Author Rebecca Morgan shares how you can provide the best service to your customers – internal and external.
- Overlooked tactics to better serve your customers
- The step-by-step of calming upset customers
- How to deal with workplace conflict
Rebecca Morgan, CSP, CMC, is an international speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in creating innovative solutions for workplace effectiveness challenges. She’s appeared on 60 Minutes, Oprah, the Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio and USA Today as well as international media.
Rebecca is the bestselling author of 26 books, including Calming Upset Customers, Grow Your Key Talent, Remarkable Customer Service … and Disservice and her just-released book, Extraordinary Leadership Lessons from Everyday People.
She partners with clients to accomplish high ROI on their key-talent development projects. Since 1980 she’s transformed executives, managers, salespeople and customer support staff into much more effective workplace contributors.
Items Mentioned in this Show:
- Website: www.rebeccamorgan.com
- Book: Remarkable Customer Service… and Disservice by Rebecca Morgan
- Book: Calming Upset Customers by Rebecca Morgan
- Book: Making a Living Without a Job by Barbara Winter
- Book: Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting by Lynn Grabhorn
- Book: Extraordinary Leadership Lessons from Everyday People by Rebecca Morgan
Rebecca, thank you so much for joining us here on How to be Awesome at your Job podcast.
Well, thanks for asking me, Pete. It’s a pleasure.
Now, I am so intrigued by some of the things you have up on your site and such particularly your emphasis on measurable results when it comes to your solutions. I love measurable results, I’m big on ROI and I share some of that with my training clients and it’s big and it should be, you know, in terms of making it valuable.
So, could you tell me a couple stories – you’ve got some ROIs of like 2000% for creative solutions. What are you doing over there?
Yeah! We like to have ROI whenever possible and that’s not always possible to measure the specific ROI, at least we can usually get some measures whether we can actually translate that into dollars is another thing. So, one of the groups we worked with was our local international airport and I did a whole customer service revamp for them, it took a year or so, and we started with customer surveys that I designed and then secret shoppers and then designed a training program around that and deployed it to all the concessionaires, the retail and food-beverage shops and we measured before, we measured 3 months after then we kept measuring for a year and we got, it was something like 19% increase in revenue from that which they were thrilled about and the 2000% ROI was from a different project around our productivity programs and that was self-reported, so, I’m always a little skeptical when it’s self-reported versus the 19% we’ve got, you know, actual figures from the airport, so, the 2000% ROI was we asked people before hand to how much time they felt they spend wasted doing none productive work at work and then we compared it 8 weeks later when we followed up with them and we asked them to tell us what their wage was so we could divide that into an hourly wage and figured out that including their cost of their time to come to this session, my cost, then it had a 2000% ROI because they turned much of that wasted time into highly productive time focusing on high value tasks, so those are some of the ways we get some sort of measure on ROI we are always looking for whether it’s just a performance improvement, how we can measure that performance improvement and not just have it be subjective, if at all possible.
Oh I love that. With my enhanced thinking and collaboration program, we do a similar kind of measurement style with the magic question is “over the last three weeks, how many hours did you spend doing analyses that proved unnecessary or redundant to reaching your objectives as well as how many hours did you spend in meetings in which your presence was not really essential and so, if you look at the before and the after there’s a nice drop in those hours, times their compensation, and boom! It’s like epic return on investment which is cool because training really does have the power to just make everything massively better, I’m a believer, and that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing, right?
But did you also factor in your fees and the cost of them to attend the program when you came up with that number? Some people forget those, some people don’t include those that is why I am asking. A friend of mine, a colleague that I saw at a conference the other day had just written a book about ROI and training and I was asking him some of these questions and he had not factored in some of these things, I’m saying “No! That’s not really ROI, what you’re talking about is measurable but putting a dollar amount on it, you can’t really do that.” Based on the things that he was talking about.
Oh! Yeah. I’m a stickler for the data with an extensive spreadsheet that includes the cost of training, as well as the time cost of engaging in the training and you might get a kick out of this, we use the Thompson tau technique to determine outlier data points in order to arrive at the average compared difference and means.
So, okay. Tell us then, on to business here. So, you have a towering amount of expertise when it comes to talking about customer service, in terms of books and programs and so I would love to hear your philosophy when it comes to customer service, both kind of internal customers, both sort of your fellow team mates and collaborators as well as external customers in terms of first of all how should we think about customer service and get us oriented to what’s great service versus kind of mediocre service.
