Sunday, October 24, 2021

Two Reasons Why Priority Numbers Demonstrate the Wrong Priority

Let's forget the fact that you have already read the title of this post.....

What do banks, airlines, retail stores, vanity clinics, shipping, restaurants, pharmacies, schools, electric utilities, water utilities, cable companies, government offices, hospitals, and a long list of organizations added every year have in common?

Can you guess? 

Many customer service managers swear its the greatest invention ever introduce in customer service.

Are we getting closer?

Here's another hint....

In spite of the fact they tell you it will get you served promptly and quickly it never does.

It comes in many forms, materials, and sizes.

It attracts almost everybody's attention except the person who is supposed to give you the attention.

Ok....let's get it over with.....

It's a priority number.

Banks use it....airlines use it.....retail stores have get it....

Personally, I hate it. I have worked in customer service for almost twenty years. The use of priority numbers never came up as an alternative in improving customer service.

There are two and I have only these two reasons why I would not use priority numbers to improve any customer service response process or program.

Reason Number One
Priority numbers give your people a false sense that they have started the customer service process. Giving or offering customers a paper, cardboard, plastic or even a disc bearing a number gives frontline service people the feeling that they have already started serving customers.

My first example and usually a more common one is the experience I have with banks. Bank tellers give me the impression that tellering is a process that seems to have a universal intent of socially or psychologically disconnecting service staff from the essence of customers. They can't seem to look at you in the eyes or even give you a passing glance even when you are in front of them.

My first experience of holding a priority number myself was when I accompanied my mom to buy airplane tickets. After you get the number, frontline staff just totally ignore you.

Frontline personnel probably have this conversation in their heads that since we (the Customer) already have a number they can proceed to step two which says: "I'll get to you when it pleases me" or "I'll get to you after I get back from lunch". Since there's a likelihood of 9 out of 10 this service staff don't like people in general, this can be a really long wait for you (the Customer).

Just recently, I walked into a retail store that specializes in computer accessories (one of many big chains of similar kind). After stepping in I stayed right in front of one of the many service counters in a room of seven sales staff. I was the third customer with two already lining up on one of the counters.

The second customer (a lady) told me to get one of those recycled compact discs with a big number on it because they won't serve you unless you get a priority number. I guess the staff was very serious about the numbers because there were seven of them in the store. Nobody thought of just calling the second lady and serve her since she already has Number Two on her hand.

I called out to a guy in the other counter across the one I was lining up to and the response he shouted back was to get a priority number. I responded by just telling the guy that there's at least five of them doing nothing. Why can't they just ask me what I need and if they don't have it, then I can just leave. The guy still insist on me getting a number and then he turns his back to go back to what he was doing (which is nothing).

Maybe I am downright condescending or just totally dumb but I had a distinct feeling that these sales counter people were made to believe the following:
  • Customers generally cannot count beyond five.
  • Customers do not understand that numbers on disc are very important to customer service.
  • Customers do not care about recycling compact discs that is why they don't know what the priority number is for.
  • Customers have no idea that what comes after two is three and so on.
  • Customers are supposed to follow the sequence of numbers displayed and flashing on light-emitting diodes.
  • Customers can only be served by sales staff directly in front of them.
May be you can add some more to these theories and assumptions. I think some genius in these retail organizations just invented the best customer service process for dummies.

Reason Number Two
A priority number in the hand of a Customer is a contradiction in terms. Although the primary purpose is to prioritize (taken from the word "priority") service  to Customers, the exact opposite is what Customers actually perceive, feel and experience on a regular basis. 

When I enter an organization and see a number dispensing device, I actually don't feel that I will be served. The first feeling I will have is I will be staying on some bench or standing in some corner to wait indefinitely. This trend has not change for at least  30 years of my life.

I have waited on many benches from social security offices, hospitals, business permit counters, trade name registration, clinics, bus stations, and even in a pizza parlor.

Priority numbers are never reassuring. It only tells me one thing consistently----wait and bear it.

One incident about priority numbers that really push this concept to the "hilt" happened in a government-managed hospital. I never forgot this incident because it made headlines in a local daily newspaper.

A man bleeding walked in with a really long knife stuck in his back. Apparently and obviously (well I thought it was obvious to the nurse in the Emergency Section then) the man was stabbed from behind and the assailant probably did not have time to pull out the knife from the man's back.

The first thing the nurse did (of course) is to ask the man to get a priority number and fill up a form. Even today for some reason, I still can't get my head around the fact that for an organization dedicated to saving human lives, this extreme mutation of callousness can come in the form of a customer service process or patient care process (a fancy name).

I thought medical professionals have this hypocritical, hypocritical, or hypo-allergenic oath that they subscribe to. It's kind of hard to remember these terms when institutions don't really mean to follow anything written on them.

If you are even remotely considering doing this in your own store (or hospital), I suggest you walk into and line up (short of being stabbed from behind) inside the store of your nearest or worst competitor. It doesn't matter which. You just need a perspective. This perspective is called "shooting yourself in the foot".

If you still don't get it, I suggest not getting a gun. There's a fire ax nearby somewhere inside your own store....

........break glass....

......take axe...and then.....

....drop it on your foot.

If you're a bit hurt that I might be inadvertently referring to your enterprise I apologize about the ax in your store....

I would like to sincerely help you with that ax.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Know What You Want From Advertising

There's this prevailing myth that advertising sells. I personally would want to believe this. Imagine the cost you'll save if you don't have to go through all that recruitment, training, and paying wages to get people to sell.

