25 Reproducible Activities for Customer Service Excellence Peter R. Garber HRD Press, Inc. • Amherst • Massachusetts Copyright © 2005, HRD Press, Inc. The materials that appear in this book, other than those quoted from prior sources, may be reproduced for educational/training activities. There is no requirement to obtain special permission for such uses. We do, however, ask that the following statement appear on all reproductions: Reproduced from 25 Reproducible Activities for Customer Service Excellence, by Peter R. Garber. Amherst, Massachusetts: HRD Press, 2005.
This permission statement is limited to reproduction of materials for educational or training events. Systematic or large-scale reproduction or distribution—or inclusion of items in publications for sale—may be carried out only with prior written permission from the publisher. Published by: HRD Press 22 Amherst Road Amherst, MA 01002 800-822-2801 (U. S. and Canada) 413-253-3488 413-253-3490 (fax) www. hrdpress. com ISBN 0-87425-848-0 Production services by Jean Miller Cover design by Eileen Klockars Editorial work by Sally Farnham Table of Contents Page
Preface…………………………………………………………………………………………………… v Tips for Trainers……………………………………………………………………………………… vi Introduction ……………………………………………………………………………………………. viii Part 1—Communication………………………………………………………………………… 1 1. The Customer’s First Perceptions …………………………………………………….. 2. Customer Paradigms ………………………………………………………………………. 9 3. Listening to the Customer ……………………………………………………………….. 15 4. Say It Again…………………………………………………………………………………… 25 5. Finding the Customer……………………………………………………………………… 29 6. Rumors …………………………………………………………………………………………. 33 7.
Learning to Listen ………………………………………………………………………….. 37 Part 2—Phone Power…………………………………………………………………………….. 45 8. Greetings ………………………………………………………………………………………. 47 9. Telephone Tag……………………………………………………………………………….. 55 10. Telephone Messages ………………………………………………………………………. 61 11.
Telephone Listening……………………………………………………………………….. 65 12. Phone Skills…………………………………………………………………………………… 71 Part 3—Customer Service Skills ……………………………………………………………. 75 13. Customer Reflections ……………………………………………………………………… 77 14. Characteristics of Successful Customer Service…………………………………. 81 15. Five Steps to Better
Customer Service ……………………………………………… 87 16. Customer Service Diseases ……………………………………………………………… 93 17. Buying Personalities……………………………………………………………………….. 97 Part 4—Customer Service Strategies……………………………………………………… 101 18. Who’s the Customer?……………………………………………………………………… 103 19. Customer Complaints……………………………………………………………………… 09 20. Customer Service Personalities………………………………………………………… 117 21. The ABCs of Customer Service……………………………………………………….. 127 Part 5—Achieving Results……………………………………………………………………… 133 22. Self-Fulfilling Prophecies ……………………………………………………………….. 135 23. Word Games………………………………………………………………………………….. 139 24.
Winning and Losing with the Customer ……………………………………………. 145 25. Buying Decisions …………………………………………………………………………… 149 v Preface Customers are the life blood of any business, and providing great customer service is critically important. Keeping the customer satisfied needs to be the goal of everyone in the organization. Think about how you feel when you play the role of a customer yourself. How do you feel when you receive poor customer service as you spend your hard-earned money?
Would you continue to do business with a company that didn’t understand your needs, or worse yet, didn’t care? Of course not. Similarly, the customers you provide service to expect the same quality that you would expect to receive. The quality process has taught us the importance of meeting the requirements of the customer. Customers rightfully deserve nothing less than excellent service. The emphasis needs to be on striving to meet the customer’s requirements 100 percent of the time, on time, every time. A customer service standard of anything less would never be acceptable.
These fully reproducible activities have been designed to help you and your organization more effectively provide excellent service to your customers. These activities cover a variety of topics and are presented in five different parts: • Communication • Phone Power • Customer Service Skills • Customer Service Strategies • Achieving Results Included in these 25 activities are a variety of exercises, questionnaires, quizzes, facts, role plays, techniques, philosophies, characterizations, profiles, assessments, strategies, surveys, matrices, and other tools to help you improve your customer service skills.
Use these activities to provide the best service you possibly can to your customers. vi Tips for Trainers The purpose of this section is to provide you with some guidelines and suggestions that can make facilitating the exercises in this series even easier. You can begin by reading this section thoroughly. Remember, your effectiveness as a facilitator will, in large part, determine the success of your program. Here are some tips that will help make your job easier: 1. Commitment The first step in the preparation phase is to ensure that top management is fully committed to the training program.
Management must set the stage by emphatically and enthusiastically expressing its position that the training program is both needed and desirable. Without this endorsement, acceptance and cooperation at lower levels may be only half-hearted. 2. Time Most of the exercises in this series are designed to be presented in 15 to 30 minutes. You can control the amount of time you allocate to an exercise by limiting the exercise introduction and debriefing. 3. Physical Arrangements a. Where to hold the Training Meeting. Holding training meetings in-house saves money and travel time.
On the other hand, being in the plant or office can result in disruptions, such as people being called out to answer the phone or handle problems. Also consider whether in-house facilities are conducive to learning—for example, are they clean, neat, and comfortable? Can the facility supply the audio/visual equipment you will need? If not, you may want to arrange for course sessions to be held in other facilities. Motels or hotels often have comfortable meeting rooms that can be rented at nominal cost. Your area might have other suitable facilities, as well. b.
The Meeting Room. Wherever you hold the training meeting, you will want to ensure that the room itself is suitable: large enough to accommodate everyone comfortably, well ventilated, heated, or air conditioned, and well lit. Also, be sure that the room is located where it is free from distracting noise. c. Room Arrangement. You will need tables and chairs for all participants and for the instructor. If you plan to have the participants work on problems in teams, arrange for separate tables for each team. You will also need a table for refreshments, if you provide them. d.
Equipment and Supplies. Be sure to have the required resource materials, including pencils and paper for each participant, available for the training session. You may benefit by making overhead transparencies of key learning points developed in your sessions, in which case an overhead projector will vii also be needed. You will also need a computer and necessary equipment for the PowerPoint presentation. And, a flipchart or chalkboard is useful for most sessions. 4. Methods of Instruction The following alternative presentation methods are discussed for your general interest.
