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It's time to beat the old bad customer service drum again. I know, I'm sick of beating the drum, too, but as long as bad customer service runs rampant through so many businesses I feel it is my entrepreneurial duty to bring it to your attention. So grab a pew and prepare to listen to the sermon I've preached before: bad customer service is the bane of business. If the Almighty smote down every business that dispenses bad customer service, the world would be a much friendlier,...

Is Bad Customer Service Killing Your Business?

Is Bad Customer Service Killing Your Business?It's time to beat the old bad customer service drum again. I know, I'm sick of beating the drum, too, but as long as bad customer service runs rampant through so many businesses I feel it is my entrepreneurial duty to bring it to your attention. So grab a pew and prepare to listen to the sermon I've preached before: bad customer service is the bane of business. If the Almighty smote down every business that dispenses bad customer service, the world would be a much friendlier, albeit much sparser place. Consider a world without malls and fast food joints would it really be so bad?What puzzles me most is if bad customer service is such a death knell for business, why do so many businesses allow it to go on? Don't they read my column, for Pete's sake? I think the problem is that most bad customer service is doled out (or at least condoned) by business owners and managers who have ceased caring what their customers think. When you stop caring what your customers think it's time to close the doors. Go find a day job. You'll make someone a wonderfully disgruntled employee.My latest parable of lousy customer service was actually experienced by my better half while attempting to buy my daughter a pair of basketball shoes. I won't mention the name of the sporting goods chain store in which the bad customer service took place, but I will tell you that its name is similar to the sound a frog with hiccups might make.As my wife waited for someone to assit, the four or five teenagers who had been charged with manning the store stood in a clump at the cash register giggling and flirting with one another as if they were at the prom instead of at work.When my wife pointed out this fact, one of the employees, a cheeky lass of 16 or so, put her hands on her hips and said, "How rude!" The males in the group didn't react at all. They were too busy arguing over who could take a break so they could chase other cheeky lasses about the mall.Needless to say my lovely bride, who has the ability to instill fear into the hearts of even the most worthless employees, left the gaggle of giggling teen idiots standing with their mouths open in disbelief. How dare a customer tell them to do that with a pair of basketball shoes?As much as I bemoan bad customer service I celebrate good customer service. It should be applauded and the purveyor of said good customer service should be rewarded for actually delivering satisfaction to the customer, above and beyond the call of duty.So let me tell you the story of my new hero, Ken. I won't tell you the name of the store in which Ken works, but let's just say they started out selling radios in a shack somewhere long, long ago.I first met Ken when I went into the store to buy a mixing board for my business that records audio products for the Web. In a nutshell, you plug microphones into the mixing board then connect it to the computer and you can record audio directly to digital format. Totally beside the point of this article, but I didn't want you thinking that I was purchasing non-manly cooking utensils.When I got the mixer installed it didn't work. So I boxed it up and headed back to the store to return it. When I told Ken my problem he didn't just grunt and give me my money back as so many bad customer service reps would do. Instead he asked, "Do you mind if I try it?""Knock yourself out," was my reply, confident that if I couldn't get it to work, neither could Ken. Ken took the mixer out of the box and went about hooking it up to one of the computers on display. He started pulling power cords and cables off the display racks and ripping them open and plugging them in. He tore open a new microphone and an adapter and kept going until he had the mixer hooked up and working. Yes, I said working. It turns out the mixer was fine. I just had the wrong power adapter.Ken could have just given me my money back and been done with me. Instead he spent 15 minutes and opened a number of other packages that I was under no obligation to buy just to help me get the thing working.I was so impressed that I not only kept the mixing board, I also bought another $50 worth of products. And the next time I need anything electronic guess where I will buy it? Even if it costs twice as much, I'll buy it from Ken.Now here's the moral of the story: if you are a business owner who has a gaggle of teenagers in charge of customer service at your store you would be better off replacing them with wild monkeys.At least monkeys can be trained.