For salespeople who earn solely on commissions, they would wish that advertising actually sells anything. Salespeople know that the launch of every new ad campaign is merely an opportunity to ride on a short burst of interest for their offering.

Selling door to door is as common today as it was 50 years ago.

If you take extra effort to look at books and sales training materials now and 50 years ago, you'll find out that the training outline hasn't changed much.

Even the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical and medical industry still rely mainly on door-to-door selling.

The amount of business cards and free sample products on a typical doctor's clinic is a clear demonstration of how pervasive is door-to-door selling in this industry.

Unless any form of advertising tool or device actually delivers a product and accepts payment, I suggest sticking to direct selling. Advertising outfits or agencies will make you believe that whatever they are doing is actually selling.

Very few people creating those ad campaigns in advertising actually do selling and very few still actually sell their services by advertising.

You may not believe this but most advertising agencies still use the old method of advertising: door-to-door selling.

Don't you think it's funny that a business creating advertising doesn't actually use advertising to sell their business?

I actually find it monumentally stupid that some businesses actually pay so much for a press conference to launch an advertising campaign that will "supposedly" sell a new product.

Most of these types of launching are really more appropriate for mass-produced consumer goods.

You see all these VIPs from the company together with advertising executives making speeches, making a toast, cheering, and congratulating themselves after "unveiling" a big screen that will give you a preview of the advertising campaign.

Advertising in mass-produced consumer items requires a consistent and ever-increasing amount of investment. Competition for customer attention is keen in these markets.

There is so much noise and clutter created by this keen competition that all the players in even the smallest industries cannot help but invest in advertising whether they believe it works or not.

Even when I was in advertising, I always believe that advertising impact should be measured in some way.

Unless your brand is as popular as tap water to the whole of humanity, you have to selfishly define what you need to accomplish with every advertising copy you approve for release. By the way, today even drinking water is sold under dozens of brands through advertising.

There are two (2) advertising media you have to watch out for: newspaper and radio advertisement. As a small enterprise, the cost of a TV ad maybe too way off your comfort zone.

In a newspaper ad, you will need a certain visual impact and readability.

Notice that I did not use visual appeal.

I use visual impact and readability.

You can use visual appeal on billboards but the same material may not be so appealing as a full-page ad on a newspaper because the whole paper only shows black, white, and grey.

You may argue that there is already color in some newspapers today. Yes there is color but it's going to cost you from 25% to 50% more per color. You have to ask yourself: Will the additional color with its accompanying cost guarantee a certain level of return on investment in terms of actual sales?

The timing of your newspaper ad is important.

You may have to do a little detective work on what days in a week your target audience actually read their paper. Of course, you have to know what local daily they actually buy or subscribe to.

You also have to decide if you are going to use newspaper ads on a regular basis.

Newspapers brag about their circulation in thousands per day. This figure actually indicates how many copies of their paper actually go out to both street buyers and subscribers.

Don't get impressed by their figures just yet. These figures may not have any impact on the kind of audience you want.

Let's assume the local daily has a circulation of 45,000 a day.

They quote 1200 bucks for advertising space for your advertising copy. They will make a sales pitch of translating this cost to about 3 cents per exposure.

They get this by dividing the cost of advertising space by the total daily circulation which is 1200 over 45,000.

I don't use this formula in measuring my cost.

I measure my advertising cost in real terms.

I usually get about three (3) ads in a week to not only get exposure but also to test the cost of the ad in real terms. This also works well if you already know how much it costs to acquire a new customer.

When I was marketing short courses for Microsoft Office and Network Administration, I measure results by actually documenting the calls made as a direct result of a newspaper ad.

I know that it takes about 75 bucks at least to get a new customer to sign up for a course. This cost includes salespeople's time, pamphlets, registration forms, and other things that eventually lead to a customer shelling out his cash for the course.

The local daily has a circulation of 15000 per day. We took an ad that cost us about 5,000 bucks but it advertised not just one course but the whole line of computer training brands.

It went out on a Sunday. From Monday to Saturday of the next week it recorded 680 calls in direct response to the ad.

The actual cost per inquiry from customers is 7 bucks and 35 cents!

Since only 32 actually signed up, my actual cost of generating new customers is 156 bucks and 25 cents.

Remember that my usual cost of acquiring new customers is 75 bucks. This tells me that it will cost me 100% more per new customer if I continue to use newspaper ads to acquire customers.

You must also view this cost from another perspective.

It is not the ad that actually made people sign up.

It's the person handling the phone inquiry trained specifically to close sales over the phone that made the sign-up for the courses possible.

If the objective of the ad is simply to create enough interest to make people call and make inquiries, the ad campaign was a great success.

It took only 7 bucks and 35 cents per inquiry. The profit margin for only 15 people signing up was 7500 bucks.

You can actually apply this formula to radio advertisements.

The difference between a radio ad and a newspaper ad is that you can test the audio copy of the ad before you broadcast it.

I usually define the following objectives for my newspaper and radio ads:
  • induce the reader or listener to call and inquire
  • register for the service or product advertised via phone
  • make reservations via phone
  • ask for the freebies (if the ad is promising freebies)
  • capture specific information about prospects or callers
  • walk into the store and present a cut-out coupon or gift certificate
  • log in to the website
  • leave name and email address on a registration web page
  • download a free e-book with a return link to our website
Go through the above list. I have not included selling as one of the objectives. Until recently most conventional advertising does not lend to selling of any kind.

As I said, until recently.


