Having to deal with angry and upset customers is by far one of the worst responsibilities we must face on a day to day basis in the world of sales and business.However, this responsibility, like so many others we must face on a daily basis, just comes with the territory.Customers become angry for all sorts of reasons. Some are legitimate reasons. Some are not. In any event it is our job to defuse the situation. Here are a few tips on how you can calm your customer down and put them at ease.1. Give them your hand to shakeWhen I was in the banking industry, I worked many years as a branch manager. A customers body language would speak volumes as they approached my office. This body language allowed me to prepare for what was to come.It is not difficult to tell when someone is angry. Their face scrunches. Their lips tighten, and their brow wrinkles. They walk quickly with a purpose in their step, and you know they mean business.My reaction to this type of body language was to reach out my hand to them as an offering of peace. I did this before they had an opportunity to start venting their anger. I would then calmly introduce myself and ask how I could be of help to them.This technique will catch your customer off guard, and your acts of professionalism and sincerity will ease the tension and put the rationale back into your customers thought process.This technique is by far the best way to begin any conversation that has the potential to be blown out of proportion.2. Apologize to your customerOnce you have your customer seated and have allowed for them to vent, the first thing you want to do is apologize on behalf of your company for the way they have made them feel, or for the inconvenience they have been put through.It really doesnt matter if your customer is right or wrong, by apologizing to your customer you are being empathetic to their situation. This gives the customer the feeling that you are on their side.Remember, when a customer has an issue, what they want more than anything else is for someone to listen to their problem and have an understanding of where they are coming from.There is absolutely no need to take a bad situation and make it worse.3. Resolve the problemThe last and final thing you want to assure your customer is that the problem will be resolved, or at the very least, the problem will not happen again.To leave a problem unresolved and your customer hanging will only lead to more confrontations and wasted time down the line.Remember, when time is wasted, money is wasted.Again, putting out fires on a daily basis comes with the territory. The sooner you put out the fires the better. Never take a customer complaint personally. Act as your customers advocate, and you will always prevent a bad situation from escalating.This article may be reproduced by anyone at any time, as long as the authors name and reference links are kept in tact and active.
The preamble to the United States Constitution begins, we, the people. I feel strongly that we, the people, are what make the difference in life, both personally and professionally.The interaction anyone has at any level with your employees, including you, gives a customer-- whether current, potential, internal or external--an opportunity to make a judgment about you, your company, all companies like yours. Im not just talking about call centers here. All technical support or help desk personnel are included as well. As a matter of fact, anyone who is in the customer service business period.With continued focus on customer satisfaction, customer retention, and lifetime value of the customer, it is no surprise that contact center operations continue to increase in importance as the primary hub of a customers experience. For the customer, the person on the other end of the phone is the company. The contact center is still the most common way that customers get in touch with businesses. In fact, Gartner reports 92% of all contact is through the center. And its been reported that 70% to 90% of what happens with customers is driven by human nature, having nothing to do with technology. State of the art technology is a necessity today, but it is meant to enable human endeavors, not to disable them. I often talk about taking customer service and kicking it up a notch. In the food industry, the word lagniappe is often used. Its definition is a small present given to a customer with a purchase. For example, when you go to the bakery and buy a dozen donuts or bagels, you oftentimes get a free one or a bakers dozen. Thats what customer service should be about--giving the customer more than they expected! Lets bring lagniappe into the contact center industry.If were going to speak about world class customer service, lets have a working definition it so were all on the same page. Customer service is those activities provided by a companys employees that enhance the ability of a customer to realize the full potential value of a product or service before and after the sale is made, thereby leading to satisfaction and repurchase.Lets look at the first W which is Why?The state of customer service today is not good, be it over the phone or self service. Because 92% of people feel their call experience is important in shaping the image of a company, this reinforces the importance of centers in branding the image of their companies.In a Mobius Management Systems Survey, heres what