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Customer Service Excellence Programme (Telephones)

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Customer Service Training concentrating on Telephone environment

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Customer Service Excellence Programme (Telephones)

  1. 1. THE TELEPHONE PROFESSIONALThe phone is probably the most used tool in modern business. 25 million business calls are madeevery day in the UK. Not everyone admits to being confident or totally proficient in their use of thephone so it is worth looking at why phone skills are vital for effective business communication.As we deal with customers over the telephone, we need to remember that:It is a substitute for face-to-face conversations. Therefore we need to work at finding ways tocompensate for what we are missing out on: we cannot see facial expressions, manners, reactions we cannot see what the other person is doing we cannot lip-read what the other person is saying we cannot use illustrations to help them understandManaging Positive Customer PerceptionsIt’s not always “what we say”, but “how we say it” that creates a good or bad customer perception.We need to be aware of the ‘throw-away’ statements which may mean little to us but will affect theway the customer perceives your organisation.All of the statements below can produce a poor customer perception. Tip - imagine you are acustomer hearing them during a call. Test them out on your colleagues; you’ll be surprised howmany people would consider some of these as perfectly acceptable."The shipping date on your order should be next Friday.""Im sorry I didnt call you back. My boss had us in another meeting that lasted all morning.”“I hope this will solve your problem.”“I dont understand why customer service didnt help you."“The order processing department has had a lot of problems lately. Ill call them and get thisstraightened out for you.""Mr. King is in a meeting. Why dont you call back in an hour?""Im sorry it took so long. Now what do you want?"“I’m sorry you had to wait. Our telephone operators are very slow.”“Can you call back because Mrs Jones is not here at the moment? I think she’s gone to the loo.Answering the phone professionallyThe rules for answering a telephone are simple but they need to be continually reviewed andpractised. Following are the most basic ones, which should always be employed.1. Use the four answering courtesies:· Greet the caller· State your organisation (or department)· Introduce yourself· Offer your help“Good afternoon, Accounts, Andrew Batt speaking. How may I help?” Montague Consult
  2. 2. 2. Show enthusiasm when you answer. Help make the caller feel welcomeA tired voice lacking in enthusiasm is very unappealing and reflects on the professionalism of yourorganisation.3. Use friendly phrases as part of your greeting. • “Thanks for calling.” • “May I help you?”4. Remember to smile as you pick up the receiver.It may help if you have a mirror on your desk, this way you will be able to see how you sound onthe telephone. Also, as a reminder, tape the word ‘Smile’ on your phone.Closing the conversationWhen you finish your telephone conversation there are some appropriate and courteousstatements that should always be made. You should:1. Thank the caller.2. Let the caller know you appreciate his/her business.3. Provide assurance that any promises will be fulfilled.4. Ask if there is anything else you can help them with.5. Leave the caller with a positive feelingSome courteous closing statement examples: "Thank you for calling. We appreciate your business” "Thanks for your order." "Feel free to call us anytime." "Im glad we were able to help." "Goodbye and thanks for calling." "I enjoyed talking with you." "If you have any additional questions please call me."Tip: Let the caller hang up firstThis is simple courtesy, plus it gives the caller a final chance to add something. And always remember: Smile as you dial!What to do when you have to put customers on hold: 1. Ask them if you can put them on hold. 2. Tell them how long they will be on hold. 3. Assure them that you will be working for them while they are on hold (tell them what you will be doing away from the phone). 4. Wait for their response. 5. When you get back to them, thank them for holding. Montague Consult
  3. 3. 6. If they are on hold for more than 1-minute get back to them and ask if they mind continuing to hold.How to transfer customers on the telephone 1. Tell customers what you can do for them. Avoid saying, "I can’t help you", "That is not my responsibility" or "This department does not handle that". By giving the name of the correct person or department, you are helping the customer, so state your sentence positively. For example, "Mrs. Jones our service area can help you with that." 2. Own the contact (or complaint!). Give the customer your name, department and phone number. This is especially necessary for telephone transfers. In case the customer gets cut off or transferred to the wrong area, he/she will have the necessary information to contact the appropriate person. Also, to save yourself from repeating information, ask if he/she has a pencil ready to copy down the information. 