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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Listen Here for a Free Consultation - "The Wow Small Business Show" podcast

Many companies believe they know how to train or develop customer service skills in their employees.  Their intentions are good, but their tactics do not seem to work.

Taping "The Wow Small Business Show"

Join host Bryan Orr and me for Bryan's, "The Wow Small Business Show," podcast.  Byran asks me questions about common mistakes businesses make when training their teams, and strategies for developing successful customer service.  Consider it a free consulting session.

The podcast last approximately 30 minutes.  We hope you enjoy our conversation.

To access, click or copy and paste this link.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

46.5% of People Hate to Hear this Phrase

The Orlando Business Journal weekly publishes a Biz Pulse page.  Directly from its publication, Biz Pulse page features, "...quizzes, surveys, and polls."  The poll from 9/12's edition caught my eye.

Question: "Which phrase do you most hate to hear employees or co-workers say?"

What would your response be?  "That's not my job," received the majority at 46.5%.  Next came the similar phrase, "It's not my fault," at 20.9%.

These are phrases I dislike (I don't like using the word hate in this context.  It's business after all, not life or death).  I dislike them because each deflects responsibility or subtly demonstrates a lack of knowledge. 

As a customer, my natural next question will be, after thinking the person is incompetent, "Then who should I be talking to?"  Now I have to run in more circles, and it wastes time and resources for both you and me.

Why employees use them is they have not been trained on better relationship building alternatives, or what they should say when they truly do not know what to do.  Training means they are given at least three choices they could feel comfortable using, and then practice using them in a safe environment.

One of my favorite phrases to hear from an employee, "I am not sure, but I will find out."  Another favorite, "It's not normally my job, but I will be happy to take care of it."

If you can't help employees develop their service language, there is always the "Swear Jar" option.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Game On! Practice to Win

 If you follow soccer, then you understand why the Knappe household is crazy this July as 1) The 2014 World Cup competition is being played in Brasil, and 2) Germany is in the final match on Sunday.   (GO DEUTSCHLAND!) 

Before being exposed to the ultimate German fan, aka my German husband, or getting involved in sports myself, it sometimes bothered me when sports analogies were used in the workplace.  I simply could not relate, but now I see where they are powerful. One idea has stuck in my mind lately between the NBA Finals, Tour de France, and of course, World Cup. 

That is the idea of Game Day.  Athletes train, away from the public eye, in private places, with only scrutiny from their coaching team, for hundreds of hours before the day they are to perform.   They can try new approaches to old problems.  They can focus on tiny skills, which could make all the difference in a win/lose situation.  Discuss what is working well, and what needs improving.  Then for only one day it all comes together and everything is on the line!  Perfection and high performance are the only desired and expected outcome for a few hours. 

Dedicated practice is an idea we sorely miss in the workplace.  Every day is Game Day, which brings stress, but it also diminishes high performance over time.  We rarely take time to focus in great detail the skills it takes for our employees to perform their roles.  We don’t allow them time away from the public eye, to practice the skills they have or to try out new strategies for greater performance before the next game is on.  But we can change that; we can incorporate dedicated practice as a part of our cultures.  

If highly compensated athletes need 4 to 6 hours of practice every day to perform at their exceptional level for 2 to 4 hours one day a week, it would be a worthwhile idea to infuse 30 minutes of weekly dedicated practice into your workplace culture.   One small practice session could have a huge impact to your organization's success: decreased handle time, less service escalations, increased sales, and increased employee performance.  That makes a winning combination. 

The game is always on.  Bring it!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Gurus - No Where Near the Terrible Twos

We are two!  So far, we are not experiencing the Terrible Twos, but enjoying every moment of getting to know our clients and servicing their needs.   We enjoy what we do, and we love helping you solve organizational and operational problems.  Check out our video commemorating our last year of business.  
Thank you!

Keynote Speech - How Far We've Come, How Far We'll Go

The Gurus were excited and honored to deliver the keynote address at this year's Relocation Directors Council 2014 Mentors & Masters program.  RDC is a subgroup of the Worldwide Employee Relocation Council's annual conference, which is celebrating 50 years as a professional organization.