It is possible to combine several methods in one session. a. Lecture. A very common teaching method, lecturing involves the instructor making a one-way presentation to the group. Its advantage is that it involves a high amount of control over the communication process since communication is primarily in one direction, downward. However, one-way communication also has certain disadvantages; you receive little, if any, feedback from the group and the process, by its nature, is nonparticipative. If you lecture, do so sparingly. A lecture can be a boring method from the group’s perspective. b. Lecturette.
This is similar to a lecture but is very brief; usually 5 to 10 minutes in duration. A lecturette can be most effective when used in conjunction with other methods of instruction. c. Group Discussion. This is a very good instructional method for actively involving the class. The leader functions primarily as a catalyst by introducing the subject, using questions to ensure group participation, keeping the discussion on track, and periodically summarizing and testing for the group’s conclusions. Group discussion in conjunction with lecturettes can be an effective mix of teaching methods. d. Role Playing.
Role playing is a proven method by which a person practices a skill he or she is learning. In role playing, each person is assigned a role (either prepared roles or ones that they write themselves) that describes a problem situation and provides information about the character to be played, all relating to the subject of the lesson. Usually two students role play together, one taking the role of an employee and the other of a supervisor. The role play participants act out the situation under the observation of their fellow participants. At the conclusion of the brief skit (usually 5 to 10 minutes), all parties critique the skills emonstrated. Role playing is especially helpful when demonstrating a skill will enhance the learning process. Performance appraisal and employee counseling skills are examples of subjects suitable for role playing. viii e. Team Activity. This method is very useful when you want the participants to work together cooperatively to make a decision or solve a problem. First, you should divide the class into teams of four to six people each, and seat each team at a separate table. You then assign a problem or situation to each team and let them collectively discuss, analyze, and solve it.
Next, you ask each team to appoint a spokesperson who reports the team’s findings and discusses the problem-solving or decision-making process. This is followed by the rest of the group critiquing the team’s work. There is some question about the optimum-size group for this type of activity. As a rule of thumb, you should not have teams of less than four people each unless you intentionally are setting up diads or triads (teams of two or three, respectively). Teams of less than four people are very easily dominated by only one or two people. On the other hand, the maximum number of individuals on a team should be less than 10 or 12.
Teams larger than this very often result in poor participation by several team members; the team is simply too cumbersome to actively involve all the members. ix Introduction Each exercise begins with a brief synopsis that is designed to provide you with a quick overview of the activity. A presentation section then offers you suggestions for administering the exercise effectively. If you are an experienced platform trainer or facilitator, you may choose to tailor the presentation to your personal instructional style. If facilitating exercises like these is new to you, then you will probably benefit by following the resentation guidelines closely. In any event, there is a standard way that you can begin each session. Below are the guidelines for standard introductions that can be used along with the tips for trainers. 1. Prior to the presentation, read the entire exercise thoroughly, including all handouts. Ensure that you understand the learning principles you want developed by administering the exercise and that you also understand any related technical concept. 2. Begin the exercise session by examining the purpose of the exercise and the specific learning objectives you have determined for the group.
Present a brief overview of the exercise concept, but be careful not to give away details that might be reserved for only part of the group. 3. Relate the exercise to the overall training module that you are conducting, and explain its part in the learning process. Explain what is meant by experiential learning and tell the group how gaming simulations and role plays facilitate learning. This is necessary because sometimes students find it curious that a “game” is being made part of an instructional program. 4.
Optional: If you are facilitating a session for a large group, you may want to appoint one or two co-facilitators who will help you observe and record individual and team behavior during the exercise. 5. Optional: Sometimes a good strategy for using an exercise is to begin without any explanation, administer the exercise, and then after experiential learning has taken place, cover the issues in numbers 2 and 3 above. This “shock treatment” approach can be very useful when you want to dramatize certain points. Part 1 Communication 3 1 The Customer’s First Perceptions PURPOSE
To demonstrate the many different ways that customers might perceive the service you provide. DESCRIPTION Several basic principles of communications are presented concerning how people receive messages from others. Participants are asked to identify how a customer might perceive their greetings to them and the first perceptions and impressions they might create. TIME 20 minutes RESOURCES Handouts 1. 1 and 1. 2, and pencils for each participant PRESENTATION 1. Review the principles of communications found in Handout 1. 1 with participants. 2. Distribute one copy of Handout 1. to each participant and two copies of Handout 1. 2. 3. Divide participants into triads (groups of three). Arrange for each group to be able to work either in a room by themselves or in a large enough room that they will not disturb one another. 4. In each triad, instruct one person to be the customer service representative and the others to play the role of the customers. 5. The person playing the customer service representative should begin the exercise by saying “Good morning/afternoon. How can I help you today? ” to the customers. The other two participants playing the customers should then complete Handout 1. . 6. The “customers” should give the participant playing the customer service representative feedback about how this greeting was perceived and interpreted by them in relation to the information provided in Handout 1. 1. 7. Have participants take turns playing the role of the customer service representative and discuss how what they thought they were communicating to one another may have been different than what was perceived by the other two people. 5 Handout 1. 1 How We Get Our Messages When we communicate something to someone, the actual message that is received may actually be different than what we intended.
