Monday, May 14, 2018

Customer Service Quote of the Day

The High Cost of Poor Workplace Culture

By Anonymous

Log into your programs, put your headset on and turn on your phone.  That first call of the day means so little to you because you take hundreds of calls a week that are exactly like the one you are about to take.  The work environment of a call center rep can make this moment worthless or worthwhile and can dictate your overall career with that company.

I work in a fairly large call center that has poor morale and very abysmal culture.  I’m not just saying that to be dramatic – we actually received a letter from the president when we started that their job is not to build morale but to provide service for our customers.  Truthfully, I didn’t know much about contact center culture until recently when a close friend of mine, a manager in a different call center, began dissecting my work complaints and dictating how I, a lowly tier one rep, should advise our management on changes.  Truthfully I haven’t taken much of it to heart because I do not see myself with this company for an extended period of time.  And this, as stated by my friend, is where the problem lies… decent and hardworking employees like me leaving companies because they do not empower or appreciate us. 

Obviously, my center has a huge turnover rate.  Since I was hired, we have taken on somewhere over a hundred new service representatives, Granted, to fill new shifts, but nonetheless people are rolling in almost daily.  Our company boasts strong customer service but honestly, we don’t track it.  We don’t have any programs, surveys or data proving our customers find our service strong.  The way we are tracked is by the number of calls we take, and the amount of time in “not ready” status, which includes break time and time doing any work related item that requires us to be off the phone.  This alone sets the precedent for a lot of my coworkers as to how they spend their days.  Most of them don’t care about call totals or not ready, because it has no impact on us.  You don’t get an award for the most calls taken or even a nod from the manager – we are simply “drones” as my peers say. 

If your center is anything like mine, your employees are miserable and constantly looking for another job.  They become frustrated with customers, management, and their coworkers.  They complain and eventually lose hope.  
Creating a positive, employee focused culture, will help shape positive attitudes, and save the company a ton of money in the process. Hiring new people isn’t cheap, nor is training them. Unhappy employees are quite expensive in the long run!
Simple things can create a sense of pride in their work and a better representative of your company on the phones.  You will have stronger service if agents enjoy coming to work and have confidence in their leaders. The customer service agent may not make decisions on strategy and execution, but they are the voice of your company. If they aren’t treated with respect and appreciation, they won’t treat customers that way.  
Every day, call center staff will decide if the next call is worthless or worthwhile.  Sadly, some in leadership are not aware of their influence in the agent's decision.
This article is provided by an anonymous customer service employee.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

When the Public Is Your Customer

By Sarah Elkins

I tell people it was my favorite job ever. When our boys were little, I had the opportunity to work part time at the circulation desk at our local library. The boys grew up in that library and are still recognized when they walk in the door, more than 10 years after I stopped working there.

Every evening after a shift when we would sit down for dinner, my husband would ask: "what happened today? Tell us a story!" I had a story every time. Working in a public library is unlike most retail-type positions. A library card is free. The space is generally inviting, and people from every walk of life spend time there. I served people of all ages; some were obviously well-educated, there were those in designer clothes, people in rags, and ex-convicts living in the pre-release center nearby. Each person who walked through those doors was unique, each had his history, his story, his baggage.

One pre-release resident came to the desk to check out a handful of wilderness survival books. He usually hid his hands from me when he checked out books; that day he accidentally handed me the books with his knuckles showing. When he saw my gaze, and the discomfort in my response to seeing his NAZI tattoos across his fingers, he blushed.

“That was me being stupid a long time ago. I'm not that guy anymore.”

I believed him.

I care about people and sometimes that comes out in strange ways. One woman came in twice each week with her toddler in a stroller. She would dump a dozen video tapes into the book-drop, go into the children's section and fill up the stroller basket with more videos, and then come back to the desk to check them out.

With a big, genuine smile on my face, and being careful to be playful and not condescending:

“You know... we also have books here in the library.”

She looked at me, a bit puzzled at my comment. She knew me to be friendly, and my comment took her a little off-guard.

“Yes, I know. He rips them up. I don't want him ruining library books.”

“Oh yes! I appreciate that very much!”

(I walked quickly to the recently checked-in books and grabbed two small baby board books.)

“Want to try checking these out? I bet he'll like it if his older sister reads them to him.”

She included the board books in her stack of videos, finished her check-out and left. The next time I saw her at the counter, she had half a dozen videos and half a dozen board books to check out.

“Thank you for that suggestion, he loves these books! And he hasn't even tried to tear them or eat them. I think soon I can start checking out the picture books!”

Every customer matters, whether they are directly paying for a service should not influence how they are treated. You can make a difference in a person's life with the briefest interaction. If you are busy judging people by what they wear, the books they read (or don't read), or some other arbitrary observation, you lose an opportunity to share your humanity and to learn something about yourself and the world around you.

What is equally important is for members of the public to recognize the employees serving them. I have worked in the public sector for many years; the reputation doesn't fit with most people with whom I've worked. In my years working in the public sector, only a handful of colleagues resemble the reputation of being lazy, unmotivated, too comfortable, and just getting by for the paycheck. The majority of my colleagues over the years have been motivated and cared deeply for the community in which they work. They are also human, which means some days are harder to get through than others.

Remember, if you want good customer service, it helps to be a good customer.

The next time you are engaging with a public sector employee, whether that is at the public library, at the DMV, paying your utility bill, or dealing with a problem on your street, be kind. Remember that if you treat the person respectfully, you will earn an advocate to help you resolve any issues. Remember that the people with whom you interact generally do not make the rules but must follow policies & procedures. Getting angry with public sector employees for doing their jobs and following procedures (no matter how inane or archaic) is just not fair or reasonable.

Sarah Elkins is a professional coach and consultant, helping people and businesses improve their communication through the art of storytelling. She's also the President of Elkins Consulting, the company making a splash with small, face-to-face, affordable interactive conferences called No Longer Virtual.

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