Learn How To Dress Up Your Presentation The Easy Way

Learn How To Dress Up Your Presentation The Easy Way

Honoring individuals for their achievements may say a great deal about the person but can also demonstrate the sincere appreciation of the one awarding and recognizing the recipients success. Everyone enjoys receiving awards and being recognized for their efforts. Many times our trophies and plaques are proudly displayed in a prominent place in the home or office. This may be a wall, trophy case or fireplace mantel that in some environments can represent a small shrine.Reflecting back on awards that have captured my attention, its always been the logo or graphic picture that first caught my eye. After looking at the design (or the structure of the award itself), I then focus my eyes towards the inscription engraved on the plaque.There are numerous types of awards from appreciation, acknowledgement, retirement, sports and more. One of the easiest ways to dress up your presentation and make it stand out among others is done by simply applying graphics to the item you are presenting. By adding or implementing a cool design, you will give more personality to the award and make it more attractive to the recipient and the individuals who view it.Adding clip art or logos to your presentation can be done at a small expense and at times even free, while adding value to the award. Usually the organization or company giving the presentation has their logo available in print or in a digital format that can be reproduced easily. Simply request to receive their insignia in the computer format you need. Now days, more and more companys have their logo already available on CD that will work within the environment of your graphics software. Many times this is easily downloaded from the associations website or may be emailed directly to your address.If for some reason a logo or design you wish to reproduce is not readily available, you can always have it created or have one digitized to meet your needs. By digitizing someones logo you enable it to be used with certain computer software programs while at the same time giving way to numerous other applications as well. For example: If you were in need of reproducing a logo for use with a laser engraving process, you may have it digitized and supplied to you in an .EPS format. This particular format is one of the more universal files of type, which many of your leading software programs can import into their layout screen. Additionally, this type of format can be used for other types of applications too. The key to creating any image is to better understand the application (or process) in which the design is going to be reproduced. If you are unsure, its always best to contact a professional digitizing company to assist you with the production or reproduction of the logo.You can find many sources on the World Wide Web that can help you from beginning to end, with logo design or "clip art" images all ready to engrave or print for most any application. The quickest way to locate some of these vendors is by typing in a keyword at any of your favorite search engines search bar. Example: goto MSN.com and key in the words "laser engraving" , logo company or refine your keywords to a more specific industry such as, wedding clip art or religious clip art.By using search engines to search for a specific type of logo or desired application for creating your awards, this enables you to locate numerous choices much faster and compare their services and/or products on line.Once you begin to settle in on a company to assist you with your award creation or logo digitizing process, ask them what other type of industry applications they service. One of the reasons you want to acquire this information is for future uses of your digitized image. You may only need to have your logo laser engraved today however, next time you may need to have a banner created with the same design. If your vendor can create your logo to work with both applications without a re-work, it may same you time and money for up coming awards and presentations.You dont need to know every finite detail for dressing up your presentations. My suggestion is that by adding logos or a graphic design to your awards, it adds value and makes your item more attractive. Connecting with a cutting edge technology companies will help you create these types of designs and have your recipients proud to display their trophy for all to see.

Why Do Your Customers Complain and What Can You Do About It?

Why Do Your Customers Complain and What Can You Do About It?