Studies have shown that: • Over 55 percent of any message is nonverbal—that is, based on a person’s body language. • Approximately 38 percent of the message is based on voice inflections or how something is said. • Only 7 percent of any message is determined by the actual words that are spoken. 7 Handout 1. 2 What Does This Really Mean? “Good morning/afternoon. How can I help you today? ” What was the customer service representative’s nonverbal message? What was the customer service representative’s message based on his or her voice inflections? How were the voice inflections different than the words that were spoken? 2 Customer Paradigms PURPOSE To introduce the concept of paradigms as it relates to customer service. DESCRIPTION In this activity, participants are presented with a description of a customer and are asked to share their paradigms concerning their perceptions and expectations. They are then presented with additional information about the customer and asked how their paradigm might have changed. TIME 25 minutes RESOURCES Slide 1 and Handouts 2. 1 and 2. 2 PRESENTATION 1. Review the definition of a paradigm shown on Slide 1. 2. Read the story found in Handout 2. 1 to participants. . Ask participants what their paradigm is concerning this customer based on the information presented in Handout 2. 1. 4. After participants have shared what their paradigms are of this customer, read them Handout 2. 2. 5. Ask participants how their paradigms might have changed based on the additional information learned in Handout 2. 2. Also ask how the customer’s paradigms might have changed as a result of what happened. 6. Discuss how many of our paradigms may be based on incomplete or even incorrect information as was the case in this story. 11 Handout 2. 1 Customer Paradigms
We each have different perceptions or paradigms about customers we deal with on our jobs. Listen to the following story and think about what your paradigm of this customer might be. The Unresponsive Customer You have had responsibility for providing customer service to a particular customer for several years. This has been a very frustrating account for you to try to provide customer service. Your contact at this company does not return your calls, but does continue to buy products from your company regularly. You are certain that your calls to the company are being screened.
You recently sent this person updated literature concerning recent improvements in your company’s product. You have repeatedly tried to contact this customer to answer any questions they might have and make sure there are no problems that you could help prevent or correct. You assume that the customer has paid no more attention to this information than to any of your other attempts to be of service. Because of recent updates to your company’s product, it is important that customers be familiar with certain details concerning how these changes will affect the product’s performance.
If not, they could experience problems with the product that they did not in the past and obviously not benefit from the improvements made to the product. Despite your repeated attempts to make contact with this customer concerning these changes in the product, the same scenario occurred time after time when you called on the customer: He refused to answer your telephone calls and you were unsuccessful in trying to make an appointment with him. He apparently ignored the letters and new product literature you sent to him. You even tried showing up without an appointment, but that didn’t get you an audience with this customer either.
Finally, what you were afraid would happen became an unfortunate reality. Because you were not able to ever communicate with this customer, they were now experiencing problems with the new product that easily could have been prevented by a few minutes of education. Your boss brings you a letter from this customer complaining that they were never told about these changes in your product or have not received any other service despite buying from your company for a number of years. They are threatening to take their business elsewhere if something isn’t done to correct this situation right away. 3 Handout 2. 2 As you look at the letter from this customer that your boss just showed you, you realize that you have been calling on the wrong person and even the wrong division of the company all these years. Obviously, the individual you have been attempting to contact knew nothing about you or your company’s product, nor did he have any reason to be interested in the information you sent about the changes in this product. 15 3 Listening to the Customer PURPOSE To demonstrate the importance of actively listening to what the customer is trying to tell you. DESCRIPTION
Participants are presented a Customer Service Listening Test and receive immediate feedback on their performance. TIME 20 minutes RESOURCES Handouts 3. 1, 3. 2, and 3. 3, and pencils for each participant PRESENTATION 1. Introduce the activity by stressing the importance of active listening when dealing with customers. 2. Distribute a copy of Handout 3. 1 to each participant. 3. Read the questions in Handout 3. 2 to the participants, repeating each question only twice (remind participants that this is a listening test, so they will have to pay close attention to what is being read to them). 4.
Have participants write their responses on Handout 3. 1. 5. Distribute Handout 3. 3 and review the correct answers to the test. 17 Handout 3. 1 Customer Service Listening Test ANSWER SHEET 1. 2. 3. A. B. C. a) b) D. 4. 5. 6. 7. 18 Handout 3. 1: Customer Service Listening Test (continued) 8. 9. 10. 19 Handout 3. 2 Customer Service Listening Test 1. An important customer calls and places an urgent order that must be delivered by 9:00 o’clock. You put in a rush order to the warehouse requiring them to work overtime to fill the order on time. However, when the customer receives the order, they refuse to accept it because it is 12 hours late.
You are confused because you believe that you and the warehouse did everything possible to meet the customer’s deadline. The customer insists that he made himself clear to you when he placed the urgent order. How could this have happened? 2. A company orders from a supplier a small part that they need and that requires a defect rate no greater than . 00001 when it is produced to keep the manufacturing costs at a minimum. The supplier seemed somewhat confused by the way this order was placed, saying that they usually don’t produce work at this defect level. Why did the company still place this order? 3.
A customer places an order for the following: 500 of model X300f234 16 of part 5dt 50 of model Z23001 2000 extra #5 stock item B17d-1 75 of part 110pt 81 catalog item # R200-4bt98 A. How many total items did the customer order? B. How many X300f234s did the customer order? C. a) What single item did the customer order the greatest quantity? b) The least? D. How many catalog items did the customer order? 20 Handout 3. 2: Customer Service Listening Test (continued) 4. You received a large rush order to be shipped to Centerville and immediately make all the arrangements to get the product to the customer within 48 hours as requested.
You feel good about being able to respond to this customer’s needs in such a short time period. However, a few days later, the customer calls extremely upset saying that they never received the order. You check all the steps you took to fill the order and verify with the Shipping Department that it was sent to Centerville as you requested and should have been received on time. Even more confusing is the fact that later in the week, you get a call from the Receiving Department that the shipment you sent to Centerville was returned. The reason for the return was that there was no one by that name or address in Centerville.
How could this have happened? 5. When a store opened for business one morning, there was $100 in the cash register. A customer came in and bought a product costing $29. The customer gave the sales clerk a $50 bill and was given a $20 bill and a $1 bill in change. After this exchange, the store received a call from the police that there had been counterfeit $50 bills being passed around the area. The sales clerk immediately counted the money that was in the cash register. If there was only this one sale that had occurred so far during the day, how much money would actually be in the cash register after this transaction? . A business sold half their stock on hand on Monday, half of the remaining stock on Tuesday, and half of the remaining stock on Thursday, leaving only one unit left in inventory. How many units did the business begin the week with? 7. A salesperson is assigned a new account. The only information that he receives about this account is where their office is located and that there is a vicepresident in charge of sales for this region and a secretary. As this is a small branch sales office of the company, there are only two employees at this location.