Well, interesting you mentioned that. So, one of my 26 books is called A Remarkable Customer Service and Disservice and it’s examples of both of those sides, of people who just went above and beyond and people who couldn’t even do basics and lessons learned from each of those that anybody can apply to their efforts and I know a lot of our listeners are internal people, so, obviously, they have someone they serve beyond their boss, so, they have someone who supports the external customer whether that’s them themselves or their team or, you know, even if they’re in accounting, they have somebody that they serve, that vendor provides, if they are in accounts payable, provides something that allows them to get the product out the door and serve the customer.
So, it’s really beginning with an orientation of that mental state of, you know, “I am in customer service, no matter what my job function is.” And then identifying who are your customers and what could you do to better serve them and one of the things I work with my clients on is helping them get the answers to that last question from the customers themselves.
A lot of people I work with would say “Well, we going to do this, this and this for the customer and the customer doesn’t really care about that” and they spend all this time and energy trying to create something for the customer that really if they just did what they’re supposed to do quicker, better, more accurately the customer would be thrilled rather than having problems with just some of the basics.
So, going to the customer and saying, “What is it that you want?” “How can we be better to serve you?” and frankly a lot of them will say exactly what I just said “We don’t need anything extra, please find a way to improve your processes to get us what we need better and faster.”
Oh! I like that a lot. The extras and that reminds me of, I am thinking about airlines, right now, because well, I’m currently in Portland, Oregon. I flew Spirit Airlines out here which has all kinds of customer service people furious at them from time to time. It worked out okay, but I think that sometimes it seems like a service, you know, like in an airline, they’re adding some fancy stuff in terms of maybe it’s food, beverage, hot towel, whatever, but the thing of the day, what most of us really want is to get from point A to point B at a relatively good price with a minimum of delays and headaches and inconveniences and discomforts.
Indeed. It’s funny you mentioned the airline. So, many years ago, I was on 60 Minutes. Steve Croft was doing a program about customer service in the airline industry and they found me, and so, I was the expert on the piece and they were disgruntled with all the misinformation that the airlines give or the information the airlines have but they don’t share with the customers, which then makes the customers more disgruntled, so, at that time, I don’t know if it’s true still, that 1 out of 4 flights was delayed or cancelled.
So, for me coming from Silicon Valley going to the East Coast, I would most likely have 2 flights each way, so, for every trip, the likelihood of me having a delay or cancel was pretty good – 1 out of 4, right?
So, the airlines know that a plane has a mechanical or it’s going to be late but they don’t disclose that and so, then you’re scampering for a replacement flight when if they had just told you that from the get go, you could have made that other carrier’s departure, but now you’re stuck for hours because they did not tell you what they want, so that is part of the basic service that I think we need to keep in mind. What are we communicating? How are we communicating it and importantly, when are we communicating it, so that the customer has some other options and helping them explore those options and finding a different solution than waiting to the last minute or not telling them at all.
That’s one of my pet peeves is that they don’t tell you at all until a week or two later and you haven’t received what you ordered, and you have to call them.
They say, “Yes! Sorry about that.”
Yeah! It’s like, you knew, so why didn’t you call? So in the book, one of my 26 books is called Calming Upset Customers, so, how to calm down upset people and the prevention piece is something that all of us would say is duh, but frankly just doesn’t happen as regularly as I think we all would like.
Alright! So, those are some great kind of principles and practices. Could you maybe bring those to life a little bit in terms of some key examples maybe in terms of some of the clients that you worked with, in terms of how they saw, we have a bad situation and in one way, and then we offered some suggestions, some interventions and then there was an improved kind of after state just to make it seem all the more real.
Sure. I can tell you both from the consumer side as well as consulting side and let me just start with consumer side, so, yesterday I’m in a major home-goods store who’s credit card processor went out, so, they said “come back in a little,” and so, I did that, again it still wasn’t working and they have to write everybody’s order down by hand and take the credit card information so they can process it at a later time.
So, first I’m thinking, “Really? You don’t have an SOP for what to happen when say the electricity goes out?” I’m sure every store in the country has that. Isn’t that something that you would be able to figure out pretty quickly rather than figuring it out on the fly?
So, they had no guidance on how to do it, it was a nightmare and after spending half of an hour in the store, the manager I was working with told one of the clerks “Go open up some of the Ghirardeli chocolate bags and pass them out to people who’ve been waiting.”
So, I applauded him for his effort, granted it was a little too little too late, but at least he was helping the customers a little bit in line. Now I thought it would have been even nicer if he gave us all a discount coupon or something for our efforts but those are the kind of things I look for with the client is saying, “What are some of the breakdowns that can happen and what are your processes for when they do?”