3. Inform the next employee. Fill him/her in on the details of your conversations with this customer. Also tell the next employee what the customer said as well as what his/her attitudes and feelings were.How to make a problem callAnytime you have to make a difficult call there are important steps to follow. Even though you maynot be calling to sell a product, the basic steps of a successful telemarketing call still apply. Before you make your call, develop an action plan. Greet the customer in a friendly way Introduce yourself and your company State the purpose of the call Deliver your message in friendly, clear and business like way, leaving room for questions State customer benefits/options/alternatives, if appropriate Ask for agreementHeres an example:Cynthia mistakenly overbooked a training course. She needed to call Mrs. Haig to explain why thecourse she had booked had to be changed. Cynthia developed the following action plan.Her objective: arrange a new course date.The approach: briefly explain the need for the change and offer two alternative dates.Customer benefits: the course will be less crowded and Mrs. Haig will receive more individualtraining support from the course leader."Good morning, Mrs. Haig. This is Cynthia Rogers from TST. How are you today? The reason formy call is to discuss your course booking. The date I booked for your group is overbooked. What Ican do is offer an alternative date with fewer delegates. This means you will be able to ask morequestions and receive more attention from the course leader. I have the 16th or 20th available. Doyou have a preference?” In the situation above, Cynthia did a good job because she turned a potential negative situationinto a positive for the customer by planning ahead. Montague Consult
  4. 4. How to respond to a complaining customer 1. Listen with understanding. Identify with the customer and "own" the complaint. This defuses anger and demonstrates your concern. Tell the customer something such as, “I am sorry you have been inconvenienced.” Tell me what happened so that I can help you." It is vital to show a sincere interest and willingness to help. The customers first impression of you is all important in gaining co-operation. 2. No matter what caused the problem, do not blame others or make excuses. Instead, take the responsibility and initiative to do whatever you can to solve the problem as quickly as possible. 3. Paraphrase and record what the customer tells you. Whenever you hear an important point, say, "Let me make sure I understand: you were promised delivery on the 15th and you did not receive the product until the first of the following month. Is that correct?" 4. Find out what the customer wants. Does he or she want a refund, credit, discount or replacement? The customer is complaining because he or she has a problem and wants it solved as quickly as possible. Find out what his or her Telephone Caller From HellIntroduction Montague Consult
  5. 5. So You’re Hearing Voices . . .Even though you can’t see the face behind the disembodied voice piercing its way through yourheadset, there’s no problem conjuring up a vivid mental image. Beady, nasty little eyes, sharppointy un-brushed teeth, knotted mousy hair, sunken cheekbones, jutting chin, Oh yeah and horns— you’re pretty sure there are horns.The Caller from Hell — Alexander Graham Bell’s personal contributions to our workday stress.I wonder if Mr. Bell, toiling in his little Boston workshop with his assistant Thomas Watson, knewwhat he was getting us all into. Could he possibly have envisioned that telephones would numberin the billions by the new millennium? In his wildest fantasies, could he have imagined that millionsof people would one day walk around with little versions of his creation in their purses and trouserpockets?Could he have known that the telephone would quickly cease to be just another invention andbecome instead a tool that would shape our very culture and the way we interact in our businessand personal lives? As legend has it, Mr. Bell made his first test call in his workshop to Mr. Watsonon March 10, 1876, and uttered the now famous words “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.”Perhaps Mr. Bell would have got a glimmer of things to come if — instead of Mr. Watson’senthusiastic “I can hear you! I can hear the words!” — he’d been interrupted with “Please hold,your call is important to us. An operator will be with you shortly. . . .”We have developed a true love/hate relationship with the telephone. All you have to do is look atthe twitchy behavior of a businessperson who has been deprived of his or her mobile phone for afew hours to appreciate our dependence on phones. Yet at the same time, there always seem tobe undercurrents of resentment toward the raw intrusiveness the telephone represents. There’s nopolite knock, no inquiry as to your availability or interest — it just rings. And try as we might toignore its persistent peals, its demands to be answered are virtually irresistible. When it comes todoing business, the telephone is invaluable. It’s part of your connection to the rest of the world,and, while you can love it or hate it, there’s really no way to avoid it. It’s also an essential part ofcustomers’ connection to you. It’s part of your face to the public. And the public is not alwayshappy.Difficult callers — Callers from Hell — contact you for a number of reasons.Some have