Thursday, October 21, 2021

I'm Giving You a Free eBook: The Four Tasks To Do to Access & Use Your LinkedIn Connection Data

I started out on LinkedIn in 2004, I was just curious then.

Didn’t have many expectations and it took me a couple of weeks in fact to complete my profile.

After I completed my profile, friends and colleagues started seeing me online. Even colleagues so far away from home now living in places like New Zealand, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Middle East and even some parts of Africa I’m not so familiar with started getting in touch.

At that time the opportunity to write and to publish was through invitation. I suspected that anyone with an “All-Star” status was invited.

Quite exciting then.

From a network of fewer than 30 members limited only to people I personally know, my network grew.

Even then I was still selective in terms of accepting who should be in my network. Even though I did get a few consulting engagements through LinkedIn I still did not use it the way most do.

I largely tap LinkedIn as a source of learning and personal development. I specially choose people who can make me a better person, a better consultant, and a better advocate of development.

You will have your own reasons for being on LinkedIn.

You have to grow it before it can make sense to you or be useful to you.

I’m not going to speculate how useful it will be. My job in writing this e-book is to help you access your connection data and hopefully make you productive.

I hope it serves your purpose well.

Please subscribe to the eBook now to get access!

Download Now!

Wait for an email providing you a link to the eBook in portable digital format.

Download Now!

Friday, June 04, 2021

Customer Service and LinkedIn

Establishing customer or corporate public expectations through your professional profile is a sound approach if you are a CEO or a consultant communicating what you can do for your stakeholders. 

The usual way of broadcasting your profile is either inserting it in your corporate profile, your business plan or do a mass mailer of your resume (which is bordering towards narcissism). 

Or simply build a website that broadcast all the good stuff about yourself (which may also be considered narcissistic).

Your profile is really your resume.

Your resume is the comprehensive kit or advertising material you will need to put your best foot forward.

To do this you will have to provide substantial information about you that is relevant to the job you're applying for.  

Don't do an information overload by cramming everything about you in your resume.

It must be simple to be beautiful and logically organized to make sense to your prospective reader.

We are all familiar with the importance of resumes when applying for a job. There are really more to resumes than just selling yourself during a job application. 

You need to always remind yourself what you have become, what knowledge and skills you have acquired, and what you have achieved not only as a professional but as a person.

It is the reason why you have to update your resume at least once a year or preferably when a new year starts.

It can be a good morale booster if you're down and figuring out what will be the next step in your career or in your life.

Generally, when you draft your business plan and submit it to investors, banks, venture capitalists, etc., you will most likely be asked to back up your management profile with either your resume or the resume of your partners or managers.

It is just logical.

If you claim you can pull off what you were talking about in your business plan, the least you can show them is what knowledge, experience, and skills you have to be able to pull it off.

The resume will do just that.

If you are into a consulting business, you will need to advertise your experience, the projects you have handled, and the problems you have solved.

The resume will even be more significant once you have to create a short description of your background for a book you will be writing.

(Ever notice the short group of text that gives the background of the author just below the author's picture.)

Personally, the best thing that happened to me in terms of broadcasting my resume or professional profile is LinkedIn.

If you have not heard of LinkedIn yet, it is one of the largest business networks online to meet professionals, business leaders, and colleagues.

It is a channel for you to build relationships and find opportunities for yourself. I have been a member of LinkedIn since 2004. 

I have kept in touch with former customers, colleagues, friends, classmates, and even former students in LinkedIn.

What is it you will see in LinkedIn? Let me give you a short preview.....

Home page is where I see updates happening within my network like friends or members getting new jobs or promotions, articles written or endorsed by members, professional endorsement from network members, people I may know that are not yet within my personal network, etc.

Your Profile page is basically a good preview of your professional profile or your "living resume".

It's a living resume because LinkedIn always prompts you to improve your resume or update it.

There's the My Network page where you see everybody that you have linked with (or you have Linked In) since you became a member. This is your professional network. This is like a directory of all the people you have related to within LinkedIn since you established yourself in the network.

The Jobs page is where corporate members post job openings in their respective companies. If you use LinkedIn primarily for career growth, this is the page you will look at very often. I seldom visit this page, but whenever I do it gives me a preview of the companies that are expanding based on the scope and quality of the job openings being advertised periodically.

The Messaging page is where you can communicate to members of your network. It works just like any other messaging service but only works with people within your network.

The Notification page is where you get updates from members of your network like articles they've written, news about their careers, and updates from LinkedIn (updates from you included).

It is on LinkedIn that I have re-established relationships with former colleagues and customers. These are the people I thought I will never get to meet again. I'm not really meeting them again but it is the next best thing because now we communicate regularly and even share a lot of things professionally. You get sound advice from them occasionally.

If you are a first-time user or visitor, the features in the network can be confusing or maybe a bit intimidating. The roster of members in LinkedIn is quite impressive and just being within their network beholds many possibilities and opportunities either as a marketer, customer, leader, mentor, or student.

I distinctly remembered not being able to write anything on my profile for several weeks after I registered. Today, it won't be that intimidating anymore to new users or visitors. There's now a manual available to help you or walk you through the process of being a member, preparing your online resume, and establishing your own network in LinkedIn.

The manual is entitled....

"Learn LinkedIn: How to Build your Living Resume"

The manual will teach you how to set yourself up on LinkedIn (if you are not a registered member yet!). Once you have set up yourself up on LinkedIn you can establish your account and start developing your own "living resume" in an easy step-by-step process. The manual will walk you through a lot of must-know tips and information to ensure you don't make mistakes. For old-time users like me, it will also recommend new tricks to enhance my living resume.

