This is a guest post by Monika Götzmann. Monika is the EMEA Marketing Director of Miller Heiman Group, a global sales training and customer experience company. It specializes in customer service coaching.
Customer service can have a decisive role in the success or failure of a business. In fact, an American Express survey found that 59 percent of people would try a new brand for a better customer service experience, while 70 percent are willing to spend more with companies who provide a great service.
59% of people would try a new brand for a better service experience.
Unconventional Yet Effective Customer Service Training Tactics
Here, we look at three unconventional customer service training tactics to help your business stand out:
1. Customer Service Training for Everyone
One highly-effective, yet unconventional, tactic is to insist that everybody in a company undergoes customer service training, even if their role is not directly linked to delivering customer service.
Perhaps the most notable example of this is Zappos, who insist that every recruit goes through four weeks of customer service training. The result is that all staff members, even in corporate positions, have first-hand experience of dealing with customers and can better understand their needs.
“Customer service is not a department. It’s everyone’s job.” -Unknown
Another unorthodox customer service training method is to focus on consumer psychology. Although people are all different, there are a number of behaviors and thought processes that are fairly typical for all consumers. According to Harsh Vardhan, writing for “YFS Magazine,” some of the fundamental customer traits are as follows:
When given a choice, customers generally pick the easier way
Customers want reassurance or solutions as quickly as possible
Pricing is not so important to loyal customers
Teaching your reps these basic concepts can allow them to deliver more satisfactory customer service.
“The customer’s perception is your reality.” -Kate Kabriskie
But it’s not always so easy to understand each other.
Often I see how a phrase in one language doesn’t translate to another. Try speaking on stage and using a gesture that is common in one country and see how it offends an audience in another. Technology and travel have moved faster than our understanding of cultural differences.
Every time people from different cultures interact, a culture crossing occurs. When you get a culture connection, things go well, and the impact you have on each other matches your intentions. But there can also be a culture crash, a phenomenon that occurs when someone from one culture unintentionally confuses, frustrates, or offends a person from another culture. Typically when these occur, people’s intentions are not in alignment with the impact they may be having on each other.
Would you share a high-profile example or two? Some more recent culture crashes that come to mind include when Microsoft founder Bill Gates insulted the South Korean president by keeping one hand in his pocket while shaking her hand, a sign of disprespect in South Korea, or when LeBron James inadvertently disrespected Princess Kate (and much of the U.K.) by slinging his arm around her for a photo op.
Recognize Your Own Cultural Programming
Can you share a few simple culture crash–minimizing techniques?
There is a three-step method that can apply in many situations that helps people to take some of the “cultural reflex” out of the equation and set themselves up for success. It’s the same method I share with all my clients:
Recognize your own cultural programming.
Open your mind to other ways of perceiving or approaching a situation.
Identify opportunities to adapt your response to optimize results.
The methodology is widely applicable, whether the goal is to increase sales, build strategic partnerships lead people/teams, or maximize the potential of a diverse customer base. The more you search through your cultural baggage and recognize your own cultural programming (Step 1), the easier it will become to put the next two steps into action. Getting to the bottom of your bag won’t happen overnight. I’ve been at it for several decades, and I still regularly discover new aspects of my cultural programming.
My whole life I’ve been a student of success. Many people are surprised to learn that it’s not always technical expertise, extensive training, or even the highest I.Q. that creates sustainable success. There are a range of other skills that are critically important.
Author Judith Glaser is an expert in conversations. Her new book, Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results makes the latest research from neuroscience accessible and practical for all of us to apply immediately. Judith is the CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc. whose clients range from American Express to IBM. She helps people boost Conversational Intelligence (C-IQ). I reached out to her to learn more about her work.
“Everything happens through conversations!” -Judith E. Glaser
Most of us think of conversations as casual, but you reveal that they are much more than what they appear. What has your research revealed about the power and importance of conversation?
Conversational Intelligence is the intelligence hardwired into every human being to enable us to navigate successfully with others. Through language and conversations, we learn to build trust, to bond, to grow to each other, and to create our societies. There is no more powerful skill hardwired into every human being than the wisdom of conversations.
