Joe and Wanda on Management

Joe Kerr and Wanda B. Goode, two characters from Nick McCormick’s book, “Lead Well and Prosper,” dispense their management wisdom

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Category: Customer Service

Service Sins

17 June, 2009 (23:44) | Customer Service, Leadership, Management | By: Administrator

Chapter 3 of the book Leading IT Transformation is entitled, “Building a Client-Focused IT Culture.” Although it is written specifically for those in the information technology field, I believe the lessons can be universally applied to any group trying to improve service to its stakeholders.

The authors discuss two “service sins” that occur when we play the role of either “rule master” or “promiser.” When an internal customer asks the rule master to do something slightly outside of guidelines, the rule master says things like, “That’s not our standard… That’s not part of the project plan…We don’t do it that way.” On the flip side the promiser says, “We can to that. We can do that too. Is there anything else you want us to do?”

The correct approach for the Rule Master is to first discover the root cause or need (why the person is making the request), and then try to offer assistance. It may be time to break a rule, or it may be time to re-educate on the reasons for the rule.

As for the Promiser, instead of agreeing to everything and inevitably incurring the wrath of customers when promises are not delivered, it is again important to seek to understand the reason for the request, and then develop some appropriate responses – “I know you want this new change put in, and I’m now aware of its important to the business. We really need to examine it closely to see what it will take to include it. We may need to pull some other functionality to make it work. Can we get back to you at the end of the week?”

To create a client-focused culture, the authors recommend creating a service strategy. They also offer three skills required to evolve to a service oriented culture

  1. A “We” Mindset – It’s not about you, it’s about the team. Further, it’s about the company.
  2. Learning to Love Complaints – Complaints are feedback. Feedback is good. Feedback gives us the opportunity to improve.
  3. Make Every Interaction Count – This is the Moments of Truth concept. Each interaction with a client is a moment of truth that can sweeten or sour a group’s reputation.

Joe Kerr: We need to get back to work, so we can fix our mistakes. We obviously already love them, because we get so many! How’s that for the “We mindset?

Wanda B. Goode: Makes sense. We don’t want to be perceived as rigid and inflexible as if we are hiding behind rules. I’ve always been a fan of exception processing as well. In addition, we can’t be everything to everyone. We need to focus on the most important things or we won’t be able to get those most important things done.

Here’s a related customer service post – The Seven Deadly Sins of Customer Service

Focus on the Areas that Create Value for Your Customers

6 May, 2009 (23:13) | Customer Service, Leadership, Management, Podcast - Management Tips | By: Administrator

Wooden Nickel - Management Tips 4

Shaun Smith offers his management tip on how companies can get by during the recession – Focus on the areas that create value for your customers. Listen to the 10 minute podcast to learn more.

icon for podpress  Shaun Smith's Management Tip [10:00m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Changing Voicemail Greetings

12 December, 2008 (01:06) | Communication, Customer Service | By: Administrator

Last post we talked about how companies don’t update the message on their Interactive Voice Response systems (IVRs)? Today we will discuss the opposite extreme. There are those that change their voicemail message every day, regardless of whether there is a change.

What do you think of that practice Joe and Wanda?

Joe Kerr: Those that change their voice mail greeting daily are anal retentive wing nuts who mistakenly think they’re convincing others that they’re on the ball. I say spend less time trying to impress people and more time on the job!

Wanda B. Goode: I think it’s a matter of personal preference. The frequency of greeting changes is not important to me. The key is that the greeting sounds professional and that the messages are returned in a reasonable time frame – typically within 24 hours.

I do have a piece of advice for those that change their voicemail greeting every day. If you are going to change it daily, you best change it daily. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people tell me it’s Monday when it’s Friday.

Here’s a post that favors changing voice mail messages daily.
A Better Voice Mail Greeting

Here are some other voice mail tips.
Many office workers still don’t grasp the rules of voice mail

IVR Gaffe

9 December, 2008 (23:29) | Customer Service, Management | By: Administrator

“Please listen carefully as the menu options have changed.” How often have we been greeted with this infernal message on an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system? The kicker is I don’t recall a single instance where the menu options have actually changed.

Why do companies do this? Is it their intention to deceive and to annoy? Or, is there some grand liability associated with inadvertently directing an unsuspecting speed-dialing customer to the billing department instead of customer service? Are the ramifications so severe as to warrant the continuous play of this phrase on the off chance that a change to the options actually does take place? “They can’t blame us for the faulty transfer. We told them the options changed!”

Is it too much trouble to actually place the message on the answering machine only when there is actually a change to the menu options and remove it at an appropriate time?

Help me out here Joe and Wanda.

Joe Kerr: Look who woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning!

Wanda B. Goode: It is an annoyance. It’s probably not good practice to begin interaction with your customers with a false statement? Customers deserve better.

Here’s a post on making your automated customer service system a bit more friendly.

Here’s another on tips for IVR success.

Frustrated with automated customer service? Here’s a post on how to combat it.

Customer Service Surprise

25 July, 2008 (01:48) | Customer Service, Management | By: Administrator

We all have our customer service horror stories. It seems like they’ve become more and more commonplace. To counter this disturbing trend, I believe it is important to share positive customer service experiences and tout their benefits.

