What About This Economy?

By Rosanne D’Ausilio, PhD

Tom Peters leads the way in offering strategies for managing during challenging economic times. On his website, he recently wrote, “Instant, mindless cutting of R&D or training or salesforce travel in the face of a downturn is often counterproductive – or, rather, downright stupid. Tough times are, in fact, golden opportunities to get the drop, and the long-term drop at that, on those who respond to bad news by panicky across-the-board slash-and-burn tactics and moves that de-motivate and alienate the workforce at exactly the wrong moment.”

What stands out to me is: “…mindless cutting of training” and his observation that these times are “golden opportunities.” An interesting side note is that the Chinese symbol for crisis and opportunity are identical.

According to a recent survey recently conducted by Tealeaf, a customer experience management company, a key element to surviving an economic downturn is excellent customer service. This is a huge opportunity for companies willing to significantly improve their customer service, as this enables them to stand out among their competition.

By providing world-class customer service and listening to what your customers need and want, you are more able to satisfy their needs. This allows you to not only retain the loyalty of existing customers, but also, through positive word-of-mouth, procure new ones without spending massive amounts on marketing and advertising.

This is vital, since these same survey results showed that in the online market in particular four out of ten people halted all business with a company after just one instance of poor customer service. As the old saying goes, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Listening is a major component in communication. Daniel H. Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, covers research from twenty years ago when doctor-patient encounters began to be videotaped. The researchers found that the doctors interrupted their patients after an average of twenty-one seconds. A more recent study shows that doctors have improved. It’s now twenty-three seconds before they interrupt. While we can all probably relate and even chuckle, if we move this to the customer service arena, what happens? Customers aren’t listened to. And what do customers want? What do we all want? To be treated with dignity and respect; we want to be heard!

In today’s world, repetitive, routine, “just the facts, ma’am” issues can usually be handled through self-service efficiently and effectively. It’s the more complex and complicated calls that necessitate human contact. Tools, techniques, common phraseology, and language are just a few requirements for world-class customer service. But are these taught in school? No. These are introduced in customized, live, interactive training sessions delivered in real time. Is this an expensive cost to bear? No. This is about investing in your people. Usually the lowest paid person has the highest responsibility for contact with both current and potential customers. There are KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that can be directly and positively impacted by customer service skills training.

After all, as I’ve often said, we, the people, are who make the difference.

Rosanne D’Ausilio, PhD, has written five best sellers: Wake Up Your Call Center: Humanize Your Interaction Hub; Customer Service and the Human Experience; Lay Your Cards on the Table: 52 Ways to Stack Your Personal Deck; How to Kick Your Customer Service Up a Notch: 101 Insider Tips; and now How to Kick Your Customer Service Up a Notch: Another 101 Insider Tips.

[From Connection Magazine May 2009]