The salesperson has heard that the vice-president is very difficult to get along with and to be careful in his dealings with this person. When the salesperson makes his first call to this new account, he asks to speak to the vice-president. However, the person who answered the phone says that he will have to speak to her on all matters concerning sales. The salesperson has been told not to deal with anyone but the vice-president concerning anything to do with this account. What should he do? 21 Handout 3. 2: Customer Service Listening Test (continued) 8.
An order is mixed up at a clothing factor for men’s suits. The slacks and jackets that have been arriving at stores don’t match. There are only two suit styles involved in this mix match problem. How many suits of the same size does a store need to order to ensure that it has at least one matching suit jacket and slacks? 9. A customer in Florida is expecting a customer service representative in Chicago to send a sales proposal to them before their 9:00 a. m. annual marketing meeting one morning. The CSR worked all night preparing the information for the customer and faxed them the information at 8:30 a. . A few minutes later, the CSR calls the customer’s office to confirm that the information was received. However, the secretary tells the CSR that they did get the information, but it was received after the meeting began. There was no change in the time of the meeting. Why did this happen? 10. There are two order clerks who work at a distribution center. One clerk always quotes you the correct prices and the other always incorrect prices. You request pricing information from the distributions center by e-mail using your laptop computer.
One of the order clerks responds to your request by replying to your e-mail using the computer that the two of them share in the office. You don’t know which one of the clerks responded to your request. E-mail is the only way you can communicate with the distribution center due to problems with the telephone system. You only have a few minutes before you need this information, only about enough time to send and receive one more e-mail message. What could you do to quickly find out if the information you received is accurate or not? 23 Handout 3. 3 Customer Service Listening Test Answers 1.
The customer wanted the order delivered by 9:00 p. m. , not 9:00 a. m. Either the customer did not make it clear that he meant 9:00 p. m. , or the person who took the order didn’t listen to this very important information and assumed that the order was not needed until the next morning. 2. The supplier was confused because it is this supplier’s goal not to produce any defects. When the supplier filled the order, they presented the company with a plastic bag with four defective parts in it and said, “We don’t understand why you wanted these defective parts, but here they are! ” 3. A. 2722 B. 500 C. a) Stock item B17d-1 ) 5dt D. 81 4. The product was sent to the wrong Centerville. Obviously there can be more than one state with a town named Centerville. 5. $129. The story never said that the customer gave the sales person a counterfeit bill, just that counterfeit bills were reported being passed around in the area. 6. 8 7. The person who answered the phone was the vice-president. The salesperson should talk to her. 8. 2 suits 9. The CSR was located in the central time zone and did not take into account that Florida is in the eastern time zone. 10. In your next e-mail, ask who sent you the information. 25 4 Say It Again PURPOSE
To demonstrate that how something is said has a dramatic effect on what meaning people perceive the message to be. DESCRIPTION A question is to be repeated by participants a number of different ways, each time giving it a different meaning. TIME 15 minutes RESOURCES Handout 4. 1 PRESENTATION 1. Introduce the activity as a communications exercise that demonstrates that how we say things is usually even more important than what we say to customer. 2. Ask participants to take turns asking the question, “Can I help you? ” Each time, the participants should give this question a different meaning, as described in Handout 4. , based on the way it is said. 3. Discuss with the group the importance of how things are said and the message that is really sent in their dealings with customers. 4. Emphasize the importance of being aware of not just what you say to a customer, but how you say it. 5. Note that this activity supports the information presented in Activity 1 and could be used as a follow-up to the exercise described in Handout 1. 2. 27 Handout 4. 1 “Can I Help You? ” Repeat the above question, giving it the following different meanings by the tone of your voice, voice inflections, emphasis, and emotion. • A sincere desire to help the customer Irritation that you have been interrupted from some other, more important activity • Lack of interest in being of service to the customer • Feeling that someone else should be helping the customer • Feeling that you should be helping someone else • Impatience • Snobby attitude • That you are rushed for time • Lack of confidence • That you are having a really bad day 29 5 Finding the Customer PURPOSE To show how it is not always easy to find out who the customer really is. DESCRIPTION There are a number of clues presented in the activity relating to who the customer might be. Participants need to work together to find the correct answer.
TIME 25 minutes RESOURCES Handout 5. 1 and pencils for each participant PRESENTATION 1. Break participants into smaller groups of three to five or as appropriate based on class size. 2. Give each group a copy of Handout 5. 1. 3. Instruct participants to work together to “Find the Customer” based on the clues found in Handout 5. 1. 4. Give each group enough time to work through the clues to find out the correct answer. The customer is Adams. 5. After everyone has completed the exercise, ask participants what real life experiences they may have had trying to “Find the Customer. ” 31 Handout 5. 1 Finding the Customer 1.
The customer service representative has made calls to Adams, Bates, Cates, Davis, and Evans during the past several months. 2. The customer service representative made a call to Cates today. 3. The customer will not be in until next week. 4. The customer is not Bates. 5. The customer faxed in their order. 6. Bates and Davis are competitors. 7. If the company does business with the customer, Bates will be upset. 8. Evans always likes to discuss business in person. 33 6 Rumors PURPOSE To demonstrate how rumors get started and spread throughout an organization. DESCRIPTION The activity includes an exercise called Rumors.
Rumors is played in a similar manner as the children’s game typically known as the Telephone Game. In the Rumor Game, a participant is presented with a “rumor” to read and is told to tell it to the person sitting next to him or her. Each person is to then take their turn spreading the rumor to the other participants. TIME 10 to 20 minutes depending on size of class RESOURCES Handout 6. 1 PRESENTATION 1. Tell participants that you are going to start a rumor. 2. The participants in the class will simulate an organization, and the information contained in Handout 6. 1 will be a rumor that is being spread. 3. Give Handout 6. to one of the participants in the exercise, allowing this person a few minutes to read and understand the information contained in it. 4. Take back Handout 6. 1 and instruct the person who read this information to whisper what he or she read to the person seated next to him or her. 5. This process should continue until everyone in the class has heard the rumor. 6. Ask the last person to hear the rumor to share what he or she heard with the rest of the group. 7. Share with the group how the rumor originally began as compared to its present version after being spread to everyone in the organization (actually the class). . Discuss how this activity compares to what happens concerning the accuracy of the actual rumors that they hear in their organization. 35 Handout 6. 1 The Rumor There is a rumor that there will soon be a big price reduction on our company’s products. In the meantime, there is concern that sales will be flat due to customers delaying buying decisions in anticipation of these discounted prices. There is supposed to be a big meeting soon to announce how much these reductions will be and the expected effect they will have on our business.