As the Internet becomes an increasing part of our lives there are a growing number of web sites which are run for dissatisfied customers to publicly air their complaints about bad service. See your name posted on these sites or get contacted by them and you know you have a problem!How can you prevent your business from becoming feature of the week? Of all the skills small business owners need these days, the one least practiced is the ability to step back and look at your business from the customers perspective.Having an effective complaint handling process is important but that is the equivalent of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted its too late, your customer has already suffered. Its more effective to know what your customers could potentially complaint about and put it right before it happens.So what are the common reasons for customer complaints? Mark Bradley of Customer Service Network (www.customernet.com), which facilitates in benchmarking, improving processes and implementing improvements to help reduce "customer complaints" , says,Financial loss is the obvious reason but the rest can be split into operational and emotional reasons.In this article we will look at some of the operational and emotional or human issues within your business which could give your customers cause to complain. Take a look at these and examine each part of your business. How do you stand up?You didnt do what you promised. When did you last review your advertising material or web site? Do they contain service promises which sounded great at the time but have since been forgotten? For example, do you promise to deliver within 24 hours but changes in processes have meant that is no longer possible? No one may have complained yet but sooner or later someone will. Your product didnt do what its supposed to do. When did you last undertake a quality check of your product? Random checks can help weed out poor quality workmanship before a customer spots it. When buying your stock or finished item do you test it? Youre never open when I need you. 9 to 5, 5 days a week may have been acceptable when you first started out, but is this still what the customer wants? Check with your customers they may want you to open later and close later. Its a long time before someone answers the phone. Hanging on the phone while it rings and rings is very irritating. It conjures up images of staff sitting drinking coffee and chatting; not the impression you want to portray and not the way to put customers in a buying mood! Do your staff understand the importance of the phone being answered promptly? Whenever I ring in and get transferred to another person I often get cut off. Have your staff been trained in getting the best out of your phone system? Do all staff have a handy list of extension numbers to avoid annoying sorry wrong department answers? Ask a friend or business colleague to ring in and take note of what happens good and bad.Mark Bradley says, We usually encounter a number of interesting correlations that fundamentally prove that operational accuracy leads to customer satisfaction.Take some time to look at your business from the customers perspective and you should be able to stop customer complaints before they hit your desk.Its not only the operational side of the business which can let you down; the human side of business can also generate complaints your staff! No matter how good your product is one loose cannon in your team can upset everything. What actions can your staff take that can lead to a customer picking up the phone or putting pen to paper?Bad AttitudeTheres no getting away from it some people have a bad hair day every day! The way they speak to people is enough to turn the most mild mannered of customers against your company. They act as if the customer is an interference to their daily routine. A person with poor job skills can be taught the relevant knowledge or skills but a person with a generally bad attitude, the proverbial chip on the shoulder, is harder to bring into line. These type of people are the ones who never acknowledge your presence when you are standing in front of them, or still chat away on the phone The solution? Get them away from your customers.Not Willing To Seek a SolutionThese people are the ones who may acknowledge a customers problem but just cant be bothered to find a solution; its too much hassle. The stock answer is, I cant help. Its company policy. Their favourite words are I cant, Yes, but, wont, shouldnt. They can find nothing positive to help the customer. If this happens, your customers walk away thinking you are a cant do instead of a can do business. Not Giving Full Product ExplanationsYour product may be the best in the world, but if it doesnt do what the customer wants then you have one unhappy purchaser. Lack of understanding of how the product or service meets the customers requirements could be down to your sales staff being too anxious for a sale persuading the buyer that the product is just right when it clearly doesnt fit what the client needs. This is partly down to sales training but also attitude. Do you want staff that are happy to sell to your customers on this basis? Not Willing To Admit a MistakeIsnt it refreshing to hear someone say, Do you know, youre right. We really messed this up. If you get this as an opening line when making a complaint, you immediately know youre in business. However, sometimes getting a business to admit it has made a mistake is like pulling teeth. If youre in the wrong, get your staff to own up and say, Yes, we were wrong, it can take away the emotion which sometimes blocks successful resolution of complaints. Not Keeping You Up To DateIn any effective complaint handling process, everything can be done according to the book, but it can all be thrown away if the client is not kept up to date. A complaint, followed by days of silence, allows doubt and anger to bubble up again. It may be that the person handling the complaint had a bad time when taking the initial query; hes not motivated to pick up the phone and engage in another torrent of abuse! However, not speaking to the client can only make matters worse, and so guaranteeing that the next call will be even more interesting! Get strong characters to front your complaints, people who are not intimidated and are happy to solve problems. Broken PromisesThis is probably the most frequent reason for human cause of complaint; Yes, Ill do that for you. Leave it to me. What happens? Nothing! The impression given is that your staff just dont care, or that the customer is not important. Impress upon your staff the importance of following through on their promises. Any broken promise will compound a complaint.So, in what areas are your staff letting you down? Are you doing everything to ensure your staff are treating everyone as loyal customers? Listen to what your staff are saying, and listen to what your customers are telling you. Get the human side of your complaint process right and you have more chance of keeping your customers for life.The art of complaint handling is not only resolving it to the customers satisfaction; its also about taking action on what you find out and being proactive in finding potential problems before they become problems.

A Peek Into The World Of Hi-Tech Litigation Support

A Peek Into The World Of Hi-Tech Litigation Support

At the heart of any legal undertaking is the mass of data that legal professionals need to perform their jobs. The demanding job of acquiring and organizing the documents that comprise this data is known as litigation support. It's a demanding task that requires a high level or organizational ability and a painstaking attention to detail. And with these documents increasingly in electronic form, "litigation support" professionals need even more skills and knowledge.

The legal system runs on information. Any law suit or court case involves a veritable sea of documentation ranging from witness statements to affidavits to any documents that can be applied as evidence. And the legal system demands impeccable documentation with accuracy, security, integrity, speed and efficiency. The management of this rigorous process is known as litigation support.

Litigation support can be defined as any operation involving human and mechanical systems to process information for use by attorneys or expert consultants in preparation for a lawsuit or a trial. And in these high-tech times it's an especially demanding task.

Nowadays, a major part of such documentation is likely to be in electronic form and stored on a computer system. The retrieval and authentication of such digital documents is a field in itself and one of vital importance in a successful legal undertaking.

What's more, paper documents also have to be scanned and stored in digital format. This allows easy access to concerned parties. It's a process that demands impeccable organisation and supervision. Documents have to be tagged and indexed and stored in document management centers in a way that they're instantly retrievable.