problems they want you to resolve. Some want something you can’t give them. Somejust want to vent their frustration or anger. At some level, Callers from Hell are usually customers.They could be external customers, for whom you or your company provides goods or services, orinternal customers, those within your company to whom you provide support. Whoever they are,and whatever the reason they’re calling, the benefits of being able to resolve a situation quicklyand positively cannot be overstated. An overwhelming body of research tells us that a singleconflict with an organization can have far-reaching consequences in long-term customersatisfaction, and that there exists a direct correlation between customer satisfaction andprofitability. In Modeling the Relationships between Process Quality Errors and Overall ServiceProcess Performance (1995), David Collier identifies that the average customer who experiencesa service failure tells 9 to 10 people about the experience. That’s a scary number for people in thecustomer service business.But if you’re a manager or supervisor to whom unsatisfied calls or complaints get escalated it getseven scarier. A 1998 study by Tax and Brown suggests that only 5% to 10% of dissatisfiedcustomers actually take the time to complain following a service failure. This means that, by the Montague Consult
  6. 6. time you’ve heard one single complaint, there have already been from 10 to 20 negative incidents,with negative word of mouth having spread to between 90 and 200 people. If your companyaverages one complaint a week, that represents up to 10,000 people having heard somethingnegative about the company every year. How many complaints do you get a week, a month, ayear? You may find the results of doing the math unsettling indeed.The secret to success for most businesses lies in a company’s ability to retain its customers. Infact, a 1990 study by Reichheld and Kenny shows the direct link between satisfaction andprofitability, establishing that a five-point improvement in customer retention can lead to anincrease in profits from 25% to 80%. Learning how to reduce and resolve conflict, therefore, isn’tjust one of those warm, fuzzy intangibles — it is essential to the health and growth of anybusiness. And it’s not just a matter of being nicer. Addressing conflict over the telephone requiresa number of unique skills.I am always a little surprised that, despite our familiarity with the telephone, and the intricate waysin which it is woven into our social fabric, so few people have mastered this marvelouscommunications tool. But perhaps we’ve simply grown so accustomed to it that we’ve begun totake it for granted. The fact is that the telephone can be an immensely powerful tool when usedproperly. And, of course, like most tools, it can also work against you if you’re not careful.The Role of the TelephoneIn the business world, the telephone’s role continues to increase in importance. In fact, for manypeople today, the telephone is their business. Call centers, from small teams of technical supportrepresentatives to huge rooms filled with operators and customer service representatives (CSRs),comprise one of the fastest growing segments in business today. But it’s not just call centerswhere the role of the telephone is surging — it’s everywhere. A real estate lawyer friend of minewith a burgeoning practice once confided in me that it had been months since he’d seen a clientface to face. The nitty-gritty parts of his communications would go back and forth via e-mail, andwhen his clients wanted the personal touch that’s where the telephone came in. The same holdstrue for accountants, bankers, brokers. The truth is that — for some of us — if we could phone in ahaircut we’d do it.Doing business over the telephone has tremendous advantages. It’s instantaneous, and it’s moreconducive to accurate expressions of emotion and urgency than its younger but fast-growingsibling, e-mail. It allows us to stay better connected to our customers and provides a handy forumfor customer feedback. The downside (there’s always a downside) to this wonderful invention isthat in some ways it’s almost too fast, too instantaneous. People can pick up a phone, dial anumber, and connect with us in the heat of the moment without first cooling off to think thingsthrough. We can use the telephone as a crutch, replacing common sense and basic initiative —speed dialing a technical support person rather than spending a few moments trying to solve apuzzle on our own. People’s unabashed dependence on telephone support has become sowidespread, in fact that many companies have resorted to burying their toll-free technical supportnumbers in the small print deep within owners’ manuals.The hope is that people might eventually give up looking and actually try to resolve thingsthemselves before burdening the tech support group with silly questions.One of the double-edged swords of the telephone is the lack of the visual component. On the plusside, it gives us a certain amount of anonymity and the ability to create illusion. Let’s face it — thewhole phone sex business is based on this single benefit of letting imaginations fill in for the visualcomponent. I can’t say for certain, but my guess is that the people actually answering the Montague Consult