Conversations are not just the words we use when engaging with others. Our 35 years of research shows that conversations are the golden thread that keeps human beings connected relationally, neuro-chemically, and energetically. Our brain has the ability to ‘signal’ us when the connection feels like ‘distrust’ or when we feel ‘trust.’
Conversations happen like this:
Our conversations take place against the backdrop of our brain chemistry. Our state of mind – and our level of trust and distrust – directly impacts what kinds of conversations we have and how we interpret them. Equally so, our conversations impact how much we trust someone, or don’t.
Brain chemistry is like a symphony, moving us to higher or lower levels of trust or distrust as we converse with others. The brain is where trust lives or dies, and if we are threatened during our conversations, we activate the distrust networks, and if we are feeling trust, we activate the trust networks. According to Angelika Dimoka, Temple University, Fox School of Business, distrust takes place in the lower brain (the amygdala and limbic areas) and trust takes place in the higher brain (the prefrontal cortex).
In other words, the distrust, or fear network, closes down most of our thinking brain, giving power to our emotional and action brain, while the trust network opens up access to our executive brain – the neo-cortex and prefrontal cortex.
“Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” -Carl Jung
All human beings, from the time they were born, can access 3 Levels of Conversation. We are hardwired for all 3.
Level I: Informational conversations are transactional – we are most interested in giving or receiving information. These conversations remain at Level I, and don’t activate fear networks, stimulate questions about the impact of the transaction, nor lead to deep exploration of consequences or building strategies and plans. This level is informational.
Level II: Positional conversations are designed to bring clarity, understanding and influence how the other person feels and thinks. We advocate our own opinions and inquire into others’ perspectives. If this inquiry is based on shared curiosity and respect, conversations will be healthy, and the networks of trust will be activated.
But if one or more participants are more focused on making a point or taking a stand, conversations turn to debate, signaling to our brain that we are dealing not with a ‘friend’ but a ‘foe.’ In response, the brain releases cortisol and closes down, or the amygdala becomes hijacked.
Copyright Judith Glaser. Used by permission.
Conversational Intelligence enables us to learn to control this release. Rather than jumping to conclusions, we can instead “wait and see” how the other person reacts. If the other person shows trust, fairness, or reciprocity, then we can sustain healthy brain chemistry and build trust, creating a culture where people are open to share, discover and co-create.
Level III: Relational Conversations build meaning and create connections, which release oxytocin, the bonding hormone. When we care about what others think and feel, our brain senses not only safety; the prefrontal cortex ‘reads’ oxytocin as a signal to trust and open up. As a result, our conversations become innovative, co-creational and energizing. These conversations are the most likely to result in higher levels of partnering, trust, and innovation.
“Those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” -J.F.K.
How do leaders align and engage a workforce in the midst of uncertainty?
Authors Kay Kendall and Glenn Bodinson are expert Baldrige coaches. They studied more than two dozen organizations that delivered exceptional results following the Baldrige Criteria, key principles derived and championed by Malcolm Baldrige in the mid-1980s to improve productivity and competitiveness. Their research was supplemented by talking with more than fifty CEOs to gain insights on performance excellence. I recently asked them about their work and their new book, Leading the Malcolm Baldrige Way.
What do readers, who may not know Malcolm Baldrige, need to know before picking up your book? How will studying the Malcolm Baldrige Way help business leaders?
Malcolm Baldrige was a very successful businessman before Ronald Reagan tapped him to be Secretary of Commerce. He was deeply concerned about the future of manufacturing in America. At that time, the 80s, Japan was dominating in the automotive and electronics manufacturing industries. Both of those industries – and others in America – were being plagued by poor quality, and consumers were making choices to go with Japanese products. Secretary Baldrige championed an effort to establish a presidential award based on rigorous standards that would recognize manufacturing and service organizations that achieved high levels of performance. After Baldrige’s untimely death, President Reagan decided to honor his friend with what became known as the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Studying Leading the Malcolm Baldrige Way will help business leaders in any industry, in any situation – flourishing or in peril – learn how to align their employees to deliver exceptional results.
