The telephone and customer service, Part 2
Last week, we talked about the importance of presenting a professional image, both in person and on the telephone. Since we use our phones so much every day, I thought it would be good to add a few extra customer service tips for when we make those outgoing calls:
- When calling a customer back, always identify yourself properly by providing your name, and your campus/department.
- If you are leaving a voice mail, slow down when you are reciting your number. It’s good practice to repeat the number a second time.
- Avoid leaving long winded messages.
- Be aware of confidential information when leaving messages.
- Be aware of people around you when talking on the phone. Someone next to you might overhear confidential information.
The telephone is such an essential part of our jobs. We can make a positive impression to our customers by using it to enhance our level of excellent service.
The telephone and customer service …
Presenting a professional image, both in person and on the telephone, is important for all of us in public education. The telephone is an essential part of the contact we have with customers. Here are a couple of tips for making sure our service level equals our customers expectations:
- Speak clearly and use your normal tone of voice when answering a call.
- Listen to what the caller has to say.
- Avoid distractions and stay focused on the current call.
- Never eat or drink when you are on the phone.
- Always ask the caller politely if you can put them on hold.
By taking care of our customers over the phone, we make them feel well welcomed and appreciated. That’s essential to great customer service.
TASB Winter Governance & Legal Seminar …
I will be presenting two sessions this year at the 17th Annual Winter Governance and Legal Seminar sponsored by the Texas Association of School Boards.
A School District Guide to Successful Media Relations
- Building a great relationship with the media is vital for every school district. How do you do it? There are unique challenges that exist in every market with every type of media outlet. It’s important to promote your district to reporters in a positive, consistent, and credible manner. Using topical examples, participants will be led through a study on how the media influences the public’s perspective on education and what strategies you can use to be successful.
The Clarity of the Message
- How clear is your message? How important is it to get your district’s message across? Every school district has a story to tell and our communities want to hear all about them. How you communicate the message with your stakeholders is equally as important as what you communicate. From planning and listening, to trustworthiness and media relations, you’ll learn that the messages you send should be a planned effort that keeps everyone focused and on target.
Communicating with co-workers …
(This is the third of three customer service messages that reflect on internal customer service, a vital component for any healthy organization. I hope you enjoy them.)
It’s hard to believe that all of us probably spend more hours of the day with our co-workers than with any other group of people we associate with. Our co-workers are like relatives … we don’t get to choose who they are! We all come from different backgrounds, have different interests, and run the gamut in age range; yet we need to function well in order for the organization to run smoothly.
Last week I mentioned that a key factor to the success in dealing with internal customers is communication. Some tips we can use to improve our communication skills with co-workers include:
- Give your co-workers the gift of undivided attention.
- Show interest in what people are saying.
- Be patient not to interrupt or jump on people’s small mistakes.
- If differences in opinions or ideas do occur, try understand it from the other person’s perspective.
- Remember the simple things that foster an atmosphere of civility like “please” and “thank you”.
From a customer standpoint, we spend the most time dealing with each other rather than serving taxpayers, parents, or students. Maintaining a great relationship with our co-workers allows us to give the best of ourselves to all of our customers in the end.
Keeping our “internal” customers happy …
(This is the second of three customer service messages that reflect on internal customer service, a vital component for any healthy organization. I hope you enjoy them.)
Exactly what is an internal customer? An internal customer can be anyone within our district; a co-worker, another department, or maybe another campus. An internal customer is anyone who depends on someone else within our organization. Internal customer service could be providing information, generating purchase orders, providing technical support, developing training, or a myriad of other related services.
A key factor to the success in dealing with internal customers is communication. Our goal should always be to communicate with our colleagues in the same manner and fashion as dealing with internal customers. If we are proponents of effective customer service – we can help the district increase productivity, improve interdepartmental cooperation, align the overall goals, and deliver a higher level of service to our external customers.
Great customer service should be everyone’s number one goal. To achieve that goal, we have to serve our internal customers well. If we don’t, we will never be able to serve our external customers in the professional manner that they expect.
Never forget that co-workers are customers too …
(This is the first of three customer service messages that reflect on internal customer service, a vital component for any healthy organization. I hope you enjoy them.)