  7. 7. telephones in those services are not the same bikini-clad models showing up on the late-nighttelevision infomercials.The telephone can allow us to be someone we’re not or give the appearance of being greater thanwe are. I remember my surprise at discovering that a salesperson that I’d been speaking with atwhat I thought was a large corporate office was actually working out of her caravan somewhere insouth coast. Some people are blessed with naturally and wonderfully rich voices that project animage far beyond their physical appearance (as one call center manager I know with such a voiceputs it, “I have the perfect face for a call center.”). The downside of the telephone’s audio-onlyaspect is the profound degree to which it restricts our ability to communicate. Without the benefitsof facial expressions, gestures, and body language, we are reliant solely on our voices to carry theburden of expressing emotions, being persuasive, and delivering silent messages about how nicewe really are. A great many of the challenges we face on the telephone have to do with this lack ofa visual component and the ensuing miscommunications.I’ll never forget monitoring a call to an Internet service provider’s technical support representative(TSR). The caller was coming across as cold and uncooperative, speaking in one- and two-wordsentences. At one point in the conversation, as the TSR was trying to walk her through aprocedure, she interrupted and stated, matter-of-factly, “It’s just not working.” The TSR respondedby saying, “I’m not sure what you mean, madam,” and was met with stony silence. She doesn’twant this problem fixed, she just wants to make someone feel bad, I remember thinking to myself.It was a thought I was soon to become quite ashamed of when an audible sob gave me a clue asto why she hadn’t been speaking. We all know how to use a telephone. It’s a pretty simple deviceto operate. Even in a high-tech, sophisticated call center environment, it doesn’t take long tobecome proficient with the equipment. Like so many skills, though, there is a big differencebetween being able to use a tool and being able to use it well. I know how to swing a golf club, forexample, but, as anyone who has ever golfed with me will attest, I’m a long way from theprofessional tour. This is about how to use the telephone more effectively and how to takeadvantage of its strengths and compensate for its weaknesses. It’s about how to deal with difficultsituations and difficult callers — those times and people that increase our stress levels and ruinour days. It’s about increasing our callers’ satisfaction and our enjoyment at work. Whether youwork in a large call center, fielding hundreds of calls a day, or in a small office, dealing with only ahandful of calls, the skills outlined here are both relevant and powerful. The telephone is prettyhard to get away from no matter where you live these days, and even the ubiquitous call displaycan’t predict what’s in store for you at the other end. It’s best to be prepared. THE IMPORTANCE OF REDUCING AND RESOLVING CUSTOMER CONFLICTIt always seems to be the popular question with people charged with serving customers – how doyou deal with difficult customers or situations? In today’s fast-paced, high stress environment,conflict with customers may be inevitable. Customer expectations of quality, speed of delivery andprice competitiveness have become so high; it has become virtually impossible to pleaseeveryone. The big question for business leaders, though, is “is there really a benefit in trying toreduce customer conflict, or training people how to deal with it more effectively?” “Is it worth the Montague Consult
  8. 8. investment of time and financial resources, or is the best strategy to simply accept that there willalways be some unhappy customers, and to learn to live with it?”There are really two questions that have to be answered. The first is “to what degree doescustomer conflict actually impact overall customer satisfaction, if at all? The second is, “is therereally support to the common belief that a link exists between customer satisfaction andprofitability?” Most everyone intuits this to be the case. At some “the good guys always win in theend” level we want it to be true. But does it really make a difference? The available researchindicates that, not only does customer conflict negatively impact customer satisfaction, and thatthere is a direct link to profitability, but that failure to address negative customer serviceexperiences can have profound consequences. Does Conflict with Customers Affect Overall Customer Satisfaction?As to the first question about the degree to which customer conflict impacts overall customersatisfaction, there is growing evidence to suggest that customer conflict actually has a far greaterimpact than most people realize. As it turns out, not only will people tend to make negativeassumptions about an entire organization based on a single, isolated negative occurrence, but thatmultiple negative occurrences create virtually unbreakable negative predispositions toward thecompany that can become devastating over a period of time. Montague Consult