Why Engagement Matters
To those who think culture is soft, what statistics can you share that demonstrate engagement matters?
One study showed that companies with high levels of employee engagement have five times higher shareholder returns over five years. There is also clear evidence that engaged employees create loyal customers. If that isn’t compelling, consider the flip-side of engagement. Statistics from a recent article in Harvard Business Review cited, “Disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects. In organizations with low employee engagement scores, they experienced 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth, and 65% lower share price over time.” Those are staggering costs for organizations.
Engagement is the rage these days in leadership circles, yet still many leaders don’t work on engagement. Why is this?
Honestly, we don’t understand it. The evidence that engagement matters and impacts bottom-line results is clear. There is also the notion that treating employees as valued assets is what leaders as decent human beings ought to do. In the latest recession, we saw a lot of leaders with an attitude of “My employees should be grateful just to have a job.” As the economy picked up, we saw many employees jump ship as soon as there were opportunities to work for an organization with a better culture, where they were treated as valuable contributors to the mission and vision.
Research: Companies with engaged workers report 6% higher profits.
Is today’s generational divide greater than the ones that have come previously?
Yes, the difference surrounds how this generation was raised versus others. The first difference is technology. The rapid change in it and the connectivity in the world and dynamics of social media have changed the nature of who we are and how we interact. We have focused less on the interpersonal and more on the phone or device as a means of communication together with the immediacy of action. This generation wants action and now. Millennials are not schooled in relationship-building skills, so they are not wired to connect. This is the biggest difference. Instead of dealing with the differences, we are just complaining that millennials are not good enough.
The biggest gap involves perspective and myths. Each side is completely steeped in their views that the other perspective is flawed. For example:
Do the following statements about millennials ring mostly true or mostly false?
They have a sense of entitlement, and expect everything now!
They’re lazy and don’t want to work hard like we did; work/ life balance is more important than hard work.
They are disloyal and jump ship if they are not engaged or growing.
They need feedback all the time, 24/7/365. (“Please tell me how great I am. Every day. Twice.”)
They have different career goals from non-millennials.
They want everything digital.
They don’t deal well with authority.
Here’s the answer: It was a trick question.
All these are true . . . and false . . . and none of that matters. They are assumptions—myths, really—and there is no right or wrong when it comes to them. That’s because while myths, assumptions, stereotypes—whatever you want to call them—may be false as blanket statements (“all Americans are overweight” and “all fashion models are anorexic”), they come from a place of partial truth (more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight and many models are unrealistically thin). But who wants to be viewed through the lens of myths like these?
Consider the quiz from the other side. Do the following statements about non-millennial managers ring mostly true or mostly false?
They obey the Golden Rule: “I’ve got the gold, I make the rules!”
They are only in it for the money.
They are inflexible and don’t like change; they’re stuck in their ways.
They are so not tech savvy.
They don’t care about their teams or people.
They are “hard graders” and couldn’t care less about recognizing others.
They are afraid of nontraditional approaches.
They are willing to trade the pursuit of true passion for stability.
If you are a non-millennial manager, does this sound like you? Or sound like how you want to be perceived in this world? Well, these are the things most millennials say about us. How much is true? Not much. Just as you are guilty of creating myths that lead to disconnect and frustrations with millennials, they are guilty of perpetuating myths about you.
Work from the Inside-Out
What do you mean when you say to “work from the inside out?”
The secret to job and life satisfaction is internal self-awareness and growth. Youth in general is a time where, if we can understand ourselves, we can start to create a journey to build great careers and lives. Millennials in particular require training on how to understand and accomplish learning about themselves to impact the world. We believe the secret to success is predicated on understanding yourself to impact others, and they need help to learn how to engage themselves in the world and subsequently to create a talent and career track. If we can have them connect to their inside motivation and goals, we can universally have them succeed along their journey.
“Focus on where you want to go; not on what you fear.” -Tony Robbins