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What Message Do Your Actions Give Employees?


Actions speak louder than words, and in business, this is no exception. I’ve read many news articles since the election that revolve around companies putting layoffs into place since Obama was re-elected. The main reason cited in these articles surrounds “Obamacare” – simply put, these companies are stating that they will have to layoff employees or cut work hours of current employees so as not to have to cover insurance, stating that it will cost more than they can afford.


I can understand their frustration in this regard, if it is true. If companies are faced with additional cost, they may have to make some tough decisions. However, what caught my attention is that I read an article on Friday about a larger company who stated these exact sentiments, yet over the weekend I viewed several commercials with high profile spokespeople for the very same company. I know advertising isn’t cheap, and it is necessary, BUT…..


What message are you sending to your employees? We need to make cuts, but we’re not going to change our advertising spend. In fact, we’re going to cut your hours or completely eliminate your job. That sends a message that bringing customers in is more important than the employees a company hires.


It may not be that simple, or that cut and dried, but it does send a message.


In another newsworthy item this weekend, I came across an article that talked about a drug store chain that spent several thousand dollars on advertising to bring customers in to their stores. While it worked well, and people came in to redeem the sales in the ad, there were issues with redemption of the offer, and employees (and managers) were not able to honor the offer because of a simple glitch that no one had the authority to fix. From what I understand, it made many customers unhappy, some vowing never to return to the store.  While all of this money was spent getting people into the store, not enough funds were focused on employees and providing them training and tools necessary to fully assist customers. I’m sure it was not their intent, but they set up the employees to fail. That sent a message too, intended or not; the company was focused on increased sales without making sure their front line employees were able to be successful and provide the service customers expect.


The economy has been rough, to say the least, for the last several years, but your employees are the face of your business. While it’s true that they are valued, and you could not run your business without them, it’s wise to make decisions focused on thinking through what message you may be sending to your employees. Empowered employees with strong morale will help you meet your goals. After all, you can bring in thousands of customers a day, but if your front line isn’t able or willing to provide great customer service, everyone loses.



Don’t Sell To Unhappy Customers

Timing can be everything in sales sometimes…knowing when to sell and when not to can make a big difference.

I recently had an experience that made me think about this idea. We all know that it’s easier to sell to existing customers than it is to new or potential customers; however, selling to your customers needs to be well timed to be effective.

Last week I was having trouble with my phone and internet services. I had a frustrating morning of dropped calls and the internet randomly going down. I tried all the things I could on my end before turning to the company that handles both of our services. I opted for the chat feature, since I have historically been able to resolve any issues that way and could talk with them while continuing to get some stuff done.

When I chatted with the representative, things were going okay – she was working to troubleshoot for me to find the source of the problem. After a few false starts and me expressing my frustration over the situation, she mentioned that she could do a system refresh, which would take a few minutes. I would lose phone and internet access during that time. That was fine, because I needed to get this resolved and would do anything to make that happen, though I was getting increasingly frustrated by my looming pile of work that was stacking up.

She nicely explained that she would be starting soon and to wait until she returned to the chat to indicate that everything was reset. A few minutes later, I noticed a new message from the representative… was a sales pitch for a new service they are offering!

I was a bit taken aback by this, and I’m certain it was some type of automated sales chat, similar to what you would hear if you were on the phone and put on hold. It surprised me that they would use this messaging with a customer that was not really happy with the service they are already getting. That was not the time to try to sell additional services to me, a currently dissatisfied customer.

Timing is everything – you want to sell additional services when the time is right, and when the customer is happy. Otherwise, you may not only not get the additional sale, but it could be the one thing that pushes a customer from dissatisfaction to leaving you all together.

Just some food for thought.


The 9 Circles of Customer Service Hell


We’ve all been there and can relate – we have a customer service experience that makes us want to bang our head on a wall and never, ever do business with a company again.


What are the 9 circles of customer service hell? As you read this list, created by Jay Steinfeld in an Inc. publication, see how many you find yourself nodding to vigorously…


  1. The never-ending voice mail phone tree
  2. The requirement to repeat your name, account number, etc., ad infinitum
  3. Hold, hold, hold
  4. The ominous sound, mid-conversation, of the dial tone
  5. The disappearing clerk
  6. The line that’s always 20 people deep
  7. The agent who doesn’t understand your question
  8. The “I’m sorry, but I don’t have the authority to do that” response
  9. The clerk who’s busy texting someone who’s clearly more important than you


All of these items are particularly troublesome, but there are some items on this list that are more eye gauging than others as they relate to customer service:


1. Voice mail tree: what was supposed to be an efficiency in business has become problematic in many respects. Most disturbing are the voice activated voice mail trees. I’m not sure if I speak too softly, or having speech issues I’m unaware of, but I find these to be the most frustrating – I end up having to yell at the voice mail system to make them understand, sometimes to be told by the automated attendant that I’m interrupting and should be patient before giving an answer.


Solution: employ mystery shoppers to place typical calls to your business to navigate your voice mail system to find out what’s working and what isn’t. By mirroring typical customer needs via telephone, you can pinpoint areas that need improvement. Similarly, you can use a hot transfer feedback option that, if a caller successfully navigates the voice mail tree, can leave their feedback at the end of the call.


2.  The requirement to repeat your name, account number, and other identifying information multiple times: I’ve seen this from time to time in the service industry, but have noticed it most often in the medical industry. I recently took my daughter to a new doctor. After spending 15 minutes filling out all of the required forms, we were ushered into the examination room, only to find the nurse seated at a computer waiting to ask the same questions I just filled out so she could enter them into the computer. Surely there’s a better way to do this!


Solution: survey your front line staff, the ones who are responsible for the day to day aspects of your business. They may feel as frustrated as customers do with some of the data collection gathering and might have solutions to streamline the process. Coupling employee and customer feedback may give insight into ways to make the process smoother all around, which gives employees the opportunity to serve more customers and keep satisfaction at a strong level.


3. Employees who don’t have the authority to make decisions: how often do you hear this? “I’d love to help you, but I don’t have the authority to do that.” While they may be able to find a supervisor who can help, it’s just one more touchpoint a customer has to deal with, and wait for, which can harm customer perception.


Solution: empower your employees to make certain decisions on their own to help customers quickly and within one conversation. Find the most common customer issues, the best ways to handle these issues, and train your staff on troubleshooting. Help them ask the right questions and collect enough information to make an informed decision on how to best satisfy the customer. Go one extra step and give them the ability to make that decision and help the customer without needing to go through a supervisor.


While this won’t work with every case, and some situations will require help from a supervisor, giving employees the power to make decisions for the more routine situations can go a long way in customer satisfaction.


Do you have any circles of hell you’d like to add? What is the most frustrating customer service aspect you’ve come across? Feel free to share and join in the conversation!