WordsWorking

Thank you!

Do you always thank your customers—every time?

The next time you interact with other businesses, whether stopping at a fast food restaurant, buying groceries, or shopping at a “big box” store, count the number of times you are actually thanked.

If conducting a transaction with a service business, whether in person or online, you should receive an equally enthusiastic “thank you for your business.” Do you?

These days, the trend seems to be for the store clerk or restaurant cashier to “thank” the customer by saying “here you go” when handing over the receipt. The words “thank you” are very rarely used. Although many will attempt a pleasantry with “have a nice day” or “have a good one,” those two little words we long to hear as customers are still missing.

Pay attention to what you and your team members are saying to your clients. In fact, take a few extra minutes to write a note of thanks and put it in the mail.

Surprise and please your clients—and set your business apart from those who don’t make that effort.

 

How FTD just lost $65 and a customer

First lesson: Capture a screenshot whenever you have a sketchy “customer service” experience online.

Second lesson: As a business owner, never let any of your employees do this to a potential customer.

The story: A few days ago, I decided to send an older family member some flowers for her birthday. The branding message in my head said to go to FTD.com because they specialize in flower delivery. It’s been a while since I’ve ordered flowers, though, so I was a little confused when most of the selections were going to be delivered “in a gift box” via UPS.

The image in my head of flower deliveries is and always has been of a person actually carrying the beautiful vase overflowing with just the right arrangement to the door of a very surprised recipient. I never envisioned a UPS truck pulling up, honking, dropping off the box, and driving off.

So, I decided to inquire about the situation. I noticed a handy “chat” box in the corner. When I clicked on it, the instructions said to enter my question and an agent would be right with me. I entered “I have a question about delivery.” The response came fairly quickly.

The response was … wait for it …

Yes

Seriously, that was the “customer service” representative’s response to my question.

Yes

No punctuation. No addition of “Yes, of course. I can help you with that.”

Naturally, I had to ask her (given what I do) if that was the way she was trained to respond to a customer. Her response then was the expected scripted answer that I should have received at the beginning. We went back and forth a couple of times with me stating my shock at such rude responses and her continuing to give me her script, basically ignoring my comments.

Finally, I said I would rather do business with another company that knows how to communicate with its customers. Her response to that? Wait for it …

A three-question customer survey:

How you were greeted by our customer support agent

Our response time

The quality of answers provided

There was no apology. There were no parting words, not even the scripted kind, from the representative. Just the survey that popped up in the corner of the chat box.

Anyone want to guess how I rated the “customer support” agent? How often do you think I will use this company in the future?

That $65 probably doesn’t matter much to such a big company, but they lost a potential customer and they inspired that potential customer to spread the word about their “customer service.”

So, how well are you communicating with your customers?

 

Can You Disconnect?

Do you panic when you can’t find your cell phone? Do you hyperventilate when you realize you left it at home as you drive away to a meeting or even just to the grocery store?

 

If you’re old(er) like me (!!!), you remember when the phone stayed connected to the wall, usually in the kitchen. Now we are connected to the phone and, it seems, can’t survive without it.

 

What would happen if you put your phone down and walked away for 10 minutes? 30 minutes? A couple of hours?

 

Would you be afraid of missing text messages, emails, or social media posts?

 

Or would you discover a new way to communicate? Yes, children, there is a communication method that doesn’t involve an electronic device. It’s called … wait for it … conversation!

 

Try an experiment. See how long you can NOT touch or look at or even think about your cell phone. At first it may be a bit stressful, but after a while you may actually find that you are less stressed.

 

Hyperconnectivity can actually increase your stress level. Ever hear of a condition called FOMO? It’s the fear of missing out. The more you are on social media, for example, the more you worry about missing a post or a tweet or a chat. Believe it or not, sometimes those things can go on without you!

 

So put it down. Look up. Look into the eyes of the people in the room with you. Oh wait. First, you have to ask them to put down their cell phones!

 

Have a conversation. Watch body language, listen to intonation, and enjoy the human interaction.

 

You can do it!

 

Let me know how it goes.

 

Can cell phone courtesy morph into human communications?

You there, with the cell phone in your hand, you know who you are. You’re probably even reading this on that electronic device. Just so you know, July is Cell Phone Courtesy Month. Finish reading this, of course, but then show some courtesy and put it down!

 

Go find a real human and have a real conversation. You probably won’t have to look far. There might even be other humans right there in the room with you. Yeah, they have their heads buried in their cell phones too!

 

For the “older” people, GenXers and Boomers, this is not just a case of “kids today.” There was a time when we marveled at the young people sitting right next to each other, texting each other instead of engaging in actual human conversation, but the trend has definitely expanded to all generations.