To that end, here’s my story…

I bought a new home about 7 years ago. The builder used Delta faucets in all the sinks and bathtubs. The caps on the faucet handles were fading – normal wear and tear from my perspective. I called up Delta customer service and asked them if I could purchase some new caps. They took my home address and said they’d ship 8 of them out that day. I asked how much I owed. The answer – No charge. What kind of faucet do you think I’m going to get next time I need one? How many prospective customers are now aware of this story?

Joe and Wanda, can you share any positive customer service stories – things that your team members have done for either internal or external customer?

Joe Kerr: Our customers are pains in the @ss. Regardless, we bend over backwards for them! One time last year I had one of my guys pull an all-nighter to redo a customer report. I remember it well, because I was at party for game six of the World Series and got a call from Mary in bottom of the ninth with an update. I almost missed the game-winning hit! Yes, we routinely sacrifice for the customers. They don’t appreciate it though.

Wanda B. Goode: We mainly have internal customers. I find I really need to train new team members to understand that our job is to help them, not to throw up roadblocks or make things difficult. Sometimes we come up with processes that work great for us, but cause frustration for those that use our services. Not good.

Recently we got a nice email from a new employee outside our group. She was thankful for the way a team member thoroughly explained and then walked her through our processes. A week later we needed help from her group, and although she was very busy, guess who was thrilled to make the time to help us out? And guess who wrote a thank you note to her supervisor?

Good customer service, both internal and external, truly does pay. It seems to be a well kept secret. No reason for that. Let’s spread the word.

Here are a couple other posts on the value of customer service:

We Can Do Better

4 July, 2008 (11:46) | Customer Service, Leadership, Management, Problem Performance | By: Administrator

I’m going to take a break from the string of Edward Deming posts in order to tell you about an experience I had recently.

I was riding home from my day job when I saw a sign on a neighbor’s lawn that read, “Want a painter that shows up? Call xxx-xxx-xxxx.”

That’s it. That’s all it said. It didn’t even have a company name. At first I thought, “How does that person expect to find work advertising with a tag line like that?” After further consideration, though, I came to the conclusion that it’s probably very effective.

We’ve all had our share of contractor and customer service horror stories. These experiences have trained us to set the bar for performance so low that simply showing up for the job makes service people stand-out. It separates them from the pack.

Unfortunately, this is not isolated to contractors and customer service personnel. It’s all over, including corporate America and more specifically – management. Although this may come across as somewhat depressing, there is a silver lining. The good news is that it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to distinguish oneself.

So, let’s make a commitment to start doing the little things better. Not sure what those little things are? Pick up a copy of Lead Well and Prosper to find out. Let’s break away from the pack. We can do better. We should do better. Let’s do better!

But how about the others that surround us? How do we get them to “show up and then some?” How about the Pygmalion Effect? Will that work? If we expect more will we get more? Any suggestions?

Joe Kerr: I’m not sure those little people have to do with any of this. I say you’re just screwed if you don’t have any leverage. With my people, for instance, I hold their livelihoods in the palm of my hand. There’s power in that. With contractors, you’ve got nothing. I suppose I could get my team members to paint my house, but I’ve heard about people getting in trouble for that sort of thing.

Wanda B. Goode: I’m a believer in the Pygmalion Effect. I do think we project our expectations, and that results frequently match them. I have seen people turn around and rise to the occasion when higher expectations have been set by a trusting manager who believes in them. Not sure how it would work with contractors, though. I would think some time would need to be spent building a relationship first. That’s not always an option when choosing a contractor. I’d like to hear others’ opinions though.

Check out the following for more on the Pygmalion effect. Post 1, Post 2

Check this one out for more on Pygmies!!!

Customer Complaint

4 March, 2007 (18:42) | Customer Service, Management | By: Administrator

Most managers don’t relish dealing with customer complaints. Joe and Wanda are no exception. Let’s find out how they dealt with their latest one.

Joe Kerr: This is fresh in my mind. Just had a major customer complaint last week. I’m still fired up about it. The guy called me directly and ripped me a new one! I told him it was the new guy’s fault and I’d never let it happen again. I had to give the customer a refund to shut him up. It’ll probably cost me my bonus this quarter. I felt a little better after I laid into the person that caused the problem. I made an example of him in front of the team. I wanted to make it clear that I was not going to tolerate anything like that again. 

Wanda B. Goode: When customers complain, I find it very important to hear them out. Although it can be uncomfortable situation, if handled well, there is a great opportunity to recover.

It doesn’t happen all that often, but we did get a complaint a couple months ago. I let the client vent. I told her I understood how she felt. Although I had no idea who was at fault, I apologized for the inconvenience. Then I asked her if I could take some time to resolve the issue and get back to her. She said fine.

I checked with the team member to get his story. There are typically two sides to every story, so it’s important to remain open when collecting the facts. Sometimes we are entirely in the right. Sometimes we’re not. I try to use these experiences as learning opportunities. In this case it wasn’t clear that we were in the wrong, but it was clear that we could have done some things to improve the likelihood of a more positive customer experience. We talked about what we could have done better and updated our procedures accordingly.

I got back to the client, apologize again and thanked her. I explained that we put some things in place to avoid a reoccurrence. She must have been satisfied, because she is still a client. Sometimes demonstrating that you care enough to listen and to correct a mistake is all that it takes to recover.