happened because of poor customer service:60% cancelled accounts with banks36% changed insurance providers40% changed telephone companies35% changed credit card providers375 changed Internet service providersAre you one of these statistics? I certainly am.In a study done by Purdue University and BenchmarkPortal.com, in answer to (1) how did agents satisfy your needs and handle the call, and (2) based on any negative experience, would you stop using this company in the future? the findings reveal a strong correlation between the participants age and the tendency to stop using the company after a bad experience. What does this mean? Younger participants were less tolerant and more likely to move to the competition. People over 65 were found to be more demanding than those in middle age.What can you do? Give younger callers a wow experience--maintain their loyalty. People over 36 probably have more of an emotional bank account with the company they are dealing withmaybe had some good experience and therefore are more willing to forgive.In a recent study (CRM Magazine/PeopleSoft Web Seminar on How Usability Helps to Drive a Profitable Contact Center), the number of applications required for agents to access customer inquiries were:3.7%just 181.5%2 57.4%5 107.4%more than 10As you can see, the majority of applications are 2 - 5. The goal, of course, is to link every point of contact to one central location for a customer-centric, synchronized approach satisfying customer experiences with every interaction.Strategies for success for world class service should include:Respond promptlyHandle requests through the customers choice of mediumBe brief and clearReduce back and forth communications (especially in writing, i.e., email, kick it up to a phone call if it goes beyond two)Personalized serviceDelight the customerWhat do we mean by delighting the customer?Inform and educate themEstablish your expertise and professionalismOffer optionsDiffuse upset, anger, when and if necessaryEscalate, if requiredTake Ownership of the callRemember were still on the first W the Why. Todays pressures on agents are different than in the past. They are asked to handle more customer, more volume, more complex and/or complicated calls. After all if we could handle our issues with self service, we probably would not call. But if we tried self service and it didnt work, now were upset and its an escalated call from the get go. Theyre asked to provide more information, do it faster and be available and accessible. But they are to lower costs, generate revenue, incorporate new technologies, ensure closure and commitment, deliver great service and when? Yesterday, of course.As a matter of fact the CDC (Center for Disease Control) has said that the causes of death for people under 65 are:21% - environment war, accidents, crimes 9% - health care system doctors, hospitals, medications17% - human biology not because of lifestyle53% - because of the way people choose to live their lives!!!This is the good news and the bad news. Its bad news because its more than half. However, the good news is that this is something we can do something about, its about choice.The #2 W is Who should be trained?We suggest front line agents/representatives, supervisors, team lads, managers, assistant managers, internal customers and other departments anyone who is a touch point so that they can learn to speak the same language, and more importantly, not be in an adversarial position, but rather, together they are serving the external customer or end user.The #3 W is Where should the training take place? Offsite vs onsite, and there are advantages and disadvantages for both.Certainly it is most cost effective to have training on site. However, distractions are rampant as is the participants availability to a person or problem.Offsite is more costly. However, there are no distractions and the participants are unavailable to other departments, their managers, or any issues. I believe there is psychic value in taking people away from their work stations and off site to acknowledge the touch jobs they have.The #4 W is What should be included in any training? We believe the following modules provide a robust, powerful, and succinct training curriculum:Quality Customer ServiceRapport BuildingCustomer ExpectationsPerception ShiftingConflict ResolutionLanguage SkillsAnger ManagementE-Mail ProtocolStress ReductionEmpathetic ResponsivenessChange ManagementCommunication/Listening SkillsInteraction/Role PlayService with a SmileFurther suggested is university certification to up the ante. The more professionally you treat your employees, the more professionally they will treat your customers.The #5 W is When. We say for new hires, monthly, ongoingly, consistently, whenever change occurs, when stressors increase, and as needed. We further suggest that each employee get a minimum of 24 hours per year of ongoing training, spread out over time for the most absorption. We divide our trainings into two four hour sessions per day and deliver 6 days per employee. Therefore, 30 people can participate in the training per day. If there has been no ongoing training, we do four days once a month for four months and then a session three months later, and then another three months later. In this manner, training is customized, in real time, and can address whatever challenges are presented when they occur.