Who are our customers in the school business? Parents, students, community members, taxpayers, our co-workers. Our co-workers? What? That’s right! One of the most important segments in our customer base is our fellow co-workers.
Think about it. Out of all the customers we serve, who do we spend the most time with? It’s all those people we see every day and that same guy or gal that we have to interact with all the time. Because of frequency and convenience, it’s easy to forget that our co-workers are our customers.
We need to help our co-workers. They need to help us. We need to give them first class customer service. They need to do the same for us. That’s how successful organizations work. Customer service is a smile, but it’s also about respect. If co-workers smile and respect each other who wins? Everyone!
Maintaining amiable relationships with coworkers makes for a much more enjoyable workplace environment. Just as we should do whatever it takes to satisfy an external customer, we should always make sure our co-workers are rated #1.
Making Customer Service Fun …
Do you plan on having any fun today? You can if you first decide on what your attitude is going to be. If you choose to be positive and happy, then everyone you meet may do the same! Find something today about your job that you really enjoy. Focus on that one thing and you’ll be amazed how you can carry that attitude over into other aspects of your job.
Did you ever try to treat your customers like they were your friends? Listen to them, make good eye contact, communicate with your heart. Doing these things can make your job feel less like work and perhaps you can even share some laughter.
Customers will see the difference when we approach our jobs with joy. They’ll feel good, and you will too!
The Customer Experience …
A while back, I remember reading an article in the Harvard Business Review about understanding the customer’s experience. In it, they talked about how the customer experience encompasses every aspect of an organization’s identity. If you think about that, you’ll realize that our customers judge us on not only the quality of customer care they receive, but how our schools look, how we communicate with them, what kind of reputation we have, and more.
How can we shape our customer’s experience? To what extent are you and I responsible for defining that experience? Our customers have a choice, but they choose to send their kids to our schools. Why? The customer experience has to be at a superior level every day. Customers rely on previous contacts with us and base their judgement on expectations in addition to the actual experience.
What makes your school or department a customer experience gold mine? Do you understand your customer’s needs? Pay attention today to what your customers are expecting from you. Create an initiative for enhancement if you think there is a need to do so. By focusing efforts on improving the customer’s experience, you’ll see that the gap between expectations and satisfaction will be practically indiscernible.
Never take a complaint personally „,
I get angry phone calls. I’m sure you do too. Sometimes those phone calls get my heart pumping pretty good. In my mind, I know that someone may be mad at someone else or the policy in place, but I’m the one hearing about. That’s when I have to remind myself to never take the complaint personally. That statement is much easier to say than it is to do.
Remember that the angry person is really a nice individual who has temporarily become a sheep in wolf’s clothing. Think of them as normally reasonable and in a good mood. They’ve probably called you before with a routine question and it’s been OK. Now you’re experiencing a blip in their behavioral radar.
When talking to them, remember there’s a nice person in there someplace, and if you keep your cool and work with them, you’ll discover that nice customer again. Don’t let hurt feelings take control of you. You will run the risk of damaging relationships with unfound personal grudges.
New Year’s Customer Service Resolutions
The new year always provides us with an opportunity to look back and assess what each of us has accomplished. It also allows us the chance to think about how we can make a fresh plan for improving any aspect in our lives. Although many people dislike the word resolution, its definition does provide a sense of authority when we make a firm decision to do or not do something.
When it comes to customer service, instead of making new resolutions, a review of what we should be doing is probably the best commitment that we can fashion. The Five Rules for Great Customer Service provides us with a benchmark that is useful and timely.
- Rule #1 – Keep customers the priority.
- Rule #2 – Over-deliver when possible.
- Rule #3 – Offer choices.
- Rule #4 – Be access-approachable.
- Rule #5 – Use logic not emotion. Each of these rules are simple.
Each of these rules are attainable. Each of these rules provides us with a standard for customer service excellence.
What will your customer service level look like in 2014? Take time today to create your personal vision. Review the rules again and write down your personal goals. Try every day to make these goals a reality. By doing so, 2014 can be an amazing year.