 

Look around the conference room, the board room, even the meeting of two people across a desk, and you will find cell phones galore. Is anyone really paying attention to that presentation on the big screen? Probably not. They’re kind of busy with their own small screens.

 

So, back to Cell Phone Courtesy Month. The most courteous thing to do when in the presence of other human beings is to ditch the electronic device, at least while real people would like your actual attention. This, of course, is not Give Up Your Cell Phone Addiction Month. We’d just like a little courtesy.

 

If you don’t think it’s such a big deal, try looking around the next time you are in a restaurant, in a business meeting, or even walking in a park. What do you see? The tops of people’s heads, right? Their faces are buried in their virtual world and they are totally ignoring the real humans in their immediate space.

 

You might be pleasantly surprised when you try having a real conversation with a real human. There are no emojis involved, but you do get the pleasure of looking into a pair of real eyes and watching real body language as you talk. That’s a pretty cool new invention, don’t you think?

 

Put down the electronic device. Look up. Show some courtesy. Try it for a month. You might find you like it enough to form a new habit – human communications.

 

 

Does your team need help learning how to communicate with humans again? Email me at pat@words-working.net.

 

 

Are you using your words for good?

“We can each take the time to think about the words we are posting, to think about the real humans that will see and be affected by those words, before we hit the magical button that sends our words out into the world.”

 

Check out my Op-Ed piece, published in the News & Observer:

 

http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article153261469.html

 

 

Human communication means business

Everyone has a customer service story.

 

Everyone has a workplace communication story.

 

Everyone usually tells these stories in a negative light.

 

What can we do to change the stories to improve the business environment?

 

Very simply, we can remember that we are communicating with humans.

 

Technology has distracted us from the reality of doing business with real people. Or maybe we have become resentful that real people are distracting us from our technology?

 

We have become so dependent on electronic communication – texts, emails, tweets, and other forms of electronic, ephemeral messaging – that we forget there is an actual human on the other end.

 

We lose touch with the fact that our words impact others (and may actually have a longer shelf life than we intended). Maybe we even lose the ability to speak in person with another human being.

 

Let’s change those negative stories by temporarily putting down the cell phone, the tablet, or any other electronic device that we think we cannot live without – and having a real conversation with a real person.

 

When speaking with your customers, look them in the eye and watch their body language. Listen to their words. Respond to what they are saying to you. Your customers are not emojis or hash tags. They are real people who need a real person to listen and respond to their questions and needs.

 

Show clients some personalized appreciation by handwriting a thank you note and sending it in the real-life mail. How many people do that? You will impress your client not only by acknowledging them but by doing so in a way that is unique and special in today’s business environment.

 

When speaking with co-workers and employees, think about what kind of information they need to do their jobs, to further their careers, to improve the success of the business. They are not just names on an email distribution list. They are real humans, working to help your business grow.

 

It’s all quite simple. We change the tone of the story by changing the mode of the communication, as often as possible.

 

Your team members are humans. Your customers are humans. Use your human communication skills to make those stories positive again and improve your business environment!

 

Pat Fontana works with businesses to help your team members remember how to communicate as humans!

Business secret: Communicate often – and well

I didn’t know.

My manager didn’t tell me.

That’s the first I’ve heard of it.

That clerk was so rude. I’m never going back there again.

Those people don’t seem to talk to each other.

Sound familiar? Are people saying this in or about your business?

Communications can help or hurt your business. Poor – or no – communications actually can cost your business. Communications with customers are especially crucial, but even internal communications can significantly impact your business success.

Let’s start with the last couple of comments above. What are your customers / clients saying about your team members? Do you have a rude employee? Do you have employees who clearly want to be somewhere else, in the midst of a customer transaction?

I’ve seen fast food employees checking their cell phones as they were taking orders from customers. I’ve been on the receiving end of a very rude company representative who was obviously ready to go home when I expected a certain level of customer service toward the end of his work day. I’ve always had extremely pleasant exchanges with a clerk in a grocery store. Guess which business I will recommend to others and return to myself on a regular basis?

Internally, your employees may be repeating the first three comments above. Managers have their meetings and then go about their business without sharing vital information with their team. Individuals working on a project find it easier just to do the work alone, rather than involve co-workers. Front-line employees don’t get the information that is decided behind closed management doors.

I’ve worked in a corporate environment that was so stressful, we were standing in line hoping for our turn when the layoffs started. Most of the stress was caused by communication issues. There was virtually no downstream communication. Mistakes were made because people did not have the right information or, in some cases, any information.