Clearly people working in this field have to skilled in both technology and law. And generally employees in firm that offer litigation support services are qualified paralegals.

The challenges of dealing with digital media are many. For one thing, there tends to be large volumes of such data and each document may have many copies or exist in several versions. Also electronic data is much more volatile than hard copy. So it requires special handling. What's more the data may be concealed or encrypted which demands special expertise.

Other than procedures such as the scanning, imaging, and indexing of documents, litigation support firms also provide such sophisticated activities as electronic discovery and computer forensics. These are essentially the same procedure - the retrieval of data from computer systems for a specific purpose. The difference is just in the reason for the retrieval; "electronic discovery" is for general purposes, while the term "computer forensics" is generally used when the retrieved information is for use in a law suit or in a court of law.

Forensic investigations could involve recovering hidden, damaged or corrupted files. Or perhaps decrypting password-protected or encrypted files, as well as recovering emails, chat data and other forms of online communication.

The range of crimes that might require these services is extremely wide ranging. Some examples are copyright infringement, money laundering, blackmail or corruption. In fact any crime in which relevant information is stored on a computer system. And in this day and age that could mean virtually anything.

The legal system depends on accurate and documented information in order to function so it's essential to have professionals take charge of this task. More and more data is now in digital form, to it's essential for litigation support firms to be able to deal with this. And with data security becoming increasingly important in this wired world, the field of computer forensics is one that has to develop accordingly.

Customer Service Skills Training and ROI

Statistics consistently reinforce that the biggest challenge in todays contact center environment is agent training. Turnover continues to be high; new hire costs are on the riseIve seen anywhere from $6500 to $10,000 quoted per agent! At the same time, losing customers because of bad call experiences negatively impacts your bottom line. What can you do? How do you justify the training expenditure? Research has been making a case for how spending in human performance areas such as training, translates into bottom line growth. Accenture's study on the impact of training on ROI has some interesting results. (Smith, David. Y. and Waddington, Ted. Running Training Like a Business: Determining the Return on Investment of Your Learning Programs, Outlook Point of View, March 2003.)First, in the area of recruitment, training opportunities were among the top three criteria people considered when deciding where they want to work (the others are the opportunity for advancement and a good benefits package). In the area of productivity, as a result of training, employees were: 17% more productive20% higher performance levels relative to their peer group Stayed with the company 14% longer In the area of retention, employees who had access to the training were: More than 2 times more likely to expect to be with the company in 2 years More than 6 times more likely to think the company is a 'great place to work' More likely to think they are fairly compensated Dollar figures associated with their statistics for a fiscal year report the annual per person net benefit or $25,324. They multiplied this number by their 50,000 employees yielding a companywide benefit of training of $1.26 million. By dividing the benefit by the cost of one year of training ($358 million), researchers concluded that the ROI (at Accenture) is 353%. Negative Customer Service Experiences? How many of you know (and track) what percentage of your calls are bad experiences? Hopefully, you do know the number, and theyre in the low single digits. In a recent study, in answer to (1) did the agent satisfy your needs in the call, and (2) based on any negative experience, would you stop using this company and go to the competition? the results were: AgesWould Stop Using the Company in the Future18 - 25100%26 - 359736 - 455346-555056-6533Over 6563 Source: 2003 Purdue University/BenchmarkPortal.comAs you can see, there is a strong correlation between participant's age and his/her tendency to stop using the company after a bad experience. Notice that younger participants were less tolerant, more likely to go to the competition, and those over 65 are more demanding that those in middle age. Therefore, it's very important to take great care of your younger callers so as to maintain their loyalty. Callers above 36 have more of an 'emotional bank account' with the company they're dealing with-probably had some good experiences and are more willing to 'forgive' a bad one. If you know your percentage of bad experiences, put a dollar amount on that call and then total it out for the year. I think you'll be very surprised at the amount of lost revenue. Now if you have a 1% improvement, as a result of a training initiative for example, the amount of recovered revenue (and customers) is very encouraging. This is just another means to tie soft skills to ROI, and to include your front lines as part and parcel of the revenue-producing operation of your companies. Customer Satisfaction Driver #1We all know first call resolution (one and done) is the #1 driver for customer satisfaction with best practices reported at 86%. However, if your center is at 86%, this means that 14% of your customers are contacting you more than once to resolve their issues! This not only frustrates your CSRs and yourselves, but your customers as well. Repeat calls are costly not only to operations and the bottom line, but they negatively impact customer satisfaction, and ultimately, customer loyalty. How do you define first call resolution? And how do youif you docalculate it? Research shows that there is no common measuring method. However, what gets measured gets managed, and what gets managed gets better. In a recent study (Ascent Group) more than 90% of companies measuring first call resolution reported improvement in their performance. Another study (callcentres.com) reported a dramatic fall in call volumeidentifying that a minimum of 20% of all calls were repeat calls from customers needing an answer or help they didnt get. Further, that the absence of first call resolution was found to account for a minimum of 30% of a call centers operational costs!The bottom line: Invest in your peoplegive them the training, the tools, and the authority to get their job done right the first time. After all, CSRs are the interface who handle customer issues. One of the foremost methods to boost customer satisfactionand improve first call resolutionis to consistently and ongoingly train, train, train your CSRs in world class customer service skills.