So, I’ve been in the store where I’ve had a question about something and the manager’s not available and the clerk just looks at me “Sorry. The manager is not available.” “Okay. Is there an assistant manager? Is there a district manager? Could we text or call the manager?”
You know, I’m having them to come up with these options for them, that should be de rigeur. Frankly, asking for the manager is not uncommon in a store and having them on lunch break, you’ve got to have a plan B.
So, I try to be strategic in my approach for the customer service professionals and not just look at the tactics which we what we’re talking about but looking at the strategies that will help them stand out among their competitors.
Now, as an employee, you say, well, you know, “I’m just in my team, in my department, I don’t really have competitors.” But you individually have potential competitors, that if you are not doing your job beyond average, if you’re not making the effort to make sure that the people around you are thrilled as punch to work with you, then if a reduce reduction force happens or if there’s a need to let people go, you know, they’re going to look at the exemplars and how you treat other people in other departments as well as your own is part of being an exemplar.
So, looking at how can I look at the people that I serve and work with as my customers and what can I do to make their jobs easier if it’s something that is within my capacity and doesn’t take on much extra work, but can make their life easy, then I’m going to be noted as someone that is indispensable in the department.
Yeah! That’s good, and so, do you have some additional examples for how that comes to life?
It’s really just being aware, I think, and having the attitude of “I want to make your life easy, what can I do that would streamline my process?” And it’s just a shift in thinking. I had a client in Singapore once say, “Do you teach people how to think?” I though, well, in a way I do, in that I help them see other approaches that they might not have thought of.
That’s good and so, were talking about the attitude, how can I make life easy for this person? Could you maybe just share a few commonly occurring perhaps examples, practices, tactics in terms of like, when someone asks for this, anticipate what they really want then ask a follow up. Or what are some little tactical, how tos, or best practices when it comes to doing that attitude of making someone else’s life easier.
Well, I think you hit the nail on the head, on the anticipation, so, I can’t tell you the number of times somebody has approached me with the question. So, you know, we sell books, so they’ll call and say, “I would like to order a book.” “Okay, great, who would you like it autographed, too?” “Well, my husband or my boss.” “Okay. Great. Happy to do that. Is there some special occasion that you want to make sure it arrives by then or can I add a special note in the signatory, you know, ‘Happy 60th birthday’ or something that makes it special.” So, I’m anticipating since they’re ordering for someone else that it might be for a special occasion, so, we all have that where you could just give a perfunctory “Sure, I’ll just send you a book and my example, using this example, but just going a little step beyond, you know, so, somebody asks you for something that is within your parameters of your job but then to follow that up with, you know, what is your time frame on it? When do you need it by? That’s not that common a question as you would think it would be.
I just worked with the large real estate firm in the last few weeks and we were discussing that particular point and they go, “Oh! I never asked when they need it. Duh! I should be asking them when they need it, so I can triage my priorities and make sure that I am managing my time in a way that delivers to them what they need on or before they need it.” So, you think it would be a simple question but this are sophisticated real estate professionals who hadn’t thought of asking that question.
And so, I think that is so powerful in terms of just clarifying some of those pieces. I’ve got a module all about just those clarifying questions. Make sure you’re on target with regard to the deliverable, the timing, the resources, the audience, the motive, the processes to have it, to flow and then sometimes just getting that extra dose of clarity or detail upfront enables you to surprise and delight and add all kinds of on target goodness that you didn’t even know might be helpful going in.
Yup, and sometimes they will not have thought it through and by the time you get through asking those questions, they may say, “You know what? I realized there is a different way I can approach it. I really don’t need you to do this.” Yay!
Another question that I learned from a mentor years ago, it has been very powerful for me. It’s when somebody comes and they make a suggestion they say, “Well, do you want X or Y?” and it’s a process, it’s a business deliverable.
So now, what I do is I say, “Well, based upon your knowledge of what is the outcome that I am looking for, which would you recommend? And it’s opened up whole new possibilities that I don’t have the expertise to have thought of, that by turning it back on them, I get a much better solution.
That’s nice. So, now I want to zoom in particularly on the world of sort of the irate or the upset customer, someone who’s been let down or wronged, or believes they’ve been wronged. So, in the heat of that stress, that tension, that battle, what are some of your pro tips for getting things in a calm, happy, healthy, resolved kind of place?
Sure. Well, the first 2 I’m going to suggest, our listeners might again say “Well duh!” But I find when you are in that heated situation as you described, sometimes the duh stuff disappears. So, the first 2 are empathy and just saying something like, “Yeah! I would be upset, too.” Or “I’m sorry that happened to you.”
