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Friday, August 21, 2015

Language and Service Part 2- Let’s Be Honest, We’re not talking Thai Here

People tend to complain to me about poor customer service since I am The Customer Service Guru.  I have heard the ugliest racist descriptions slip from people’s mouths when they have to deal with an overseas contact center, or speak with a representative who does not natively speak English.  Let’s be honest, I am not talking about Thai here. 

The true problem isn't where the representative comes from; the problem is the customer not being understood.  That leads to misunderstandings, frustrations, and a waste of time and money for the customer and the business. 

If you remember from the first blog I wrote about language and service (Read it Here), I have been the service professional on the other end that did not speak the language of my customer.   After being yelled at in French a thousand times, I built up an armor to ignore it. 

I was doing my best and did not want to disappoint my customer, but yelling at me did not improve my French skills.   Yelling or insulting me didn’t turn on an interpreter super power in my brain where I could instantly suddenly comprehend the customer.   I could have used some strategies to effectively service my customers in the reality of my environment.

The Gurus’ Training Solution to Help Non-Native Speaker Employees

The Gurus 3B Service Mantra is Be Nice, Be Right, Be Here™.  Customer Service organizations can still Be Nice and address the issue of language mismatch between customers and employees.

1. Immediate Take Action Now Solution - Train your contact center agents to confidently and kindly say, “I truly want to help you, and I am having trouble understanding what you mean.  Would you help me and please slow down just a little then I can figure how to best solve/assist you?”   The key here is a sincere and calm tone from the representative.   It is very difficult to stay upset with someone who is genuinely trying to help, despite language obstacles.

2. Longer-term Organization Health Solution - Circulate through internal communication platforms common complex issues and the common phrases English speakers could use to explain them.  Customers do not call contact centers anymore for simple problems.  Help upskill your employees to handle the difficulties and nuances of service recovery language. 

Always reinforce with your non-native speaker staff what a wonderful skill it is to be bilingual.  It is an essential part of your operation, so celebrate the diversity, but be respectful about the realities of working with US customers.   The world has changed a lot for customers in the last 10 years, have a touch of empathy for that.

The goal is not fluency, but kind comprehension and sincere effort coming from the heart.  That can be accomplished in any language.    

Friday, August 7, 2015

Metrics Can Kill - Part 2 - How to keep the mojo going?

We made it to the finish line!   

Another Tour de France ends, and the winner of the intense endurance event was British cyclist, Christopher Froome.  After 2,000+ kilometers, full of tragedy and triumph, it is done.

So what were the Knappe results of our annual fitness challenge?  Week 1: Two days after I wrote the first blog, I did well.  My husband, Rolf, achieved phenomenal results.  Week 2: I maintained and the hubby?  Again phenomenal.   Week 3: I went down a tiny bit more, and the hubby, phenomenal again!!

If we were a contact center, Rolf would receive the $50 AMEX gift card, and I would get to keep my job.  He was rightly excited, and I was unenthusiastic satisfied.  The worst part, since I did not achieve a prize (the big weight loss), my motivation to keep going waned even though there are still results to achieve.

The Business Lesson

My husband took an aggressive path, achieved his well-deserved results, but it would be difficult to continue his steep upward swing over time.  Eventually, he will be at  his goal weight.  I took the slow and steady road and although my results weren’t wow, I was solid.

As an employer, it’s tricky what achievements to recognize.  Rolf’s achievement deserves celebration, but I still desire recognition too.  In a short contest, almost anyone can make magic happen for a few weeks, or sometimes contest are designed with unintentional bias.  Long-term contest can get tedious to administrate and keep the motivation going.

Your Action Item

Mix up the length of contests for your employees, and plan the schedule early in the operational year.  Some contests can be short sprint in nature, just like the daily prize of the Tour.  Others can last a business quarter.  I like the business quarter idea for the added bonus it improves the team’s business acumen.   I would not go past a quarter simply because business fluctuates too much throughout a given year.

Now I have 50 weeks to prepare for 2016! Go, Stacey, go!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Metrics Can Kill - Handle with Care

Every July my family creates a fitness challenge to coincide with the Tour de France cycling race.  We take inspiration from the cyclist to reset our year.  Think of it is a resolution reboot.

My goal, i.e. metric, is always to lose a set number of pounds.  Part of the Knappe challenge is to weigh ourselves only once a week, but I felt good and weighed early.   The result was solid, but it wasn't a WOW.  Frankly, it killed my motivation for a bit.  Immediately, I thought, "Should I change my methods to increase results?"   It's only been 5 days!  This is a strong reaction and expectation with little data.

I've seen this happen in my consulting business when metrics arrive and much is read into them.  High, leaders are getting a bonus, the employee's a pizza party, and let's raise the bar for higher!  Low, companies tend to get reactive and institute change.  It can kill morale.   This happens with customer service surveys, employee engagement surveys, agent performance metrics, pretty much anything that is measured.

The highs, lows, and middle scores tell a bigger story.  Before any changes or celebrations, ask smart questions behind the numbers.  Bad - Was it the market?  Did something happen in the world to put customers/employees in a poor mood?   For example, if you raise your service rates, no one is calling you to say, "Thank you." 

When adjusting policies or procedures do so based on trends versus anomalies.  Metrics are helpful in running a business, but they have their place.   Understanding where they fit best in your organization will help you finish strong, every race.