Top 6 Things Not to Do With Angry Customers

1. Don't make threats. Have you ever said this, "If you don't calm down, I'm not going to help you." Or, "If you continue to yell at me, I'm going to have no choice but to terminate this phone call." If you've ever made these, or similar, statements, I'd bet that your sole intent was to regain control of the conversation. But the problem is, your customer perceives this type of language as threatening and it does not make them back down and it does not create calm. Try a phrase like this instead: "I really want to help you, but your tone/language is making it really hard for me to do that." And then pause for 2-3 seconds to let your words resonate with the customer. 2. Don't argue. Trust me on this one - you can never win an argument with a customer. Certainly, you can prove your point and even have the last word, In a discussion on the futility of arguing with people, Dale Carnegie once said "you may be right, but as far as changing your customer's mind is concerned, you will probably be just as futile as if you were wrong." Your goal in complaint situations is to retain the customer, not to be right. If you win the argument, you may very well have lost the customer. Carnegie encourages us to carefully consider some hard questions before going to battle with customers: "Is my reaction one that will relieve the problem, or will it just relieve frustration? Will my reaction drive my customer further away? What price will I pay if I win (the argument)?" Carnegie advises, "The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it." By the way, customers will spread negative word-of-mouth advertising to 50 people if they get into argument with you! 3. Don't hang up on the customer. I realize I sound conservative on this one, but I stand firm. If you hang up on a customer who is already livid, do you think a "disconnect" helps the situation or hurts the situation? The customer still has the problem and most customers won't give up their fight because you chose to hit the flash button. Most will call back and guess what? They will be angrier than ever AND it will cost far more in time and money to resolve the issue. If you just can't handle the customer, offer to transfer to a supervisor or co-worker. 4. Don't make the customer feel helpless. I cringe every time I hear an employee say, "This is all I can do." When customers feel helpless, some will resort to whatever they feel it takes to get their needs met. This behavior may include yelling, demanding to speak to a supervisor, or starting a blog about your company. This simple phrase changes the entire tone of a tough situation: "Mr. Bryant, what I can do is?" 5. Don't raise your voice. When I want my five-year-old daughter to use her "inside voice", I don't yell, "Lauren, USE YOUR INSIDE VOICE!" I speak in my "inside voice" with the expectation that she will mirror the calm tone of my voice - and she does without any further prompting from me. We must use the same technique with demanding customers. Escalating your voice when dealing with an upset customer will not create calm. It will only incite your customer. Lowering your voice presents you as confident, in control, and credible. In many cases your angry customer will begin to calm down because he realizes his intimidation tactic (yelling) isn't working. Try making one of these statements in a low volume when dealing with an angry customer. "What can I do to help?" or "What can I do to fix this situation?" 6. Don't tell a customer she is wrong. You will be smart to never tell a customer s/he is wrong or mistaken. Telling a person they are wrong arouses opposition and will make the customer want to battle with you. (Ever tell your spouse they are wrong?) It's difficult, under even the most benign conditions to change people's minds. So why make it harder by starting out on the wrong foot? If you know your customer is wrong, it's better to start off saying, "I thought the contract read otherwise, but let's take a look." The next time you find yourself the target of verbal abuse from an angry customer, keep in mind these six "don'ts" and you'll be well on your way to getting the angry customer to back down and regaining control of the conversation.

Summary

It's time to beat the old bad customer service drum again. I know, I'm sick of beating the drum, too, but as long as bad customer service runs rampant through so many businesses I feel it is my entrepreneurial duty to bring it to your attention. So grab a pew and prepare to listen to the sermon I've preached before: bad customer service is the bane of business. If the Almighty smote down every business that dispenses bad customer service, the world would be a much friendlier,...