Just acknowledging this person’s grievance has some right or bearing in their own mind. You don’t have to agree with it, you don’t have to say you agree with it, you don’t have to say they’re right, you’re just acknowledging where they are. That diffuses a lot of their upset and the second piece is just really listening to them as much as you can.
Now, they may go on and they may tell you where, you know, way too much detail than you want to hear or need to hear and listening to as much of that as you possibly can, what I find is if I interject when they are rambling and say – I use their name gently – “Let’s go back when you left Walmart and what you were doing.” Something that you need, something germaine piece of the story that you need clarification on before you can move forwards.
So, using their name, if you have to interrupt them, most people don’t like being interrupted. If you use their name, and ask a germaine, relevant question, then they are more likely to not minded it and refocus on what you need. So, as a consumer the other day, I had an example of someone not doing the first part where I was complaining because accounting department screwed up and really have messed me up and when I called to ask about the resolution and I said, “Yeah, your accounting department just screwed up.” And she said, “Well, it might not been the accounting department, things just happen.”
That was not empathizing at all and frankly, it was not helpful at all. Had she just said, “Oh man! I’m sorry this happened to you. I know how pain it is.” She didn’t need, you know, if she just approached it differently, I would have felt better heard, better understood, would have felt she was my advocate rather than really poo-pooing my analysis of the source of the issue.
Understood. That does help. It’s funny. I’m still imagining myself irate about something that happened to me at Walmart in a little scenario. That’s fun to imagine.
Well, they gave you way too much detail leading up to what it is that you couldn’t have helped them with, so, that’s way gently just refocusing them using their name and also being very mindful of your word choice.
If you and I are having a normal conversation and I say something about, you know, “I’m sorry, Pete. I wish I could help you but it’s not my problem.” Peroid.
Then, you would not be thrilled about that but you wouldn’t get upset. However, if I say that and you’re already stressed and you’re already agitated, then you are going to be livid.
So, if indeed it isn’t my job, I don’t need to say that. I could say something like “I want to find a resolutionfor you as quickly as possible. Your particular issue is outside of my responsibilities. However, I will connect you to Sally who’s the manager of that department or who handles that. I’m going to just put you on hold briefly, if that’s okay. I’m going to tell Sally what your issue is and I’ll stay on the line as I connect you. Is that okay?”
So, there you go. So, again, whether that’s internal or external, just being the champion for the issue and shepherding it to the right person, fully informing the person that you’re helping along the way.
Okay! That’s good. So, we got the empathy; we got the asking questions and the use of the name; we’ve got a careful approach when it comes to the word choice.
Could you maybe bring these to life right now? Let’s imagine you and I are colleagues and we’re going to get real, we’re going to role play on the spot, see how this goes.
So, imagine we’re colleagues and I am furious at you for let’s say you created a PowerPoint document and did not update data, there are some careless thing that you were using, sort of, a previous presentation, just copied it over without even updating some of the key data and the client saw it and he questioned how great we are at our job, if we’re fools, if he should go with the competitor.
And I feel very embarrassed and mad about it so I’m like, “Darn it, Rebecca. You screwed me over a big time. I’m angry.” So, how do you take me down?
So, “Pete, wow, I’m so embarrassed. You are right, I thought I had updated that data, I pulled it from the last deck that we had and I didn’t notice that there was newer data since then. I can totally understand how embarrassing that would be in front of the client and that it made us look bad. What can I do? Can I show the client the new data? Can I tell them that I was the one who didn’t provide it that it has nothing to do with you? What can I do from here on that to fix this?”
Lovely. Okay. So, you’re asking the question and of even offering couple particular ideas within there? Very good. Anything else you want to, kind of, capture if we wrap up the calming upset folks piece?
I think among colleagues, I would just profusely apologize and say “I promise you the next time we work together, I will triple check whatever I send to you and please let me know when you see something that you think needs to be done better.”
Okay. Very good. Thank you! When it comes to the actual generation of the solution you’ve got a bit of a problem-solving, solution-generating approach to challenges, could you walk us through a little of that process.
Well, I try to identify what is the core issue, what is the root problem because I often get approached by potential clients who say, “Rebecca, I want you to do…” This cracks me up. “I want you to do a one hour team building for the managers or executives of my organization.”
“Okay. Great! We can look at that. What specifically are the issues that you want us to discuss?”
“I want you to make them more professional.”
Actually, I had this with an international sales meeting and he was coming to Silicon Valley and they were bringing people all over the world and they wanted me to do, I think it’s like a 2 hour workshop.