Quality credentialing verification organizations (CVOs) create an environment beyond simply generating credentialing reports for medical providers. A CVO with good customer service responds quickly to questions; has trained staff that is assigned to a particular client; can streamline the credentialing process; has good technology resources; and offers extra support, such as internal audits and tracking license renewals. An emphasis on customer service means that the CVO can supply substantive information and support to establish a true working relationship with a medical organization. There are five areas of a CVOs customer service to consider: flexible "credentialing process" es which can be adapted in response to client needs; a range of quality services; quick responses to clients; individual support; and solid technology practices. Although some service points, such as a fast response to questions, can seem small, these areas display the quality of the CVO, which will define the long-term relationship between the CVO and its clients.Adapting credentialing services to client needs.CVOs should be responsive to their clients needs. The CVO should be accredited by either accrediting organization: National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) or the Utilization Review Accreditation Councile (URAC) or comply with their credentialing standards. In addition, the CVO should add new credentialing standards for their clients and should also be able to adapt their credentialing processes by adding special criteria or using a subset of criteria. This flexibility includes making recommendations to streamline processes and working with clients to determine what they need rather than following a preset checklist.Individualized support and quality controls.Individualized service means that there is a dedicated representative for each client. There should be a known manager to handle difficult situations and an established route to lodge complaints. All personnel should be trained to perform credentialing reports according to the accrediting organizations standards.There should also be an established quality control system and regular internal audits for managing feedback, rewarding good service, and evaluating bad practice. The CVO should be able to supply a copy of their quality control policies and practices documentation. If they are accredited by NCQA or URAC, then there is a guarantee that these practices have been reviewed and audited and that their service meets industry standards.High quality services.Two attributes of quality work are timeliness and thoroughness. Good CVOs will return credentialing reports as quick as industry norms, meaning around 60 days for hospital standards (JCAHO) and 30 days for managed care standards (NCQA and URAC). The credentialing reports will also be complete no missing data or criteria and with full supporting documentation. CVOs should have an established maximum number of requests they make to organizations for information and other avenues of finding information. Problem files should be brought immediately to the review committees attention. All of these practices work together to make a thorough credentialing report. Additionally, good CVOs offer services such as tracking licensing dates and requirements (expirables) and disciplinary actions by various organizations (surveillance); consulting and training classes about credentialing processes; and support during internal audits.Quick response to client contact.Good CVOs respond to questions within 24 hours. They should answer any questions fully and as quickly and directly as possible rather than postponing or transferring them. Technology resources.CVOs should be using the most recent technology, such as databases, paperless credentialing, and web access with adequate security and access control.Customer service is key to creating a good relationship between CVOs and medical organizations. Quality control policies, flexible credentialing processes and criteria, quick response time, good technology use, and responsiveness to questions and requests are five major areas where a CVO develops good customer relations. All these areas mean the CVO is responsive that the CVO is paying attention to individual customer needs and consistently doing its best to meet them.