During my time, we did not have this manual, so I was actually adding, deleting, more adding, and more deleting of information in my resume. Even today, I'm still updating it and enhancing it to reflect things I have been doing and achieving through the years.

The manual will spare you the agony I have to go through updating my resume. It eliminates the trial and error of enhancing your professional profile like I did. Well, there's always room for improving your profile on LinkedIn.

Before I forget, here is the page where you can download the manual.....I hope it helps you like it did me...

Learn LinkedIn: How to Build your Living Resume

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The 20 Customer Service Facts You Should Know

In my more than ten years in the service business and information technology, I have come to accept 20 facts in my customer service world.

You may think otherwise about these facts, but I always get in trouble when I take for granted any one of them.

I also noticed that the more conscious I am about these facts, the better I manage my team, the more refined are the customer service trainings I designed, and the more proactive my approaches to customer service becomes.

One of the best bonuses I get is that I seldom get unresolved issues haunting me in the future.

Here are my 20 Customer Service Facts:

1. If you keep tabs on your resolution rates related to complaining Customers, you will find out that less than 10% of dissatisfied Customers will actually file a complaint or let you know about it.

This is one reason why I always make it a commandment in my sales or customer support teams to call the Customer 3 or 5 days after delivery or completion of service.

You should not wait for them to tell someone else about the problem before you have a chance to know about it.

Most problems really are just a result of a Customer not being educated enough to harness the benefits from your product or service.

Show them how!

Besides, if your service or product provides him or his company an edge, why would he tell his next-door neighbor why he has the edge.

He knows his competitor is going to get hold of it somehow, he just doesn't want it happening anytime soon.

2. 300% more people will know about your bad service from dissatisfied Customers than your good service from satisfied customers.

Salespeople have always observed this pattern about Customers.

If you are not that keen yet about this trend better watch out because you might end up hearing it from your competition after he gets your Customer.

Worst! He gets your biggest Customer.

This is one fact that is not funny when it's eating up your market.

You will lose Customers and it's usually too late to know why.

If your Customer is a member of an association or a club, you can bet that half of the members already know about the bad news.

You can also bet that nobody will hear a whisper about how you have dealt with the problem later on.

But that's a different story altogether.

3. Although Customers seldom make their complaints known, dissatisfied Customers will most likely find and meet Customers with the same experience.

They will talk more about the problem and will tend to attract more people who will listen.

This explains the previous fact.

Haven't you noticed that you tend to have more listeners with bad news than good ones?

The uglier it is, the more glued the audience will be.

You always find more headlines with ugly...No horrible news than happy ones when you watch TV.

You notice one other thing. You never turn the TV off!

You're glued!

4. If you can resolve an issue or fix a problem of a complaining Customer, 80% of this kind of Customers will come back and will most likely make a purchase again.

You will increase this percentage to 90% if you act immediately upon notice of the complaint.

Logic would have told us that if you mess up, you should get fired like a service provider or supplier.

You don't get fired. You get 8 out 10 of them coming back!


In a crisis or if some problem comes up, this is the only opportunity you have of showing a Customer that there is an organization, process and people behind your service or product.

This is assuming you indeed have an organization, process or people behind your service or product.

By solving the problem the Customer sees you at work.

They see procedures being followed.

They get calls.

They get interviewed about a problem.

And, they see real people, not machines doing something for them.

They see. They don't hear about it or get told about it.

They clearly see action in progress.

This action in progress allows your Customer to size you up.

Know what you can do. See your capabilities.

This is why I firmly believe that an opportunity to serve under these conditions should not be passed up.

5. No technology can be a substitute for human interaction.

Even if the technology is the only contact with Customers, certain needs will eventually require some form of human contact.

Human physiology will always seek out some form of affective human interaction.

Have you heard about the "crib syndrome" that afflicts only infants?

It's been suspected that this syndrome normally happens if the baby does not experience a nurturing environment or more specifically human touch.

As early as infancy, human physiology already exhibits the craving for human touch.

6. Treating Customers badly for any reason will eventually carry costs and consequences.

I don't believe in karma or all that esoteric beliefs.

I do believe in action and consequent reaction.

As early as high school, you've been introduced to this concept in Physics.

Human beings have a funny way of getting back at you.

Animals are more predictable because we already know how predictable or unpredictable they are.

Human beings are complex. Even if you understand their habits they don't behave exactly as expected in the same situation all the time.

When you hurt a Customer by not serving him or her well, you will be remembered.

It has nothing to do with selling principles or organization. It has to do with human nature. Pain has a way of making our memory sharper and our recall more instinctive.

The reckoning will come. It may not be now.

It will come!

More than 10 years of dealing with Customers made me a believer in this phenomenon of eventual reckoning.

7. Your reputation and credibility are directly proportional to the quality of your service and eventually to the quality of your Customer relations.

If you have good customer service, you tend to have more people talking and hearing about it. Quite naturally, you tend to have more customers. It is just consequential that you will have some kind of reputation. Hopefully, you have a great reputation rather than a bad one.

Find or better yet develop the right process and team to ensure that you nurture a good relationship with your customers. The stronger your relationship with customers, the more solid and enduring will be your reputation and credibility.

Your reputation is built on the relationship you keep. Who is more inclined to believe you than people or organizations who know you--Your Customers.

8. The environment in which you will establish good impressions with Customers on first contact will always be stacked against you.