Your secret to business success? Communicate with your customers / clients. Communicate internally. Do it often. Do it well. Misinterpretation can be just as harmful as no communication.

Write your emails so they are clearly understood, without a long chain of follow-up messages. Make a phone call to discuss things. Make meetings meaningful by providing actual information and answering questions.

Of course it will take some effort. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it!

Train your team members to understand what your customers / clients need to know and to learn how to provide that information to them on a regular basis.

Train your managers to consider what their team members need to know and to learn how to provide that information to them on a regular basis.

Communication can hurt or help your business. Clear, regular communication can be the secret to your business demise or to your business success.

 

Ready to train your team? Let’s talk.

pat@words-working.net

What are you striving to become?

If you are striving, is that actually a good thing? Wouldn’t it sound better to simply say you are doing?

For example, “We are striving to be the best in customer care” makes it seem like you’re trying really hard, but you’re just not quite there yet. Doesn’t it sound better to say “We provide the highest quality customer care”?

Striving is one of those meaningless, filler words. We like to use extra words like that even though they’re really not necessary and can sometimes backfire on us. Striving, if it has any meaning for the reader at all, gives off a negative image.

Sometimes we feel as though we have to ease into our words. How often do you read (or write), “I would like to tell you …”? Those are all words that can be deleted completely, leaving the meaning much stronger. Just come out and say what you have to say!

Deleting words is painful. We work so hard to put as many words as possible on a web page, in marketing materials, or in an email, that we don’t want to give up any of them. However, deleting meaningless words will give your message more meaning.

It is a sad fact that, in the 21st century business world, we are all too busy to read every word. We want to see only the words that carry significant impact all by themselves, without the crutches of modifiers.

Mark Twain said, “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”

To make your business writing stronger, all you have to do is delete the meaningless words – and the potentially harmful words.

Stop striving. Just do.

 

 

Here you go

Customer service. Remember that? It had something to do with communications.

Ah, right. Now I recall. There was a pleasant focus on manners, with “please” and “thank you” sprinkled throughout.

What do we get now? “Here you go.”

That’s it. That’s what they say.

“Here you go.”

They are, of course, the customer service representatives, the cashiers, the people who take your money, hand you a receipt, with a hearty . . . “Here you go.”

Or maybe not so hearty. Maybe it’s more like “I have a job that pays less than what I deserve and I’m just ready for my shift to be over so here you go.”

Don’t get me wrong. I feel for people who are not making what they should and who are in jobs that are nowhere near their career choice. However, regardless of what job they (we) do, they (we) need to put heart and manners into it.

Has customer service faded away, along with work ethic, workplace etiquette, and employee commitment? Are employees not taught the basics of thanking customers for their business? Have we just reached the point where we don’t care if we are appreciated by the particular establishment where we opted to spend our money?

There is probably a way to connect this to the short-attention span, immediate gratification, distracted-by-electronics society that we have become. But I digress ….

I choose to think people can do better. People can learn – or relearn – basic manners and etiquette.

And, truly, all hope is not lost. There are actually still people in business with decent customer communication skills. Where I prefer to spend my money on seafood, the employees behind the counter greet me, thank me, and even give me a big smile and a “see you next time!”

Awesome.

Employees can learn. Customers can be more appreciated. All it takes is an extra breath and another two words: “Here you go. Thank you!”

Try it. Let me know how it goes.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Positive communications, customer service, and business relationships are all developed from a base of respect. Think about it. If you don’t respect your clients, potential customers, vendors, or fellow business people, how will that affect your own business growth?

How do you show respect in your business relationships? Do you follow these guidelines?

Respond to messages, emails, text, and calls promptly. Replying promptly shows respect for the other person’s time and efforts in reaching out to you.

Engage in active discussions, in writing and verbally. Listen carefully, read every word, and provide thoughtful feedback.

Share details, as appropriate. Keeping others in the dark does not give you any more power; on the contrary, it denigrates any respect others may have had for you.

Put down the electronic device. Give your fully focused attention to others in the room during a discussion or meeting. Show respect by actively listening when others are speaking.

Enrich others with your knowledge. While initially this sounds a bit pompous, in reality when you are open to helping others learn what you already know, they will develop a respect for your giving nature and for your level of expertise.

Communicate clearly. Avoid jargon, clichés, and vague references that might not be readily understood. When you speak and write using simple words and clear, succinct terms, others respect you for your communication skills and for your consideration.

Think positive. Speak with a positive tone. Write with a positive focus. People respect professionals who are upbeat and who see possibilities.

Respect is earned. Show respect to others – consistently – and you will earn their respect in return. Your business will undoubtedly benefit as well.