  9. 9. In their study of Frequency of Negative Critical Incidents and Satisfaction with Public TransportServices, Margareta Friman and Tommy Gärling proved that all it took was one, single NegativeCritical Incident (NCI) to reduce overall satisfaction with the entire public transport system. RobertGreene, in 1984 (“Incidental Learning of Event Frequency,”); and John Jonides and Moshe Navah-Benjamin in 1987 (“Estimating Frequency of Occurrence”), confirmed that multiple negative eventsbecame stored in memory; and in 1986, Reid Hastie and Bernadette Park linked this frequency topeople’s judgments and perspectives. In a following 1999 study, Friman, Edvardsson, and Gärlingconfirmed that the total frequency of the NCIs dramatically affected the ratings of overallsatisfaction. They also determined that different types of NCIs created different impacts. The wayin which someone was treated by an employee, for example, ranked amongst the highest innegative impact. Reliability of service was similarly high in negative impact.In 1990, a study of 700 critical incidents (Bitner, et al., "The Service Encounter: DiagnosingFavorable and Unfavorable Incidents") found that it is the employees’ responses to negativeincidents, not the incidents themselves, that most often leads to dissatisfaction.These findings support the concept that each single conflict within an organization can have far-reaching consequences in long-term customer satisfaction, and that the human element – the wayan employee interacts with a customer – plays the dominant role. They also strongly support thatservice recovery skills and procedures are critical in maintaining customer satisfaction. How much of a Role does Customer Satisfaction Play in Profitability?An immense amount of research has been conducted linking customer satisfaction to profitability.Vic Hunter, author of Business to Business Marketing, has identified that it can be 30 to 40 timesmore expensive to acquire new customers than it is to manage existing customers. He points outthat in some industries a 5% increase in overall customer retention equates to a 25% to 55%increase in the profitability of a business. This is supported by a study by Reichheld and Kenny in1990 that actually demonstrates that a five-point improvement in customer retention can lead to anincrease in profits from 25% to 80%. Gerard King and Gus Geursen, (“A System DynamicsInvestigation Of The Linkage Between Customer Satisfaction And Firm Profitability”) demonstrated Montague Consult
  10. 10. the clear link between customer satisfaction and profitability, and showed that customersatisfaction is influenced by a number of factors. One of the most prevalent of these factors has todo with the degree to which customer expectations are met. A company which is performing well,they point out, may still have unsatisfied customers if a marketing campaign has over-promised.The link between conflict resolution, service recovery and profitability is both clear and predictable.Using some of the statistical data following is a model that illustrates the potential cost of a lostcustomer due to service failure:Calculating The Potential Cost Of A Lost Customer Due To Service FailureThere are two factors involved in calculating the potential cost of a lost customer due to servicefailure:a. The average Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)b. The ripple effectCalculating a CLVThe Customer Lifetime Value is the average amount one customer might be expected to spendwith one business over a lifetime. It involves three components: a. The average dollar amount per transaction b. The average number of transactions per year c. The average number of years a customer remains in a business’s primary target groupLet’s use a toy store as an example. Assume an average pound amount per (Kids Corp., 1986 –1991). The average annual value of a customer, therefore, is £13 x 22 = £286.00. Now assumethat the average customer remains in the toy store’s primary target group for 12 years. TheCustomer Lifetime Value, therefore, is the annual value, (£286.00), multiplied by 12 years,equaling £3,432.00 transaction of £13.00, and an average of 22 transactions per year percustomer.Calculating the Ripple EffectThe Ripple Effect is the impact of a service failure beyond the initial incident. David Collier in 1995(“Modeling the relationships between process quality errors and overall service processperformance”), showed that the average customer experiencing a service failure told nine-to-tenpeople about the experience, where they would tell only half as many about service whichexceeded their expectations. Subsequent research has demonstrated the impact of this - that THEIMPORTANCE OF REDUCING AND RESOLVING CUSTOMER CONFLICTIt is unlikely, of course that every negative incident, or even the majority of negative incidents, willresult in the worst case scenario. Having said this, failure to address them, or minimize thenumber of negative incidents has significant consequences. A toy store for example, might have aconservative 40,000 transactions a year. Even if the store had an unlikely 99.5% servicesatisfaction rate, that still represents 200 service failures per year. And even if we choose tocalculate the actual cost of a single unrecovered service failure as only a small fraction of theworst case scenario, the financial consequences are profound. It is easy to see how strategies andskills for reducing service failures and recovering service failures are equally important to thosedesigned for proactively building sales. The analogy is that of bailing water out of a leaking boat.Faster bailing can improve conditions, but faster bailing plus filling in some of the holes will have amuch more positive effect. People will tend to avoid businesses they have heard negative things Montague Consult