Supposedly, the president of the company has said that he hopes that these reduced prices will increase sales by 12 percent. It is also rumored that if the company achieves these sales goals, that everyone is going to get a nice bonus at the end of the year. This information is not to be shared with any of our customers at this time until the announcement is made. 37 7 Learning to Listen PURPOSE To emphasize some of the many obstacles that people experience trying to become better listeners. DESCRIPTION A brief summary is presented concerning barriers to effective listening.
An exercise follows that tests participants’ ability to listen to what a hypothetical customer is really saying. TIME 30 minutes RESOURCES Handouts 7. 1, 7. 2, and 7. 3 and pencils for each participant PRESENTATION 1. Review information presented in Handout 7. 1 with participants. 2. Review Handout 7. 2, Seven Steps to Better Customer Listening. 3. Introduce Handout 7. 3 as a listening test. 4. Break participants into two-person teams. Have one person read Handout 7. 3 to the other participant. 5. Instruct the “listening” participants to take notes as suggested in Handout 7. 2 to better understand what this customer is really saying.
Encourage the listeners to ask for clarification and follow the other advice found in Handout 7. 2 during the exercise. 6. Have participants switch roles on their teams. 7. As a group, discuss how well participants did in improving their listening skills and using their extra time to better focus on what the customer has to say. 39 Handout 7. 1 Studies have shown that most people talk at a rate of about 150 words per minute. However, we are able to listen at a rate of 750 to 1,000 words per minute. This means we have a lot of extra time when we listen to others! The challenge becomes what we do during all this extra time.
This can be even more critical when we are listening to a customer. The problem that most people have with listening is that rather than concentrating on what the customer is saying during this extra time, they are thinking about what they are going to say next. This can cause you to miss a great deal of important information that the customer is trying to tell you, including how to get them to buy from you! 41 Handout 7. 2 Seven Steps to Better Customer Listening 1. Focus your attention on what the customer has to say. 2. Let the customer know that you are interested in what he or she has to say. . Anticipate the direction of the conversation and help it stay on the topic the customer wants to talk about. 4. Take notes of important points that the customer makes. 5. Ask clarifying questions about what the customer is talking about. 6. Summarize key points made by the customer. 7. Confirm your understanding of what the customer is trying to tell you. 43 Handout 7. 3 The Customer’s Requirements The most important requirement for us is the service that a supplier provides. Because we are in a very dynamic business, our requirements are constantly changing. Therefore our uppliers must be flexible and responsive to these needs. Because we are a small company, everyone knows each other quite well. Even our CEO is on a first-name basis with most of our employees. As part of this management philosophy and style, we prefer to develop close working relationships with our suppliers. We don’t like to be rushed into making decisions. We value integrity and honesty in those we do business with. We will even stay with a supplier through difficult times for them if we feel that they are truly interested in building a strong long-term working relationship with us. A supplier must have our best nterest in mind as well as their own. This is what a win/win relationship is all about. However, if this trust is broken and we feel that we are being taken advantage of, we will stop doing business with that supplier regardless of attractive prices they might offer or promises they might make to try to keep our business. Part 2 Phone Power 47 8 Greetings PURPOSE To emphasize the importance of the telephone greeting message you leave on your answering machine or voice mail box (VMX). DESCRIPTION The topic of recorded telephone greetings that participants might leave on their answering machines or VMXs is reviewed.
Participants are asked to develop new greetings as part of the activity and critique one another’s greetings. TIME 40 minutes RESOURCES Handouts 8. 1, 8. 2, and 8. 3; pencils for each participant; and an audio cassette recorder PRESENTATION 1. Begin the activity with a discussion concerning the increasing use of telephone answering machines and voice mailbox systems and ask participants to share their experiences with this popular technology. 2. After participants have had a chance to exchange “war stories” about their experiences and frustrations with answering machines in our electronically programmed world today, present Handout 8. 3. Review with participants Handout 8. 2, Getting the Message, which lists suggestions for creating more effective recorded telephone greetings. 4. Instruct participants to create or recreate their own recorded telephone greetings using Handout 8. 3. 5. Have participants write out their greetings on Handout 8. 3. 6. Instruct participants to practice reciting their greetings to one another. Have them critique one another’s greeting messages based on the five points outlined in Handout 8. 2, Getting the Message. 7.
As an option or variation, have participants record their greetings and listen to them, evaluating the effectiveness of their own messages. 8. Recommend that when participants return to work, they listen to their telephone greetings and improve them if necessary, based on what they learned in this exercise. 49 Handout 8. 1 “Hello, this is John Smith. I will be in a meeting all day on Tuesday, March 3rd. Please leave your name, number, and a brief message concerning the nature of your call and I will get back to you as soon as possible after the meeting has concluded at 4:00 p. m.
If you should need immediate assistance, please push zero for the operator. Thank you. ” This message, or one similar to it, is rapidly becoming the most frequently heard phrase in our work lives today. In our electronic world, it seems that we never talk “live” over the telephone to one another any more. There are just so many other ways available today to communicate with one another that personal or direct communications is becoming a thing of the past. 51 Handout 8. 2 Getting the Message 1. Personalize your message. Record your message yourself rather than delegating this task to someone else. . Be sure to identify yourself immediately in your message. 3. Keep your message current. Update it daily if necessary. Explain briefly when you can be reached or will be able to return the message. This will encourage the caller to leave a message. Don’t allow an out-dated message to stay on your answering machine. 4. Give the caller an alternative number to receive immediate assistance. 5. Listen to your message after you have recorded it. Ensure that it is clear, sincere, and concise. Re-record it if necessary. Your goal should be to keep our message as brief as possible while still accomplishing your goal to have customers and others who may be trying to reach you to leave a message. 53 Handout 8. 3 Creating Better Messages Create or recreate your own recorded telephone greeting using the information contained in Handout 8. 2, Getting the Message. 55 9 Telephone Tag PURPOSE To review problems as well as strategies for making direct contact with customers on the telephone. DESCRIPTION The common problem of not being able to reach someone or be reached on the telephone is explored in this activity. Strategies for dealing with this frustrating situation are reviewed.