So, “what are the outcomes that you would like as a result of this?”
“Well, I want them to sell a hundred percent more than they are doing now.”
In a 2 hour workshop? So, I tried to convince them on longer term program with accountability and spread out over a year, you know, virtual, so we could do that in all the time zones, etcetera and at the end, he just wanted them to have something to stick in this two hour slot and I said “Take them to the movies.”
I said “you’ll get as much value, long term, toward the goal you are trying to reach as you will from a two hour workshop, you know, without any follow up and accountability, you’re not going to get the outcomes that you want.”
So, I wasn’t really trying to be a smart alec. I was really trying to see how, help him see how what he expected he was setting everybody up for a failure. If he did indeed bring an external person in for those 2 hours, there is no way they could be successful, there was no way they could produce what he wanted in that time.
Part of it is, looking at what are your outcomes, does your definition of the solution really match what’s plausible? And if not, then I try to work with them to get them to come up with a more realistic and successful outcome process to give them the outcome that they want.
Good deal. Thank you. Okay. Well then, so tell us, is there anything else that you want to make sure we discuss or tackle before shifting gears to the fast faves segment.
I thought we could touch on just a little bit, because I know our listeners are in the first phase of the career shall we say, you know, there are not in the end phase of their careers and when I was… I want to say 23. I started my company at the age of 24 and when I was 22 or 23, I heard a speaker talk about his book called Making Money without a Job and it influenced the next decades of my life.
Now, I had jobs after that but I was always looking at how can I make a living doing things that I love to do and make a contribution to people around me. So, I started my consulting, speaking training business at age 24 and had multiple businesses concurrently doing that time and now I am at the point in my life where I do pretty much whatever I want, I only take projects that I like, I only coach and work with people that I think are interested in making improvements and moving forward and it allows me to work with impoverished women and children in Southeast Asia.
I go twice a year, I’m on the board on a non-profit there and while I’m there, I work with the business community in Cambodia, Singapore or Thailand wherever I am and help them get better and I’m able to then travel abroad which I love as much as I would like so last year was 10 weeks in 3 trips in 9 countries and next year it will be about 9 weeks in 6 countries so far, so, I just want to plant that seed that be always looking at what you all love to do and is there a way to make money doing it, so you have a life you really love.
That is a great thought and it’s ideal certainly in terms of getting that career lined up just right. So, thank you. That’s good.
So now, could you start us off by sharing a favorite quote that you find inspiring?
Sure. This is been a mantra of mine since my early 20s when I had a mentor named Doug Hooper who wrote a series of books and one of the things that echoes in my mind on an ongoing basis is his quote that says, “Whenever something comes up in your life that would lead to your betterment, say yes to it immediately.”
Thank you! I like it. How about a favorite book?
I actually have two. So, the one I mentioned earlier, Making Money without a Job and then another one that has been more recent entrance in to my library but I love, it’s got a kind of funny name, it’s called, Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting and it’s really about your awareness and perceptiveness and gratitude for everyday things, I mean literally, everyday things.
So, when you come to a red stop light, being grateful for it. “What are you talking about, Rebecca? Grateful for red stop light?” “Yeah!” “What could you be grateful about red stop light?” “Oh! These are the opportunities, take a deep breath and enjoy the surrounding, you know, it was fabulous, I thought, in just increasing my awareness and gratitude toward little things throughout the day.
Thank you. How about a favorite habit of yours?
Every day, I try to do some activity that moves me toward more revenue, since I am an entrepreneur, have been an entrepreneur for 30 years, I am constantly saying “Okay. How can I make sure that I am making some revenue today or atleast in the next 2 days?”
Okay! So, could give us an example of like what can you do in perhaps like a ten minute window that drives you toward that goal like every single day?
Well, absolutely, I am revising my latest book just called Extraordinary Leadership Lessons from Everyday People and I can write, you know, I don’t know, 500 words in 10 minutes so I can write something that will go in that book, that will lead me to have a new revision in the next month or 2.
Alright! Fun! Where is the best place to find you if folks want to learn more about you and what you’re doing?
It’s really simple, it’s just my name, rebeccamorgan.com.
Alright. That is simple. Do you have a favorite challenge or parting call to action for those seeking to be more awesome at their jobs?
I would constantly be looking at what we talked about how can I be exemplar or how can I make other people’s lives easier, better and then the second part of that is what I talked about a few minutes ago which is how can you build a revenue stream doing what you love.
Alright! Thank you. Well, Rebecca, this is then lots of fun, thank you and good luck!
Well, Thanks, Pete!