The speech focused on how far we have come and where we might go in our work environments. To demonstrate this multigenerational workforce in action, Stacey had the pleasure of co-presenting the speech with her mother, Faye Chadwick, a 25 year relocation expert.  The speech focused on what the world looked like when they each entered into the professional workforce, what their worlds look like now, and what just might happen in the future.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Communication, Not Our Bag

The Gurus are on planes, trains, and rental automobiles all the time, which gives me many opportunities to witness great (or not) service in the travel industry.  There are bumps on the Road of Travel, but those bumps can be smoothed and customer relations intact with simple communication.

The Situation

Typically, I’m a budget traveler.   Sure there are expectations of a different service experience with a budget airline than a moderate brand, but some things should be consistent.   Passengers should get their luggage!

The Gurus team flew Allegiant airlines a little bit earlier this month.  We arrived an hour late to our destination, and that is when the real issued started.  The plane let out, and all of us passengers run like a herd of cattle to our designated luggage belt. Then we wait…and wait….and wait…  We waited 1 hour at baggage claim!  This was the entire flight, not one or two passengers with lost luggage. 

The Missed Opportunity

At no point did a representative from the airline or the airport come to tell us what occurred, or when we could expect to receive our bags.  Passengers grow frustrated, but we feel disempowered to do anything.   I am not sure if anyone tried to find an Allegiant representative, if they did one was not found. 

I opt for the modern method that many of us seek for problem resolution, and hop on my smart phone to post a Facebook message. Check it out.

The response was tagged two days after the event, and it is written in present tense.  What?!
I also received this from my website complaint, written in real time as we waited for our bags.

I’ve received no second email addressing my complaint or explaining what happened.  60 days for a solution?!  What #2?!
Finally, like it was a normal delay, our bags spit up on another baggage carousel, 1 hour after we landed.
I am not upset about the baggage being delayed.  It was inconvenient, but not the end of the world.  If I was in a time sensitive situation, say I was trying to make a business meeting, it would be more upsetting.  It’s all in the eyes of the customer what requires an apology or a greater service recovery option.
Regardless, what is frustrating is Allegiant had three opportunities just to tell me what happened, or at least seem like they cared it is not a normal occurrence of travel to wait 1 hour after landing for our bags.   Someone at that organization knew why our luggage would not be timely delivered.  It would have been nice, and the right thing, to simply relay that information to the passengers.
The Gurus’ Advice
Communication is key!  As soon as an incident occurs outside of normal operations, tell your customers IMMEDIATELY with a sincere apology.   Best practice is this communication occurs in person, as it is more immediate, and clarifications or rumors can be addressed.  If you know when the situation will be rectified, say that too.  Say what you know, don’t speculate what you don’t know, and have faith customers are decent people and understand it’s not a perfect world.    It's possible a customer or two might open become unruly, but don’t punish your loyal pleasant customers because of a few.
Bonus advice: If you have an interactive Facebook page as part of a marketing or service strategy, role play written responses in training.   I took a look at Allegiant’s page, with no illusion it is a lone offender in the travel industry, and it was disheartening.  Do better by making sure the response is appropriate in time, tone, and information.  Stay away from condescending policies and procedures mumbo jumbo. 
Happy Travels!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Throw the Book at Bad Customer Service! Learn from a TV Judge

My Grandma Lou watched a lot of television the final few years she lived alone in her home.  It seemed that there was always some judge on TV quickly deciding the fates of those who were willing to bring their case to a public forum.  (Incidentally, why people would pick a public forum for some of these cases, I have no idea!) 

Judy, Alex, Joe, Marilyn, among a slew of the 21 judges listed on Wikipedia, come into our living rooms and in 15 minutes decipher and deliver a verdict that gets both parties on the road.  As service professionals, we could learn from the judges’ techniques in dealing with escalated and complicated situations. 

Get to the Point

One thing judges shut down quickly is unnecessary details provided by the participants.  The judge will ask a question to the plaintiff or defendant, and if the party does not directly answer the question, the judge immediately puts it to a stop.  They use language similar to, “That’s not what I asked.  Answer my question!”  The human condition tells us the more we explain, the more solid we make our case, but it is rarely true.  The more we explain, the more difficult it is to define the correct solution.

In the service world, when a customer starts to ramble, gently interrupt them and put them back on point. “Thank you for that information, and can you please answer [insert question]?”   I have found the more closed questions, that require an A or B type answer, are the most effective.

Open questions are good when the customer is upset.  This usually gives the customer the emotional space they need to work through the issue, and then the service representative can start problem solving.