  11. 11. about, and patronize businesses they have heard positive things about. Now, assume the worstcase scenario: that a customer has a negative experience, that they tell ten people about theirexperience, that all ten people are also in the primary target group, and that all ten choose to avoidthe toy store in the future. The CLV is now multiplied by 11 (the initial customer, plus the tenothers). With the Ripple Effect, therefore, the potential cost of a single service failure over atwelve year period in a toy store, therefore, is as high as £37,752.00.Calculating The Potential Business Loss Represented by Customer ComplaintPart of the challenge of management is that only 5 to 10 percent of dissatisfied Customers actuallytake the time to complain following a service failure (Tax and Brown, 1998). This makes it difficultto assess customer satisfaction for a business, when 90% to 95% of service failures remainunreported. Knowing this, however, can provide an indication as to the potential business loss thatthe complaint represents.What Tax & Brown’s findings demonstrate is that each complaint typically represents 10-20unrecovered service failures. And, as discussed, each of those unrecovered service failures in atoy store can represent as much as £37,752.00 in lost revenue over twelve years. A manager of atoy store who receives a complaint, therefore, can assume that a single complaint has thepotential of representing 10-20 negative incidents, or £377,520.00 to £755,040 in lostrevenue over a twelve year period. Again, even at a small fraction of the worst case scenario,the financial implications of a complaint are profound. This dramatically illustrates the importanceof responding to the red flags raised when a customer takes the time to bring a service failure tolight.While it may be true that, even in the best of companies, a certain amount of service failure is tobe expected, there are clear financial consequences to not making efforts to minimizing them. Themodels above make it easy to understand how companies with high levels of service failures seemto perish so quickly. It is also easy to understand why companies which focus on minimizingnegative incidents, and train people to effectively recover from the service failures they do have,can prosper even in the most competitive of industries. THE TRUTH ABOUT CUSTOMER SERVICE...I’ve been particularly surprised – thrilled – by the high level of interest in customer service in thisorganization. I mean, I’m passionate about customer service, but I never thought I would seepeople with the same enthusiasm and dedication as I have. It’s nice to know that I’m not alonewith my obsession.But this is all the more reason that, when you have opportunities like the training sessions you’vehad, you should make a concerted effort to take the things that peak your interest and burn theminto your memory. To try and turn them into habitual behavior – into action which doesn’t requirethought – that doesn’t require conscious effort. Whether it’s paying closer attention to howprecisely you communicate, learning to ask better questions, using more effective languagestrategies or writing better emails - if the new skills don’t become part of your daily ritual, they will Montague Consult
  12. 12. disappear from sight. And if this happens, the seeds of change we have planted will never takeroot.Today, however, there is something even more important I need to talk with you about. You’ve allalready heard me talk about customer service. We’ve talked about and explored skills, andtechniques and distinctions and expectations. It’s good stuff – all of it. But the truth is all of thesethings only represent maybe 20-30% of what customer service really is. That’s it. And that’s all thatI or any other customer service expert can actually help you with. What I want to talk about todayis the other 70-80% of what makes up world class customer service – the things I cannot help youwith.You see, the hardest part of customer service is something I can’t teach, and can’t really influenceto any significant degree. It’s kind of customer service training’s dirty little secret that trainers don’tlike to talk about much – because it reveals the indisputable limitation of the training process. Tryas I might, and as passionate as I may become, I simply can’t teach attitude, No one can.Truth be told, we all have the capacity to be World-Class Customer Service providers. Assumingwe’re skilled at what we do. Assuming we have the ability, knowledge and expertise, we all havethe capacity to be superstars. What most of us lack, however – yes, I mean most of us – is not thecapacity, but the conviction.You see – outstanding, breathtaking, amazing service can only happen when we have thecourage to unequivocally put our own needs and egos on the shelf. When we are prepared to say:“Right now, at this moment in time, I am yours – and there is nothing more important to me in theworld than you. At this moment in time my only need is to ensure that yours are met.”This