Archive for the ‘ Customer Service ’ Category

Service Marked Leadership

My sister and I recently visited my aunt and uncle in New York.  My aunt is a Catholic nun, serving in the Maryknoll Mission.  My uncle is a priest serving in the same order.  Together, they have spent over 100 years of their lives serving people in communities across the United States and South America.

I stayed the night at the convent.  My room mirrored the same sparse furniture and belongings of the grey-haired Sisters who lived there.  As I wandered the labyrinthine hallways in search of the cafeteria, Sisters pushing walkers and poking canes greeted me with enthusiastic warmth and welcome.  Everyone I passed invited me to return.

Sitting at breakfast, I saw an older sister in her wheelchair entering the cafeteria.  Using her right foot, she dragged herself towards my chair.  She was mumbling at first, but as our eyes made contact her voice grew louder and more coherent.  “I’m 102 years old,” she exclaimed.  “I don’t know, but I think I’m number 1.”  (Later I realized she was referring to her seniority as the sister with the most number of years in the convent.)  She proceeded to tell us of her years of service in Korea, China, and Hawaii.  She also regaled me with a story about her missing teeth.

She glanced downwards and shook her head as she lamented, “My family is all gone now.  No one cares about me.”  Next, she pointed a gnarled finger at me and stated, “It could happen to you.”  On the back of her wheelchair was an affectionate note stating that she knew who she was and where she lived and asking us not to let her wander outside the convent.  She laughed, taught me some Korean, and accepted my kiss goodbye before my sister and I left for our long trip home.

My aunt, who is 83 years old, told me the Sister was the first Maryknoll missionary sent to Korea. While serving in Korea, she survived over a year of house arrest.  Up until four years ago, she was still assigned to a mission home.  She was 98 when she finally retired, although it was not her idea to retire.  The convent was full of slightly stooping women who announced their years of service and location of mission like a calling card.  Their aging bodies were the only limit to their boundless desire to show God’s love to others.

Churches everywhere refer to this as servant leadership.  At Five Degrees, we call it Service-marked Leadership.  Companies that have at their very core the desire to deliver outstanding service to their customers, their communities, and their employees are marked by their service.  Their leaders model a life of service.

I’ve been thinking about her finger pointing at me and haunted by her words, “It could happen to you.”  When I become consumed with my desire to win, to be profitable, or to close a deal, I wander far away from my desire to be a service-marked leader.  It could happen to any of us – the moving away from our center, our core values.  We all have to be vigilant about making sure our actions are aligned with our core values.

I’ve been reading a book about leadership, True North.  The author, Bill George, believes that the most important quality of an effective leader is to know his/her passion, his/her “true north”.  My aunt, and the women who grace the halls with her at Maryknoll, embody the spirit of living their “true north”.

Every year my aunt takes a retreat to make sure her work and her spirit are aligned with her passion and her desire to serve.  I know of many businesses that have week long retreats to pour over their budgets and make sure their business is aligned with their profits.  Very few businesses devote an equal amount of time aligning their actions with their “true north”.  I wonder, if we did more of the latter, how many companies would have employees devoting their careers to service, working tirelessly until their bodies prohibit the life of service they’ve come to love.  Nothing is as insatiable as an appetite for doing the work we love.  My aunt and the Maryknoll missionaries taught me that.

Authored by Clare Coonan, LCSW

Clare is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting. You can connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.
This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentional corporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.
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Get to know your customers: really connect with them

Businesses across industry compete for the attention of, and the dollars of their target market, but how does one determine what that means?

In the age of social media, customers often “connect” to brands we think we like.  Companies can use this data, and truly create a profile of core customers.  Building loyalty programs, service delivery models and most importantly – training employees to cater to this audience will afford the company higher returns and lower costs.