TIME 25 minutes RESOURCES Handouts 9. 1 and 9. 2 PRESENTATION 1. Review Handout 9. 1 with participants. 2. Continue the activity by asking participants what experiences they might have had playing telephone tag with customers in the past. 3. Review Handout 9. 2, Telephone Tag Strategies. 4. Ask participants for other strategies they might have used or might suggest when playing telephone tag. 57 Handout 9. 1 Telephone Tag Have you ever played telephone tag with someone who you really needed to talk to? You know the game: You leave a message that you called on someone’s answering machine.
That person hears the message and tries to call you back, only to get your answering machine, and leaves a message that they got your message and tried to return your call. Now you are playing telephone tag and you are “it. ” You try to return the call and, guess what—you get their answering machine. Now the other person is “it. ” This cat-and-mouse game can go on indefinitely until one of the following happens: 1. One of you forfeits the game and stops trying to return the call. 2. You resign yourselves to communicating with one another via your answering machines and give up any hope of direct communications. . You, by some miracle, actually make direct telephone contact with one another. The problem is that sometimes, by the time you do get the opportunity to talk “live” to one another over the telephone, you forget what it was that you wanted in the first place! 59 Handout 9. 2 Telephone Tag Strategies 1. Suggest a time and date when you will call back and ask the receiver to be available at that time. 2. If possible, complete the business you need to do with the other person via your answering machines. 3. See if there is someone else who can provide you with what you need from the person you are calling. . Communicate with the other person through some other means, such as mail, email, fax, VMX, etc. , that is not dependent on you both being available at the same time. 5. Give the person you are trying to reach alternative telephone numbers where you can be reached, including during the evenings or weekends. 61 10 Telephone Messages PURPOSE To help participants learn to leave better messages when reaching customers’ telephone answering machines. DESCRIPTION The activity provides a number of suggestions concerning how participants can improve their telephone message skills when calling customers. TIME 0 minutes RESOURCES Handout 10. 1 PRESENTATION 1. Explain that, like them or not, answering machines and voice mailbox systems have become an important part of doing business today and are here to stay. 2. Discuss the importance of being able to leave effective messages to customers. 3. Review Handout 10. 1, Telephone Message Skills, with participants. 4. Discuss how these skills could help participants be better able to communicate with customers and perform their jobs. 63 Handout 10. 1 Telephone Message Skills 1. Make sure you identify yourself, your organization, and the time/date of your call. 2.
If the message is important, prepare and practice what you are going to say. Make notes or even write a script of the message you want to leave. 3. Be brief and get right to the point. Remember you only have a limited amount of time to leave your message. Avoid having to leave a second message to say everything you are trying to tell the person; make it all fit into the same message. 4. State the purpose of your call. Leave the details and/or specifics of your call in an easy-to-follow order. 5. Do not repeat yourself. Remember the receiver has your message on tape and can play it back if necessary. . Do not try to accomplish too much in a single message. Keep it simple. Simply introduce what you want to discuss or your purpose and follow up later when you are able to talk directly to one another. 7. If you are requesting information, briefly state the nature of what you are asking for so that the receiver can be prepared to respond when he or she returns your call. 8. Don’t tease the receiver with a titillating bit of information and then not be available for more details. Either tell the person everything they need to know in the message or simply ask that they call you back. 9.
Call back when you say you will call back. 10. Always leave a number where you can be reached even if your number is easily accessible. Save the receiver the time and trouble of looking up your number. 65 11 Telephone Listening PURPOSE To illustrate the importance of listening when talking to a customer on the telephone. DESCRIPTION This activity provides information about the influence of voice inflections concerning the messages that we send and receive when talking on the telephone. TIME 20 minutes RESOURCES Slides 2 and 3; Handouts 11. 1 and 11. 2; and two chairs that can be placed back-toback in the front of the room
PRESENTATION 1. Review with participants the information on Slide 2. Note that this information was also found in Handout 1. 1 concerning customers’ perceptions. 2. Ask participants what they think happens concerning these percentages when talking to a customer on the telephone. 3. Distribute Handout 11. 1 and show Slide 3 and review the information indicating that 88 percent of the actual message received over the telephone is based on voice inflections. 4. To demonstrate this, ask two participants to role play a customer and a customer service representative or salesperson talking on the telephone.
To simulate the lack of nonverbals when using the telephone, place two chairs back-to-back for the participants to sit on so that they cannot see each other. Have participants hold their hands to their ears as if on the telephone. 5. Have the participant playing the role of the customer read the statements in Handout 11. 2. Each time he or she reads one of the statements, they should have a certain emotion they express such as doubt, hope, frustration, etc. The participant playing the customer service representative or salesperson should try to interpret the real meaning of each statement based on the customer’s voice inflections. 7 Handout 11. 1 Telephone Communications When talking on the telephone, approximately 88 percent of the actual message we send and receive is based on voice inflections. Listen very carefully to understand what the customer is really saying when talking with him or her on the telephone. Remember, WHAT the customer says is not as important as HOW it is said. Listen carefully for the real message that the customer is sending you. 69 Handout 11. 2 Customer’s Role Play Statements It’s nice to hear from you. I’m not sure I am ready to place an order right now. I’ll have to get back to you with my decision.
I need to have some more facts. You’ll have to take my word on this. I need to check with my boss first. We’re pretty satisfied with the service we have been receiving from you. We feel it is a good idea to have more than one supplier for the products we buy from you. If you can’t give us more of a discount, we may have to take our business elsewhere. I hope we can come to some kind of agreement here. 71 12 Phone Skills PURPOSE To help participants improve their skills when talking with customers on the telephone. DESCRIPTION A list entitled 14 Ways to Increase Your Phone Power is presented to participants.
