Using Your ‘Phone Voice’

WIth so much of the world turning to the internet and social networks for pretty much everything to do with customer service, its important to realize that how you act on the phone towards your customers still matters. I call this your ‘phone voice’. Its the personality you take on when on the phone with customers.

 

Too many employees are curt, uninterested or just rude when it comes to talking with customers on the phone. They think that the loss of their time while on the phone is not worth what the customer sees, or they just have no concept of what a customer thinks of when they call in. This is terrible branding, and I’m sure we’ve all experienced it.

 

On a positive note, I called in to a local take-out restaurant a few days ago to order dinner. The man answering the phone was happy, polite and very patient as I tried to remember what I wanted to order while looking through a really detailed menu. He offered assistance when I couldn’t find the item I wanted, suggested a dish and happily acknowledged the time that I said I needed it by. He made my experience great. For those 2 minutes on the phone, he branded the company as a happy place to be. I’ve known them to be this way for the past couple years since we’ve been going there, and it always impresses me.

 

In the babbling brook of online customer service where your voice doesn’t matter, remember that when you are actually talking to customers your phone voice shows sarcasm, boredom or happiness that can’t be expressed in 140 characters.

 

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This post was inspired by a challenge with @paisley_girl73 who challanged me to use “In the babbling brook” in a blog post while I had her use “Fear the elephant” in one of hers. Her creation was: “It’s Big, It’s Grey… and It’s Yours” 

 

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Greatness when no one is watching.

A few days ago was recycling day on our street. We put the recycling out at night for a 7am pickup. Needless to say most people are not up and out before the pickup. Every few recycling days over the past couple years (at least every few that i’ve noticed), a man comes down the street with a shopping cart picking out the glass bottles (wine and beer) from the recycling. I’ve never really paid attention to him, figuring he needs the money he’ll get from turning them in and he’s really dedicated.

But the last recycling morning was after a major storm. So that morning as I was getting ready for work, I heard him coming down the street, and just looked out the window in curiosity. (Side note: shopping carts coming down a street is really not a stealth move. They are loud. Really loud.) I saw, looking out, that our neighbour’s garbage/recycling had tipped over and was spilled along the gutter by the rain and wind.

I watched as the shopping cart guy came to their driveway, took a glass bottle from the recycling bin for his cart, then proceeded to pick up all their recycling that was strewn about, and put it all back in the container which he put upright. It took about 45 seconds to do. 45 seconds that i’m assuming other people walked by on their morning walks and ignored. This guy did it with no thought, no reason and no reward (minus a found bottle).

Would you take 45 seconds to be great when no one was watching, and the result was doing something nice that no one will ever know?

Here’s my cheers to this guy, and the simple, yet great, thing that no one would even know he did. Till now.

Panhandlers and Compassion

Last week I was waiting behind a large white van at a stoplight at a busy intersection in London. On the median between lanes stood a man with a sign that read “Out of work, hungry, please help”.

The man in the van called to get his attention and handed him what I saw to be a $20 bill. You’d at first expect the man with the sign to give a quick “thank you” then move back to the center of the median. But the reaction recieved wasn’t just one of thanks. The man carefully took the bill in awe, brought it to his lips and kissed it, kept looking at the giver’s face with tearing eyes and was beyond words. The gratitude in his face was unmistakeable.

The man in the van kept talking to him, well into the green light. What he talked about I’m not sure, but it took a few mins and the man on the median never stopped looking thankful.

I’m not sure what the man on the median’s story is. I’m not sure what he did with the money. What i know is one man did something nice, whether spontaneously out of the goodness of his heart or for some other reason, and another man was brought to tears with thanks.

Why does this not happen more often?

 

Roundtable vs Board Room

In the past it was common in larger companies to have what was called ‘Board Room’ talks, where discussions were lead by one person at the ‘head’ of the table, which was normally the CEO or manager, who’s decision was what the company went with.