They Know Their Product

This I love, love, love, about TV judges!  Their confidence in their subject matter shines through whatever they say.  The participants do not question their authority, because the judge’s authority is self-evident.  They do not stutter.  They do not say qualifying phrases. They speak concrete sentences in such a tone that the participants take their answer as final.  The judges can do this because of their years of experience as litigators and as judges.  But even with the ever changing legal system, they stay current.   They know their product.

In the service world this would seem easy, as most products and services are way less complicated than contemporary law.  But I’ve rarely found that I fully believe a representative’s answer.   They do not have the same level of confidence, because they do not know their product.

This is easy enough to fix through constant and continuous education.  I’m not talking formal training sessions; truth be told only part of the learning magic occurs in a formal environment.  I am talking about making learning informal, an everyday, in-between customer interaction activity.  Help the representatives build their confidence.  Even if they know their product, they can read up on the competitors.   How powerful would it to hear a representative say, “I just read this on our company website. Did you know…?”  

Throw the Book at Them

Ok, so don’t throw the book at your customers or your representatives.   But do help your organization and representatives do a better job, by streamlining your customer interactions using some of the techniques of TV judges. Develop them to get to the point and speak with confidence.  The verdict?  Your organization should receive fewer callbacks and improve customer service scores. 

Case dismissed!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The New Age of Social Media and Customer Service - Vblog

We had a fantastic question submitted asking how has digital and social media growth changed the customer service experience? Stacey answers for us.

Friday, January 10, 2014

It's (Still) the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I write this January 6th, and most of my readers are at work for the first time in 2014.  The big holiday push is sadly over in United States.  We get ready to settle in for the next couple months of cold, slushy, yucky, winter. 

Admittedly, weather-wise this isn't me as I live in central Florida.  But even without the weather challenges, I still feel a lull in excitement.  There is even a phenomena called “Blue Monday” to explain this deflation after holiday feeling.  (

It's (Still) the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Thinking to November and December, there are three of emotions that help excite people, professionally and personally, during the holidays.

First is the emotion of generosity.  There is a greater sense of community, where we realize we are all part of one planet.  We see more requests for charitable giving, like the Salvation Army red kettle bells or Toys for Tots signs.  We freely give and gladly.  These are positive links to our fellow humans, and that feels good.

Next is the emotion of anticipation.  We buy presents with the anticipation of the happiness it brings to those we care about.  We also get excited about what we may receive.  Could it be something we asked for all year, or is it the perfect surprise?  It’s also the anticipation of the New Year.  What is in store for us?  The possibilities are endless.  

Finally, there is the emotion of celebration. The atmosphere changes with the music we listen to and the decorations of our homes and businesses.   We wear our best to impress at holiday parties, because we sense these are special times.

Then after eight weeks, BAM!, it is over.

How to Keep it Going

Based on the three emotions above, there are actions you can take to help the feelings of the holidays move into the New Year.  It won’t be exactly the same, but maybe it can help fuel your team until the spring.

Generosity – Charities need help year round.  Pick a charity to donate time or resources to in January and February.  Continue the spirit of giving. As Cory Booker passed along recently, “You don’t need a reason to help people.”  Charity feels good year round.

Anticipation – Surprise your teams in big and small ways.  Create a program where employees surprise each other.  It could be the “Christmas after Christmas.”  Start a contest, "Who Had the Worse Commute to Work this Week."  Be creative and go beyond the pizza party.

Celebration – Pick a theme for the office and decorate accordingly, maybe “Winter in Hawaii,” or "Winter in Las Vegas."  Play supporting music or a themed movie in the break room.  Encourage the team to dress according to the theme too.   Pick something festive and positive. 

Back to Work

Try one or two of the tips above and see what happens.  Half of work is the environment created at the work site.  There are no rules how to work during each season on the calendar.   Strategically thinking how to maintain the positive spirit of the holidays can only help employee engagement and productivity as we hunker down for the winter.

We wish you a prosperous 2014!  As always, please let us know how we can help you reach new levels of success.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Video Blog: Customer Service at the Holidays

Experimentation is always good for growth.  With that in mind, here's my first video blog.  I made it in December, but forgot to post to the blog.  Oh well, we continue to learn our craft. :)  Wishing you much happiness and success in 2014!