When you're dealing with customers, sometimes things can go wrong. It might be your fault, it might be their fault or it might be no-one's fault -- but if you didn't make a contract, then you'll all suffer.Why Do I Need Contracts?A contract gives you a sound legal base for your business, and some guarantee that you're going to get paid for your work without you having to ask the customer for payment in advance. In the event of a dispute, the contract lays down what the agreement was so that you can point to it and say what was agreed. If you ever end up having to go to court (let's hope you won't), the contract is what the judge's decision will be based on.Without a contract, you leave yourself vulnerable and open to exploitation. Someone could claim that the terms they agreed with you were different to what you say they were, or that they never signed up for anything at all and so they won't pay. It's especially common to see big businesses mistreat small ones, thinking that they won't have the knowledge or the money to do anything about it. Essentially, contracts take away your customers' ability to hold non-payment over your head, and give you the ability to hold it over theirs instead.Written and Verbal Contracts.It is important to point out the distinction in the law between a verbal (spoken) contract and a proper, written one. A verbal contract is binding in theory, but in practice can be very hard to prove. A written contract, on the other hand, is rock-solid proof of what you're saying.You might think that you're never going to get into a dispute with your customers, but it's all too common to find yourself in a little disagreement. They will often want to get you to do some 'small' amount of extra work to finish the job or make it better, not realising that doing so would completely obliterate your profit margin.For this reason, you should be very wary of doing anything with nothing but a verbal contract. On the other hand, if you were incautious or too trusting and only got a verbal contract, it could still go some way towards helping you, especially if there were witnesses.Won't It Be Expensive?Written contracts don't necessarily need to be formal contracts, which are drawn up by a lawyer with 'contract' written at the top and signed by both parties. These kinds of contracts are the most effective, but can be expensive to have produced, not to mention intimidating to customers.The most common kind of written contract, oddly enough, is a simple letter. If you send a customer a letter (or, indeed, an email) laying out your agreement before you start work, and they write back to agree to it, that is enough to qualify as a written contract, with most of the protections it affords.If you are doing high-value work for some clients, though, it could be worth the time and trouble of having your lawyer write a formal contract, or at least of doing it yourself and getting a lawyer to look it over. Formal contracts will give you more protection if the worst happens, and there's nothing to stop you from making it a one-off expense only by re-using the same contract for multiple customers.Contracts for Small Purchases: the Terms and Conditions.Obviously it would be silly to expect everyone who buys some $10 thing from you to sign a contract, or write back indicating their agreement to your terms. In this situation, you should have a statement of the 'terms and conditions' that your customer is agreeing to by buying from you, and they should have to tick some kind of box indicating their agreement before you send anything.Luckily, it isn't usually so necessary to be paranoid about contract law with small purchases anyway, since customers will be paying you first and receiving the goods or services afterwards, not the other way around. If you plan to offer any kind of payment plan or other long-term agreement, of course, this should always be backed up with a signed contract.
Good customer service is crucial to success in business; there's nothing high-tech about helping customers get exactly what they need. But technology can make the process easier and more efficient.For most small businesses, investing in information technology (IT) can pay dividends in more ways than one. Not only can technology help companies establish a corporate identity and lower the cost of doing business, it can also help level the playing field.The Dell/National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Excellence Award, established in 2004, honors small businesses that instill the spirit of innovation and apply IT to improve the customer experience.Think big, win bigThe winner will receive $30,000 in technology and professional services from Dell; a Day with Dell program with Dell executives, including Michael Dell, to share best business practices; a lifetime membership to NFIB; and other prizes. Nine other companies will receive a Dell Latitude notebook and a one-year membership to NFIB. The finalists for the 2006 award are:• AMAD Logistics, an international freight forwarder and logistics company.• DataCert Inc., a fast-growing supplier of electronic invoicing and corporate legal spend-management solutions.• Errand Solutions, which provides customized errand-running and concierge services as an employee benefit and customer relationship enhancement to health care, hospitality, residential property and corporate organizations.• Harrison's Roof Truss, L.L.C., a manufacturer of engineered wooden roof and floor trusses.• Micro Technology Services Inc., which develops and manufactures electronic products.• National Association of System Administrators Inc., provides a 24-hour, Web-based customer portal through which clients can track service calls and on-site parts storage.• Ntelicor L.P., an information-technology consulting and staffing firm.• Pipal Research Corp., a team of strategists and investment bankers who provide research and analytical services.• Sew What? Inc., a theatrical drapery manufacturer and custom sewing service.• TRS Consultants Inc., a multidisciplinary engineering and construction management firm.