  1. Collect data and analyze it:  Through a variety of means, you need to first understand the market. Who is there, why they are there and what they truly need from you
  2. Identify your strategy:  Move beyond simply creating a marketing plan to better reach these potential customers – also ensure that there is alignment between the marketing strategy, the production or delivery model, and the people who are customer facing
  3. Focus on the employees:  No matter how clear the marketing strategy is, or how accurate it is in reaching the customer, the interaction and experience every customer has with your employees will be the difference between success and failure. Ensuring that employees not only know who the customer is and what they expect, but that employees are engaged and committed to finding solutions for each and every customer is crucial.   Whether or not a prospect becomes a customer, whether a customer becomes a repeat buyer, or better yet – becomes a fan of your business will not be based on data, or the marketing plan, but will be determined by the interaction with your employees.  How can employees ‘connect’ with your customers?  Ask them!  Connect with them first…

Authored By: Zack Clark, MBA

Zack is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting.  This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentionalcorporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

Communicating Right Messages

A friend of mine gets her hair done at an expensive salon downtown. She justifies the high price of the hair services because they offer free touch-ups or small trims in between cuts and colors. She went into the salon to get her bangs trimmed and her usual stylist who is also the salon owner was out. She was met with an employee who trimmed her bangs and then after proceeded to charge for it. After informing the employee that she usually gets this service free of charge, the employee told her they didn’t know anything about it and their policy had probably recently changed.

Later, when my friend had not returned to the salon for some time she ran into her old stylist who inquired on her absence. After an explanation from my friend the stylist told her that the employee made a mistake, the service should have been free of charge, and invited her back with an apology.

Be sure you are communicating the right message to your employees or co-workers so that message can be correctly communicated to the customer, it might just mean keeping one. Luckily, this salon owner was able to rectify the situation and keep the business.

Customer Service

My son is a handsome little guy – 18 months old and into everything. Except the jeans I bought him last week. Let’s say he is “a tank”, a big boy who hasn’t missed many meals. I am sure he will grow into his bulk, and he certainly isn’t obese but is not a small, petite child. You get the point. I purchased a pair of 24 month jeans at Baby Gap – very stylish. After washing them there was no chance he would ever wear them. I could hardly button them around his round little belly. Back to Gap. While driving I am thinking about how I will get out without spending more cash on baby clothes I don’t need, decided a limit of one item (in addition to the exchange). I can do it. I can be strong.

I was immediately met with opposition upon requesting an exchange for a bigger size. They cannot resell anything that has been washed; therefore it is just too bad for me. Now, I wont pretend to understand their policies, although I have some theories and maybe that is ok, but what wasn’t ok was the customer service nightmare.

The employee halfway apologized and put everything back in the bag and told me to have a good day. Well that just wasn’t going to work. My son would not grow into too tight jeans. Clearly there was something that could be done. Upon stating that the employee repeated his previous remarks verbatim. So I asked another question. Verbatim response. Was this guy a robot? Did they train him to state the company policy or repeat a required script? I kept asking questions, trying to remain calm each time with the same response from the store employee.

“I keep asking new things, trying to find a way to remain a customer of your store and you aren’t making it easy, nor advancing the conversation by saying the same phrase over again…” He seemed shocked. Grabbed the next bigger size of jeans, made the exchange put them in a bag and handed it to me.

I am not sure I was satisfied, even though I got what I wanted – jeans that Ashton will grow into (they are about 4” too long, and big in the waist). See him in cute new jeans late spring I guess. And I saved the money I would have spent on the additional item. But I keep thinking about the level of compliance to policy and a specific script that the sales associate was using with a real person. Is customer service trained this way? What happened to empowerment? Teaching employees to (within policy) take care of the customer and ensure they come back?

UX (User Experience) and Macs

If you know me (and the rest of us here at Five Degree) we are a tad bit biased in our preference for Apple computers. I am reminded of when a friend of mine just got a new MacBook Pro. It had been years and years since she got a new computer. She was pleased and excited to find that when she started up her computer the first time, it played a little welcome/intro video.

Apple is renowned for their customer service and attention to detail. This intro video is no exception. Apple doesn’t have to do the video, but have gone out of their way to welcome potentially a new lifelong customer to their brand experience. It is these small things that can really add up to customer satisfaction, customer engagement and customer loyalty. Good on ya, Apple.

Here is the video for the current OS version for Mac: Snow Leopard.

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