Companies now are finding that a ‘Roundtable’ format is more conducive to new ideas, better futures and a general feeling of togetherness in the office. There is no one person who is right all the time. Anyone could have the best answer to a question. Anyone could be the one to really see the future direction best for the company.

There is now less pyramid structure when it comes to discussions, and more of a circle feeling. A good CEO knows that instead of commanding, he or she must instead create a circle of smart people around them and through that lead the company.

King Arthur had it right. In terms of answers, ideas, thoughts, there is no one right one, no head to which all thoughts are perfect. Its all even now.

I don’t mean that one person in change may not have more experience in business, but a good leader will see the value of being open and surrounding themselves with people who don’t just take orders.

The time for the board room is done. Its all about circles now.

Sears’ Confusion Sales Tactics

Today we went to a local sears store to pick up some bed sheets that we saw in their weekend flyer. Now I think I’m fairly bright and I think I’m pretty observant, but I’ve never been so fed up with in-store advertising as today.

The online flyer said Twin Sheets 14.99, Double and Queen also on sale.

We get to the store and many different shelves of sheets are on sale for only this weekend. The one shelf of sheets listed in the flyer are all of course missing ‘original’ price tags, so comparing the sale price to the original is impossible. The big sign says 14.99. Underneath in small letters says the ‘Double and Queen also on sale’, so you at first assume without reading the fine print that the whole shelf is $14.99. We then learn at the register that queen size (which we needed) is actually $29.99, and according to the sales person this price is the normal price. First lie in the advertising. No sale price as suggested.

To add to the confusion are the randomly placed “30% off” “40% off” “50% off” signs on other types of bedding. Here’s how these worked. Product ‘A’, which is 50% off would be something like “Home Essentials” in big font and  “Egyptian Microfiber Cotton 300 Thread Count” in small font. On the same shelf and mixed in would be Product ‘B’, which has the same packaging and logo and which says “Home Essentials” in large font and “ Egyptian Cotton 300 Thread Count” in small font and that product wouldn’t count for the sale. If you didn’t read it correctly, you’d be grabbing the wrong product.

Even more confusing would be that some products would have a marked down price on them already and be under a sale sign. So you have to do the math to see if the marked price is the sale price or not.

Sears is also behind in terms of self-help customer service. I’m happy to, in other department stores, find a self-scanner and check the price myself. Sears doesn’t have this technology, and if you want to find out how much something is (since there is no price on some products, or you don’t know if the sale includes this product) you have to stand in line at the cash register and ask once you get up to the front. And since each department is pretty much independent (i tried price checking in the lingerie dept, but they couldn’t find the price on my items), you must wait in that line.

So here is what I see Sears doing.

1. Confusion tactics. Since most of their clientele today, I noticed, were seniors, trying to figure out which products were on sale would be a challenge. Grabbing a $75 product and trying to decide if it was included in the discount may push people to just accept the $75 product. Putting a ‘Sale on 320 Thread Count’ beside a large shelf of 300 thread count could cause people to grab the wrong one. Which brings me to number 2.

2. Impatience tactics. When you can’t figure out a price and there is no one to help on the floor, you take the only available option and get in line at the department’s register. Since speed isn’t a requirement for Sears, a 4 person line can take more than 10 minutes if there is only one cashier working (as it is on sundays it seems). So a person, already flustered with trying to find what sheets are on sale, gets in line, has to wait 10 minutes just to find out that the sheet they picked isn’t on sale, will more likely buy the sheet for the extra $15 than go back and try to find the right one. People are impatient and the thought of going back then having to wait in line again is not something they’ll do.

3. Understaffed tactics. If you can’t find someone to ask a question, except at the till, people take it on themselves to figure it out. This then results in my #1 above.

Since their clientele seemed to be mostly seniors, these tactics would work well on them. Well played sears.

The easiest thing to do would be to walk away. But if you’ve come that distance just for that product, most people wouldn’t just leave. They’d take what they could even if it was more than they wanted.

We found one good deal on sheets (came in wanting two), took it and left, vowing we’d get sheets somewhere else and probably never shop at that Sears again.