Remember that the Customer is the person who sets the time, the date, the place, and the agenda of the visit (if you let him).

If the Customer tells you to see him in his office or place of work, he again controls the atmosphere and physical environment.

It is rare that the Customer will see you all excited about what you are about to say unless of course he initiates the call or asks for the appointment.

The necessity of creating the first impression is lesser if the Customer initiates the call or meeting.

The Customer has more or less a clear grasp of what he wants from the meeting. He expects you to validate his wants or needs.

Normally, if the customer initiates the call he would already have a certain level or scale of expectations. It's like already having 100 bonus points in his pocket for you. What you do or don't do during the meeting will just give him an incentive to keep the 100 bonus points for you or take out 5 points here, 10 points there until you got just about 50 bonus points to nothing.

If you're initiating the call, what you are really doing is grunt work. I don't care if you have undergone gazillions of sales training. If you are initiating the visit or call, everything is stacked up against you.

Good luck!

9. Sophisticated Customer service or retention programs fail simply because it lacks appreciation of the universal principle of good business and good manners.

Most support services for computer systems are failing in their service ratings not because their core services are bad it's because they lack the common sense to do the simple things.

Service call requests coming in by phone are not handled well.

Customers complain that they keep repeating themselves to people at the other end of the line.

Service personnel can not remember the details of their complaints.

Customers' repaired units are delivered with films of dust on their surface. Smudges of greasy fingerprints on clean surfaces.

Service personnel forgot to take their trash with them or fail to return the Customer's equipment in its proper place.

Common sense dictates that you treat Customers the way you expect others to treat your daughter, son, wife, or mother. Of course, you will find this far from any form of common sense if you are a wife-beater or child molester.

It's the reason why I always choose happy people with lots of high self-esteem after I pick them out for their common sense.

Happy people tend to have a better disposition and are easier to train. They tend to handle stress better especially those created by customer interaction.

10. In an existing Customer service program, you will lose your best employee especially those with sound judgment first, (followed by the team if he is a team leader) if you don't nurture the right working environment.

Good workers especially those with sound judgment and really competent ones know what is a healthy working environment for them and their team. These are the people who are not afraid to leave when they think things are not right for them, for their colleagues, and their customers.

These are the kind of people who can easily build a strong relationship with customers.

There's also one good thing about these types of employees. Team members tend to be loyal to them if they become team leaders or are team leaders. They will do almost anything for them. This is usually the reason why you tend to lose your best team members right after the team leader leaves.

Take care of your team.

Create the best working environment for them especially after the launch of a successful campaign (any campaign!).

Rewards must be tailored to what motivates your team.

Remember this: Money may be the best reason for taking on a job but it is seldom the first or significant reason for leaving one.

Team leaders (the Good Ones!) who conduct their own exit interviews of team members who leave will seldom hear money as the reason for leaving a job. If your team member refuses an exit interview with you, you are probably the reason for leaving the company or the team.

11. The people who should be convinced about your value proposition and your Customer service program should be the very people who will deliver the proposition and manage the program in the first place.

If the frontline staff themselves do not believe or have little faith in the company's customer service program, you cannot expect them to deliver the quality of service expected by customers.

On a staff-to-customer level, the customer service staff will have little empathy and will generally have little motivation to go the "extra" mile to help customers.

Frontline staff who do not believe in the very service they deliver will have no motivation to give the company feedback and in most instances will generally "conceal" the actual conditions prevailing in the field.

You must have a credible customer service program. The kind that make sense to your own people.

12. The sincerity of any Customer service program is directly proportional to the cohesiveness and effectiveness of the support teams involved in its management.

A company that is confident in the capability of its service team don't worry so much about their service contracts. Service teams that deliver according to customer standards seldom get the opportunity to handle customer complaints because problems never get out of hand too often to become a customer's problem.

You must invest time, training, tools, and other resources to make your team cohesive and effective.

If you have an honest-to-goodness customer service program you will spend more time making your customer support teams more effective rather than tinkering around with the waiver" or "non-liability" clause of your service contracts.

I have seen so many service contracts in my career from really good to really "plain paper useless". There are contracts that have so many waivers and clauses to pre-empt damage suits that it practically ties the hands of service personnel even if they sincerely want to help customers.

And let me add that the sincerity of any Customer Service program is also directly proportional to the distance of the CEOs office to the company's legal counsel. You really and truly are sincere if you see your lawyer less and less about customer issues.

Companies with dismal customer service performance have lawyers busy either suing customers for unpaid bills or are defending themselves against consumer rights litigation or non-performance liabilities.

13. A problem or Customer complaint is an opportunity to do better and to reinforce your Customer service policy and program.

Nothing can subject a customer service program to the most rigid acid test but a live customer making a legitimate complaint.

A good service program kicks in almost automatically upon the first contact with a complaining customer. Information about the complaint is immediately gathered while the customer's profile and details of the related purchase is reviewed. An account manager is immediately informed and made accessible to the customer.

The whole chain of events from the first receipt of the customer contact will show the customer real people acting on the complaint. The customer will be able to discern from the flurry of activities that a system is in place to assist him. Support people return calls to customers and provide feedback on the steps taken to resolve the issue.

14. A review of actions to respond to complaints from dissatisfied Customers will provide an opportunity to look into your company's internal process related to Customer Service or service delivery.

This is supposed to be a very obvious conclusion but surprisingly most of the processes to support customer complaints were not really designed to resolve issues. More often the process is really a complex procedure to either evade responding or discourage Customers from lodging their complaints or raising issues.