Participants are then asked to share their experiences using these and other telephone skills when dealing with customers. TIME 20 minutes RESOURCES Handout 12. 1 PRESENTATION 1. Present Handout 12. 1, 14 Ways to Increase Your Phone Power, and review it with participants. 2. Afterward, ask participants to share any experiences they may have had using these or similar techniques when dealing with customers on the telephone. 3. Discuss the importance of the telephone to participants in providing customer service and how they could benefit by improving their skills in this area. 73
Handout 12. 1 14 Ways to Increase Your Phone Power 1. Prepare in advance for the call. Have information about the customer you might need in front of you before you pick up the phone. 2. Limit your own talking. You can’t listen and talk at the same time. 3. Ask if you don’t know something. 4. Don’t interrupt the customer. 5. Concentrate. Keep focused on what the customer is saying, not what you might be thinking. 6. Take notes. 7. Listen for the customer’s ideas. 8. Interject your ideas when appropriate, particularly about how you could be of better service to the customer. 9.
Put aside your own worries while working on the customer’s concerns. 10. Think like the customer. 11. React to the customer’s suggestions. 12. Don’t argue with the customer—you will lose every time. 13. Don’t jump to conclusions. 14. Listen for the customer’s positives and build on them. Part 3 Customer Service Skills 77 13 Customer Reflections PURPOSE To introduce a customer service skills technique called reflections that allows participants to better understand what the customer really wants. DESCRIPTION The concept and skill of using reflective communications with the customer is presented.
Participants will practice this technique and learn how to use this concept to help not only themselves, but the customer better understand what he or she really wants concerning customer service. TIME 30 minutes RESOURCES Handout 13. 1 PRESENTATION 1. Introduce the activity by asking participants if they have ever worked with a customer who didn’t understand what he or she really wanted and ask them to share some of these experiences. 2. Introduce the concept of reflections as a technique to help customers better understand how to identify what they really need concerning the service participants can provide. . Review Handout 13. 1 with participants, explaining the concept and application of reflective communications techniques. 4. Break participants into two-person teams and have them take turns using reflective communications. Remind participants to think of themselves as a mirror that reflects back what the other person says as it is heard by them. Participants may want to take turns playing the role of customer and a customer service representative/salesperson reflecting back what they hear. 79 Handout 13. 1 Reflective Communication Techniques
An effective way to help the customer better understand what you hear him or her saying is to use reflective communication techniques. You simply reflect back to the customer what he is saying so that he can hear it for himself. As the name of this technique implies, you serve as a sort of mirror, reflecting back to the customer his or her own words as heard by someone else. It is most effective to paraphrase the other person’s statements rather than to repeat their exact words back to them. For example, an important customer says to you: I need to have the highest quality product you can deliver with minimal order lead time and I need it cheap! ” You could reflect back: “I hear you saying that your business requires you to be supplied by our company with the highest quality product that we can produce and it is critically important to your process that there be no delays in delivery. However, price is also an important factor, possibly even more important than the level of quality and service you have described. Is that correct? ” The customer clarifies: “Well, I’m not sure we need to have the highest quality product your company roduces to meet the requirements of our process. That is unless we can purchase it at the same price as some of your less expensive products. However, we do need to ensure that we can meet very tight delivery times once the order is placed. ” Now both you and the customer know what is really important to him or her and required to continue doing business together. At first this customer asked for things that were potentially mutually exclusive and not really reasonable. The customer initially said that he or she wanted the highest quality product your company offers as well as your lowest price.
As it turned out, delivery was really the more important issue. By reflecting back what you hear the customer say, you can help him or her make clearer distinctions concerning the requirements for continuing your business relationship. 81 14 Characteristics of Successful Customer Service PURPOSE To share a number of characteristics or traits of successful customer service. DESCRIPTION A list of 10 Characteristics of Successful Customer Service is provided. Participants are given a self-assessment tool based on these characteristics and are asked to set goals in each of these areas.
TIME 30 minutes RESOURCES Handouts 14. 1 and 14. 2, and access to a copy machine PRESENTATION 1. Review Handout 14. 1, 10 Characteristics of Successful Customer Service, with participants. 2. Encourage discussion of these characteristics, asking participants to share their ideas and perspectives on them. 3. Make a copy for each participant of Handout 14. 2, Characteristics of Customer Service Self-Assessment. 4. Distribute copies of the self-assessment to each participant and have them complete it. 5. Encourage participants to set goals for themselves concerning these characteristics. . Suggest that participants keep this self-assessment for future reference to measure their progress toward reaching the goals they established. 83 Handout 14. 1 10 Characteristics of Successful Customer Service 1. Imagination Be creative and develop new ways to present the product or service you provide to the customer. 2. Self-control You must control your own emotions. You need to focus on the customer’s feelings and values rather than your own. 3. Self-confidence You must feel positive about yourself and about the product or service you provide. 4.