is hard for most of us. It is impossible for some of us. Some simply disagree with the conceptof putting another person’s needs before our own. We all want to feel respected. We all want tofeel that our rights are equal. And it’s very tempting to feel that, regardless of the fact that one ofus is the customer and one the service provider, that we deserve the same considerations and thesame level of importance in the relationship. And that just isn’t the case. Sorry. It’s true. We’ve allheard that ‘the customer is always right’ and most of us intuitively know that this isn’t accurate. Buttheir needs are paramount. In the relationship – for there to be genuine world-class customerservice, the customer’s needs must always come before our own.I understand if you aren’t comfortable with this. I even understand if you are vehemently offendedby the notion that a healthy relationship should be so lopsided from a give and take point of view.Yet the anecdotal proof that this is what is required to achieve World Class Service is irrefutable.When I collect stories of outstanding customer service, it’s a theme that recurs over and overagain. I hear about the young store clerk who works 30-minutes after closing time on a Saturdaynight to help a desperate customer.I hear about a pharmacist who can’t reach a doctor to confirm a prescription by telephone, drivingto the doctor’s office to confirm it in person and then driving the filled prescription to the elderlycustomers’ house. I hear about a graphic designer working 48-hour straight over a weekend tohelp out a panic-stricken customer. I hear about a city bus driver sprinting into a shopping centerto retrieve a purse left in a store by a blind passenger. Montague Consult
  13. 13. If we take Customer Service to a macro level, beyond the business world, we hear about ourfirefighters – facing possible injury or death, racing into a burning building because someone inthere, someone they’ve never met before, needs them.These levels of commitment – of absolute selflessness – are the things we all admire and respectin others. They are things we want in those who serve us. Yet precious few of us expect it ofourselves. But here’s the thing. Here’s the kicker. Here’s the conundrum:We all have the need to feel important and respected. This is a basic human condition.Consciously or subconsciously, we all seek these things out. Yet in a Customer Service role, thereis only one way for us to get those needs fulfilled, and it seems counterintuitive to most of us;Because the pathway to fulfilling our needs is to actually abandon the quest for them – and pursueinstead the fulfillment of the needs of others.As any professional speaker, trainer, actor, comedian will tell you, in order to be successful whenyou’re on stage, you have to be prepared to do whatever it takes to connect with the audience.Your needs, your feelings become unimportant as you work to influence the audience’s emotions.You live the moment for them– not for yourself. Your payback comes at the end - if you were good– when the audience rises to their feet in thunderous applause. Your workplace is your stage. Andeach of you play a vital role. But it would be presumptuous for me to stand here and tell any of youto do whatever it takes to do your role well. That’s not my job, nor my place. That’s your decisionand yours alone.All I can tell you is that, without a shadow of a doubt that is exactly what it takes. That is the single,overriding recipe for success. It’s what will move you from good to great and from great to World-Class.But I also won’t tell you that you should strive to be a World-Class service provider. That, as well,is not mine to say. What I can tell you, however, is that those who genuinely are World-ClassService providers, those who stand out, those we talk about – are never wanting for respect, oradmiration – or for work. They are in demand at every level in every successful organization –from part-time co-op students who do all the dirty work, to CEOs.To get there, you need to be skillful at what you do, continually question and improve yourinterpersonal skills, and have the courage to lose yourself to the customer. It is not for the faint ofheart. But the ultimate payoff to the customer, to your organization, to you...is huge.We’ve all heard the saying, ‘what goes around comes around’. Most of us profess to believe in this– in karma – but when push really comes to shove, most of us still don’t quite trust it. The difficultyis getting past the quid-pro-quo mentality. Most of us are prepared to deliver the pro quo, but onlyafter we have assurances of the quid. But karma doesn’t work that way. Neither does customerservice. World-Class Customer Service is about giving to one person, knowing that you may neversee a payback from that person, but trusting that the payback will come in some way at sometime. World-Class Customer Service is not for everyone.But that’s why those who embrace it stand out so much. I wish you all the greatest success in allof your endeavors. And, for those of you who choose the journey of becoming world-classcustomer service providers, I’d wish you good luck, but you won’t need it. However you choose todefine success, you will find it. That is my promise to you. Montague Consult
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