A bad process even if reviewed a hundred times is still a bad process. No amount of review will change the outcome of a bad process. Ever heard of "garbage in, garbage out"?

Good service providers know that the key to delivering good service every time is the quality of the core service, the process, the tools, and the team.

When a unique incident, issue, or problem comes up to test your process, a review must immediately be conducted to find out how the process responded. Did each of the components seamlessly work from one sub-process to another? Is there a bottleneck or glitch somewhere? What conditions led to the glitch?

This is supposed to be really common sense unfortunately this "review" is not really that common.

Now we hear about quality control circles, process improvement, ISO that basically starts their methods with a review of the process. Today they call it fancy names like quality assessment, quality audit, system assessment, system audit, process assessment, and all that high-sounding terms which are really designed more to make consultant's work appear complex and their costly bills easier to swallow.

15. The finer is your definition of market niche the more focused your Customer service will be.

This may not come from common sense, but marketers should already realize that the more clearly you understand your customer, the more specialized you tend to design your services around their needs. This will eventually lead to a more defined set of distinct services for just a specific need.

A good example of this is the way Internet service providers have evolved. Before, there was really no distinction between a person using Internet services in the office and those using the Internet at home. Now, you have corporate accounts, the home market, and even mobile users.

Service providers, at least the most dynamic ones, are learning that they can no longer offer a smorgasbord of services and attach a single price tag for all types of customers. Customers now truly perceive a value relevant to their unique situation and buy in only from providers who can understand this perceived value.

Service providers, fortunately for customers, are no longer having a "me-too" pricing strategy. They know that those who get the price pegged right the first time dominate a niche almost rapidly especially in a service that is technology-driven.

Marketers are now fine-tuning their ability to define their niche not from a concept of who is a customer but from data taken from a customer base that they now own. This enables marketers to develop products and services that are more focused.

16. The more complex is your offering the broader will be the scope of your Customer service programs.

Some customer service programs are actually born out of a service concept catering to a broader customer profile. In essence, the definition of the service is a consequence of an assumption that the customer has multi-level and multi-faceted needs. The result is a process that accommodates so many contingencies.

The customer service program is not really one homogeneous program but a complex combination of sub-programs intended to respond to different customer needs.

This condition is not inherently bad. The real issue is capital expenditure and logistical requirements. An organization that has an abundance of knowledge resources and other resources will not find customer service a real challenge even if it has a complex offering.

The challenge is how to cover a broad spectrum of customer needs without wearing yourself too thin.

17. Between a prospect and a Customer, a Customer can do more damage to you by simply not doing anything.

In terms of value, a prospect has zero Customer Value. He is not a Customer, he is still a prospect. You have already invested in a Customer, that investment will go to waste if the Customer stops interacting.

I had a Customer covered by a maintenance contract for their mainframe computer. When he came across a problem related to our service, he simply allowed the contract to lapse.

This provided an opening for a competing service provider to offer an alternative.

He got our proposal for renewal and just sat on it for more than 30 days.

See, the Customer simply did nothing and I still lost the account.

18. The foundation and institutionalization of a good Customer service program hinge on the creation of a seamless process and the systematic documentation of each key component to ensure consistent delivery and maintenance of quality standards.

If you are having problems keeping your customer service up, you are most likely having the following:

Customers can't understand the terms and conditions of delivery.

Your own people can't seem to understand the terms and conditions of delivery.

Service personnel doesn't seem to follow the same method of initiating service delivery and can't seem to improve their resolution rate or response time.

You keep losing people at a time when they are supposed to be competent enough and can't seem to get the same level and quality of productivity from their replacement.

You are responding to the same form or nature of the complaint at an ever-increasing frequency and still, have your service people getting the response wrong every time.

You can't seem to get your competence training up and running at a level that does not demand too much time from your most senior and experienced team leaders and members.

You don't have the right people for the job.

You're delivering the wrong service to your customer because what you are delivering is not what your customer expects.

Most of these common and irritating issues I have solved by adapting only two (2) key strategies: the creation of a seamless process and systematic documentation.

The identification and creation of tools plus the design and development of truly effective skills training will evolve from these two (2) strategies.

19. Two (2) key roles must be present to perpetuate a seamless process:

The leader will be responsible for the process, and the key person or persons responsible for the results.

The definition, selection, and installation of the right leader for a good team will ensure the integrity of the customer service process. A competent and effective team will ensure that service standards are achieved.

Each member of a team in a process is responsible only for the result of a component of the process assigned to him. The team leader must be responsible for the process end-to-end because he is the one with a broader or overall perspective of the customer service process.

20. When all things are equal and perfect, meaning product, service, process, organizational structure, technology, and communications, your weakest link will be two kinds of people:

The leader is responsible for the integrity of the process; and, the team is responsible for the quality of the results.

The weakest link in any system or process is the human component. This part of the system or process is the less predictable aspect of managing a system or process. People as part of the system are simply the most volatile and also the most dynamic.

The contingencies designed for any system will almost always address the doing or undoing of human nature or its consequence. The only time human nature is less a consideration in contingencies is when the effects of the environment or extreme outcome of natural calamities are factored in.
From the customer service perspective, we focus our attention only on the leader and the team.

It is important that you build a good team and manage it well.

Stick to basics. Choose your team leader well and help him build his team.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Dimension Six: The Team

You now have a good service or product concept.

The delivery of this service or product is clearly defined and understood by everyone. 

You have the right tools to ensure that the service or product is easy to deliver and will be done right all the time.