Enthusiasm If you are not enthusiastic about the product or service you are providing, you can’t expect the customer to be. 5. Perseverance To be successful, you can’t give up easily. Sometimes being successful requires multiple efforts. 6. Knowledge You need to know the product or service you provide. If you don’t know something that the customer asks about, admit it and then find out. 7. Enjoying work Enjoying your work is the best bonus you can ever receive. Customers feel better about doing business with those who are positive about themselves and their role in the organization. The most successful people are often hose who find ways to enjoy what they do for a living. 8. Flexibility This can involve not only adapting to change, but bouncing back from disappointments. Flexibility also involves meeting the different needs of the customer. 9. Ability to laugh at yourself Successful people don’t always take themselves so seriously that they can’t have a good laugh at themselves once in a while. 10. Striving to be your best “Best” is different for each person. Successful people measure themselves against their own standards and goals, not other people’s. 85 Handout 14. 2 Characteristics of Customer Service Self-Assessment
Rate yourself on each of the 10 Characteristics of Customer Service on the following scale of 1 to 5. 1 2 3 4 5 Area that Needs Improvement Area of Strength CHARACTERISTIC RATING 1. Imagination 1 2 3 4 5 2. Self-control 1 2 3 4 5 3. Self-confidence 1 2 3 4 5 4. Enthusiasm 1 2 3 4 5 5. Perseverance 1 2 3 4 5 6. Knowledge 1 2 3 4 5 7. Enjoying work 1 2 3 4 5 8. Flexibility 1 2 3 4 5 9. Ability to laugh at yourself 1 2 3 4 5 10. Striving to be your best 1 2 3 4 5 87 15 Five Steps to Better Customer Service PURPOSE To offer participants a five-step approach to providing better customer service. DESCRIPTION
A five-step approach to providing better customer service is presented. Participants are then asked to develop a customer service plan using these five steps. TIME 30 minutes RESOURCES Handouts 15. 1 and 15. 2, and pencils for each participant PRESENTATION 1. Present Handout 15. 1, Five Steps to Better Customer Service, to participants. 2. Discuss how these steps could lead to better customer service. 3. Using Handout 15. 2, have participants develop a customer service plan, asking how they could use these steps with an actual customer. 89 Handout 15. 1 Five Steps to Better Customer Service Step 1 Contact
This is sometimes the hardest step of all in providing better customer service for a number of reasons. First of all, with the busy work schedules that most people have today, just contacting a customer can be a significant accomplishment. However, the challenge does not end at this point. You also need to make contact concerning the customer’s interests and requirements. You will have little time to make a positive first impression in your initial contact and probably not be given a second chance to accomplish this goal. Step 2 Relate It is important to understand and relate to the needs of the customer.
You won’t be very successful trying to fit “square pegs into round holes. ” Find out what is most important to the customer and how you can provide this service. Relate to the customer’s needs, not your own. Step 3 Partner Establish a partnership in your working relationship with the customer. In partnerships, both parties’ best interests should always be kept in mind. Seek ways in which both of you might mutually benefit from each other’s successes. Step 4 Problem Solve Removing obstacles to success is an important part of providing effective customer service.
You need to make doing business with your company as hassle free as possible. The customer doesn’t want to hear about problems, rather the customer wants to hear about solutions. Step 5 Service Service is the name of the game. Customer service needs to be proactive. You should be looking for ways to be of service to the customer rather than waiting for the need to arise. Studies have shown that service is the most important factor to customers in making their decision whether to continue to do business with a company or not. 91 Handout 15. 2 Developing Your Customer Service Plan
Develop your own customer service plan using the Five Steps to Better Customer Service. Briefly describe how you could use each of the steps in this plan. Step 1: Contact Step 2: Relate Step 3: Partner Step 4: Problem Solve Step 5: Service 93 16 Customer Service Diseases PURPOSE To take a humorous look at some of the types of problems and pitfalls that people might experience when providing service to customers. DESCRIPTION A list of seven customer service diseases is presented to help participants identify how they might be experiencing some of these syndromes as they perform their jobs.
TIME 20 minutes RESOURCES Handout 16. 1 PRESENTATION 1. Present Handout 16. 1, Customer Service Diseases, to participants. 2. Discuss the symptoms and cures for each of these diseases. 3. Ask participants how they feel these diseases could be presented or cured. 95 Handout 16. 1 Customer Service Diseases 1. Status Quo Syndrome Symptoms: Person is satisfied with the way things are presently done with little or no interest in improving the quality of service provided to the customer. Cure: Set both short- and long-term goals for improved customer service. 2. Yak Yak Syndrome
Symptoms: Person does a great deal of talking to the customer, but with very few results achieved. Cure: Talk less and listen more. You have two ears, but only one mouth—this should tell you something! 3. Give Up “It Is” Symptoms: Person is easily discouraged from trying to positively influence the customer’s buying decisions. Accepts the first “no” without exploring why the customer came to that decision. Cure: Build more self-confidence through increasing your knowledge of the product or service you provide. 4. Routine Foot Dragging Symptoms: Person has no drive or enthusiasm and is just going through the motions.
Cure: Become interested in providing customer service and perform the job with enthusiasm or find something else you would be interested in doing for a living. 5. Self-Doubt Syndrome Symptoms: Person is always questioning his or her ability to meet the requirements of the customer. Cure: Develop better understanding of the needs of the customer and what you need to do to meet these requirements. 96 Handout 16. 1: Customer Service Diseases (continued) 6. Tuned Out Symptoms: The person does not pay attention to what is going on with the customer or what he or she has to say. Cure: Try listening to the customer for a change.
Focus your undivided attention on what the customer has been trying to tell you. 7. Drab Routine Symptoms: Person provides customer service that is unexciting, predictable, common, colorless, sleepy, flat, or, in a word, BORING! Cure: Break out of your drab routine. Try something new and exciting for a change. Provide the customer with service that will really get his or her attention. 97 17 Buying Personalities PURPOSE To describe a number of types of traits or characteristics that might be observed when dealing with customers. DESCRIPTION Various profiles of personalities of potential buyers are described in this activity.
After each personality is presented, an action plan is provided for dealing with that type of buyer. TIME 25 minutes RESOURCES Handout 17. 1 PRESENTATION 1. Introduce the activity by explaining that there are many different types of people and personalities that we encounter when we deal with customers. 2. This activity is designed to review a number of the general traits or characteristics of these diverse personalities that participants might encounter as they provide service to the customer. 3. After reviewing each of the buying personalities, as described in Handout 17. 1, discuss each suggested action plan with participants. . Ask participants to share their experiences with the group and offer any advice they may have on how to deal more effectively with these various buying personalities. 99 Handout 17. 1 Characteristics of Various Buying Personalities 1. The Timid Prospect Characteristics: This customer is typically nervous and unsure of him- or herself. They are very knowledgeable about the product or service that he or she is trying to purchase and are worried about making a wrong buying decision. Action Plan: Be supportive and reassuring. Lead this person to make a buying decision, but take the time necessary to make this ustomer comfortable. Don’t try to rush this customer or you will easily scare him or her away. Take the time to educate this type of customer about your product or service. 2. The “Put-it-Off”er Characteristics: This is the type of customer who hates to make decisions. They always say, “I want to think about it,” when it comes time to close a sale. They always seem to want to know what else might be available to them. They tend to view indecision as a good decision. Action Plan: Point o