution to fields in which we participate “We exist as a corporation to make a contribution” Respect and opportunity for HP people, including opportunity to share success Contribution and responsibility to the communities in which we operate Affordable quality for HP customers Profit and growth as a means to make all of the other values and objectives possible IBM Give full consideration to the individual employee Spend a lot of time making customers happy Go the last mile to do things right; seek superiority in all we undertake Johnson & Johnson The company exists “to alleviate pain and disease” “We have a hierarchy of responsibilities: customers, employees, society at large, then shareholders" Individual opportunity and reward based on merit Decentralization = Creativity = Productivity Marriott Friendly service & excellent value (customers a guests) “Make people away from home feel that they’re among friends and really wanted” People are number 1 - treat them well, expect a lot, and the rest will follow Work hard, yet keep it fun Continual self-improvement Overcoming adversity to build character Merck “We are in the business of preserving and improving human life. All of our actions must be measured by our success in achieving this goal” Honesty and integrity Corporate social responsibility Science-based innovation, not imitation Unequivocal excellence in all aspects of the company Profit, but profit from work that benefits humanity Nordstrom Service to the customer above all else Hard work and productivity Continuous improvement, never being satisfied Excellence in reputation, being part of something special Procter & Gamble Product excellence Continuous self-improvement Honesty and fairness Respect and concern for the individual Wal-Mart “We exist to provide value to our customers” – to make their lives better via lower prices and greater selection; all else is secondary Swim upstream, buck conventional wisdom Be in partnership with employees Work with passion, commitment, and enthusiasm Run lean Pursue ever-higher goals Walt Disney No cynicism allowed Fanatical attention to consistency and detail Continuous progress via creativity, dreams, and imagination Fanatical control and preservation of Disney’s “magic” image “To bring happiness to millions, and to celebrate, nurture, and promulgate “wholesome American values” 08:57 PM in Culture, Strategy & Ideology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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Customer Service Reader

Customer Service Reader Readings on Customer Service, from the best minds in the field Customer Service and the Pursuit of Happiness Does happiness at...

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