In spite of competition, you know you have to do it better and in the process make a profit by managing your customer service well.

You have the cash and capital in the right proportion but you cannot do this alone.

If this isn't a business, you will just probably be worrying about punching in and hope nothing messy is going to happen before the day ends.

Unfortunately, this is not a job and you are not a rank-and-file.

The business is going to be managed. It's you or someone else.

You need to deliver your customer service, systems are in place and tools will be use, the whole thing is going to be done over and over, you simply cannot do this alone.

You need a group of people who know what they are doing.

This group will do it because they understand their role in the whole process of customer service.

They are trained to deliver and support customer service.

In all likelihood, they will define the quality standards of delivery, set up the system to support your process, ensure continuity and consistency by documenting your customer service process, and develop the training program for your future staff.

You need a dynamic team!

Why Build a Team

Society is increasing pressure from organizations not only for increased profitability and productivity but also the expectation that organizations must also improve the quality of life.

Business enterprises want profitability; government aims to effectively deliver services; while not-for-profit organizations try to alleviate social or economic inequity including the effective management of the environment.

Whatever the aims the incentive to use human resources as little and as much in the most effective and productive way is great.

Today, the use of teams is gaining ground to answer these aims.

Whether in corporations, in special police teams, in the armed forces or in foundations, the use of teams to deliver cost-effective completion of projects and the assignment of project managers as team leaders will continue to be a primary alternative for project management.

Let's start building your team!

Good Teams

It is not a team if it is not a good team.

So what are the traits of a good team?

Here are the most prominent traits of really good or effective teams:

  • Team members tend to work more effectively together than they would if they were working individually or alone.

  • A clear sense of itself as a special group but still has the capacity to interact positively with other groups in the organization.

  • Communicate clearly with one another and effectively across the organization.

  • Cultivates and negotiates positive assumptions and beliefs among team members.

Just because you have a list of what constitutes a good team, you may think that you can simply go around your organization and pick out a group as a team.

You build teams. You don't stumble into them.

Some actually believe that they can handpick people, designate a leader and give the group a name like Team A to come up with their team.

Like anything else, doing something you know nothing about is worse than doing nothing. Take a surgeon's advice: First, do no harm!

The Team Leader

The team leader can make or break a team just as a team can make or break a project. The challenge to management is electing the best man to fit the shoes of a team leader.

You just can't set any criteria that you like or your comfortable with when defining who will be best suited for the role.

Take time to know and understand a team leader's role in team building and management. The following broad roles should give you a hint:

  • making and keeping the goals clear

  • defining or setting measurable performance

  • managing relationships within and without

  • identifying or creating opportunities for team members

  • building confidence, strengthening commitment, and developing skills
If you want a list of more specific tasks a team leader does, here are some:
  • facilitating and preparing project plans

  • monitoring the progress of team projects

  • preparing reports of team progress

  • managing flow of information across the organizational hierarchy

  • facilitating and acting on behalf of the team to get support and resources from stakeholders

  • keeping track and documenting changes in project specs or team process

  • developing learning systems within the team
Sorry if I'm taking up team management in lesser detail here. This e-book is not for supervisors or team leaders.

The content in this e-book is for the business owners or management executives responsible for managing or developing marketing or customer service programs.

The Members

When choosing the composition of the team or making a selection of members, I prefer basing the selection on the knowledge and skills that each will bring into the team.

A certain degree of expertise or knowledge can help a lot if the team is tasked to undertake a specific function or role whether organizational or project-based.

In a team, one or more may have to possess problem-solving skills and make decisions.

If you work with projects long enough you will realize that most of your team members will acquire a certain level of problem-solving skills as they gain experience.

Of course, it will be a distinct advantage if one of the members have both problem-solving and decision-making skills at the formative stage of team creation.

Members of the team must be able to communicate with each other clearly because communication is the key to making diverse backgrounds work together.

To be able to know what skills are required for the job, you must be able to define the team's objective and the functions that will eventually define its structure.

Define Team Roles Clearly

Knowing your role in projects is almost obvious. In reality, very few things done in projects are the way they are because of being obvious.

Defining roles in projects is important but unfortunately, this is one of the most basic things that a neophyte in projects will almost certainly take for granted.

Defining roles as clearly as possible at the start of the project will save you time and most of all credibility.

Roles must be defined right after selecting and creating the team.

Problems brought about by poor or absence of clear team roles include bad coordination, assignment of the wrong skills to a task, extended deadlines or plain failure to complete deliverables.

What I'm trying to say is you cannot wait for the team members to define their roles or let them evolve.

The function of the team is dependent on the very specific objectives or clearly defined tasks set by the organization.

Management or the team manager must not let the team decide its function or its purpose.

Teams cannot draw guidance from organizational culture. To do so will leave the team lost and can lead to very serious organizational problems.

The most common team function that people see are the type like those actively operating in the manufacturing (or production) and service sectors.

Examples of this type are assembly line teams responsible for a component, software support teams, aircraft maintenance, security teams, or even building maintenance.

Most of the work for these teams is routine or prescribed by a regular flow of activities or tasks. Because of the nature of the work, almost all are full-time workers.

It may not be strange to find out that most of the members of this type of team have worked together for many years.

Since the profile of the work does not change drastically, this form of team function allows team members to manage and to organize their own work.

Another team function is the kind that is entirely task-focused.

This type of function requires that every member has a specific skill that contributes to the successful completion of the task.

The specific role or task defines the composition of the team based on the skills or knowledge that will be brought in by that prospective member.

The level of experience of each member in a particular field of specialization allows the team to modify solutions or improvise methods to get the job done even in the most extreme situations.

As a member of management or as a team manager responsible for the team with this kind of function, you will have to prescribe the mission or the specific task.

Once the team has been presented with their mission or task, they take over.

Team functions that are project or development-driven also require specialized knowledge or skills but the project takes longer to complete.

Members of the team may sometimes come together just to complete a single task or sub-project and later go back to their regular work.

Teams with this function tend to work with a high level of autonomy in the organization within the duration of the project.

Another team function that through the years has influenced the corporate world are those providing advice or assuming a certain level of decision-making in the organization.

Management teams that are common in the service or hotel industry are a good example of this team function. Highly specialized roles of investment or financial consulting teams are also examples of this function.

Not all functions require high-level participation. Quality control circles in many manufacturing organizations prescribe this function in their teams.

Members of the team with this function perform other roles in the organization and will normally use a very small portion of their working time.

The level of autonomy in this type of function is not very high and highly dependent on the degree of commitment that management has demonstrated to support the team approach in their organizational development.

The function of the team will greatly be influenced by how very detailed or specific is the objective or how generalist or broad are the goals.

Team Structure

If the processes that define the functions are very distinct you will have to find out if it will require a single person to accomplish or a single person with multiple roles and skills.

You will have to know if:

  • the process is happening simultaneously or executed in parallel work schedule;

  • the tasks or jobs are co-located or have to be performed in the same location or site;

  • the knowledge and skillset required to perform a job or complete a task can logically be expected from the same person or is it too highly specialized and unrelated to or not complementary to each other.
With the above knowledge, the team can map out the best approach to accomplish their goals or keep up with their vision.

Never assume that team members understand the structure the first time you discuss it with them.

Experienced have taught me to explain structure with a chart and a printout of the brief description of the roles represented by the neat boxes in the chart.

There's very little ambiguity with charts and those with a different perception of their roles will be able to ask the relevant questions when they read a brief description of their roles in hard copy.

Training Your Team

Training a customer service team is different from training an individual to equip him with competence.

The kind of training that a customer service team undergoes is not the kind that makes them more competent.

Usually, a well-selected team leader and members are more than competent taken individually.

The training that teams go through is designed more to make the team work or function together.

It is really training that forces or coaches team members to use knowledge and skills in complementary proportions so as to attain the synergy needed to successfully complete a project.

The experience undergone during training helps meld the team into a seamless working unit more capable than each member undertaking tasks individually.

Team Empowerment

You now have selected your team leader and members with a high degree of confidence that they will be competent enough to contribute to the team.

Training will also ensure that the team functions well together.

The team has a clear mandate, a structure, and a process developed by the team itself.

Your team manager and team leader are able to work harmoniously to get the right resources in the hands of the team at the right moment.

Even with all of the above the team still needs to take responsibility for their work. This is only possible if management delegates a vital process that will allow the team to complete their mandate.

Most organizations however are still toddlers when it comes to delegation. They do come up with some forms of delegation but with a twist.

They come up with a checklist and a detailed procedure for how the task will be done.

The team or workgroup has little legroom to innovate or to be creative when the situation requires.

What is missing is "empowerment"!

The team must be able to not only take responsibility for doing the relevant work to accomplish its mandate.

It must also be able to make the necessary or relevant decisions to carry out the work effectively. This is the core of real empowerment.

Empowerment has more to do with the culture of the organization and philosophy of management.

Unless the organizational culture allows real delegation and a truly honest belief that well-motivated teams can make the right decisions and act on those decisions, empowerment will not be possible.

I believe that it is simply difficult or impossible to make teamwork possible without real empowerment.

Only empowered teams can make significant gains in organizations.

People who do the actual work must have the power to make decisions about matters that get the job done.

Are you comfortable with team empowerment?


Our common visualization of the concept of teamwork is a team being able to work together to accomplish a goal.

Teamwork is a concept more delicate and less simplistic than that.

The heart of teamwork is delegation and empowerment.

Teamwork is getting teams to take responsibility for their tasks and jobs to complete their mandate without always consulting or running to top management.

You must give your team the authority to make specific day-to-day decisions related to operations or projects.

This can be quite a difficult proposition for managers who are control freaks.

Traditional managers have a different concept of management control. This concept can be in direct conflict with their understanding of delegation.

For some, delegation can be perceived as a threat to job security. Empowerment is a higher form of delegation.

Imagine how threatening empowerment can be to these traditional managers.

I believe that people who are responsible and are treated as responsible individuals will simply act their part and behave responsibly.

My experience working with students, old people, farmers, fishermen, gold miners, security forces, and even ex-convicts have made me realize that our ability to communicate our respect for people has consistently proven my belief.

Remember that not one aspect of team building will help you create an effective team. Teamwork is really just one of many.

If you want teamwork to happen I suggest not doing the following:

  • Making assumptions that members in the "team" are actually eager to work and that they are equipped with the necessary skills to work within the team.

  • Extending or imposing too much authority or too little of it.

  • Disregarding existing organizational structures to accommodate the creation of teams.

  • Providing inadequate organizational support.

  • Managing an operational team as a set of individuals.
Overall the success of teams will depend largely on three major factors: Commitment, Accountability, and Opportunity.

This is the last of the Customer Service dimensions. I do hope you learn something from it.

Do ask me questions?

Post it here of course!

Log on next time because I'll share with you some of the things I believe are facts of life in Customer Service.

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